Silence is not always golden

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Christmas 2023

The Four Seasons gave us the song ‘Silence is golden’. But have you ever wondered what it would be like to lose one of your senses? Renowned 19th and 20th century author and disability advocate, Helen Keller, lost both her sight and her hearing after an illness in her infancy. Despite the incredible hurdles and daily struggles she faced, she was able to attend Harvard University and become the very first deaf-blind person in America to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Yet Helen was acutely aware of her unique position, saying in her autobiography, ‘I owed my success partly to the advantages of my birth and environment. I have learned that the power to rise is not within the reach of everyone’.

Sadly, the majority of Deaf and blind communities still face challenges in their daily lives most of us never encounter, including the ability to access and understand Scripture. At a Wycliffe Australia ‘Mission Possible’ event in Melbourne, Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood shared about their heart to reach Deaf people with the Bible in a language that speaks to their hearts. Their talk was titled ‘Faith comes by hearing…but what if you’re Deaf?’ and included live sign language interpretations throughout the night. They also shared about the motion capture technology Saul has been creating called Chameleon that is helping to advance the work of Bible translation for Deaf communities.

Rebecca’s parents are both Deaf so she has grown up witnessing firsthand the difficulties they endure. She says that, despite the privileges many in our society have access to, there are still many challenges the Deaf face in Australia and on an international scale:

Attitudes have changed over the years but there is still a stigma attached to deafness. Deaf people aren’t necessarily any more included in services and planning. It takes more intentionality and preparation to truly include Deaf people and provide them with the resources they need. Many Deaf people have other disabilities and deafness has come as a secondary issue. They tend to be abused more because they are more vulnerable. 

A 2018 study in America found that the stigma Deaf people face is often a result of the different ways they need to communicate. It determined that ‘the hearing world tends to view being Deaf as a disability … rather than as an identity that also brings opportunity for personal growth and community’ (Mousley and Chaudoir, 2018). 

The same attitudes are prevalent among the Deaf in Australia. Rebecca shares:

We often get asked, ‘Well if Deaf people can see, they can read the Bible, right? Why do they need a translation of their own?’ But if we’re talking globally about the Deaf community, we’re talking predominantly about a group of people that don’t get provided with an education in most countries and if they do it’s very minimal. When you don’t have that phonetic input, reading is quite difficult. And it’s not just the words, it’s the way words are put together. But sign language is more than a series of words. It’s a language that expresses culture, identity and belonging. That’s the way I believe God speaks to us. He’s not just a hearing Godhe’s also the God of the Deaf. He understands sign language too!


  • for the Auslan Scripture translations Saul and Rebecca are planning to start in coming months
  • that a team of Auslan signers can be formed and trained to help with the motion capture being used for Chameleon.


Read more about the ways in which Chameleon is being used to translate Scripture and gospel resources for sign languages throughout the world, via the website

Have a look at the Christmas video available in Auslan: The Who, What, Why and How of the Christmas story in Auslan!

To see videos created for Deaf children in Auslan, go to:

Children learning the signs of Easter

By Deb Fox  |  Wycliffe Today Winter 2023  |

In that day the deaf will hear words read from a book, and the blind will see through the gloom and darkness. – Isaiah 28:18 (NLT)

Do you remember listening to Bible stories in Sunday School? For many Deaf children, there are very few resources available for them to learn more about God’s love for them. So far, only American Sign Language (ASL) has the full Bible available. Australian Sign Language (Auslan) only has a few books translated and does not have any resources to support Scripture engagement. Wycliffe Bible Translators Australia members Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood want to change that. 

Saul & Rebecca Thurrowgood

Saul and Rebecca Thurrowgood with their children.

The Thurrowgoods have been working in partnership with the Bible Society to create animated Bible stories for children in Auslan. The Christmas story was released at the end of 2022 and an Easter message was recently published. The videos are based on evangelical children’s booklets the Bible Society produced a couple of years ago. They have been created using the motion capture Artificial Intelligence (AI) tool called ‘Chameleon’ which Saul and his team have been refining for the past 10 years ’and which converts the signed movements from a real person to an animated character.

Saul explains:

Last year, the Bible Society wanted to see if they could use Chameleon for translation projects and they came to check it out. We trialled the technology with the Christmas story and were thrilled that it worked so well. The second time around, everything worked even more smoothly with the Easter story. All the characters are consistent throughout the series. It’s been a long time building up but we’re finally seeing fruit from all the years of hard work to get Chameleon off the ground. 

Rebecca adds:

A screenshot of the Easter video translated into Auslan.

I’ve been thinking a lot about creating resources for kids to put online to equip the church. These videos are like a seed – the first in a way of creating resources for Deaf children. Auslan has its own linguistic style that is very poetic visually that would not translate the same way in spoken English. These videos provide the stories in a form that kids can easily understand. We have a dream for Deaf community to be able to connect with the gospel. The children’s stories we’ve created using Chameleon so far will hopefully be a good start.


  • for more people to join the team! We need workers highly skilled in programming, computer science, AI, computer vision and robotics
  • that the Auslan translation of the Easter story can continue to be shared with Deaf children throughout Australia and open their hearts to the love of Jesus
  • for the languages and countries that have shared an interest in using Chameleon

More: To watch the video, click here. To visit the Chameleon website, click here.

Thanks for your patience...

Waiting is hard, isn't it. But imagine waiting 2000 years for Scripture in your language! Thanks for your patience. And thanks for your generous support which will help bring the long wait to an end...