by Lisa Belau (guest blogger)
My name is Lisa Belau, and I am a World Team missionary among the Fulbe people. I grew up in the Prairies of Saskatchewan and am now living and working in Cameroon, Africa. I have been here for almost two years, just about to complete my first term. My main focus is children’s ministry (kids camp), with my heart’s desire to see the Fulbe children freely proclaim the praise of Jesus!
My childhood holds many bright and loving memories of my family and friends and involvement in the communities I was a part of. As I have grown and entered into adulthood, I have held onto the childlike faith I was gifted with at a very young age, that God is faithfully nurturing and growing. I aim to try and look at life in a childlike way (not childish – there’s a difference.). As Christ taught his disciples, we are to become as little children, ever looking to our Heavenly Father to show us what he is really about.
I see HUGE potential in God’s Kingdom work with investing into children. I experienced that first hand when I was a child, and I want to thank my Father by obeying his command to share with others the truth of the Gospel! The eternal joy of eternal life with Jesus.
In building relationships among the Fulbe people, the children have become some of my closest friends and encouragements. I believe God has gifted me with being on level with children, in being able to relate and talk with them. In the past few years, I have been learning and observing the reality of their world – some of it is affirming (the children are often the source of joy in their households and communities) but other aspects are oppressive, like what is believed of their worth.
How the Fulbe View Children
Last year, I had a dear little friend named Ishiatu who lived with some relatives here in the village. After she has been here for a few years, word came from her Grandmother. Ishiatu was sent to go and live with her in the bush, because the Grandmother was lonely and wanted a companion. It’s hard, because on one hand I get it, but on the other I don’t understand why you would send a little girl to fill that role, removing her from school and her community and friends, and having her live in a place where she would be isolated and have the little opportunity she did have stripped away.
I know I still have much to learn of the cultural ways, but sacrificing the opportunities for a small child to serve her grandmother doesn’t make sense to me. But the Grandmother’s value is seen as high above the child’s, so who’s voice is heard?
One of the things I was told early on by a Fulbe, is that the children are viewed as not having anything to ‘give’ until they have grown up. There is not much they can do that is of real worth until then are basically adults. This breaks my heart, as I know that the earliest stages of life shape a large part of who you will become! And I see them all as so incredibly unique and genuinely valued. The vast majority of the Fulbe (99%) are unreached and have always been deeply rooted in Islam. They have never heard they have a Heavenly Father who loves them. So how could they know just how much they are valued and cherished, right now!
Why this Breaks my Heart
As a missionary in this place among these people, there is a part of me that is often tempted to become embittered or angry towards those I am serving (like Ishiatu’s family sending her out into the bush). But then I am reminded, “How can they know, if they have not heard?” How can they know the value of a child (or any individual despite their gender, age, or placement) without knowing Jesus? How can I expect them to understand when they haven’t been taught? Just because I have had the upbringing involving the Word and a personal relationship with Jesus, I can’t expect those around me to have a similar outlook/worldview, when one of their main concerns since they can remember, was having enough to eat each day.
And so I continue on in my work and pray that as the Gospel penetrates hearts, it will trickle down into the Fulbe’s view of their children and help them to see their value as God does.