A Niger Family on the Frontlines

A Niger Family on the Frontlines

When a traditionally Muslim Fulani man met a foreign missionary a few decades ago, he couldn’t have imagined that he would one day be working with his grown children to share the gospel with other Fulani in Niger. 

Mahmud's family
Though Mahmud initially resisted the gospel, today his entire family is following Christ and reaching out to the Fulani people.

After many years in Nigeria, Mahmud moved back to his home country of Niger, this time settling in the nation’s capital, Niamey. Then, around the year 2000, he met a foreigner. 

“When I arrived in Niamey,” he said, most of the people were telling me I should go and meet this man because he helped people. In my heart, I didn’t want to meet him.” 

Finding the Truth

Mahmud decided to meet the man, a foreign missionary, because he needed help getting his 11 children into school. When they met, however, the conversation soon turned to religion, and they briefly discussed the differences between the Quran and the Bible. 

What I noticed was, in the Bible when they say something is the truth they are sure,” Mahmud said, “but in the Quran it’s like they are always trying [to create truth] almost. In the Bible it says, ‘This is the truth.’” 

Weeks later, Mahmud, his wife and their children attended a church service led by the missionary. And when the missionary asked if anyone would like to give his or her life to Christ, Mahmud raised his hand. “I was just thinking and decided to make a commitment and follow Jesus,” he said. “I just realized that Jesus is the only one who can give eternal life.” 

Mahmud’s wife and 11 children also raised their hands, and Mahmud later learned that his wife had already placed her faith in Christ. She hadn’t told her husband because she feared that he would beat her. 

While the thought of becoming a Christian once filled his heart with fear, Mahmud said he was overcome with a sense of peace and a new calling after coming to faith in Jesus Christ. “Since I accepted Christ, I’ve never had a fear to share the gospel or to do something to bring God glory,” he said. “What I felt in my heart when I accepted Jesus was to go and share the gospel and to pray for those who are sick.” 

After Mahmud and his family were baptized, they moved to another town with the missionary to share the gospel with other Fulani. Mahmud worked side by side with the missionary for the next 16 years, living with him for much of that time. And as Mahmud’s children became adults, five of them joined him in sharing the gospel with the Fulani. 

Mahmud's daughter and son
Mahmud’s son and daughter work alongside him, sharing the hope of Christ with the Fulani.

Reaching Their People

2 million of Niger’s 21 million citizens, or about 9% of the population, are Fulani. They have historically played an important role in the spread of Islam throughout West Africa, and most Fulani are still Muslim. 

In some parts of the region, Fulani have violently attacked Christians. In neighboring Nigeria, for example, Fulani Islamic militants frequently attack Christian villages in the northern part of the country, often in cooperation with the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram. 

Unlike those in Nigeria, the Fulani in Niger are more open to the gospel. And Mahmud and his children often witness this openness firsthand as they share the gospel with Fulani Muslims. “When they hear the gospel, they are happy,” Mahmud said with a smile. “They have peace in their minds and hearts; that is what makes them more open to the gospel and to Jesus.” 

When Mahmud and his children share the gospel, they often speak to groups of more than 100 at a time. And if the chief of a tribe comes to faith in Christ, most other tribal members follow his lead. 

Mahmud is unsure how many Fulani he has helped lead to Christ, but he and his family believe the number to be in the thousands. Each of his children said they have led hundreds of people to Christ themselves. These victories for God’s kingdom have not been won without a cost, however. 

nomadic tribes
Motorbikes help front-line workers reach distant nomadic tribes while spending less time on travel.

Expecting Persecution

Although many Nigerien Fulani are friendly and receptive to the gospel, those who place their faith in Christ are not immune to the kind of treatment faced by their brothers and sisters in more hostile nations. “I have found many cases of persecution,” Mahmud said. “A lot of the people are persecuted by their family. Many of them are chased away.” 

Mahmud said he and his children often tell new believers that they should expect persecution as Christians. “If Christ Himself was persecuted, it is natural [that His followers will be persecuted],” he said. 

One of his daughters, Binta, has endured several years of persecution while living in neighboring Nigeria. 

While Binta’s husband, Yakubu, was working as a guard at a gas station, he, Binta and their children were persecuted by Yakubu’s boss for being Christians. 

The man insulted the couple and their children, and then he stopped paying Yakubu. Finally, one day he threatened to kill them all, saying, “Maybe one day you’ll die in a fire in your home.” Since then, they have moved back to Niger, where they have been sharing the gospel for four years. 

Another relative of Mahmud’s, Kadiatou, was kicked out of her home in 2020 by her Muslim landlord because she and her husband were Christians. “When I heard the words that I should leave the house, I knew it was because the landlord is against Christ,” she said. “I just remembered that even Jesus Christ — people were against Him. Jesus was also persecuted.” 

VOM helped the couple find new housing after they were left homeless by the landlord’s actions. And Kadiatou said the whole experience brought her closer to Jesus. 

Mahmud's wife
Mahmud’s wife became a believer before her husband did, but she was too afraid to tell him.

Not Slowing Down

Despite the likelihood of additional persecution, Mahmud and his family continue to share the gospel. VOM provides them with audio Bibles and motorcycles to help them reach more villages. 

When they travel to a village or a more remote area to share the truth of Christ, they begin their presentation by playing a passage from an audio Bible. And before they leave, they give the audio Bible to those who gathered to listen so they can continue meeting in groups to hear God’s Word. The audio Bibles have proven especially effective since many Fulani are unable to read. 

Because of the audio Bible, the gospel grows fast,” Mahmud said. “When the person listens to the audio Bible, what is amazing is they hear  their own language, which is very good. 

After they listen, if there is something that they didn’t understand, when the evangelist comes back they can say, ‘This is what I heard on this audio Bible; I don’t understand it.’ He will then explain it to them.” 

listening audio bible
Solar-powered audio Bibles help evangelists share Christ throughout Niger, where many cannot read.

As Mahmud grows older, his children are prepared to carry on the ministry work he started. For now, however, Mahmud shows no signs of slowing down, and he said he’ll continue sharing the gospel as long as God allows. 

“When I do the work of God,” he said, “I never get tired and I don’t feel hungry. All the family knows about that. I even forget to eat. They come and say, ‘You should eat.’” 

Mahmud asked that we pray for his family’s ministry work, for his strength and for the Holy Spirit’s guidance so he can continue to “contribute to the work of God.”