Imagine you walk into a North African village that is nothing but dirt roads and grass huts. You meet a man who walks you to the house of the villages diviner (a diviner is the man in the village who is known to have spiritual powers). As you walk in his hut, his wives and their children welcome you. They pour tea and invite you to have a seat. The smells and scene looks like it came out of you wildest dream about an African culture. What would you ask him?
A missionary named Michael C. Kirwen spent the majority of his life in Nyambogo village in North Mara, Tanzania. He had the privilege of spending a significant amount of time with the village's diviner, Riana. Kirwen wrote a book in which he simply transcribed the conversations he had in Riana's hut. Their conversations covered everything from the African creation history to the concept of the Trinity in modern Christianity.
They spent a significant amount of time discussing the difference in marriage between African tradition and Christianity. It is custom for African to provide a dowry for the hand of a woman and if the right amount cannot be offered than the marriage does not happen. The majority of these marriages are arranged and it is considered important to marry as closely to the original bloodline as possible to maintain purity in families. When a woman loses her husband, she becomes the property of her husband's brother. He is now responsible for her the rest of her life - as she is not to remarry. These are significant difference between a traditional African marriage and a Christian marriage ad not differences that would likely be integrated. However, Riana did talk about an aspect of African marriage that should challenge our Christian notion of marriage. He comments:
"In our tradition...it is the hearing of one another that is critical, not the possession of one another's time and attention. Love for us is the total acceptance of a person in one's various moods, and with one's needs and feelings. And how, you might ask, do we express this love? It is expressed through mutual understanding and love, care in sickness, the obedience of the wife, the giving of food and clothing to the wife, laughing together, talking together, the man's respect for his wife, and their cooperation in raising the children. Indeed, if you ask an adult who is the person's best and most intimate companion, the overwhelming majority will tell you it is one's husband or wife (wives [tongue in cheek])..."
For the African people of this particular village it is apparent that companionship with one's spouse is of the utmost importance. No other relationship takes the place or functions in the same way as that of husband and wife. The most important aspect of this relationship being love as seen in the total acceptance of a person. Think about what would happen if we were able to start making this be the focal point of our marriages. We should stop trying to one-up our spouses and seek out whatever pleases us selfishly. We should, like the Africans, find solace in our ability to experience mutual understanding and love, care in sickness, the obedience of wives, the giving of food and clothing to our wives, laughing together, talking together, our husband's respect for his wife, and our cooperation in raising our children. They may not wear pants and sit on the ground when they eat, but we can learn a thing or two about this beautiful African village tucked away in the hills of Tanzania.