While there are no reliable statistics regarding the number of deaf people in China, estimates range from 30 to 60 million. Since some think even these numbers are quite low, it’s clear there are an abnormally large number of deaf among the Chinese. One contributing factor was the prior overuse of antibiotics, especially in rural regions.
This means many millions of people are not only isolated from Chinese society as a whole, but also from the revival of the church in China. While the government has been proactive in founding schools and facilities for the deaf in many urban centers, this has no effect on the millions of deaf Chinese who live in rural areas. In these places, the deaf cannot communicate even with their families, as there is no means to learn sign language.
Some do not consider the deaf of China an unreached people group, since they are not an ethnicity and are not confined to a particular region. Because of this, they are often overlooked. However, they have a unique communication system (signing), have their own culture, lead an isolated existence and are severely limited in their access to the Gospel. These are exact hallmarks of what we call an “unreached” group.
Because this group is not contained in a particular geographical area, and are spread throughout the country, reaching them in large groups is particularly difficult. There is no one area where the deaf can be reached and therefore efforts must be made on a large scale. Fortunately, schools for the deaf provide a perfect opportunity for engagement of this very neglected group. These schools are a prime place to learn about deaf culture and its challenges. Some churches in China have begun to see the deaf as a fruitful field for the Gospel message. But such a daunting task requires a commitment from many churches and many workers—nationwide.
Reaching the deaf poses unique challenges not faced among other unreached groups. While remote villages and difficult languages are the norm when targeting other least-reached groups of China, reaching the deaf will require those who are willing to follow the Lord in serving long term among this marginalized group. But the Lord has a heart for those who others have discarded, and the time is right for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit among the deaf of China. A few families have committed to reaching the deaf in their regions of China, joining with several Chinese churches. But the deaf millions across every corner of China will only be reached by a concerted effort—led by the Holy Spirit. What part will you play?