‘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 have been feeling the effects of the Covid-19 restrictions. Eight groups have been unable to function due to limits on the number of people allowed to meet together.
The restrictions are now lifting gradually; churches are reopening and activities are beginning to restart.
The team is planning to create several new listening groups. They are currently in the middle of making preparations and training group leaders so that groups can begin as soon as possible.
It is also becoming possible for the team to begin church visits again, and they hope that this will inspire local churches to begin groups of their own.
Inabidon, the Scripture Engagement Coordinator, has been able to travel around and visit local churches by motorcycle taxi to tell them about the work, encourage them to use Ifè Scriptures and gain their support for the project.
She has also attended a course at the local Bible Institute about promoting the use of the mother tongue in churches.
Idols are not God
67-year-old Akoda was born and raised in a home where her parents were idol worshipers. Her father was a fervent follower of a spirit and her mother made idols. Akoda saw the suffering that her parents endured while they were worshipping the idols; her father died at a young age and her younger sister passed away while travelling, with an idol found in her suitcase.
These events caused Akoda to think about the idols and the religion her family followed. She concluded that the idols are not God and she gave her life to Christ. She said:
‘Today, if I listen to Bible teachings in Ifè, the word is clear to me. I understand many things and that motivates me to evangelise other members of my family who are still living.’
An encouraging Christmas
At one local church Christmas celebration, an 11-year-old girl read Mary’s song (Luke 1 46–55) in Ifè, which amazed the people at the service. The pastor of the church wrote an encouraging letter to the team:
‘Miss Gnanon Esther Agbemadon did a reading last Friday during the children’s service. It was truly impressive. You are doing an enormous work. Congratulations to you all!’
Continuing the work
Work is continuing on various Old Testament books. Ezekiel has been checked against the original Hebrew by a consultant, and corrections have been completed. The first drafts of the book of Leviticus and chapters 9–11 of Daniel have been finished.
Local churches have requested printed copies of the book of Numbers, so preparations are being made for it to be produced over the next few months.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the lifting of some of the Covid-19 restrictions
- God’s continuing protection from Covid-19
- Support for Inabidon in her work with churches
Please pray for:
- protection for the team and their families from Covid-19
- the listening groups as they restart
- the churches, that they will understand the need for the Scriptures in Ifè
- team leader Komi as he coordinates the team and completes his own translation training.
Listening to the word
We praise God that listening groups, who gather together to listen to Scripture on audio devices, have been able to start meeting again recently. The team has been very encouraged that three new groups have also started up.
Kadjato is an Ifè speaker and an evangelist. The team met him when he came to the office to pick up one of the audio devices. Kadjato had been playing audio recordings of Scriptures in the market place in his village, but local people had not been interested, as the recording he had was not in Ifè.
One evening he was listening to the radio and heard a New Testament passage being read and explained in Ifè by the team, who also said that audio recordings of the whole New Testament were available.
He travelled to the office, collected an audio device and was trained to use it. When he got home he told two of his friends, who are pastors, about it, and they have all started their own listening groups.
‘I would like to express a big thank you to …donors, who have made available to us, the servants of God, this precious tool to help us in the work in the Ifè region.’ – Kadjato
Ifè radio broadcasts, like the ones that Kadjato listened to, have been vital for local believers during the last few months. Covid restrictions have meant that believers have not been able to meet in church. They love these broadcasts, and local church leaders have been getting in touch with the team to ask for the portions of Scripture that have been translated, but not yet published. The team has been more than happy to print these for them.
Through the broadcasts an increasing number of people are also becoming interested in the Ifè language, and becoming aware of the importance of having the word of God in Ifè. They are participating more and more in the teachings from the Ifè Scriptures. Sermons, when they can be preached, are being interpreted into Ifè, and 60 copies of the New Testament have been sold in the last three months, despite ongoing economic problems.
Komi, the Project Coordinator, has a new role as the Togo-Benin Translation Coordinator based in Kara in the North of Togo, around four or five hours’ drive away from the area where the Ifè team works. Although he will still be doing some work with the team and stay in contact with them, he and his family have moved to Kara to begin his year-long transition into his new role.
Komi has been part of the Ifè team since 1999. He was a new Christian when he was first involved with the project, but through his work his faith and his knowledge of Scripture have grown, and his wife, having seen the changes in his life, has also become a believer.
Continuing to make progress
The team is continuing to make progress on the translation of the Old Testament. The book of Joshua is ready to go to print in early 2021.
They are also continuing to assist with the translation of public health information relating to Covid-19.
Restrictions are lifting a little, so they hope to be able to run some workshops and training in the New Year.
Please pray for translator Kaleb’s daughter who is in hospital and needs an operation on her foot. Pray for Kaleb as he needs God’s provision for her operation and hospital stay, and for wisdom for the medical staff as they treat her.
Please also pray for provision of a new vehicle for the team as Komi is taking his car with him to Kara. He was the only team member with a car, and some of the areas they visit are inaccessible without one.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the listening groups that have restarted, and the three new groups
- God’s protection from Covid-19
- the progress made on translation and the team’s continued perseverance
- the good response to the radio broadcasts.
Please pray for:
- continuing good health and strength for all the team members and their families
- Kaleb’s daughter’s health, and her operation
- Komi and his family as he starts his new role
- the provision of a vehicle for the team.