Family prepares to reach Nigerian Muslims and outcasts
FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – Jesus, the Son of Man and Messiah, rode a borrowed donkey.
Yakubu Bulus Bakfwash learned this lesson only a week after he left his homeland of Nigeria to study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. It was one of his first lessons at the seminary, and it sank into his heart and mind.
This summer, Yakubu, his wife, Diana, and their three daughters sold everything they had except what they could fit into four or five suitcases. With the money they received, they bought one-way tickets to the United States. Yakubu praises God for His constant provision: They have been given beds, a laptop and printer, a washer and dryer, and other gifts. Yakubu says all those who have helped his family are “the hands and feet of our Lord Jesus Christ.” But he admits that one question lingers in his mind: “How are we going to begin life after returning home?”
“It’s not easy,” he explains. “I have children. I have a wife. And now we don’t have a home … But again, the Lord reminded me and reminded us as a family, ‘Foxes have holes. The Son of Man does not have a place to lay His head.’”
This Son of Man was “anointed to preach the Gospel to the poor, … to declare the year of the Lord’s liberty, but He Himself does not have a house of his own,” Yakubu says. “He has to use a borrowed house to celebrate the Last Supper. He has to ask the disciples in (the Gospel of) John to go over to the village and untie a donkey,” in order that He, the Messiah, might make his triumphal entry into Jerusalem.
“It was a borrowed donkey,” Yakubu says.
This reality provides a new perspective for the Bakfwash family, and, despite their concerns, they are determined to return to Nigeria. Much like the homeless Son of Man who preached to the poor and proclaimed the Lord’s liberty, Yakubu and his family have sacrificed themselves so they can take the Gospel to the Muslims and to the outcasts of Nigeria. Their only regret in coming to Southwestern is that they are separated by nearly 7,000 miles from their ministry.
“Africa is on our hearts. Africa is on our minds. We dream Africa,” Yakubu says. “We want to see God using us to develop an authentic biblical leadership in the generation of Africans that are coming up.”
In Nigeria, Yakubu teaches classes at Jos ECWA Theological Seminary, where he is the only instructor who teaches Islam. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in ministry from schools in Africa, but he is pursuing a Southwestern Master of Divinity degree, with the hopes of moving on to earn a Master of Theology in missions, with an emphasis in Islamic studies. He desires to prepare young ministers who will make an impact for Christ among the Muslims of Nigeria.
Yakubu is also the senior pastor and head chaplain at a mission hospital that reaches out to women with vesicovaginal fistula (VVF). Diana serves as a matron in the hostels in which these women live.
Affecting thousands of women throughout sub-Saharan Africa, VVF is a lifelong condition that occurs in lower class societies, often among Muslims. It is caused when girls are married and become pregnant at premature ages. Because of complications caused by their youth, these girls limp for the rest of their lives, and they chronically leak human waste. Most often their babies die during birth. As a result of their injuries, these girls are often forced to divorce their husbands and are cut off from society because they smell like waste. Some of the girls who come to the mission hospital are only 10 years old. Others have lived with VVF for 20 or 30 years. According to Yakubu, VVF is worse than AIDS, but it receives less attention. In 2001, it was estimated that nearly one million Nigerian women suffered from this condition and had not been treated.
At the mission, Yakubu, Diana and a staff of chaplains, matrons, doctors and nurses minister to these girls for months. They give them care and nourishment, until the girls are healthy enough to receive a surgery that can heal their condition. As these girls see the love of Christ displayed by all staff members at the hospital, they often ask about Christ and receive Him in faith.
Diana and other hostel matrons also counsel these women and teach them how to knit, sew, make handcrafts, make soap and cook nutritional food. According to Diana and Yakubu, they moved to Fort Worth, in large part, because the College at Southwestern offers a homemaking concentration that will help Diana improve this aspect of her ministry.
“So you see why Southwestern is very, very important in our ministry,” Yakubu says. “Without the homemaking ministry here, I’m sure we would not come here. We would look for another school. Incidentally, it is only Southwestern that has what we are looking for in ministry.”
After they have completed their treatment and education at the mission hospital and rehabilitation center, the women celebrate with song and dance, and for good reason: “They are now healthy,” Yakubu says. “They can read and write. They have received Christ as their Lord and personal Savior. They have skills, handwork. So they go back as complete human beings. These are people who before were divorced, ostracized, kept away. Now they are complete.”
Each March, more than 1,000 former patients return to the mission for a joyous reunion. It is an opportunity for the ministers at the hospital to follow up on their spiritual growth. Yakubu says the reunion also provides these women with a glimpse, however dim, of the “great reunion in heaven.”
Since they came to Southwestern, Yakubu, Diana and their children have desired a personal reunion with their friends and with the women and young ministers they have invested in for years. But as they consider Jesus, the once homeless Son of Man and Messiah, their minds turn toward things above and to a greater reunion.
“God has taught us,” Yakubu says, “to hold the things that are earthly loosely, and the things that are eternal tightly.”