‘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.
A new understanding
Partnering with local churches is a vital part of increasing the reach of Bible translation. This is something which shines through in the ministry of Mr Samuel Fombo, a local Ifè church leader.
Samuel, who is deacon of an Assemblies of God church, regularly read the word of God in French and Éwé (a majority language). But as he read he struggled, like so many others, to understand the true meaning – a realisation which came through his involvement with the team in the testing of the Ifè translation of Deuteronomy. As he began to read Scripture in Ifè, his understanding grew. This has not only impacted his own life, but has also now rippled out into his congregation as he is able to preach with more confidence and testify how important it is to read Scripture in your own language.
Samuel is not alone in his experience; the team is encouraged to see a growing number of church leaders recognising the need for Scripture to be in Ifè in order for it to truly touch people’s lives.
Trusting in the Lord
Feeling inadequate, uneducated or even worthless are emotions which so many of us battle with during different seasons of life. For former Ifè literacy student, Abla Deborah Fombo, this story is familiar, but she praises God for pulling her out of this condition.
‘From zero, from nothing at all, the Lord made of me the person I am today.‘
At the age of 25 Abla felt uneducated so she enrolled in Ifè literacy classes. During this time she was able to read Scripture in Ifè for the first time. As Abla’s faith grew, she felt God call her to Côte d’Ivoire for further education, where she remains today. This journey was not without its challenges, but Abla has learned the importance of trusting in the Lord throughout. Today Abla wants to encourage other people, no matter what stage of life they are at.
‘It is not easy. People will make fun of you, but it is enough to know for yourself what you are seeking and that the Lord is faithful and can raise you up with dignity if you want to learn. Accepting to learn to read in your language is accepting to learn to read the word of God to better understand God.’
Covid-19 restrictions may have brought many challenges for the Ifè team with cancelled training, events on hold and churches closed, but it has also led to creativity as the team turns to technology to share Scripture.
The team has been using a number of different tools. They have promoted the New Testament through placing an image on their WhatsApp status, made announcements over the radio, shared details on Facebook and informed church leaders, who in turn have told their congregations. As a result, 40 New Testaments have been distributed over the last few months. The team has also been encouraged to see a thirst for God’s word, in particular amongst young people, even in the midst of a pandemic.
The team continues to persevere with translation, and has found ways to safely meet together, resulting in encouraging progress. A few highlights have been completing the first draft of Proverbs 20-31, team checking of Deuteronomy and Ezekiel and carrying out an exegetical check on Daniel 4. The translation organisation which helps oversee the project has also continued to translate health resources into Ifè and has been regularly passing these on via online social networks, and over the radio. These have been received with gratitude by local people.
Praise and prayer
Give thanks for:
- the team continuing to find ways to distribute New Testaments
- God’s protection over the team in light of Covid-19
- the progress made on translation and the team’s continued perseverance
- churches and individuals growing in their faith and understanding of Scripture.
Please pray for:
- good health and strength for all the team members and their families
- the next stage of translating Isaiah, Haggai, Psalms, Deuteronomy and Malachi – consultant checking
- Scripture engagement activities to be able to resume soon
- Churches to increase their understanding of the need to support the project.
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.