SENEGAL, West Africa (BP)–Missionaries usually invite churches to send volunteers to help reach their people group.
For Scott and Julie Bradford, missionary strategy coordinators for the Fulakunda (FOO-luh-KOON-duh) people of West Africa, it happened the other way around.
The Bradfords sensed God’s mission call a decade before they arrived in 2002. West Africa, however, was “the last place in the world” they thought they would serve.
But Conowingo (Md.) Baptist Church -– a congregation that had been praying for years for the Fulakunda, sending volunteers and mobilizing other churches to go -– was asking God to raise up long-term missionaries.
God’s answer to that request: the Bradfords.
“We were willing to go anytime, anywhere, but God said, ‘Wait,’” Scott recalls. While they waited, however, he got a little too comfortable teaching at a Christian school in the United States.
“When the time came, God had to wake me up,” Scott admits. “Julie woke up first, though.”
Now, as missionaries, they welcome volunteers from Conowingo and other Southern Baptist churches who come to serve among the Fulakunda people.
The Fulakunda, who number more than 2 million in Senegal and four other West African countries, traditionally were nomadic herdsmen. In recent times, though, many have settled into towns and villages -– primarily in Guinea Bissau and in southern Senegal, where the Bradfords now live.
They are overwhelmingly Muslim –- with a strong mixture of animism and superstition. Local religious leaders, tribal traditions and fear of evil spirits dominate the spiritual landscape. Fewer than 50 Fulakunda people follow Jesus Christ as Lord, Scott estimates.
Too big a task? Not for God.
“If any major people group here develops a church-planting movement, it will spread like wildfire across West Africa, because all the peoples are so interconnected,” Scott predicts.
The spark for that wildfire just might be the Fulakunda, one of many subgroups of the Fulani peoples of West Africa. The Fulani number some 30 million.
Young Fulakunda men are more willing to listen to new ideas. Older men, steeped in Islam and tradition, are harder to reach. As members of a primarily oral culture, however, most Fulakunda love stories.
It might be the guys who hang out in front of the shop across the street from the house where Scott and Julie live with their three children. Or the young soccer star who is helping Scott learn Pular, the language spoken by the Fulakunda people. Or elders sitting around the fire in a Fulakunda village.
Deep down, they all hunger for the truth about God. Scott is eager to teach it.
“We sit down, we tell a story from the Bible and then we ask questions about the story,” he says. “What does it teach us? What does it show us about God’s character?”
The key is to tailor those stories to the opportunity and the audience. Scott calls it “situational evangelism.”
“A situation comes up, and you run with it to the Word of God,” he explains. “Any time you’re talking about the Word of God, people nearby listen, and you’re going to draw a crowd.”
Scott and Julie want other Southern Baptists to join them -– new missionaries, volunteers, partner churches, prayer supporters.
“It’s going to take people in the United States praying for us, giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering, being willing to come out and join us, because we can’t do it on our own,” Scott says. “We are called to be on mission with God and join Him where He is working.”
Want to join the Bradfords, Conowingo Baptist Church and other Southern Baptists working to win the peoples of West Africa to Christ? Visit GoWestAfrica.org.