Yesterday we took Reagan and Joyce to the village of Pakwach, on the Nile River, where they are from (they are seated on the right). We went to appeal to Joyce’s father for permission to marry without paying bride price, which is a very difficult tradition here in Africa. It causes most couples to live together because the payment to buy the bride from her father is about 3 million shillings ($1,000 U.S.), which is unreachable. Reagan and Joyce are strong members of the Church, but are not legally married. They must be married before they can be sealed in the temple, which is their greatest desire. During this trip, we saw a wonderful African family and were so impressed with their culture. Not all African families are this strong, but many are.
We first met the man who raised Reagan. In virtually all cases where a child has relatives, they can look to them for help if their family dies or can no longer care for them. Because of war, poverty and disease, this happens often.
When Reagan was ready to leave home, this wise uncle sat him down and gave him this advice:
- Know what to do for your business and work hard.
- Do not borrow money.
- Do not steal.
- Do not pay back when someone hurts you.
- Find a woman to love and cherish and be completely faithful to her.
- Give your life to your wife and family.
- Never despise your wife or she will poison you.
I represented Reagan’s father for our meeting with Joyce’s dad, John. (pictured with her step-mother Julia on the back row). Here was my presentation:
- Bride price was first paid by a returning African soldier after Word War I, who wished to express gratitude for his new bride by giving her father some nice gifts using his army savings. Then another soldier did the same, and soon a tradition was established where a father could expect large gifts for raising a good daughter when she married.
- We believe the family is eternal and that husbands and wives can remain married after this life if they are sealed by proper authority in holy temples (showed pictures of temples).
- Reagan and Joyce are very devoted Christians with a wonderful family. They want to follow Christ by having a church and temple marriage, but cannot afford the bride price.
- We have come to request permission for them to marry in the Church without paying bride price.
John and Julia then had a discussion using Acholi (tribal language) as we sat. Then they left the hut to talk. Reagan then told us what Julia had said:
We should not prevent these people from following Christ and being married because of an African tradition.
When they returned, John said they did not object to the marriage, but he needed time to appeal to the aunty, his sister, for her blessing. Aunties have great power in African culture. He promised an answer within two weeks.
On their way out, Julia told me she planned to fast until a favorable answer was received. We left very happy.
The Power of the Family
Upon entering the hut for our discussion, Julia greeted us by kneeling and saying praise Jesus. Then she prayed in Acholi. Christ is the center of this family. The size and reach of the family is enormous. We met people all day in many villages that were relatives. They build their huts next to one another in tight clusters. They raise one another’s kids. They care for the elderly. They cook and eat together. They dig in the same garden, and share everything they have. They practice their faith openly and constantly.
About a year ago, we had a family discussion with our adult children and their spouses. We wondered about moving onto the same piece of property, building adjoining homes, and sharing responsibilities of children and income. It was a very fun discussion with much input. We thought how wonderful it could be if we lived close enough and cooperated in order to lift burdens and strengthen one another. Here in Africa, we see many examples of exactly that. There is so much of their lifestyle, as hard as it is, that is enviable. Perhaps we should re-open our family discussion.
Reagan and Joyce have a very bright future. They are an anchor in the branch. They will soon be legally married, then sealed in the Holy Temple in Johannesburg, South Africa. They will continue to build the Church here as they bless their family and many, many others.