Pake and Beppe, Babička and Dědeček, that’s how I call my grandfathers and grandmothers from Friesland and the Czech Republic. From an early age I have been interested in various cultures. This interest took me to different parts of the world. I got to know people’s motivations, norms and values, through which I gained a broader view on the world and who we are as humans. I learned that we’re all human, made and loved by God. The perspective of others, my broader view on the world and knowing and realizing that we are all made and loved by God led me to a choice.
I chose to be with God for the rest of my life. That choice made me think intensively about the life I led and the life I wanted to lead. My intrinsic motivation to read and understand the Bible grew. The Bible has become a source full of wisdom for life.
Someone came to me in 2011 with an article from a magazine of Wycliffe Bible Translators The Netherlands. This article was about translating the Bible into sign language. It immediately grabbed me. My passions: The Bible, sign language, deaf communities, and an international desire I saw coming together at Wycliffe. The following years I consciously filled my backpack with knowledge and expertise and I experienced that God guided me in this process. Now I am sufficiently equipped to embark on the adventure. I will commit myself to projects in which sign languages will be researched, language structures will be established, and the Bible will be understood and translated.
Can you believe without a Bible?
Believing without a Bible is possible, but makes a Christian more vulnerable. The Bible offers direction, inspiration, comfort and encouragement. It provides answers to difficult questions of life. Without a Bible it is difficult to grow and persevere in faith.
To believe without a Bible in your own sign language, millions of deaf people don’t know better. A translated Bible is a message from God to (deaf) people. In this He presents himself and people can discover who He is. How great would it be if the word of God would be available to everyone in the language of his or her heart?
Deaf people can read, right?
That’s true! Most deaf people can read. They just don’t read in their mother tongue. Sign language doesn’t have a written variant. Sign language uses the eyes to hear and the hands to speak. Reading is possible, but written language is always the second or third language for someone who’s deaf. The Bible is a book that should appeal to someone’s imagination and heart. Even more important to have the Bible in your mother tongue.
Huh? But isn’t there just one sign language?
Short answer: No! Even within The Netherlands there are different dialects. Sign language is not a universal language. We call the sign language which is used in The Netherlands ‘Dutch Sign Language’ (NGT: Nederlandse Gebarentaal). This language has its own grammar and vocabulary.
Doesn’t one international sign language make more sense?
You could say so, but that would be the same as if all Dutch speaking people would have to speak English (or Chinese or Spanish?). Language and culture are part of our identity, it belongs to you! It’s the same for deaf people and sign language.