It is time to wish everyone a Merry Christmas!
We have just returned from a twelve-day trip up north where we visited about six believing Fulbe communities, ranging in size from just a few families, to whole villages. Our purpose there was several-fold: we wanted to reacquaint ourselves with the people there, and them with us (or, in Sonya’s case, to introduce her for the first time); to inspect their living situation; to teach, encourage, and build up; to pray for the people; and to see what practical assistance could be rendered.
A typical day was one where we woke up in our grass-roofed hut, ate a hearty breakfast of rice with a cabbage sauce, and then began visiting in people’s compounds. We did this from 8 am until 2 pm, walking from one family unit to another; seeing how people lived; anointing the sick with oil and praying for them, sometimes giving money so people could go to the hospital; giving advice where that was needed. At the end of all that one day our friend Suleymanu had to remind us of Jesus’ words to cast our burdens upon him (Matthew 11.28-30), because it would be easy to be overwhelmed by it all. In fact, I will not share everything we heard here, for fear that you too might be overburdened.
The most touching thing came about the 7th or 8th day. When we went to leave one small community where we had found much need, several of the women climbed into our Helix, bearing flour and beans. They were taking them to a family whose head had been stricken with epilepsy, and were going to share what they had with them. I was reminded of Paul’s words: “In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity” (2 Cor 8.2). Here is the Christmas spirit at work.
Some of the communities are doing very well. They have good, strong leaders who are working together to improve not just their faith but their people’s living situations. In other places the leadership is not as strong, and both faith and people struggle. In one place I spoke on “God’s Will for Communities,” simply listing many of the ways God’s people have organized themselves through the biblical story, plus giving them illustrations from what some other communities are doing. As Suleymanu says, in some places they do not need material assistance so much as practical instruction on how to live.
These Fulbe are a people in transition – from being cattle herders they are settling down as farmers, when they have never done that before. They are like cowboys of the Old West who are trying to bring their women and children into the new world. In some cases they have failed, and have fallen back into Islam, and all that goes with that. The stronger Christian leaders among them are seeking to see that does not happen to any more of them. It is difficult work, but they know what is at stake and are determined. They have tasted the heavenly gift, have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, and do not wish any to fall back (cf. Heb 6.4-5).
Part of our mission is to help them in this task. Seeing these folks once more, experiencing their gracious hospitality, talking with them in the dim light of their lanterns, reminded me of how worthwhile the mission is. Thanks so much for partnering with us in it. I will do my best to write more on this in the days to come.