New Scriptures and a translation centre for the deaf in Nigeria

“I am so happy – the Deaf can now hear God!”

These are the words of Pastor Luke Bello at the dedication of 110 Chronological Bible Stories in Nigerian Sign Language (NSL)* – the mother tongue of most of the country’s one million Deaf people.

Olugbenga Lakanmi

The dedication took place on September 30 during the official opening of the Deaf Bible Translation Centre in Ibadan, a city in south-west Nigeria.

Mr Bello, himself Deaf, is a leader in the Christian Mission for the Deaf Church in the village of Ikire, Osun State. Speaking through an interpreter, he explained how he had been concerned for a long time that there were no Scriptures available in NSL.

So glad to witness this moment!

“I wondered how Deaf people could ever truly understand God and his love for them,” he said. “But now we will use these Bible stories in our language to teach them. We have waited for so long for this, and I am so glad to witness this moment!”

Another member of the Deaf community, Olugbenga Lakanmi (pictured right), was so excited to hear about the Deaf Bible Translation Centre that he travelled 120km from his home in Lagos to attend its opening.

“I feel so great to see the wonders of God! Not only do we now have part of the Bible in our language, but this new centre has been built for our benefit. When we watched one of the Bible story videos we really liked it. It is so much easier for us to understand than trying to read it in written form.” Olugbenga Lakanmi

Just the beginning

As a visible sign of its commitment to serving the largely unreached Deaf community, the Bible Society of Nigeria opened the Deaf Bible Translation Centre on September 30, 2017.

Mr Bello and Mr Lakanmi were among more than 120 members of the Deaf community who attended the event. They were delighted when Bible Society of Nigeria General Secretary Dr Dare Ajiboye, who is passionate about reaching the Deaf and had learnt some NSL especially for the occasion, signed a greeting to them. He explained the Bible Society’s commitment to giving everyone in Nigeria access to God’s Word. He added that the 110 Chronological Bible Stories in NSL and the opening of the translation centre were just the beginning of a project to reach the country’s Deaf people. He reminded the gathering that this work will require much commitment, including ongoing funding.

Management of the project to translate the Bible into NSL was formally handed over to the Bible Society by DOOR International during the event. By 2020, the Bible Society plans to have completed 240 Bible stories or Portions in NSL, which is about 18% of the full Bible.

*The very first Scriptures in NSL – 32 Bible stories – were made available in late 2014.

Story by Benjamin Mordi, Media and Programmes Manager, Bible Society of Nigeria