One thing we have continued to learn more and more in this culture is the importance of "being there." Back in the US, if you are invited to a special occasion, but you have to work, or your kids are small and ornery, or you have a really busy weekend, or you just don't feel like going to your neighbor's kid's piano recital, you can give a polite excuse and no one thinks anything of it. Here an event is AN EVENT with new clothes and lots of food, and to show you care, you must show your face, early though it be, tired as you are- being there for even a very short length of time is really important. I've thought about this in the context of Christmas. Isn't that what Jesus did for us? He came and dwelt among us, a physical presence testifying to God's love for us. We are slowly learning that our physical presence testifies our love for a person, and hopefully God's love as well.
This last month and a half we have had the opportunity to attend two different baby dedications. They were very different! The first was for our house worker. Salamatou has worked for us since our arrival here in 2001. She and her family are special to us, so we were excited to help celebrate the arrival of her fifth child, Zeeadd (spelled phonetically as I have NO idea how to spell it!). Idriss and Salamatou are Muslims, so typically a week after the birth of a child, there is a naming ceremony. The short ceremony is held outside among the men. The women are visiting with the mother and baby inside. The baby is brought out and the Muslium teacher, or maribou will chant some special things and the baby will be given his or her name. As here children "belong" to the father, often the mother has no idea what name will be given to her child until the grand announcement. This has been the case with our friends. After this comes the party! Often popcorn (with sugar) and cola nuts and dates are distributed to everyone. The women of the family or close friends will prepare a big feast, if the family can afford it, a sheep is slaughtered for the occation. Though we didn't stay for the feast later in the day, we enjoyed being a part of the celebration of little Zeeadd's birth! Here he is with his proud Mama and only sister (he has 3 older brothers.)
The other baptim we were invited to this month, Ian served as the family rep. Not only was he family rep, but also chauffeur! Fidel, a carpenter that Ian has worked with on several projects had another little boy. Fidel is from a Catholic background, so this was different than the majority of baby naming ceremonies we have attended. It was held in a local Catholic church. Ian used the SIMAIR van to transport the family over to the church. Little Sovereign was baptised and named much like a baby dedication back home. Here is a picture of his family (Fidel and his wife are in the yellow outfits and the little girl is their oldest.) with a few close friends.
After being together at the church, Ian drove a very FULL van back to Fidel's house where they celebrated the new little life in their family by, what else!? eating food!
We are greatful for the relationships of all sorts that we have here. Pray for us as we learn to "be there" in tangible ways that we would clearly show both our love and Jesus' love.