Mark’s 2012 Year End Report

Letting go:

I tried to work more as a consultant this year and let others tackle the day-to-day translation checking work. They did a phenomenal job. While I was in the U.S. visiting churches and supporters last summer, the rest of the team team finished translating and recording the book of Esther. I helped talk through a few of the bigger questions, but didn’t check any of the drafts. What a joy to know that the project will continue with or without me!


Early this year, we split into two teams, and Uiko became lead translator for Colossians/Philemon. But though Uiko worked as translator, Pastor Matsumoto was actually the one who signed the final version. Uiko comes from a large family with a strong Deaf heritage going back at least to her grandparents, and they are quite well known in the Deaf community. She was sure her family would not be pleased for the whole community to know that one of them had become a Christian, and also as a new believer, did not want her face to be associated publicly with the translation. Thus the innovation—one person translates, another signs—something that hadn’t been done before. Even though Matsumoto’s final version was not quite as good has Uiko’s might have been, it was some of our best work so far, and we were pleased.

(Next, Uiko translated the book of Esther. Perhaps influenced by Esther’s courage, she made the tough decision to sign the final version and have her face be a part of the Japanese Sign Language Bible. Praise God! Thank you for praying for her. She’s now working on the Gospel of John.)

In November, we started working on a brilliant new smart-phone app as a way of delivering the Bible more easily than ever. Of course you’ll be able to jump to any verse right away with a clean, crisp interface, but you’ll also have fast-forward and slow motion, bookmarks, and multi-language. Most of this we saw working that day as we met with the app developer (Simon, a missionary to Japan with a burden for Deaf people, who also had this incredible niche skill that we so desperately needed). But even better, we will also have capacity for the viewer to record video notes to attach to the video Bible. (Something akin to underlining and writing notes in the margin of a printed Bible.) Video notes on video footage:  “that will revolutionize Deaf culture!” was Pastor Matsumoto’s response.


The Japanese leaders at the Sign Language Bible translation project have taken leadership roles in the Asia Pacific Sign Language Development Association (APSDA.)   The goal is to meet the needs of Sign Language Bible translation for all of Asia and the Pacific.  They made several visits this year to various countries in East and Southeast Asia  and it’s exciting to see their commitment to moving the vision forward.


With perhaps as little as 10 years left until retirement I want to make time for mentoring the next generation. Several key people have already asked to be trained during the time we have left.  I also want to find ways to gather unchurched people in the Deaf community to see God’s Word in their language and give them the opportunity to meet Jesus in a non-threatening environment.  It’s been exciting to see three people working on the translation project make public confessions of faith after exposure to God’s word day after day. We want to make that experience available to Deaf people throughout Japan.

Thank you for your support and prayers for us, and for the Deaf of Japan, and now for the Deaf of Asia.


About Mark and Mary Esther Penner

Mark works as an adviser and resource to a Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project that plays a key role in the worldwide sign language Bible translation movement. Mary Esther founded a non-profit organization that partners with local communities and organizations to collect, refurbish and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
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