Haruna Sori Shuaibu is an evangelist from Adamawa State. He is a Fulani man. He became a Christian in 1999 after reading a tract given to him by a missionary. Shuaibu now preaches primarily to Fulani people as a missionary with Burning Bush Ministry. He shares his experience with Church Times Nigeria at the 2021 Conference on Practical Evangelism at the Gospel City, Offa, Kwara State. Excerpts below
What was your background like?
I was born and brought up in Jos precisely Bassa Local Government; the Miago community. But I am from Adamawa. My name; Shuabu is a traditional Fulani name. It’s not an Islamic name. I grew up to see my people rearing cows. I joined the business when I was around four years old. I used to travel to many places in the north and middle belt on foot with cows. Later in life, I went to Islamic School.
What are your early recollections of going about with cows on foot?
For us, it was something normal and it was fun. I can only recall that we used to meet wild animals in the thick bush in those days. I remember encountering hyenas, tigers, and several other wild animals.
You encountered wild animals in the course of moving about with cows in the bush. How did you manage such scenes? Were you ever attacked by them?
Well, in those days we don’t just move about without fortifying ourselves. Many of the Fulani people you see with cows don’t move without charms on them. They have this mystical protection. The animals rather than coming to attack would be scared and run away from us. So, there was no instance I was attacked.
My Islamic School experience
You said you went to Islamic School?
Yes. I did a bit of Islam while growing up. I belonged to the Izala sect which was very strong in Plateau State. This sect allows students to go to school from their father’s house, unlike some other sects that would rather keep the students in boarding house and make them go through the rigours of the Islamic training.
I love knowledge. As far as my education was paid for, I love to get answers to all questions. Incidentally while studying the Quaran there were chapters the Islamic teachers would tell us we should ignore. That made me to become more curious. I began to wonder why I was not allowed to read those chapters. For instance, they discouraged us from reading verses that talked about Christ.
In Islam, it is believed that Jesus was not crucified. They believe when he was to be killed, somebody was used in his place. But there is a chapter; Suratu Maria which talked about Christ. The Chapter says blessed are you when you were born, blessed are you when you die and blessed are you when you resurrected from dead. That chapter is talking about Christ. But the Islamic teacher would skip it. They don’t want people to know that Jesus actually died and rose from the dead.
I also discovered from my study of the Quran that Jesus is the only one who has the power to forgive sin. It’s also an irony that all the prophets that Moslem people submit to are all Jewish prophets apart from Mohammed. My question then was, how come Moslems do not like the Jews but they submit to Jewish prophets.
How can they love the prophets who are Jews and hate their children? All the prophets from Genesis to Malachi are Jewish prophets. And they are the same prophets that are adored in Islam. So how can they submit to these prophets and then hate the children of these prophets? That got me worried and I began to think that something must be wrong somewhere.
But then, I got to understand that Mohammed was a business man. He mingled with some Christians when he left Mecca for Medina. That was where he got the knowledge of the Bible. But the knowledge was not in full. But that is even by the way. My worry then was that how can Islam have so much respect for the Jewish prophets and yet hate the children of these prophets who are the Jewish people of today? That made me to start losing faith in Islam.
How Jesus arrested me
How then did you surrender your life to Jesus?
I became really agitated about the issues I raised earlier. That was in 1998. That made me to start praying and telling God to show me the way. I told God I don’t want to perish that he should reveal the truth to me. While this agitation was going on, I met a missionary who gave me a tract. That was on June 13, 1999.
The miracle about this tract was that I never knew how to speak and read English very well as at that time. But when the man gave me the tract, I discovered I could read every sentence in the tract. The tract ministered to me greatly. Behind the tract, there was the sinner’s prayer. I prayed the prayer. After praying, I felt so light and free. It was like somebody had just helped to lift up a heavy load from my head. I experienced inner peace and joy that I could not explain. That gave me the conviction that if anybody says he has accepted Christ and he does not experience a change within; the salvation of that person is questionable.
So what happened after you experienced this change?
Immediately I remember a brother who had been trying to preach to me around our area. I went to him that same evening to share my experience and that he should pray for me. When he saw me he was scared. He never believed I could come and ask for prayers because I never gave him the opportunity to preach to me all the while that he wanted to preach to me. But my father used to allow him to come to our home to preach. My father would not stop him. But I used to walk out on him and did not tolerate him.
So when he saw me that day in the evening coming to ask for prayers, he was taken aback. He asked if I was sick. I said no. I told him my experience; that I just surrendered my life to Christ that he should pray for me. He called his wife to prepare food for me. I told him I didn’t come to eat but that I wanted him to pray for me. He prayed for me eventually and I left.
The change was so drastic that in no time, my family noticed that something had happened to me. They knew almost immediately that I had become a Christian. That was the beginning of heavy persecution for me. I almost lost my life. My brothers were persecuting me more than my parents. They first gave me time to come back to Islam. When they saw that I was not going back to Islam, they did everything to frustrate me and attempted to kill me.
My father invited me to a family meeting and I told them that it is the tract a missionary gave me that brought me to Jesus. I brought out the tract and brought out the Quran. I told them this small paper was what changed me. I said it was not my fault that I had come to know Jesus. I said I have been familiar with the Quaran all my life but that the Quaran had not had an impact on my life. I told them to blame the tract for my salvation. I told them the tract defeated the Quaran which I had known all my life. I told them it was not my fault but the fault of the Quaran which had not been able to help me.
My brother was curious, he wanted to collect the tract, I refused because the tract was a great treasure to me. I hid it. It was recently after many years of my conversion that I found it in my brother’s custody.
But then so many forces were against me both within and outside the family. I remember one of my uncles who is known for his voodoo power brought a ram’s skin and spread it on the ground and said if truly my God saves, that I should jump over a ram’s skin. The implication of that is that I would run mad if I jumped it. I said to him I would not only jump it but I would march on it if he allowed me. If I march the ram skin I would die immediately. I was not putting on shoes and I was ready to march on the ram skin but my brother was scared and stopped me.
Days later about six men came to me in the house and were ready to kill me. They said somebody had paid for my head. But I told them to allow us to go to the bush so they could kill me peacefully there because if they cut me with their cutlass in the house I would scream and it would attract neighbours.
I asked them to follow me to the bush. They refused. They refused to follow me because they thought I had some charms on me that could be dangerous to them. I assured them that I had nothing on me. But then, it was the Holy Spirit that was giving me courage. They began to leave. I called them back. I told them to go and tell the people who sent them to me to send real men not men that are faint in heart.
22 years of being a Christian
You have been a Christian for about 22 years now. How have you been able to survive all the threats to your life?
God led me to a brother who advised me to leave the town; that I would be killed if I did not leave. That was how I left the place and came to the heart of Jos. I was introduced to a rehabilitation centre for Muslim background believers. That was December 1999. I was the first disciple in that place. I was given a house separate from other people who came later to join us.
It was from there I went to a theological school in Bauchi. I was through with the theology school in 2005 and worked in an Anglican Diocese for 4 years before I went to Nasarawa. While working with the Anglican Church I was able to establish one parish in Jos. To the glory of God, the parish is still existing.
It was in Nasarawa that I got another tract with the logo of the same tract that led to my conversion. I saw the address and email of the publishers of the tract, Faith of Fathers. I immediately sent an e-mail to them and shared how one of their tracts has been a blessing to me and how I came to know Jesus.
Incidentally, as at the time I sent the mail, the man who wrote that tract that led to my salvation was on his laptop. He got the message and asked one of their staff to call me and invited me to Abuja. That was how I got to Abuja.
They have this foundation called Rescue Foundation. I started work with them. That was in 2012. It was while working with them that I met evangelist Sunday Onu who is known as Baba Fulani. He is the founder of the Burning Bush Ministry. I was just fascinated by this evangelist because he is from Igboland but he said God had sent him to the Fulani race to evangelise them. I bought into the vision and we have been running with it.
Let me say also that my stay in Abuja has also exposed me to the fundamentals of the Christian faith. I met a pastor in Abuja in 2014 who God used to make me grounded in faith.. That was where I understood there is a difference between theology and spirituality.. Theology is good but you need to balance that knowledge with spiritual understanding.
Theology gives you head knowledge. Genesis to Malachi is about Jesus. But that knowledge of Jesus comes in a shadow form. But the New Testament is about the revelation of Jesus in His fullness. I don’t know any other gospel apart from Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. Any other gospel leads to corruption.
What is your experience about people who come to know Christ from Islam?
I have met people who came to Christianity from Islam but who did not have real experience of salvation. They are people who came to Christ because they had a need and the needs were met. But then, their lives remain unchanged. There are those who just hear stories. When people preach prosperity or healing and make an altar call on that premise there are chances that some of the people won’t experience genuine salvation. The premise is faulty.
Problems make some people to give their lives to Christ. I have seen Muslims who became Christians and later go back. Some of them have even become pastors before they went back to Islam. The problem with people like that is that they never got to know Jesus. They only had head knowledge of him. They did not have experiential knowledge.
There is this negative view about Fulani people of late. Most of the insurgency and banditry are ascribed to them. How will you react to this?
I want people to understand that Fulanis have been living peaceably with fellow Nigerians. It was when the government of President Mohammadu Buhari came that the whole thing changed and people began to have a negative impression of the Fulanis.
It seems to me that this government came with the spirit of error. I still strongly believe the majority of Fulani doing these bad things are not Nigerians. But then you can’t enter somebody’s house without contact from within.
As it is now, I can tell you that the Fulani people are also suffering more from what is happening. We can’t move freely again because of the stigma caused by some of us. There are some places we can’t go now because people see us as a threat. There are places where I can’t boldly preach the gospel. They think I am coming to cause confusion.
My father became a Christian the day he died
How about your family members, have some of them come to know Christ?
I reconciled with my family in 2013. That was around the time my father was about to die. Only my sister and mother could recognise me when I went to my father’s house. I had shared my GSM number with my sister, so we talk regularly. She was the one who called me and told me that my father was sick that I should come.
That was when I went to my family’s house for the first time after I had left home in 1999. No other person knew where I was because they had all lost touch with me because of the persecution I faced. It was when my father was in the hospital and was about to die that he began to mention my name. While in the hospital he asked my siblings to take him home. That was when my sister called me to come and see him, that he has been asking of me while in the hospital.
I abandoned what I was doing and came to meet him in Jos. I went straight to his room. I saw my father lying in bed. I sat down by his side and tapped him. As soon I touched him he called my name even without seeing my face.
He began to ask me to forgive him for all he did against him. I said I had forgiven him since the day he turned his back against me. He opened his eyes and asked people to leave the room. I was left alone in the room with him. He was about to die. When I noticed that those in the room had gone out, I persuaded him to eat.
After he had finished eating, the holy spirit told me, tell him about Jesus. I asked him do you want to grow young again? He said how, I said he would become younger when he gets to heaven.
I then introduced Jesus to him using the Quaran that he is familiar with. I asked him to accept Jesus. He prayed with me and asked that Jesus would come into his heart. He accepted Jesus. When that was done, I felt fulfilled. Nobody knew he had given his life to Christ.
It was getting late but I told him I had to go back to my base. Just about three kilometers away from home, I received a call that my father had died. I shouted, praise God, inside the bus. The people in the bus didn’t know why I shouted. I said to them that my father lived up to 97 and never knew Christ, but the day he accepted Christ was the day he died. One woman in the bus was so happy for me. He was wondering if I was a Christian because of the way I looked.
One of my brothers also gave his life to Christ and died later because he was sick. I think, by and large, God has been helping me to reach my people for Christ. I think it is important we pray for people. I believe I came to know Jesus because of the power that backed the tract that I was given. Some people must have been praying for me. I believe that tract was backed up with a lot of prayers.
What has been keeping you on with Jesus? What do you presently do?
Knowing Jesus is knowing peace. There is no other place to go. In fact, I made a vow with God that the day I entertain the thought to go back, let me die. God has been faithful to me. It is the best thing that can happen to a person.
God has been good to me in that my faith is being strengthened day by day I’m married and I have two children My family and I are fully in God’s service.
Presently I am actively involved with Burning Bush Ministry. We are devoted to reaching my people, the Fulani people. I still go to the bush to meet them there and extend the love of Christ to them. There is one thing about preaching the gospel, you are just a channel. When you are about to go out, you ask the holy spirit to lead you. Ask God before taking steps.
The Holy Spirit told me three things when I gave my heart to Jesus. He said, number one, read your Bible, number two, read your Bible, number three, read your Bible. He said to me that it is while reading the Bible that he would meet with me and give me direction and understanding.
Haruna Shuabu could be reached on 0803 235 1003