West Africa

                       06 Dec 2007

Part 1:

Proud and stoic, the Fulani are the largest nomadic people group in the world. For centuries they wandered many paths across the vast African sub-Sahara.

Today about 30 million of these people stretch across West Africa Ė from Senegal to the Sudan, an area larger than the continental United States.

About 200 years ago, some of these cattle herders followed a path to the mountainous region of central Guinea known as the Fouta Jalon.

  Settling here, they built grass-roofed huts and their cattle grazed nearby. Ample rainfall, cool-mountain air, and fertile soil supported the cultivation of fruits, vegetables and grains.

This area is now home to nearly three million Fulani who have their own language, Pulaar. They proudly call themselves the Fulbhe.

  Today, fewer families are herding livestock though many still choose the path of village life. Here they work closely as a family community growing rice, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and vegetables.

For others, the potential for employment and economic gain has attracted them to the city where they work as merchants, skilled laborers and for the government. However, ties to extended family in the village remain extremely strong, compelling them to return down the familiar path home for sicknesses, weddings and deaths.

Regardless of where they settle, family is the center of their focus with their lives woven together.

  The majority of people live hand-to-mouth ... a life of insecurity that lacks the opportunity to change. Yet these proud and hearty people survive, refusing to give up.

The Fulbe are proud not only of their history, their land, and their language ... they are also proud to have Fulbe character. A deeply-rooted and highly-valued character trait is to be cunning.

  From early in life, they develop clever but often-devious plans to achieve their objectives of wealth, position and respect. Those who obtain their goals are held in high esteem regardless of the tactics used. This trait must be carefully managed to achieve the most honor. They go to great lengths to avoid shame. It would be unthinkable for one with money in-hand not to help his extended family. However, this comes in direct conflict with gaining individual wealth.

In order to hold onto their wealth, many have chosen to invest their cash into buildings. These partially completed structures appear throughout the area Ė from the large cities to small villages. Some are under construction. Some are very old. These roofless buildings may never be occupied, but they are a possession that proudly indicates wealth, just as cattle once did for the Fulbe

Part 2:

A vital part of "being Fulbe" is a deep and compelling desire to be accepted into paradise when they die. To do this, the Fulbe have chosen the path of Islam. The Fulbe are very proud of their religion and the fact that they are the ones who brought Islam to West Africa. The Fulbe see themselves are the guardians of Islam. Islamís dominance is ever present throughout the Fouta Jalon with over 99% of the Fulbhe following Islam. Mosques can be seen in every direction and variety from the large and ornate to the small and simple. Special arrangements of rocks and gravel cover the landscape, convenient to anyone passing by at prayer time.

  The Fulbe spend their lives working to gain enough favor or blessing to be acceptable to God. They believe no human can have a personal relationship with God, but that by following the laws of their holy book, the Koran, then maybe ... just maybe, their good favor will outweigh their bad, and they will be allowed entrance to paradise. Islam, however, is also mixed with the animistic practices of manipulating the spirit world and Fulbe traditions that have been handed down for generations.

Following in these familiar footsteps, they begin trying to gain favor with God early in life. When a baby is one week old, the father sacrifices a goat or sheep to bring blessing to his childís life. The babyís head is shaved as part of the ritual. At a young age, children begin to learn Koranic teachings in the Arabic language. This is thought to be Godís language and thus pleasing Him. The colored robe signifies a circumcision has taken place, which is the rite of passage into Islam

In adulthood, they must get even more serious about their religion in order to ensure they have enough of their life remaining to please God. Therefore, along with praying five times daily, the Fulbe will fast from sunup to sundown for one month each year. Religious festivals and events punctuate their lives. Fridays are days to receive extra blessing. This is accomplished by attending a mosque for prayer and giving money to the poor. The red and white scarves proudly displayed by some are indicative of a pilgrimage to Mecca which each Muslim wants to take before death.
Even in death, they make one last attempt at gaining Godís approval. They feel many people must come to their funeral to show God how respected they were. Therefore, they faithfully attend the funerals of others to ensure many will attend theirs. They dress in their finest garments and give money to the family, which is carefully recorded and announced to all. Closest family members watch and pray over the body until the appointed time when only the men are allowed to accompany the body to the mosque for prayer and burial.
  Even though the Fulbeís life is devoted to gaining favor with God, their religious rituals are like their washing before prayer, only affecting them outwardly with little impact on their hearts. Most people have compartmentalized their lives to the point that, besides prayer times, little thought of God or religion even occurs. The Fulbe believe in one God yet, they see Him as the source of both good and evil making it hard to trust Him. Their lives are full of uncertainty and questions because this "lack of trust" permeates all their relationships.

The Fulbe are unaware that the path they have chosen will not lead them to God.

Part 3:

Six different mission agencies are working among the Fulbe. Unfortunately, the progress has been slow in leading them to a personal relationship with God. In the eyes of the Fulbhe, rejecting Islam is rejecting family, culture, and even, "being Fulbe." Only a few have been willing to pay the huge cost of losing family, livelihood and possibly life.

These followers know that Jesus is a treasure worth any cost. They want to spread the Good News of Jesus to people in the villages, throughout the Fouta Jalon of Guinea, and across the sub-Sahara of Africa.

Listen to a Fulbe brother who is paying the cost to follow Jesus:

"I ask that you not forget my people. We followers are few. Pray for us as you think of us in the morning, ... the afternoon, ... and at night. Specifically pray we will have the strength to spread the Good News of Jesus.

Much work needs to be done to give the Fulbhe an opportunity to choose the path that leads to eternal, abundant life.

Would you be willing to take the unfamiliar path of assisting missionaries walking among the Fulbe?

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Pray for those who will walk with the Fulbe and show them the path of peace.

Pray that Fulbe followers will not stumble.

Pray for the Fulbe in the morning, at noon and evening.



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