This powerful personal testimony is from one of our translation consultants in training:
Athanase is from Benin, a country with very few Christians. His heart for sharing God’s Word led him to become a prison pastor and manager of an orphanage. But before he learned about Bible translation, Athanase was unsure what specific role he had to play in God’s work in the world. “I felt a void in me,” he said. But in December 2019, he sensed a call on his life to follow where God led.
“When I was teaching in prison, I saw desperate people who no longer believed in life. Many people asked me to give them the Bible in their mother-tongue, but I was not able to do that because of lack of money and resources. A friend told me about an Oral Bible Translation course in Togo with a focus on the Hebrew language. I had never heard it or even seen the Hebrew alphabet. But it was there that I realized the deep need for Old Testament translation in people’s heart languages. I was truly touched to understand that in the area where I live, in my country, there are tribes which do not have a single verse of the Old Testament.”
Athanase left his home and young family in Benin to go to Jerusalem, where he completed the 9-month immersive Hebrew program and continued to the Masters in Biblical Hebrew & Translation Consulting, as well as a certification in Oral Bible Translation.
He is now leading an oral Bible translation project with Wycliffe Benin, translating the Bible into the Ica language, which is only 6% Christian and has no complete NT or OT translation. Athanase supervises a team of four people who have begun to learn Hebrew for themselves after only six months. “Translating from the original language (Hebrew) is important because we don’t have to adapt the translation but can take the original meaning straight to the target language.”
The translation team has had to persevere through many challenges. In June their office was robbed, and their language equipment stolen. Athanase and his team have had to trust the Lord for funding and restarting their translation. But through God’s provision and guidance, Ica speakers are beginning to engage with God’s Word in their own language.
As Athanase sees the impact of his work, he experiences a joy he hadn’t known before. He now understands God’s Word on a deeper level, and has seen it transform lives in his own family– his wife, who comes from a Muslim background, has grown in her personal relationship with God. In November, Athanase and his wife had a new baby and named him Otniel, the Hebrew name he was given during his time in Jerusalem.
Athanase says that a void has been filled, and he is grateful for the chance to multiply God’s Word throughout the world. “Because of this program and this course in Jerusalem, for me, all the course of my life has changed. I will have a role to play in the coming programs, and in my life, and in my tribe and in my country.”
In January 2022, we will welcome 21 more people like Athanase to Jerusalem as translators and consultants in training, representing 13 translation agencies and 14 nations. In addition, over a hundred participants are now enrolled in the Hebrew Extension Program, which multiplies biblical language training around the world.
As you gather with family this season, please join us in giving thanks and praying for the continued impact of Athanase and his team. Please also consider providing a generous gift to support students like Athanase who are taking steps of faith right now to multiply their lives so that generations can know the hope of God’s full story.
Your special gift now will directly support students in our residential or Hebrew Extension training programs.
Thank you for your faithful partnership as we work together toward the goal of the whole Word for the whole world.
The 4.2.20-IBLT Team
The whole Word for the whole world