Often when I am sharing about the Fulbe ministry in churches the pastors will direct that the children stay in the service (quite often they retire to go to a more child-conducive setting), and, if I am paying attention enough, I try to gear my presentation more towards the younger set. I have found that when you aim at the children, the parents will often get more out of it.
In Gladwin, Michigan, this happened, and I am so glad it did. As I often do at the end of my talk, I showed a picture of seven Fulbe children in a row, standing in front of the Wakili’s parlour in our small hamlet, where Aminu is behind (reading my thesis from school).
The Fulbe children were a delight and a wonder. They liked to follow me around as an informal posse. On occasion I have prayed for one or two of them for healing of one sort or another, so we have a special bond that way. One of them, Shuayba, was just about four years old when I first visited the hamlet; she welcomed me by climbing onto my lap and adopting me that first time out (in the picture she is on my son Robert’s lap). For a fellow who loves kids, it was a wonderful introduction to this new people group.
While in the churches I share what God is doing in and among the Fulbe people –some of the stories are amazing, others are heartwarming. I am trusting that all of them glorify God.
As I show the picture in church, I tell the young people to pay special attention, because I have a $10 bill in my wallet, and if they can recite the names of the kids after the service, the $10 is theirs.
I say the names as clearly and slowly as I can: starting from the left, Lamizanatu, Farida, Jamilatu, Maryam, Shuayba, Jama’atu, and Sardauna. I have never been too much in fear of losing my money; the names are hard to say, and no doubt harder for a young person to remember. In fact, no one had ever even tried to claim the money before. Not until Gladwin.
That Sunday morning the first little fellow, maybe five years old, came shyly up to me, his mother coming behind and urging him on, with a fistful of coins. Twenty cents worth. His fortune, no doubt, but now being given, with intense seriousness and quiet joy, for the benefit of people he had only just heard of, but had never met. He felt the need inside of himself, somehow had a sense of his own riches, and gave out of the fullness of God. I was humbled and overcome; I wished I could hug him and talk to him about the big thing he has just done, but he hastened back to his mother.
A second child came up, this one an older girl, and a real delight. She also needed urging from her mother, though she was a little more confident. She had memorized the names, her mother said, and was there to recite them to me to collect the reward. I was very pleased and asked her to repeat them back to me. The first ones were pretty much a wash, but “Sardauna” came out loud and clear – my friend, the Wakili’s son, had made the connection. For his sake I gladly handed over the treasure.
Truth is, I would have given it over in any case – just for the pleasure of having a child finally come up and try those really hard names out. The wonder of children. Making friends, one hard name at a time.