People who follow Christ are less than 1 percent of the Fulani population. So what it means to follow Christ, what it means to worship together, what it means to plant a church—these are uncharted in Fulani culture.
Still, asking what the gospel looks like in a Muslim-majority, West African culture has been on the forefront of the minds of Resonate missionaries who have been working alongside the Fulani for more than 30 years.
“We missionaries have always wanted an indigenous church as opposed to starting one ourselves or pastoring one,” says one missionary. “All these years we’ve tried to walk alongside—not tell—and now we are seeing the fruit of that.”
Fulani Christians are embracing their new faith in Jesus Christ in surprising ways. Christianity is beginning to affect the very foundations of their culture. One piece of “fruit” came in the form of a Christian baby naming ceremony that many of the missionaries witnessed a few years ago.
Binta came to the biannual gathering for believers feeling distraught. The young woman had recently celebrated the birth of a child. But when it came time for her father-in-law to practice the Fulani tradition of naming the child, he refused because of Binta’s faith in Christ.
“Refusing to give the name is a big shame,” explained a Resonate missionary. News that the grandparent refused to preside over the ceremony came as a shock to the community. “Imagine all the feelings that come along with not acknowledging your grandchild.” Binta was crushed.
Hearing of this shameful treatment Binta received, fellow believers at the conference wanted to help. Ultimately they decided that as Binta’s family in Christ, they could host the baby naming ceremony themselves. What’s more, they decided to reshape this cultural ceremony in a way that honored their faith in Christ.
Although this ceremony typically takes place separately for men and women, the group decided to gather together. They shared Bible verses, presented the baby, and prayed for him.
“It was beautiful, sitting there watching history being made at the first Fulani-Christian baby naming ceremony,” said the missionary. “We [missionaries] didn’t come up with this, it all came from their own.”
As the ceremony ended, Binta’s mother was moved by what she experienced. “We do have fathers, we are all together, you are our brothers, our family,” she shared.
Ceremonies and other changes like this could make a difference for generations to come. The Fulani believers said they could see themselves inviting their family to this type of ceremony in the future. It was still culturally acceptable, still “Fulani enough,” and yet a good way to share their faith,” said the missionary.