The Ila speaking people inhabit an area west of Lusaka, the capital of Zambia. Consisting of approximately 12 dialects, the estimated 83,000 people who speak Ila did not know that God spoke their language until 2016 when the Ila Bible translation team launched the first Scriptures ever translated into their language!
The Ila people combine agriculture with animal husbandry. Traditionally men will hunt, fish, and clear land, while the women gather food from the countryside and are responsible for most of the cultivation. While they raise cattle in large numbers, they had used more primitive methods of hoeing by hand until recently due to an aversion of forcing cattle into harnesses. Once they overcame that aversion, animal-drawn plowing with harnessed cattle has made their work more productive.
Not having a centralized political system, autonomous chiefs presided over a number of autonomous independent territories. Headmen and councils of elders governed the local villages. In the villages, extended-family compounds dot the area. After marriage, the couple moves into husband’s father’s compound and starts their life.
In the past, many of the Ila people tested positive for HIV due to an accepted culture of polygamy and unhealthy practices. One of the Ila Bible translators in the area noticed that since the Ila people had received the New Testament in their language, the fabric of their culture is transforming! They have reduced the number of divorces and polygamous marriages. The Ila people now discourage this type of behavior because they read and understand the Bible in their mother tongue about how to honor each other and God in their relationships. Great change occurred in their community from the time the Ila New Testament Bible was given to this people group! The Spirit of God has opened their hearts to his revelation through Scripture.
The Ila traditionally worship Leza (the supreme being) and the spirits of family ancestors. However, today, approximately 60% of the Ila speaking people have chosen to follow Jesus thanks to missionary schools started in the 1920s. They pray that they will soon have the whole Bible in their mother tongue. While the translation team has completed many books of the Bible, they must await consultants to check them for accuracy. The translators try not to grow weary, but see God in the waiting. As the first phase of the project will come to an end at September 2020, the Ila people eagerly anticipate the whole Bible in their heart language!
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