West Africa is one of the world's most impoverished regions. There is progress and change, but in the race for development, the rest of the world is steadily pulling away. In some of West Africa's rural areas, people live much as their ancestors did hundreds of years ago; however the younger generations are moving to the cities in pursuit of change and adventure.
Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) has worked in Nigeria and Sierra Leone for several decades. CRWM missionaries have also worked in other West African countries, ministering to the Fulani (also known as the Fulbé) in the region for over 25 years. For centuries, the Fulani have been nomadic cattle herders spread out across West Africa. Most Fulani live in the northern areas just under the Sahara desert in a zone called the Sahel; others have settled further south, staying in one place permanently and engaging in commerce. The traditional, nomadic Fulani lifestyle is threatened and rapidly disappearing as the younger generation feels the pull of the cities.
The Fulani have been Muslim for centuries. In the 1700s they established three kingdoms that ruled much of northern West Africa and were responsible for the spread of Islam to many people groups. In most of the countries where the Fulani predominate, less than 5% of the population are Christians. West Africa has about 30 million Fulani and only 15,000 of them follow Jesus (less than 1%). In contrast, in the United States about 1 in 3 people are evangelical Christians.
Christian Reformed World Missions' outreach to the Fulani (also known as the Fulbé) centers on two strategies: focusing on Christ rather than Christianity and building relationships as a means of sharing the Gospel of Jesus. CRWM missionaries live in Fulani villages and towns, develop relationships with Fulani, at times sponsor development projects, pray for the sick, and go to baby naming ceremonies, weddings, and funerals. In short, they live with and somewhat like the Fulani so that “by all means we can reach some” (I Cor 9:19-23). And some have been reached and chosen to follow Christ.
Increasingly, Fulani are being exposed to the Gospel, becoming less resistant to it and curious to learn more. Many of them are very interested in Jesus. The Quran says much about Jesus, raising him high and encouraging Muslims to read the “Injil”, the Gospels. And so, CRWM missionaries spend many hours reading the Gospels, talking of Jesus, and praying for felt needs in the name of Jesus as they are willing. They pray that the Fulani will accept Jesus and establish His kingdom among the Fulani in such a way that the Gospel penetrates and transforms their society.
Learn more about CRWM projects in West Africa. Not from Canada or the US? Click on either country.
- Population: 128,266,792 (Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal Sierra Leone)
- Languages: French, English, Pular, Fulfuldé, and many other languages
- Major religions: Islam, Christianity, Traditional African Religions
- Date entered by World Missions: 1985
- Ministry emphases: Evangelism, Leadership Development, Audio Media, Christian Education
Visit the World Factbook for more information on West Africa.