‘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 to the Lord
For local believer Koffi, not that long ago, being a follower of Jesus meant simply going to church. As he listened to the Bible being read, week in week out, in a different language to his own, he didn’t understand the true message being shared. Today his faith looks very different.
Koffi is now part of a listening group run by a fellow church member, Daniel, who was recently trained by the Ifè team. Through this group, for the first time, Koffi has been able to listen to Scripture in his own language and truly understand the message. We praise God that, as a result, Koffi now has this testimony to share:
‘I have been in this church for several years, but I was only a church-goer. I had not at all received Christ because I understood nothing, since the language of the service is Éwé. But through the listening group, hearing the Ifè New Testament, my mother tongue, I was touched by the teachings of Jesus and his promises for all those who believe in him. Now I have decided to follow Jesus and to accept him as my personal saviour.’
A radio response
The ripple effect of Bible translation has been felt in the community through the opportunity to share vital health messages. Usually you will find the team delivering sermons and Scripture in Ifè over the radio, but this has now been extended to include special broadcasts on Covid-19.
Through utilising its regular radio presence the team has been able to share messages in Ifè which highlight the dangers of Covid-19, and how to limit its spread. The information has also been put on the Ifè website to help save lives by reaching people who may not otherwise have been reached.
Project and progress
The Ifè team continues to press on with translating the Old Testament, but the impact of Covid-19 has led to a number of struggles. All activity involving more than two people has been suspended, such as testing and listening groups, and team meetings cannot take place. As well as this, the team has felt the psychological impact of hearing many stories of people dying from the virus.
Nevertheless, progress does continue and the team is persevering, working independently from home. The focus over the coming months is on translating the books of Haggai, Malachi, Daniel and Psalms.
Equipping future generations
As well as working on translation the Ifè team often takes the time to pass on their skills and help equip local leaders.
Earlier this year, Scripture engagement coordinator Inabidon and translator Kaleb helped run an annual Scripture engagement workshop. This event was designed to train future pastors in the importance of using Scriptures in local languages in church.
Unfortunately, all training and workshops are currently on hold due to Covid-19, but the team hopes to take part in a few later in the year to enhance their own skills.
A musical launch
Singing together at church is something that is familiar to most, but what might not be so familiar is singing in a different language. For Ifè Christians this is a more regular reality, with songs sung in French, English or Éwé (a majority language). We rejoice that today this is changing.
Earlier this year people from different church denominations gathered to celebrate the launch of a brand new Ifè worship album. The composer, Joel Adjangbo, produced the album in response to a great need:
‘- so that my Ifè brothers and sisters in Christ can also participate and enjoy worship’.
After much singing and dancing the album was officially launched to shouts of praise from all. The event was also an opportunity for Scripture to be shared. Alongside the 100 albums bought, many people also bought copies of the New Testament and Old Testament portions.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the continued good health of the Ifè team members and their families
- the launch of a new Ifè worship album
- God supporting and guiding the partner organisation which helps oversee the project
- those participating in listening groups who are growing in their faith and understanding of Scripture.
Please pray for:
- strength in the battle against Covid-19 and divine protection for those not yet infected
- the opportunity to restart the group translation steps, such as community testing
- God to grant more time to the translation consultant involved to work with the team
- The continued growth and positive impact of Scripture engagement activities.
Life in the songs of grieving
The impact of having Scripture available in the Ifè language was heard most recently through the sounds of a grieving community. During a funeral service for a member of the Assemblies of God (AOG) Church in Togo, local church leaders called for the Ifè language to be used due to it being such an important part of the life of the community.
‘It is the Ifè language that is the life of the people, or, better, that is at the centre of the daily life of the Ifè people …. Through the songs of grieving, the Ifè language causes people to reflect on their well-being and enables them to push through the grief, to take up their lives again.’ – local Ifè church leader
In response, songs were sung and the message was given in Ifè. At the end of the service, many people shared that they truly understood what was being preached. The team praises God that pastors are becoming more aware of the need to use Ifè in order to touch people’s hearts.
Responding to the local church
During the translation process, support from pastors of all different church denominations has been growing. Churches regularly pray for, encourage and consult with the team. It is through this the Ifè team is able to directly respond to the Scripture needs of the community.
This, for example, led to 1 Samuel being translated and distributed rather than 1 Kings as originally planned, due to a request from the churches. Whilst the community awaits the completion of the Old Testament, it is vital that portions of Scripture are shared. Churches have been eagerly using these portions along with their New Testaments. In the last few months the team was able to distribute many copies of the Psalms and 1 Samuel. The team also regularly visits churches to maintain these relationships.
Project and progress
The Ifè team continues to press on with translating the Old Testament, with the hope that one day soon they will have access to the whole Bible. A few recent highlights have been:
- making progress with drafting 30 Psalms, with the aim to complete the translation later this year
- Haggai and Malachi now being ready for the final translation stage – consultant checking
- completing the first draft of the final 15 chapters of Deuteronomy
Faith comes by hearing
To enable more people to have the chance to engage with the transformative word of God, Scripture engagement coordinator Inabidon has been working with local churches to set up listening groups.
In November, local people gathered to take part in a training session run by Inabidon. Many different churches were represented, with each denomination sending two people to take part. During the training the participants were equipped with the skills to lead listening groups and use audio devices to share Scripture. To ensure these groups keep running, Inabidon regularly checks in with leaders.
A transformed life
As well as seeing the impact of having Scripture in Ifè on those around them, the team has seen its impact in their own lives. For translator Komlan, who has been in his role for five years, this came through a transformed way of living.
Komlan was a Christian before he became involved in translation, but through his work he has come to know and understand his Bible much better. This led him to see that some of his behaviour which he considered OK was not honouring to God, so he committed to changing it. For example, Komlan used to drink heavily but has now become teetotal. This has rippled out to his brothers, who have followed suit and also given up drinking.
Being involved in the work has also enabled him to learn to read and write in his own language and to help others to do the same. We praise God for the work he is doing in the lives of the Ifè team.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the continued commitment and determination of the Ifè team
- churches coming together for listening group training
- the reprint of the New Testament going smoothly, and many copies being distributed
- understanding of Scripture growing and impacting people’s lives.
Please pray for:
- churches to grow in understanding of the need to support translation
- Scripture engagement coordinator Inabidon to continue to connect with the community
- the next stage of translating Isaiah, Haggai and Malachi: consultant checking
- continued good health for the translators and their families.