Reaching Out With Hands That Sign
BEGINNING June 1995 and continuing throughout the summer, Jehovah’s Witnesses in the United States branch territory held 181 district conventions with the theme “Joyful Praisers.” At two of these—one in the east and the other in the west—the entire program was presented directly in American Sign Language. Thus the clarity of the program was greatly enhanced—for direct presentation to the deaf in sign language is much more understandable than interpretation from the spoken word.
Delegates were present from the 11 sign-language congregations and some 30 sign-language groups across the United States. But also present were delegates from Britain, Canada, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Puerto Rico, and Russia. Hence, there was an international atmosphere.
Video monitors were set up so that the program could be viewed on closed-circuit television. However, a number of delegates were both deaf and blind. How would these persons benefit from the program? It was truly moving to observe over a hundred volunteers taking turns to communicate each day’s program to them by means of tactile (touch) interpreting.
At these two conventions, 36 symbolized their dedication to Jehovah God by baptism. Another highlight was the drama, Honoring Worthy Ones in Their Older Years. How thrilling it was to have this drama presented entirely in sign language, allowing deaf members to have a major share in the presentation!
Then came the release of the new Bible study aid, Knowledge That Leads to Everlasting Life. The conventioners were especially happy to learn that a sign-language version of this book was being made available on videotape! Volume 1, released at the convention, contains the first three chapters. Five more volumes will follow. “How thankful we are for this new video,” remarked a delegate from Ohio. “It will help us to speed up the work in the deaf territories.”
The 2,621 in attendance at these two conventions went home spiritually refreshed. As never before, they were determined to echo the words of the psalmist: “Every breathing thing—let it praise Jah. Praise Jah, you people!”—Psalm 150:6.