Through a completed New Testament, God is working in the hearts of this West African community
Deciding where to invest time and funds for Scripture translation can be a complex process. It takes time to help our partners set achievable goals, but even with a sound project plan in place, it can be difficult to find translation consultants who are readily available to check the quality and accuracy of the work.
Some language communities might find challenges like these daunting, but not the Idaasha. They knew they just needed to get started, and God would take care of the rest!
Who Are the Idaasha People?
In south-central Benin near the border of Togo in West Africa, the Idaasha people number just over 160,000. Found mostly in rural communities, they work the land and trade food products to survive. Poverty hounds them. Along with it, symptoms like theft, substance abuse, unwanted pregnancies, and other criminal activities flourish.
In the past, Catholic missionaries introduced Christianity to the Idaasha, but the majority of the population practices indigenous religions. About 5% are Muslim, and around one quarter profess Christ.
Until recently, those believers had no Scripture in their heart language.
How the Idaasha Brought God’s Hope to Their Community
Christians among the Idaasha were so eager to have heart language Scripture that they translated Luke without any formal training at all! Soon, they enlisted Wycliffe Benin and other partners to help them, accelerating their progress toward a complete New Testament in 2020!
Now, they are diligently translating the Old Testament.
Below are a few key stories showing how God’s Word among the Idaasha is changing lives.
3 Stories of Transformation in Benin
Prosper’s Story: From Idolatrous Priest to Bible Translator
Prosper’s uncle expected him to follow in his footsteps. But to do that, he’d have to become a priest of African Traditional Religion, a worldview characterized by animal sacrifice and ancestor worship.
Watch his story:
A King’s Story: A Crown Laid at Jesus’ Feet
Prosper also shared with us a story about the king in a neighboring village. Upon hearing of the dedication of the Idaasha New Testament in April 2020, this king hired tutors to teach him to read his native language. He studied God’s Word in secret.
As king, he was required to make sacrifices to idols, seek guidance from ancestors, and appease spirits. But now, fulfilling these responsibilities was no longer an option. He had submitted himself to Jesus’ rule!
The king summoned his dignitaries and told them about Jesus. He explained to them from inside his palace that he could not be their king, because he had learned of the one true King.
The dignitaries saw the impact the King of Kings had made on their king. They decided that anyone powerful enough to do that must truly be God. All 60 of them made the choice to follow Jesus, and they led their families to do the same. An entire community was saved when a single leader read the Word in his heart language!
A Community’s Story: Eager for the Word
It’s no surprise that the people who began their own translation project without external training or assistance were thrilled when the New Testament was completed and dedicated.
At the dedication, they read Psalm 34 in Idaasha.
Pandemic restrictions prevented a larger and more vibrant celebration, but the people’s response to God’s Word was no less enthusiastic. Some 4,000 copies of the Idaasha New Testament—virtually all that had been printed—sold within the first month!
Sylvestre Okoumassou, secretary of the Methodist Church of Erokoya, told us, “Since we started reading the New Testament texts in Idaasha, it is clear and everyone understands. People who cannot read buy it, and when they get home, they give it to their children to read to them.”
Another pastor said, “The emotion I feel every time I read the New Testament in my language is inexpressible. I don’t know how to describe it to you. All I can tell you is that I have an even deeper knowledge.”
May we all hunger and thirst for the Word as the Idaasha do!
Praying for the Idaasha as the Work Continues
A complete New Testament is a huge milestone, and it alone is powerful enough to radically change the trajectory of lives. Even so, the entire counsel of Scripture is necessary to fully comprehend the story God is telling to the world.
We invite you to pray with us for those who continue the work, bringing the full measure of God’s Word to the Idaasha people.
Father, we thank you for the passion of your people in Benin. Thank you that their devotion to your Word is changing lives and saving communities. Please give wisdom to the translators, pastors, consultants, and coordinators who continue to faithfully work on the Idaasha Old Testament. Help your servants meet their deadlines. Raise up prayer partners and faithful investors who will support their efforts. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.