Signs of Hope: The Story of Jesus for the Deaf

Holly and Josh newell standing in front of a movie theater with the sign JESUS DEAF MISSION FILM

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“On that day, the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. The humble will be filled with fresh joy from the Lord” Isaiah 29:18-19, New Living Translation).

On April 3, Josh and I sat entranced in the historic Texas theater, surrounded by the cast, crew, friends and family members of the newest movie about the life of Jesus, Jesus: a Deaf Missions Film

What an experience! This is the first full-length film ever written in American Sign Language (ASL), performed and produced by all native signers, crew, and producers. AND it is so beautiful. Through ASL, I experienced Jesus in a new way. ASL communicates not only through the use of signs but also through the speaker’s eyes, facial expressions and whole-body movements. Seeing the gospel communicated without words inspired me profoundly.

But beyond being powerful and moving, this film is a dramatic step forward in overcoming a terrible inequity in the world. There are 500,000 ASL speakers in the US, and only about 4% of them claim to follow Jesus. The Deaf community of the world (comprising 400 unique sign languages) is the largest spiritually unreached people group. We can’t overstate the need for gospel presentations in a way that will speak uniquely to the Deaf community.

My friend Lindsey works with the Deaf community as a missionary, specifically with students at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind. She spends long evenings sitting with students, doing her best to show them God loves them and that even though many of their parents will never learn ASL to communicate with them, God is actively seeking to talk to them. Sadly, only 20% of parents of Deaf children learn ASL. When Lindsey heard about this new film, she said with deep emotion, “I tell my students all the time that Jesus speaks ASL, but they don’t really believe me. Now they will actually be able to see Him talk to them.” 

As we flip through the gospels, what do we see Jesus doing? Teaching the Word of God and performing healing miracles. So much so that Matthew 12:15 says,  “Jesus…withdrew from there. Many followed him, and he healed all who were ill.  

He healed them all! Doesn’t that make your heart soar? You and I follow a God whose deepest motivation is to heal brokenness, restore relationships and express His love. We want to be like Jesus, do what He did, and bring healing wherever we go. As the body of Christ, we must unrelentingly focus on the gaps, the places and people groups not yet reached by the gospel— even if it costs us dearly.

Jesus: a Deaf Missions Film will take the gospel further than ever in the ASL community. And yet, there is still such a challenge ahead: 400 other sign languages exist worldwide. Two billion people have yet to hear the gospel. The objective for our generation is to use all the tools we have: digital outreach, AI, a highly networked body of Christ and GO FOR IT—reach the yet unreached wherever they are with instruments that speak directly to each heart. The love of Christ compels us to move and to trust Him to “heal them all.” 

Let’s go together! Would you like to start by sharing Jesus: a Deaf Missions Film with others? Click here. Use your social media platforms, spread the word, and let’s take new ground for the kingdom together.