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Efraim Alphonse (1896-1995)

Efraim Alphonse was a traveling evangelist and leader of the Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas.

Alphonse was born in the Province of Bocas del Toro, Panama, in 1896. His father was a fisherman from Martinique and his French undoubtedly influenced young Efraim to appreciate languages. He completed his elementary and secondary education at Calabar College in Jamaica, then returned to Panama to teach the Guaymi (also called Valiente). He taught himself the Gauymi language, transliterated it, and wrote a grammar, which the Smithsonian Institute of Ethnology published. Later he translated several books of the Bible for the American Bible Society into Guaymi, and with the help of his wife, Philibert Hyacinth, published a hymnbook in Guaymi. She was a musician and arranged music and set it to words.

He received more education in Jamaica, this time in theology, then returned to his ministry. The Methodist Church asked him to serve as a traveling evangelist to several Central American and Caribbean countries, which he did from 1950 to 1954.

His mentor was M. C. Surgeon, a British Methodist missionary, and Alphonse went to England twice on deputations. Eventually he became chair of the Central American area of British Methodism. He was a participant in the formation of the autonomous Methodist Church of the Caribbean and the Americas in 1967. He received the highest honor of the Panamanian government in 1963, the Orden de Vasco Nuñez de Balboa. In retirement he taught at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Costa Rica.

Two of his sons served as missionaries in the U.S. Methodist family: Ivan, who was an educational missionary in Zaire, and Alford, a missionary to Jamaica and a staff member of the General Board of Global Ministries in New York. Efraim Alphonse died in 1995.

Taken from Linda Gesling, "Mirror and Beacon: The History of Mission of The Methodist Church, 1939-1968." (New York: General Board of Global Ministries, The United Methodist Church, 2005), p. 105.

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