Yesterday was packed with joy from the first rooster crow until people fell into their beds exhausted from all the yipping, cheering, and dancing they did in celebration of something that the Lord holds dear: marriage.
It was a day that, I believe, mirrored a celebration in Heaven. Two young believers (Koo and Mami) have taken up their crosses, turned their backs on the ways of their culture, and followed God’s will for marriage. One Kwakum friend told me that he had never heard of two young Kwakum people getting married. This occasion therefore merited the song (composed in Kwakum) which spoke of the beautiful love of God that a Christian man and woman can have for one another. It merited the composition of yet another love song that was written and performed by a group of believers from a city a considerable distance away. It merited packing 200-300 people in our literacy and translation center for an all-day celebration.
Road to Joy Paved with Difficulty
However, the road to this joyous occasion was paved with tears, persecutions, and pain. In the Lord’s wisdom, it was this very pain that grew the character of the bride and groom and helped them to understand the value of a husband and the value of a wife. The pain they’ve experienced on their road to marriage was turned to a sweeter joy than they would have experienced without the pain. Let me give you a little back story…
Around three years ago a woman named Mami started coming to my house daily to study the Bible with me. She converted to Christ and then started praying for her boyfriend Koo, whom she was living with, to also follow Christ. She would come home and tell Koo what she was learning in the Bible and he eventually came to know the Lord. Koo and Mami then came to us and said they wanted to be baptized.
We, with the support of our local pastor, explained that following Christ meant repenting of old ways of life and obeying him and his commands from our hearts. They said, “okay”. We then explained God’s plan for marriage and how sexuality should be an expression of love between two married people. They said, “okay”. We then proceeded to tell them that they needed to live separately and/or get married. “WHAT?! We can’t do THAT!” they exclaimed.
At first, we found that reaction to be a bit extreme, but now we understand that the path to marriage here is difficult, if not impossible. After more biblical teaching, Koo and Mami became convinced that living separately was what God was calling them to do. The day of their baptism, Koo started living in the Kwakum literacy and translation center and for the next year and a half they pursued marriage.
For many months, Koo worked to save up money and goods to pay for the bride price. When the day finally came, he presented all of his work to Mami’s family, but they rejected the agreed upon amount and demanded an unreasonable amount more. Under our and our pastor’s advisement, Koo decided to pursue marriage without their blessing. Since that time, members of Mami’s family have routinely come to our village shouting, screaming, and causing trouble. Overlooking their opposition, Koo faithfully went to the bush to hunt so they could have food for their wedding.
As if that was not enough, Koo did not have an ID, which is required for a marriage certificate. So, he spent six months wading through corruption, paying and re-paying fees, and shuffling around to different government offices.
On top of these trials, their peers constantly pressured them to sleep with as many people as they could before the marriage. Others counseled them to remain in sexual immorality with no plans of marriage. Koo and Mami consistently responded that they were getting married to honor the Lord and would not cave into this pressure.
God Blessed Obedience
But yesterday, there was no more mocking, there were no more screaming relatives, there was no government corruption. There were only shouts of joy for this beautiful young couple as they sought to honor the Lord. What was seen as something despised in the eyes of the world was shown to be something holy, beautiful, and to be desired by all. God proved himself to be a rewarder of those who seek him.
About a year go, we started doing premarital counseling with Koo and Mami and the teaching that they received flowed out of them at their wedding. Koo stood up and said that he knew he was called to love his wife like Christ loved the Church. He said he was ready to die for his wife. Each of them stood up and said that they would stay married until death separated and that they would be faithful to one another. Mami quoted Genesis saying that she understood that marriage was something good that came from God, because everything that comes from God is good. Those present roared when they heard what Koo and Mami said. I believe that something inside the crowd knew that what they were saying was right.
Another moving part of the ceremony was to see people’s awareness of how Koo and Mami had a love that was different. As part of the ceremony, I spoke to Koo and Mami from the stage and told them how I have seen their love for one another: they take care of one another when they’re sick, Koo has taken Mami’s daughter in as his own, and they pray for one another. I then turned to the crowd and said, “Does this kind of love come from Koo and Mami?” “No!” the people replied. “Does it come from the society in which we live?” “No!” yelled the boisterous crowd. “Then where does it come from?” “It comes from above” they said. This people with only a few stories from the book of Genesis can see the love of God in the relationship of Koo and Mami. Remarkable.
I then went on to talk about how Jesus Christ shows us what the love of God is like. He showed us through his life that true love does not wait for the other to be loveable, but instead loves the other at all times. Christ-like love doesn’t wait to be served, but instead takes the initiative to serve the other. It also is humble and welcoming as we saw in how Christ welcomed children to himself. I turned to Koo and Mami and said that if they love one another like Christ has loved them, then their marriage will be a success. After I finished, they both made their way through the crowd and embraced me while thanking me for what I said. Is there any greater joy than seeing someone you’ve labored over walk with Christ and delight in hearing his Word? Probably not.
The Lord Rewards Those Who Seek Him
Koo and Mami get it. They get that the Lord rewards those who seek him and his rewards are far greater than the pain one feels in taking up their cross and following Christ. Our prayer is that Koo and Mami will be the beginning of a revolution among the Kwakum. That young and old will want the love that can only come from God. That the marriage bed will no longer ridiculed, but rather honored. That they would see that the love that radiates from Koo and Mami is a love also available to them. Christ was exalted yesterday, and we are so happy.