Friday, March 22, 2013

Can I be their wife?

I often think about what it's going to be like living among the people to whom God is sending us. Will we be called "stranger," "outsider," "white man/woman"? For a time, no doubt about it. Maybe a long time. Maybe the whole time we're there. What's it going to take to become an insider, to really bond? Giving up hot showers (wouldn't want those anyway), lattes, air-conditioning? Living in local houses and eating local food?

Elijah with our friend Ama, who helped care for him while I was sick.

No. It's deeper than that.

Today, I sat and talked to Josh's Ghanaian best friend about families and extended families. I had heard that a woman is addressed as "our wife," and I wanted to know what that meant. He explained that when a woman is brought into the family through marriage, she not only becomes the "wife" of her new husband, but also all his brothers. They call her their wife. And his parents call her their daughter.

There is more to the relationship: All the brothers are obligated to care for her and any children that are born. They act equally as husbands to her and as fathers to her (their brother's) children. They are respected by her, provide for her and her children, etc. She also inherits the cooking duties for the entire family from the mother-in-law, because his parents are her parents. Extended families are large  enormous! This is where relationships are, and relationship is the currency of Africa (previous post).

I'm not sure what it's going to look like in Sierra Leone. I get the impression that this is the West African way. Is it okay to hope for an extended African family? To want to be called "our wife"? Or however it's done there?

Growing up, that's how my parents built relationships as missionaries in Bangladesh. There were local people we were "related to" through my mother and my father, and... those were the relationships that were deep.

Me with my auntie and late uncle (on my mom's side) in Bangladesh.
Learning to wife!

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