Idaho resident, Julie Freitas, has been hard of hearing since the age of 2, and American Sign Language (ASL) is her primary language.
Although she grew up in a Buddhist home, she had a strong desire to learn more about God and Jesus and was determined to get her hands on a Bible. Freitas saved her money and, at 12 years old, she rode her bicycle to Kmart to purchase the King James Version.
Through diligent effort, Freitas became a serious student of the Bible, and at the age of 25, she was baptized as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. However, comprehending the written English language remained a challenge, and she longed for a clearer understanding of difficult verses.
In 2005, Jehovah’s Witnesses began work translating the Bible book of Matthew into ASL and announced that additional books would be made available as they were completed. Grinning from ear-to-ear, Freitas reminisced about receiving her personal copy, “I was in tears, I couldn’t stop crying … I couldn’t wait to go home and put it in the DVD player, and I was so grateful to God.”
Danny Bench also knows how important it is to have access to the Bible in the language of one’s heart. Deaf since the age of 3, Bench has always been drawn to the outdoors. This love of nature sparked a curiosity in his heart to know the One who made all these things.
In 1997, he too became a serious student of the Bible and was able to draw closer to his Creator. Although he reads well in English, Bench explained that understanding the ‘deeper things’ takes a lot of mental energy. “It’s easier to learn visually … the real heart touching language is ASL,” he added.
Finally, after 15 years of diligent effort, on February 15, 2020, Jehovah’s Witnesses reached a milestone regarding the ASL Bible translation. Roger Biles, an ASL interpreter in Boise,
The ASL Bible is conveyed by well-dressed translators using their hands and facial expressions to convey the message of each verse.
Idaho, attended the historic event in Florida where the release of the complete Bible in ASL was announced. “It was thrilling,” he said.
A behind-the-scenes tour of the translation office further deepened Biles’ appreciation for this translation. Hearing and deaf translators diligently worked together to convey a clear and accurate meaning of the scriptures, despite the tedious process. “It was a delight to meet the translators,” he said, “they’re just ordinary people, just humble people.” He concluded, “God wants all people to have access to his word on an equal basis as hearing people. …….