EWE LANGUAGE PROJECT IN TOGO
Pastors and other church leaders in the conference
On September 30, Steve Zeinner and I flew away to Togo, West Africa. We held a translation conference for church leaders to encourage them to commit to a translation project in the Ewe language. The conference was held October 4-6. We were joined in Togo by Jim Taylor, a missionary and translator in Korea, who also works with us as a Translation Advisor. We were invited to Togo by GBOLOU Mawouli, Pastor of the Salvation for All Baptist Church in the capital city, Lomé , Togo. We prepared our notes several months ahead and sent them to him. Pastor Mawouli translated them into French. In appreciation to him, Dr. Zeinner presented him with the 2014 revision of the Ostervald French Bible.
There are over 3,900 languages that have no known Scripture. In Africa alone there are 1,182 such languages with a population of about 89 million. Unfortunately, there are few volunteering to become translators. We’ve come to the conclusion that in the future a lot of the new translators will come from Africa and Asia.
Our goals in Togo go way beyond just starting a translation project in the Ewe language. We have a plan to establish a translator training program as a part of that project. In Togo there are at least 9 languages that have no known scripture with a population of about 1,088,100. If we add in the surrounding countries of Ghana (west), Benin (east), and Burkina Faso (north), that increases to 80 groups of people with a population of 15-16 million.
There are two current Bibles in the Ewe language. Both of them have many errors. The latest is a revision of the Old one and was championed by the Roman Catholic Church. Is it any wonder that the word “baptism” is translated “sprinkling?” The new one is worse than the old one. The natural childhood language of the pastor's is Ewe. There is a great deal of concern among them about the condition of the Bible they have in their heart language.
We began the meetings on Tuesday October 4. Topics covered included the responsibility of the church to care for and spread the Word of God, the sufficiency of the Word, the inspiration and preservation of the Word, the identity of the true New Testament text, the fact that they can do translation because we can do all things through Christ, and principals of Bible translation. There were about 90 people who attended. We understood that over 50 were pastors and the rest were Sunday school teachers and church leaders.
I expected to find some very educated people among the Togolese Christians, but, I did not expect to find anyone who had studied New Testament Greek. We were happy to learn that there were at least two who had studied Greek. This is an important skill for Bible Translation work. In fact, the Togolese have all the talent, knowledge, skills, and spirituality needed to translate the Bible into their own heart language.
I would describe the result of the conference as victory. Unfortunately, due to scheduling problems, Dr. Taylor had to leave early Thursday morning. Dr. Zeinner and Dr. Combs finished up the conference by lunch time that day. Dr. Zeinner was the last speaker. He issued an invitation and challenge to all the participants to commit to be involved in the Ewe Bible translation project. At least 16 raised their hands. Afterwards people made their way to two spots to put their names on a volunteer list. The foundation was laid for the immediate start of the translation project.
The next steps include issuing a conference assessment along with recommended guidelines and ideas for organizing the new translation team and conducting the project. It was finished and returned the week of October 31, 2016. There will also be continued contact as they organize and get started. We plan to return soon and give them more in depth training. In the meantime, Pastor Mawouli is experienced in translating from English into French and can lead the team to a good beginning.