As an answer to prayers our Heavenly Father gave rain...so much so that the newly installed rainwater tanks at school could be filled, and the girls could return to school the very next day after I wrote the last post! And they haven't had to miss a day since....what a blessing! The town water, on the other hand, did not do so well, but appears to be up and running again now.
Today at Literacy class, we only had a very small group (some of the ladies had other commitments and a couple of other just did not show....guess I'll hear the reasons later, or maybe not!). At first I was disappointed at the small group, but as the morning wore on I was reminded again that things that at first seem disappointing God can turn into a blessing. So, amidst some schooling we also had such a great time chatting. I just love times like this. Times to sit and talk and to find out more about these people we serve, what lives in their hearts and also more about the culture, which even though we have lived in for over 3 years, we still find so hard to fathom, and have only just begun scratching at the surface of some form of understanding it.
Today, among other things, the discussion turned to marriage and even giving birth. This discussion came up as in their settlement a "battle" of sorts has been raging between two families (also involving some church member families). The daughter of one family became pregnant by the son of the other family. The son and daughter wish to marry, the family of the daughter want the marriage to take place, but the family of the son do not (due to various reasons, but that's another story). And so it has continued for the last months. Well the day before yesterday the daughter went into labour but as the baby did not come after a full day of labour the family quickly went to visit the family of the baby's father and told them to hurry up and give their "blessing" or really to hurry up and stop being angry with the girl's family. And the reason? So that the baby could be born. Their anger was apparently stopping the arrival of the baby. And sure enough, their blessing was given and very soon after the baby son was born healthy and well.
From our western viewpoint we just scratch our heads. We find it so hard to understand how it is believed that someone's anger could hinder a baby's arrival. And yet it is so real, so normal to the people here. And this does not mean that they do not believe that God is in control. They would absolutely and readily confess that. Their beliefs and traditions just run so deep....
Anyhow, that's how the conversation moved on to marriage. Apparently, now that the anger has supposedly passed, a marriage between the daughter and son will be taking place this weekend...so I took the opportunity to get the ladies to elaborate a bit more. I spoke about our western traditions of marriage first, and then they spoke about theirs. Basically when the time is agreed upon, on that day, the women's family and the man's family will get together. A community leader will be there as mediator. The women's family will name the bride price and if the man's family agrees, and if everyone is happy then they will thus be married. Now we will just have to see if all goes ahead this weekend. We pray that yet a happy marriage may result, also with God as the centre of it!
We also spoke about the problems that exist across PNG, where it seems that many a marriage happens in this way - when a woman falls pregnant, a marriage happens. We also talked about the Biblical way of marriage first! Then one of the ladies shared a great story of how her oldest daughter married her son (they are both church members now as well), and it was wonderful to hear how their marriage was not the result of a pregnancy!
So a morning of literacy turned into a morning of literacy and sharing. What a wonderful way to spend a morning!