A Big Birthday and a lot of BULL!
Ah, to be turning sweet sixteen…every young American girl’s milestone, a life marker in her personal and familial story. Can you remember your 16th birthday?
But…OH, to be experiencing it with twelve other people, (most of whom you just met) at the end of a two week journey on and off a coaster bus traveling up-country in Eastern Equatorial Africa…10,000 miles away from home. SWEAT! (bandana wipe) I mean, SWEET!
HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Sweet Sixteen at the Bird’s Nest, Lake Bunyoni, Uganda!
Lovely dinner, toasts of good cheers and birthday cake enjoyed by all. The night is young and our party retreats to the patio overlooking mystical Lake Bunyoni. In a cozy circle of chairs we continue our celebration. The conversation moves to sharing in the personal story, of our dear Congolese sister, ”Sharon.” Our hearts are moved by her harrowing experience of living through horrific tribal warfare and family loss.
Sharon then shifts to the present joy of her betrothal to Matthew (right). We inquire about Congolese betrothal and wedding and learn of the traditional custom of bride price. In Africa, a suitor must first come before the tribal clan for consideration. If he is considered worthy and accepted, a time is set for the elders of his tribal clan and hers to come together to discuss and negotiate the bride price. The amount set by the bride’s parents and clan reflect her value. The groom’s payment must come before they can get married and ensures her value and that she will be respected and treated well and that he is also binding their families together through this marriage with investment and honor.
Very humbly, Sharon shares that her honor is set very high and there is no negotiation. Her father has set the bride price at 24 cows. Matthew has been working almost a full year to make enough money to purchase these cows. The huge challenge, she confesses anxiously, is that the last cow must be “the Bull who tears the fence down!” (like the one seen below*) She can see from our western quizzical faces that there is something lost in translation. What she means is that the last cow must be like the Grand Winner of the American Royal Livestock competition—the strongest, the biggest, the one who can tear down the largest fence!
Further translation: Sharon and Mathew are heartsick with sleepless nights as it seems impossible he can raise enough money to find and buy that Bull!
Our circle is quiet as we take in this challenge so far from our personal reality…
But, only momentarily.
Sweet Sixteen, the birthday girl, smilingly exalts—
I want to buy that bull!
—anyone else want to help buy that bull?
Yes, yes…well, OK then! Let’s get that
Let’s celebrate and make this wedding happen!
In a circle of smiles and joyful laughter, pledges were made and the deal was done.
With tears in her eyes, Sharon called Matthew and shared the amazing news, their wedding was on:
I called Matthew…and he… couldn’t believe…and he believed… and the rest is history…Thank you friends, for your prayers, they were answered!
Thank you all, you guys on this vision trip, you’ve blessed us and turned our world! You’ve made a history that we will tell to our children and grandchildren, a history that we will write in our lives. God bless you!
A Big Birthday and a lot of BULL! Sweet Sixteen and the final Bride Price:
24 cows and that Bull that tears down the fence.
Birthday, Wedding…Happiness for all
*Photo courtesy of Ankole Watusi International Registry and Becky Lundgren