Something extraordinary has happened in Lanza. A young couple has officially become engaged, and soon they will be tying the knot! The happy pair is none other than David and Estella, whom we know well. David is a high school teacher and a media professional with the Dhongo Bible Translation team. We frequently encounter him at the translators’ office. Estella, on the other hand, is the daughter of Elizabeth. They reside close to us and often drop by for a friendly chat or to lend a hand on our fields.
Insiders claim that an official church wedding has not taken place in Lanza for the past three decades. Therefore, everyone eagerly anticipates this exceptional occasion. Roelof and I, along with a few family members, have received an invitation to a celebratory dinner in honor of their engagement. We will have the privilege of praying for them and offering some advice. Now, we await the grand day. The bride’s family will designate a day for the presentation of the dowry, signaling the green light for the civil and religious ceremony.
Months pass by with no news. Why is nothing happening? Then, news arrives: oh dear, Estella is pregnant! Consequently, the long-awaited grand celebration can no longer take place. However, the silver lining is that the pregnancy is indeed David’s. Hence, the wedding will proceed, albeit with a modest traditional ceremony confined to their families. The festivities are scheduled for January 13th, and the atmosphere is brimming with joy. The bride is welcomed with vibrant singing and dancing as she enters the groom’s courtyard, enwrapped in a beautiful cloth and escorted into the improvised festive tent. Soon after, the groom follows suit, also entirely wrapped. The couple takes their seats. The church ministers are absent, but Roelof and I are honored to be invited. Roelof will share the Word of God during the wedding.
More than five months later, their baby, a little girl, is born. They have named her Shukuru, which signifies “Gratitude!” David and Estella are profoundly grateful and overjoyed for this precious treasure bestowed upon them by God. Roelof and I pay a visit to the couple and their baby in their humble one-room cottage. Inside, we find two chairs and a bed. According to tradition, the child should not leave the house during the first month. However, they graciously make an exception for a photograph. It is heart-warming to witness such a blissful family unit comprising David, Estella, and Shukuru.
In the entire Dhongo region and beyond, officially entering into marriage is highly unconventional these days. Most young people simply start families without formal ceremonies, if they choose to start families at all. Frequently, the young woman becomes pregnant and finds herself as a single mother, often in her teenage years. In cases where couples decide to cohabit, the matter of the dowry arises later on. Initially, they must settle the “penalties” for the pregnancy, childbirth, and the young woman’s disrupted education. Only when the man demonstrates sincere commitment to marriage does he begin saving for the actual dowry. The bride’s family arranges a date for the dowry’s handover, which typically consists of twenty goats, along with funds for the festivities and attire for the bride’s family. The monetary value of the dowry is not the primary issue, as the entire family often contributes to it. The real challenge lies in dealing with the bride’s family, who may be uncooperative, frequently postponing negotiations due to the objections of certain relatives. They seem to have this reluctance to get on board with negotiations and keep putting off discussions because of a few opinionated relatives. It is disheartening to see how this discourages young people to the point where they give up on their dreams altogether. It’s even more frustrating knowing that many of these young folks are faithful Christians who end up playing minor roles in the church and aren’t allowed to fully participate in Lord’s Supper. We’ve been praying endlessly for a change in this situation.
David and Estella have shown us that there’s another way. Their circumstances may not have been perfect, but they are true gems! We can’t help but hope and pray that others will follow in their footsteps, embracing their exemplary behavior.