Mary Esther and her husband, Mark, went to Japan in 1983 to work in the Deaf community. There, they saw the need for Deaf people to have a Bible in their own language. In 1993, the Japanese Sign Language Bible translation project got underway. The project has transitioned to being completely run by Japanese Deaf leadership and is a leading voice in sign language Bible translation.
The Penners relocated to the US in 2019 but Mary Esther’s goal and much of her work remains the same; helping provide a Bible to the Deaf communities in their own languages now not just in Japan, but globally.
Most of Mary Esther’s work is logistical support and administrative in nature; preparing pre-translation documents, helping with materials for presentations and workshops to train Sign Language Bible translation consultants, and a Japanese Sign Language Bible study. Even during the pandemic, technology allows studying God’s Word with people around the world
As Mary Esther looks for people to not just replace her, and what she is doing, but to take the work further with more energy and imagination, she is focusing time on growing the Support Team which creates awareness, encourages prayer and facilitates fundraising and mobilization outside of Asia.
While in Japan, Mary Esther founded a Japanese non-profit organization that partners with local Japanese churches and their surrounding communities to collect, refurbish, and send wheelchairs throughout Asia.
Her work was inspired by her son, Daniel, who received his first wheelchair from the Japanese welfare system at age four. So far, over 2,500 people across Asia have received free wheelchairs through Wheelchairs of Hope. By building relationships between churches and their communities, Wheelchairs of Hope helps transform not only the lives of those who receive the wheelchairs, but also the lives of the Japanese volunteers.
In 2019 the Penners recognized the need to relocate to the US to be near their son to better advocate for him. Wheelchairs of Hope is moving forward with a Japanese leader and board of directors.
– Japanese Sign Language JSL Bible Translation
Blogs and Articles on WorldVenture:
– How the Japanese Deaf are Sharing the Gospel
– Japan’s First Lady Visits Ministry Founded by WorldVenture Missionary
– The (Un) Spoken Word of God