Rev. Bram Krol of the Facilité Foundation has a special mission: to reach unreached peoples with the Gospel. Very special is that since 2013 he has had entrances with the tribal leaders of Dan and Bété in Ivory Coast.
Children’s Bibles in Ivory Coast are scarce. You rarely find one. They are simply too expensive. The children are told few stories from the Bible. In the schools, most of the teachers themselves hardly know the Bible and don’t even have one. Too expensive. And when a child doesn’t attend a church, the chance they are hearing anything from the Bible is almost nihil.
‘If we withhold the Bible from our children today, they may forget God tomorrow.’ – Rev. Charles Bahi
The tribe Dan
Very special to know is that their distant ancestors have Jewish roots! Centuries ago, they went via the diaspora from Israel to Egypt, then moved on to Sudan, Chad, Mali and finally settled in the Ivory Coast. Dan’s culture still contains remarkably many elements traceable to their Jewish roots! Like celebrating a holy day the Shabbat, feast of the first fruits, refuges for someone suspected of murder, a redeemer (messiah) who is yet to come and has the name Aa (similar to Isa, Jesus). How special it is to bring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to this very tribe!
The Dan tribe has nearly 2 million people, 1.5 million of whom live in Ivory Coast and the remainder in surrounding countries such as Guinea and Liberia. The tribal language is called Yacouba. About 80% of the Danites are animist, 15% Christian and 5% Muslim.
The tribe Bété
In an adjacent area you have a second large tribe and that is the Bété tribe. They number about 2.5 million people. The purest Bété is spoken by about 850,000 people, in cities like Soubré and Issia in the western part of the country. But in addition, very different dialects of the language have developed over time.
About 40% of the Bété are Christian (mostly Roman Catholic), about 10% are Muslim and the rest are animist. The influence of animism is enormously strong, even among Christians. Especially death worship is something that is strongly present among the Bété, so the tombstones are often larger and certainly much more beautiful than the simple cottages of the living.
Role of the children’s Bible!
Knowledge of the Bible is limited, even in the churches. We as Facilité Foundation try to help from all sides. In our work we particularly focus on distributing the children’s Bible and setting up simple and practical Bible study groups. The children’s Bible is a wonderful entry point to Evangelize. Children learn about the Bible from an early age. Besides, very special is that children are telling the stories to their parents, who are often illiterate!
In their own language
On the streets and in the homes, the tribal language is always the language of conversation. To leverage this, it was decided to have the children’s Bibles printed bilingually. One page in French (the official language of the country) and on the page next to it the story in the tribal language (Dan/Yacouba or Bété). That way, the stories would be understandable to everyone. To ensure that there would be accurate translation, we worked intensively with the team at Wycliffe Bible translation.
Facilité Foundation and its local teams always work from bottom up; initiatives must be widely supported by the community. That alone makes it a success. Thus, all the churches in the Dan and Bété areas were mobilized to get them involved in this initiative. The starting signal for the distribution was a large event at which the local people dressed in traditional costumes and with music received the Bibles. The highlight was the reading of the stories from the Bible in their own tribal language. They had never heard that before! Even radio and TV and numerous dignitaries were present!
After this grand central event, the main focus was on a decentralized approach. To further promote the children’s Bible in local communities, the Facilité Foundation and its local teams set up reading competitions for children. The children are then allowed to read Bible stories in their own language on village squares or in small churches. Children thus become little missionaries!
Facilité Foundation’s distinctive approach is to connect in a low-threshold way to the experiences of the unreached tribes. From that vision, it has been able to distribute over 30,000 children’s Bibles and a few thousand ‘regular’ Bibles during 2019-2022. Assuming at least 4 people per family, around 120,000 people have been reached with the Gospel in a direct way on a daily basis!
That approach through the children worked very well. Because older people became increasingly interested in the stories from the Bible. As a result, since 2019, more than 900 Bible study groups have already been set up and meet weekly! There is a hunger for the Word; people are asking for additional Bible teaching. Great to see how Trans World Radio is able to give substance to that again with its radio broadcasts. Hundreds of villagers sometimes sit around a few transistor radios listening to TWR broadcasts. They hear the Gospel in their own language! God blesses this project in a special way!
It is gratifying that MissionInvest was able to help make this special project possible. The total costs for both projects were over €150,000. MissionInvest’s goal was to realize about 50% of this through its network. In the end € 86,000 was realized for this project; the other part was raised through the supporters of Facilité Foundation.
Rev. Bram Krol: ‘Children’s Bibles are so badly needed in Ivory Coast. Even most Christians don’t know the Bible at all, let alone the children. But how do you ever get that money together? We (Facilité Foundation) are just a small group. But what a decisive role MissionInvest played in this! It surprised us. The distribution is now running like clockwork. People are receiving the Bibles with great cheer. What a blessing lies ahead!’