O for a Thousand Tongues to Sing!

August 13, 2009

Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb,
Your loosened tongues employ;
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come;
And leap, ye lame, for joy.
O for a Thousand Tongues,
by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788

In most cultures, deaf and/or otherwise impaired individuals are a neglected segment of society. Some mission agencies list the deaf population in about 40 countries as being an Unreached People Group.

Central Asia is noted for having three countries where the deaf are counted as being "unreached." In one country alone, there is a rather large population of deaf (approximately 107,000 people) and only 0.3% have heard the gospel.

When the deaf pray, they watch the signing of the one who prays.

Adding to their stigma is the "legend of the curse," still believed by many in this area of the world as the source of deafness. A brother from a ministry helped by Christian Aid gives this account: "It concerned a particularly superstitious tribe of Muslims whose syncretistic beliefs embraced witchcraft and death-worship. Due to the constant feuding between the various tribes, this sect is said to have cast a curse of deafness on certain others in their country. Consequently, the non-inflicted tended to shun the 'cursed' individuals of the community. This heritage of being an outsider continues today–whether because of 'the curse' or just from being different."

Two sisters lead praise and worship in their native sign language.

The leader of a ministry in Central Asia reports that he now has many deaf or signing missionaries working in various locations throughout the region.

While many of the churches are underground, these Christians are generally able to go about their ministry without suspicion or interference from authorities. And because travel across borders is now more open, they are making contacts in adjoining countries. Many of these (signing) workers have blood brothers in those areas where the Farsi language is spoken. This enables them to reach people traveling to and from Afghanistan. "So, there is a possibility that the gospel is even reaching Afghans!" he joyfully added.

For over 50 years, Christian Aid has been proclaiming the merits of indigenous missionaries. This approach is especially relevant for this situation. Who else but the deaf are able to go into restricted countries, travel easily, communicate in the native sign language, and reach this unreached segment of society with the Good News?