Duane King, who founded Deaf Missions in 1970 “to reach Deaf people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” died Jan. 25.
King lived to see fulfillment of Deaf Missions most ambitious project—completion in 2020 of the American Sign Language Version (ASLV) of the Bible—a 38-year project that he helped to start and oversee as director of Deaf Missions until his retirement in 2007.
“Duane lived his life with purpose, confidence, humility, creativity, and fun,” his obituary stated. “He wanted to eliminate any kind of barrier that might get in the way of all people knowing Jesus as their Savior.” Through his efforts, and that of many others, Deaf Missions has been used by God to reach millions of deaf people around the world.
The Skidmore, Mo., native attended Nebraska Christian College in Norfolk, then served as a pastor in Anthon, Iowa, Norfolk, Neb., and Griswold, Iowa, before moving to Council Bluffs as pastor of Christ’s Church for the Deaf.
“I have always looked up to him,” said Chad Entinger, who succeeded King as director of Deaf Missions in 2007. “He has been my dear brother in Christ, a very special friend and mentor.”
Entinger spoke at King’s funeral on Saturday at First Christian Church in Council Bluffs, where he shared some of the wise counsel King gave him through the years. These short phrases—sometimes referred to as “Kingisms”—also were shared at Deaf Missions’ Facebook page.
Entinger said King claimed to have invented the word probortunity (“Duane [said] many times . . . , ‘God takes problems and turns them into opportunities’”), he stressed being detailed and thorough (“If you cut too many corners, you’ll start going in circles”), he encouraged joyfulness (“You can either complain that rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice that thorn bushes have roses”), and he lived with urgency (“Jesus’ return is nearer today than it was yesterday”).
In a 2019 Christian Standard article, ASLV translator Mary Alice Gardner described how King was trying to teach the Bible to Deaf children when he came to understand the necessity of a sign language translation of Scripture.
Despite having English handouts and an English Bible, students answered [questions] incorrectly. “Yet when I signed the questions, they answered correctly in sign language,” King said. “I realized I wasn’t asking the questions in their language. They needed a Bible in sign language.”
. . . In 1982, the Deaf Missions board chose [Harold] Noe to serve as translation director and tasked him with developing a process to translate the Bible into American Sign Language. They called it the Omega Project.
At that time, ASL was just receiving recognition as a language, with its own distinct grammar and syntax. No one had ever done a biblical video translation using sign language. This pioneering work required creative thinking and experimentation, relying on trial and error until a process was developed to produce a dynamic, visual translation.
Upon the project’s completion in 2020, Entinger said, “We are beyond exhilarated . . . that now, finally, Deaf people have all of God’s Word in our native, heart language.”
In that same 2020 article, ASLV Bible translator Renca Dunn said: “Words in printed English cannot explain the depth of the Bible to Deaf people. For many in the Deaf community, written English is a second language.”
At its website, Deaf Missions says, “98 percent of the worldwide population of Deaf people have never encountered the real Jesus.” The problem boils down to “communication barriers.”
King devoted most of his life to helping break down the communication barrier so that Christ could be shared more effectively with Deaf people.
Duane King was preceded in death by two brothers, Doug and Don.
He is survived by his wife, Peggy; one brother, Dean; one daughter, Christine Clausen Cannon; a son, JD; and five grandchildren.
A funeral service was conducted Saturday at First Christian Church. Immediately afterward, hors d’oeuvres, cake, and ice cream were served. (It was a promise kept, as King—who loved ice cream—had told many people it would be served at his funeral.)
A graveside service was conducted that afternoon.