Do sign languages need separate Bible translations? Shadrack Kakui had never even thought about it until an opportunity to be involved in deaf Bible translation came his way.
Shadrack, who is hearing, grew up in a Christian family in Kenya. Later, at a church conference, he was shocked to learn that there were people groups that were completely unreached by the good-news—even more shocking, some of them were in Kenya. He committed to serving in an unreached group for at least a year when he finished college.
One year became three and a half years teaching at a school and serving in new local churches. Realizing he did not have the training that he needed, he enrolled in Africa International University’s Biblical studies program.
After graduation, Shadrack did not know where to go, yet God reminded him that He called Abraham without telling him where he was going. Shadrack was learning to trust Him one step at a time.
At that same time, a deaf ministry was recruiting people to work with deaf translation teams in exegesis and translation consultant roles. One of his seminary professors connected them to Shadrack. While initially he was not very interested, questioning the need for a different Bible translation, he attended a meeting where he learned that the deaf are an unreached people group—that grabbed his attention. In fact, the deaf of the world, put together, form one of the biggest unreached people groups in the world. The Lord was knocking down the barriers in Shadrack’s mind and opening his eyes to a need he had never seen before. Praying and seeking advice, he joined Deaf Opportunity OutReach (DOOR) International to use his knowledge of the Biblical languages to help with translation and exegesis.
Although deaf communities often distrust hearing people, the deaf community at the Deaf Bible Training and Translation Center in Nairobi, Kenya, patiently taught him how to sign—and sent him texts when he got stuck (the center trains deaf pastors, evangelists, and church planters). Since then, Shadrack has received more training in linguistics and translation, most recently, at Dallas International.
“Why can’t all deaf people use the same translation?” hearing people ask Shadrack. He tells them that sign language is not international; sign languages are just as diverse as spoken languages. Most sign translations are done in video, either with a person signing in front of a camera or with an animation of someone signing. In either form, translation still has to be done the normal way; only the delivery is different.
Shadrack’s prayer is that many more people would see deaf people not just as people to be ministered to but as partners in ministry in the body of Christ, thereby opening many more opportunities to equip and empower deaf people for ministry. He would love for a deaf person to do his job. Shadrack sees his work in deaf Bible translation as “a little thing toward seeing deaf men and women have the Bible in their own language.”