Benin (WAS/MNN) — A quick geography quiz: where is Benin?
If you guessed West Africa, you’re on the right track. It’s a long narrow country sharing borders with Togo on one side and Nigeria on the other. The country is also home to 67 distinct people groups.
What’s significant about Benin is that it’s the birthplace of voodoo, and as such, is plagued by witchdoctors, demonic activity, and even human sacrifice. About half of the country’s population practices voodoo, and another third is Muslim.
Here’s what’s even more amazing. “Benin is a country that, up until this past year, has been completely off of our radar. We’ve been predominantly working with other partners in Bible translation who have instructed or shared with us where they’ve felt the greatest needs were.” That’s Brent Ropp, Vice President of Operations for Wycliffe Associates, a global organization that involves people in the acceleration of Bible translation around the world.
Unlike its cousin to the east (Nigeria), Benin has not had to deal with a Muslim insurgency or civil war. However, Ropp says, “Benin, even though it’s a country we have never targeted for engagement or Bible translation, has over 2.2 million Bible-less people. Those people speak more than 20 different languages.”
What’s more, the request for Bible translation came from within the local Church. That set things in motion, Ropp notes. “Until very recently, Benin didn’t really have a local Bible translation leadership team to make some of these needs well known.”
There are 54 living languages spoken in Benin, which places it among the top 15 countries in the world in need of Bible translation. Now, Ropp explains, “We do have new national leadership. They are very energetic and enthusiastic about seeing their nation be eradicated from Bible poverty. They have invited us to come and help them by proposing that we assist in the construction of a small translation center.” That means Wycliffe Associates will support the launch of critical Bible translation efforts and construct a national training center in Benin, which will provide training facilities and housing for mother-tongue translators.
Because the local Church has taken ownership of the project from the outset, there is a lot of demand for a painstakingly slow project. However, “Unless the church is involved, you can have isolated projects going on, and then the project may be completed; but there’s then no one ready or willing to use the newly-translated Word.
“We have an incredible opportunity to pierce the darkness of Benin with the brilliant light of God’s Word,” says Ropp.
Benin is a critical nation for Vision 2025, Wycliffe’s goal to begin Bible translations in every language that needs it by 2025. Robb adds, “Pray for the national translation organization that’s there that we’re now partnering with, and also for the Church, which is growing. We’re excited to see the Church’s involvement in Bible translation from the very beginning.”