‘For a long time I have heard teachings and sermons on the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. I even read that portion of the Bible several times and in different versions. But when I read the crucifixion scene in my own language, I shed tears! The words chosen to describe the scene were accurate and natural, and were very moving. Tears flowed, even without me realising it!’ – An Ifè believer
- Country: Togo and Benin
- Langauge: Ifè
- Speakers: 170,600
- Start date of the Old Testament translation project: 2014
- Projected end date: 2026
The Ifè people live in the southern part of Togo and in part of neighbouring Benin. In the towns many speak the trade languages or some French, but in rural areas where the majority of Ifè live most only speak Ifè. For many, life is centred around agriculture, and there is little access to schools, medical facilities or clean water.
Thirty-five years ago there were few, if any, Christians among the Ifè. Many people followed the traditional religion, which involves ceremonies and sacrifices to many divinities. But today we praise God that the number of Ifè Christians grows daily. The translation of God’s word has been a key factor in that change.
In 2009 the Ifè New Testament was published. Since that time, more and more people have been seeing the power of Scripture at work in their own lives as they have the chance to read it for the first time in their language, but Ifè Christians long for the whole Bible in their own language. There is also a need to encourage believers in their faith and equip churches to worship God in their own language, whether through Scripture or song.
The team continues to make progress with translation of the Old Testament, with the aim of completing it by 2026. Alongside this, the team is working with local churches and organisations to encourage people to engage with Scripture, with the hope more lives will be transformed by the living word of God.
To increase the reach of the New Testament, an online and an audio version are now available, and a number of local people are being trained to run listening groups. The team also regularly shares Scripture over the radio and equips churches with resources in their language. Finally, the team has been involved in a major adult literacy effort for many years. While the funding for that (from other partner organisations) has ceased, the team continues to run a few classes, teaching people to read, write and do basic maths in Ifè.
Join in praise and prayer for the Ifè people:
- Praise God that the Ifè New Testament has been completed.
- Pray for wisdom and energy for the translation work and for the team’s other activities.
- Pray for an increase in the number of church leaders using the Ifè New Testament for their services.
- Ask God to protect the team and their families and keep them in good health.
- Pray that many Ifè people’s lives would be transformed through the word of God.
Listening groups revitalised
Reopening and restarting activities has been making slow progress. Inabidon, who runs the listening groups, had an accident and was unable to work for some weeks, although she did keep in touch with the groups by phone. She has now made a full recovery and is back at work.
She has started seven new listening groups recently, as well as helping some others to restart after they were unable to meet for some months due to Covid restrictions.
The Scripture Engagement team is also working on some activities for children to help them to understand the Scriptures. Activity groups for children are planned to start early in 2022.
Reaching out by radio
The monthly radio broadcasts are continuing; the programmes consist of Scripture readings, lessons and sermons. The community enjoys these radio shows in Ifè, and listeners sometimes approach the team with comments or questions.
One man, Kodjo, was listening to a broadcast on Luke 7:12, in which Jesus raises the widow’s son; Kodjo was eating his lunch, but what he heard made him stop eating and begin to cry. He said:
I realised that the comments not only reminded me of my suffering but also comforted me, because from that moment I believed that Christ could resolve all my physical and spiritual problems, as he did for the woman in the story.
He was convinced by this experience that the Scripture was the truth, and resolved to serve Christ with confidence.
Churches have begun to reopen following the easing of Covid restrictions, but some activities have been slow to restart. The rainy season also made travel to the villages very difficult, as poorly maintained roads become muddy and impassable.
The team is able to keep in touch and maintain relationships with some church leaders by telephone; they have also made a couple of visits to pastors.
Translator Kaleb has also been using social media to spread information about Covid in Ifè.
Continuing the translation
The books of Daniel and Proverbs have been checked for accuracy against the original languages by a translation consultant, and the first draft of the book of Exodus has been completed.
Team Leader Komi is studying Ifè songs to compare them with Hebrew poetry, to help with the translation of some of the Old Testament books. Other members of the translation team are also receiving some Hebrew training; they are reading as much as possible in Hebrew, particularly focussing on the names of places and people.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- continued protection against Covid-19 in the Ifè region
- the completed work on checking the books of Daniel and Proverbs
- the reopening of churches.
Please pray for:
- the new children’s activities starting in the new year
- Kodjo as he seeks to live for Christ
- the translation work on the remaining 39 Psalms.
Listening groups revitalised
As local Covid-19 restrictions have lifted, the listening groups, mostly paused due to being unable to meet together, have started up again. The groups give people the opportunity to listen to the Scriptures on a Proclaimer (an audio device) and are invaluable for those who are unable to read.
Team member, Inabidon, has been able to visit a few of the groups that have restarted; she keeps in touch with others remotely by phone.
She has also been able to run a training course for people who want to start a listening group. Thirteen people attended a workshop and they each now run their own group.
From Shamanism to Christ
Afiwa is the mother of Gabriel, the vice-principal of the local high school in Atakpamé, and the treasurer of one of the translation project’s partner organisations.
Afiwa was a shaman for one particular spirit and enjoyed lots of privileges in the local community because of this. A while ago she noticed the positive behaviour of her own children, most of whom were Christians. This inspired her to break ties with the spirit and give her life to Christ.
When she became a Christian, members of her family, particularly her younger sister, were very hostile to her, but Afiwa wanted to follow the teachings of Christ; she went to make peace with all of her relatives who did not understand her decision. She also testifies about the love of Christ to other shamans.
‘Today she is happy to follow Christ and to listen to his word in Ifè. For her, nothing is more lovely than to find herself among the saints.’- Komi – Project Coordinator
Life changed by listening
Akoua lives in one of the Ifè towns. She has her own Proclaimer and listens to the New Testament in Ifè.
She told the team that before she had the Proclaimer, she would go to church but often quarrelled and insulted people while she was there. After she listened to God’s word in Ifè it has become clearer to her and she has stopped quarrelling.
She says, ‘I understand many things and that motivates me to evangelise others’.
Old Testament progress
The team has continued work on checking the translation of Leviticus and Daniel. Work on the Psalms has taken longer than the team expected because of differences between Hebrew poetry and Ifè poetry. A specialist language consultant is working with the team to resolve these issues.
They are also making progress with typesetting, which is the first stage of getting the book of Numbers printed.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- protection against Covid-19 in the Ifè region
- good responses to the training courses
- progress in the translation of Psalms and Proverbs.
Please pray for:
- the reopening of churches
- the new listening groups as they start to meet together
- the translation work on the Psalms, that the poetic style will speak to the Ifè people.