A Weekend of Celebrations – Part 1It was a fun weekend of reunions, a sacred union and a silver birthday.
Ugandans know how to celebrate. They very much enjoy parties and know how to dress “smartly,” make speeches and prepare delicious food.
Amanda and I helped to host a 25th birthday party (the silver birthday) for a Uganda friend, Susan, on Friday evening. Birthday parties are rare here as most do not observe their birthdays. Susan, who was raised at a local orphanage, said she had not celebrated her birthday since leaving the orphanage at age 18 – seven years ago. A broad, beautiful smile hardly left Susan’s face the entire evening as she reveled in some American games, the praise and encouragement of her friends, enjoyed a delicious meal, featuring traditional African foods, and feasted on not just one, but two cakes.
Susan, center, prepares to cut her cake.
It was truly a delight to be a part of blessing someone who was so very happy and grateful for the occasion. I believe for those of us from the U.S., we take it for granted that our birthday will be recognized in some way each year. But, here, when a birthday is observed (maybe once every few years) it is truly a celebration. And, it was truly a delightful evening for a delightful person!
The weekend also held two happy reunions. I exited the kitchen at the SHIM office Friday afternoon to see a face I had not beheld for more than three years. I met dear Sarah during my first visit to Uganda (from Oct. 2006-March 2007) as we were “neighbors” on the island’s YWAM base. She was a sweet and warm friend who remained very vivid in my memory. When I came to Uganda this past January, Sarah was one person I definitely wanted to see again. But, since I had left in spring 2007, she had continued with her high school education and was no longer living on the island. I wasn’t sure how or when I would meet her again.
Sarah was as excited to see me on Friday as I was to see her. She had changed a bit, but I recognized her by her beautiful smile. It was an unexpected, yet happy reunion!
(By the way, I am writing this post on Saturday afternoon as I wear a dark blue formal dress and silver high heels – no, not my normal writing attire. I am waiting for the big event of the weekend – a wedding of one of the island’s teachers – to begin. It was supposed to start at 3 p.m., but it is now nearing 5 p.m. and few people have arrived at the church. But, this is Uganda. :)
We learned Saturday morning that Lynet was traveling from Kenya to Jinja. Just about a month ago, Lynet was living as the sixth wife of a Muslim man on the island. Through mercy ministry to Lynet and her small prematurely-born baby, Cowsala, Karina and others of us were able to reach out and show the love of Jesus to this young mother. It was a happy day in March when Lynet returned to her Savior, restoring a relationship begun in her youth. To begin a new life, Lynet and her little girl, renamed “Hope,” then left the island to join family in her Kenyan homeland.
Lynet and Baby Hope
Hope was born in November - four months early. When she left the island, she weighed less than 4 pounds and her arms and legs were so thin. But, to our delight this weekend, she had grown some and gained weight – now tipping the scales at 6 ½ pounds. She even sported a double chin! It was with joy that we were reunited with this dear mother and her baby!
Hope's tiny hand gripping my pinkie finger.
Time is passing and we still await the beginning of the wedding festivities. I will write part 2 after the celebration.
A Weekend of Celebrations – Part 2
I mentioned in one of my previous posts that one phrase I like to quote here is “Hurry up and wait.” Ugandans are not known for being punctual and functions rarely start on time. However, yesterday and today’s events were beyond anything I had experienced so far.
We had been told that the introduction of one of our island teachers and her fiance would be held from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday in a village located on a peninsula that juts out into Lake Victoria. An introduction is a formal event where the couple is formally “introduced” and the bride price is negotiated. What transpires during an introduction varies depending on what part of the country you are from. We learned last night that in central Uganda (where we are), they can be quite long.
The wedding was scheduled to start at 3 p.m. the same day at a church in Jinja. Gloria, SHIM’s secretary, arrived at the church at around 2 p.m. to help prepare. She was also to be our “scout” to let us know when to come, so we didn’t arrive too early and wait too long.
Amanda and I in our dresses for the wedding.
Amanda and I had special formal dresses “tailor-made” for the occasion and bought matching shoes, jewelry and handbags. (Truthfully, I never thought I would buy a pair of heels in Uganda, but I did.) We prepared throughout the morning and into the afternoon of the big day – fixing our hair, applying our makeup and putting on our dresses and shoes. However, we waited and waited…and waited. We continued to check in with Gloria as time transpired. Five people were present and then seven. At around 6 p.m., three hours after the wedding was to begin, we figured we should head to the church. When we arrived, we found about 20-25 people there, but none of the wedding party. It began to grow dark and we continued to wait.
Entertainment in the interim consisted of visiting, listening to the practicing praise and worship team, performing our own unique wedding march, and slapping the many mosquitoes that believed the wedding feast had already begun.
Around 7 p.m., Gloria received a phone call from the officiating pastor saying that the wedding would be postponed until 9 a.m. the following morning. However, Gloria, knowing the pastor is a jokester, believed he was teasing and the bride was actually going to arrive at 9 p.m. that night.
Amanda and I and decided we could wait no longer (especially since we were unsure of how we would get home after the late ceremony), so we left around 8:30 p.m. – five and a half hours after the wedding was to start. Before departing we heard that the wedding party’s vehicles had become stuck in the mud as they traveled from the introduction to the church. We also learned that it is illegal to marry after 6 p.m. in Uganda, so as to prevent any hidden or illegal activity.
This morning (Sunday), Gloria informed us the wedding would be held at 9 a.m. at the officiating pastor’s church. So Amanda and I once again donned our fancy dresses and shoes and headed to the church, hoping we would actually get to witness a wedding.
We arrived at around 9 a.m. and waited for church and/or the wedding to begin. The pastor had told the couple that if they arrived at the church before mid-day, he would marry them. We continued through prayer, praise and worship, and testimonies, with no sign of the bride or groom. Finally, near the end of the pastor’s sermon, the groom and his best man arrived. Honestly, I breathed a sigh of relief.
The happy couple
At about 12:30 p.m., about 20 hours after the wedding was to actually begin, it started. It was a brief, but happy celebration. The bride looked beautiful and the groom shy, but happy. The guests were excited and the cake and sodas were yummy. What more could you want? It was worth the wait.
P.S. I am quite curious to hear the bride's side of the story.