The Bride-To-Be in Zambia
It is Sunday evening. We are in a town called Mkushi, about half-way between Lusaka and home. It has become our normal stop-over when driving the full ten hours is just too much. We have our “usual” room, although at first they wanted to put us out in another building where there was no sink and no toilet seat. I’d rather have a pit latrine. Anyway, they were able to move us and we are settling in for the night.
I hope you enjoy this little bit of culture. I wonder – how much of this do we do in the states?
There is a custom here in Zambia that when a girl becomes engaged, the older women in her life give her training in how to respect her husband. I have not been here long enough to know exactly what that means, but I can share with you an experience I had last Saturday.
I had been invited to the home of a friend who had as her houseguest a young woman named Belinda, who is soon to be married. My friend, Bana Chilabi, had taken responsibility for some of this pre-marriage training. After chatting with my friend for a few minutes, she invited me in to one of the training sessions which was underway. I was a little hesitant because I did not know what to expect, I didn’t know if I would be asked to participate and if the bride-to-be could speak English. But I couldn’t say no and, besides, I was curious.
We went in to a small room of the house, bare except for a carpet on the floor. Seated on the carpet were Belinda, a woman I took to be her mother, and a friend of mine named Elizabeth. Bana Chilabi and I sat down and they proceeded to tell me, in a mix of Bemba and English, what had been happening. As a side note, I was pleased at how much of the Bemba I understood. Then I was invited to share whatever I desired with Belinda. Oh, boy. I’m not usually an off-the-cuff speaker, so I said a little prayer and then opened my mouth to speak.
As I spoke, my words were punctuated from time to time with a series of three claps by the ladies, which I understood to be agreement or acceptance of what I had said. I told Belinda that marriage is not easy. Men and women are very different (three claps) and it takes work. I told her how satan does not want marriages to work and is always trying to drive a wedge between husband and wife. After you’ve been married a while, he will try to convince you that there is someone more exciting out there. Infidelity is a problem here and the result has been devastating – not just unhappy or broken marriages, but HIV/AIDS that is killing this nation (three claps). I told Belinda that the best thing she and her husband-to-be, Koji, can do is to put Christ at the center of their marriage (three claps). I told her that the closer they grow toward God, the closer they will become in every way, physically, emotionally, and spiritually (three claps). I reminded her that, yes, the Bible says that women are to respect their husbands, but that the husband also has a serious responsibility toward the wife – to love her as Christ loves the church, enough to die for her (three claps). I asked if the Groom-to-Be was having training sessions on how to be a husband. I was told yes. I hope someone tells him the right things.
I spent maybe twenty minutes with Belinda and friends. What a pregnant twenty minutes it was. And what a privilege. The following day, I gave Belinda a Bible as a wedding gift and encouraged her to let God use it to help make her marriage strong.
Belinda lives just in town and I hope God allows our paths to cross again. It would be a thrill to me to know that God is at work in a marriage that will not fall to the wiles of the devil. As a post script, later that day I had a conversation with four of our young men friends. I told them of my experience with Belinda and they all shared that they are not interested in having a traditional marriage where the wife does everything. They described a typical Zambian couple to me – walking home from the bush, he with a hoe over his shoulder, she with a baby on her back and a bundle of firewood on her head; then at home – he sitting in a chair sleeping, she starting a fire, cooking the meal, dealing with children, then later washing the pots, dealing with children, etc., etc. Our young friends want to be partners with their wives, helping at home and not lording it over them. That gives me great hope for this younger generation and for this nation. Change takes time, and what a wonderful change this is.