By Noel Marquis
Over the past few years, mobile apps have become convenient tools for entertainment and creative learning. Children are attracted especially to those featuring interactive games and videos, making apps an excellent platform for delivering the story of God’s love. However, not every child is able to receive that story in the same way. Marshall Lawrence, founder and executive director of Silent Blessings, noticed a need for mobile apps geared toward deaf children and their families.
“All of us with cell phones use our mobile apps all the time. Deaf kids are no exception,” Marshall says. “There are lots of apps they can play, but nothing out there that can both entertain them and communicate Biblical truth at the same time. Also, the vast majority of parents of deaf children have never learned enough sign language to carry on much of a conversation with their kids.”
Marshall and his wife Terry were made aware of a need for more resources that use American Sign Language (ASL) in 1985 when their daughter Rachel was born deaf. “We were especially frustrated by the scarcity of people or resources that could help us teach our little girl about our faith in Christ—the single most important truth we knew she needed to learn,” Marshall said. “There were no deaf churches within a hundred miles of our home—no Christian videos designed to teach children about the Christian faith in ASL.”
The need for Christian ASL resources eventually inspired Marshall to found Silent Blessings in 1996, the only ministry in America with a national reach that produces faith-driven media for deaf children and their families. On March 1, the ministry broke new ground by launching the “God Loves Deaf Kids” mobile app, which is available to download for free in the app store.
The plan for a mobile app has been in the making for several years, adding to the excitement of its official release. “Our budget is much, much smaller than our sister ministries, who are primarily working on Bible translations projects,” said Marshall. “So we had to wait until we could find a cost-effective way to do this app.”
After patiently planning and waiting, a dream became reality when generous financial gifts allowed Silent Blessings to work with Subsplash, a TV and mobile app platform for churches to make sermons accessible online.
As of now, the app primarily plays video content featuring ASL. Silent Blessings has produced twenty-six hours of Dr. Wonder’s Workshop, a TV series focusing on Christian lessons specifically for deaf children. In addition to making the episodes easily accessible, the app will also host videos from other ministries, and each episode will be signed, voiced and captioned to reach a diverse audience.
The app also features games, helpful resources for parents of deaf children and a contact form, which kids can use to ask questions, such as “Is it really true that if I sign my prayer, Jesus will understand it?”
“It will provide them with a positive, safe environment when they are riding in the back seat of the car, or waiting around in a doctor’s office or sitting at a dinner table with a gaggle of talking grown-ups and kids and they are shut out of the conversation,” Marshall said. “If we can have tools and videos and games and stories on this ‘take it wherever you go’ tool, that would be an amazing thing.”
In addition to expansion of the app, exciting things are in store for Silent Blessings. Filmmaker Don Boggs, who taught radio and television courses at Anderson University, is currently developing a ninety-minute documentary about the Lawrence family and the development of Silent Blessings. Their daughter Rachel is also helping to translate the Bible into the first ASL version verse-by verse with the Bible translation team at Deaf Missions in Iowa.
Currently, Marshall—an ordained Church of God minister who grew up attending Arrow Heights Church of God in Anderson, Indiana—now attends Park Place Church of God with his family, who are all continuing to diligently minister to the American deaf community.
Learn more about Silent Blessings at www.silentblessings.org.