Not one single complete Bible exists for the world’s 200 million Deaf people in their mother tongue – sign language – in all its hundreds of forms. And Wycliffe Australia members Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood have dedicated their lives to doing something about it.
Since 2015, Saul has been pioneering a revolutionary computer software program that records sign language movement to create three-dimensional digital recordings.
The project is set to transform sign language Bible translation as we know it and to extend progress beyond its present geographic and technological boundaries.
Inevitable trials have evolved since the Thurrowgoods first joined Wycliffe and commenced their current work. Yet the Lord has established their every step along the path of placing His Word into the hands of the Deaf.
The nature of invention means that Saul and his US co-worker, Shawn Collins, are constantly pushing the boundaries of what is possible in computerised sign language Bible translation.
‘Software-wise, you ask me any time, any day, I’ll tell you I’m up against a wall trying to make the next thing,’ Saul says. ‘That’s just the way it is.’
When the project was at risk of being cancelled in mid-2015, a most fitting partnership with the Deaf Bible Society ensued. With their project funding and shared vision, this partnership is ‘opening up doors,’ Saul shares, ‘that otherwise we didn’t really see happening.’
The Thurrowgoods have endured times when their lives have been suspended in uncertainty, particularly during long transition periods in ministry and preparing for international relocation that never eventuated.
‘That becomes quite oppressive on your own spiritual life,’ Rebecca explains. ‘You have to really hold on to knowing that God’s doing something.’
With every step, the Thurrowgoods’ church, New Heart Baptist, has provided steadfast personal support to encourage the family. ‘Everybody really knew that this was the way God was having us go,’ Rebecca recalls. ‘And that these were just things to discourage us.’
The interweaving of gospel partnerships has sustained Saul and Rebecca through periods of doubt and affirmed God’s leading in His work. They are grateful for the relationships that sustain them and spur them on to complete more sign language translation tools.
With such support behind them, the Thurrowgoods will keep striving to make known the living God and empower sign language Bible translators to put Scripture into the hands and hearts of the Deaf.
- Another programmer to join the project
- God’s grace as Saul sets up the motion capture system in several willing sign language projects for testing, data collection and feedback
- Good communication and relationships between team members despite barriers of distance, time zones, cultures and languages
By Craig Schneider