I love the simplicity of life there that slows us down long enough to notice the clouds, the wind, the flowers, the stars. We finally disconnect long enough to connect with each other, sitting in a circle on the grass or around a lantern, sharing about past experiences, hopes and dreams of the future. Having nothing to do makes even the sounds of the women talking and cooking delightful entertainment. The colors, the roll of Fulfulde, the rhythm of the stick pounding the rice fufu, and their generous hospitality is beautiful.
But there is a deep freedom and beauty lacking. Their ties to the Islamic religious practices restrict them from experiencing true grace and freedom. Their homes and land are threatened by the government’s claims of ownership. If their hope rests on Allah showing them favor for their devotion, then how shaken must they be when it seems they are losing favor with him?
Over the weekend, I wondered again what is the good of coming to visit the Fulani. If they are so set in their ways and have apathetically accepted that we are Christian, then why come?
“It’s often about being at the right place at the right time,” Carolin, a colleague who has been working with the Fulani for almost twenty years, tells me. It’s about being there when God has moved in their hearts in a way that motivates them to know more and be willing to accept more. And it’s the relationships that provide those opportunities. When we come, when we go sit in the hut of Babba Wuro, the head of the village, and hear him talk in Fulfulde about the cows and the good old days, we are showing we care. When we bring food and balloons and get to know the Fulani and their culture, we open doors for conversations.
We are establishing a reputation for Christ and His followers—one of love and care and kindness and humility—one that might prompt openness after God has worked in their hearts. We are also learning deeper humility: there is nothing we can do to change their hearts. We can be available, but we must pray for God to work on their hearts, to speak to them, to reveal the freedom of Christ to them. And as we learn that Christ is everything and enough, we can be there when they see it too.