Bringing the Bible to Life for the Kanuri

Posted in OLD The Archive

OneStory groups all over the world are creating oral stories that will bring the gospel to unreached people groups in many countries. TWR is working with OneStory to produce radio programmes for the people of West Africa. For the millions of people who cannot read or write, oral storytelling could be the only way they may ever hear about Jesus Christ.

Almost four million Kanuri live in northeastern Nigeria. Another two million are spread across southeastern Niger, western Chad and northern Cameroon. The Kanuri, also known as the Yerwa, are predominantly Muslim. They are considered one of the unreached people groups of West Africa. There is no complete Kanuri Bible, no Kanuri church and very few Kanuri Christians.

John Ragsdale from TWR-Africa's Regional Office spent two days in a Kanuri village in July 2009. He joined a group who had travelled to the village to test stories for the OneStory project. The team also included a nurse, who provided medical services for the villagers during their stay.

"It was a good experience," Ragsdale says. "The Kanuri are friendly and hospitable. They will never turn you away but expect you to respect their culture and traditions. They are very inquisitive but some are suspicious of outsiders."

One of the missionaries on the team, James*, has established a good relationship with this village. He has been made one of the subordinate chiefs and was given land to build a house. It was in his house that the team stayed during their visit. Villagers often go to one of the subordinate chiefs for advice, so James is in a unique position to minister to this particular village.

Although the Kanuri are predominantly Sunni Muslim, some superstitious beliefs are widely held. It is vital that the Kanuri hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. The OneStory project is still in its testing phase; because dialects vary from village to village, the story testing process is slow and thorough to ensure that everyone will be able to understand.

At the moment, the only programme in the Kanuri language is a Salvation and Evangelism programme, produced by Radio ELWA and aired from our station in Benin. It is a teaching programme with only a partial focus on the oral aspect of the culture. For oral learners, unless the gospel is presented in an oral format, it is unlikely they will be able to understand or remember the message. Story crafters are aiming to having 20 stories ready before the OneStory programme can be produced and broadcast.

* Name changed for security purposes.