Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Lopez and Joana tie the knot

Here is the happy couple. He is 59, she is 49. They are an anomaly in this culture: neither has been with another spouse in all these years. They have had eleven children together, six are living. (The other five died before the age of four.)

Here they are with four of their children. (The oldest has gone to South Africa and has not been heard from in years. Another son is high schooling in Maputo and could not attend.) From L to R: Jimmie, Lila, Varuca and Felismina. Jimmie and special friend have two children. Lila is married and has a daughter. The other two are still single.

One angle of the wedding banquet under shade cloth in front of their house. The neighbor kids are all sitting on the edge, waiting for the food that isn't eaten at the table to be shared out. Plenty for everyone. Let me tell you about the heat. It was so hot in the church that my official job as witness (bridesmaid) was to fan them! I didn't wipe the sweat dripping from their faces, but I did supply they each with a clean white hanky. We don't look at thermometers here, just aggravates the situation.

Here they are holding the pile of presents. Most gifts were money and are in the basket on top of the gifts she holds. Present giving is a lengthy part of the process and people come up, dance around the chair, and put their money in the basket.

Here are Phil and me with the happy couple. We were their witnesses and are supposed to guide them in wisdom and supportive advice. It feels funny, since they have been together longer than we have. They are so excited about their kids following their example now.

As African weddings go, it was dynamite. Plenty of singing, dancing, interaction, you name it. Their son in law translated the Portuguese into Chuabo for the locals, embellishing with witty jokes. Pastor Elias dragged out the "does anyone know of any reason these two should not be married" section so long that the blind man got up and made a comment for which he was thanked and ignored. (I couldn't hear him.) This aspect of the western ceremony has taken their fancy, so it receives extra emphasis. Elias kept mentioning the time and that he would not give them another chance, so they had better take it.

It was Elias' first time to perform a wedding--Phil was his support and encouragement. Elias just got married in August. After the ceremony at the church, we processed to their house, about 3 km away. The couple, Phil, myself and a few others were in our smallish car. Everyone else walked and sang. Phil tried to drive at walking pace--not an easy task. A few times we were mistaken for a funeral, so passing bicyclists stopped and reverently waited for us to go by. We had a laugh at that. (It is culture to stop and respect the dead, so all funerals cause traffic jams in town.)

Lopez is a trained cook, so the food was excellent. And there was an abundance of it--which is important here, as everyone expects to fill the belly. As for me, I can say I am acclimatizing, because it didn't bother me at all that around where we sat neighbors and their offspring stared over the interlaced palm branches and gawked as we ate.

Joana works for an American here with an NGO in AIDS work. Stacey is out in the "field" dealing with hiv/aids and the difficulty of treatment and logistics. We brought her and it was her first Mozambican wedding. Joana was thrilled to be honored by her and her daughters' presence. I was blessed by an observation Stacey made near the end of the meal. She noted that there was a sense of love and community in this group of people that she has not witnessed in the various neighborhoods and districts she has worked. She knew it was because this was a church. But it encouraged me because after all the pain and disappointment these precious people have known with three pastors who betrayed them for personal ends, they are still showing the love and grace of the Holy Spirit. Remember Florencio, the last pastor, who sued Lopez and wanted him in jail? Well, his abused wife and five of his kids were at the wedding. I saw the teenage son embrace the bride and groom and there were no hard feelings.

Having someone outside the church notice the love within reminded me that they are special. Sometimes I am so close to their problems that I don't see the work of grace which is conforming them to that wonderful Image of our Lord.

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