Monday, July 16, 2012

Marriage as Partnership, not Possession

Marriage is hard work, but I don't know how we'd manage if we didn't believe marriage was God's gift to us and that both we and our spouses are worthy of being treated with dignity and honor. Sometimes I'm just amazed how many cultures come up with similar ways to justify trampling on people, especially women. Robert and Linda were my housemates in the months leading up to my marriage in May, and it just so happens they have an international ministry strengthening marriages. Good people to connect with, eh?

Ever since I first read this report from a seminar they did in Uganda earlier this year, I've been wishing I had a way to share it with other people. So proud of them. What a great way to serve the African church. Now they've put the story online, so perhaps that's reason enough - especially if I obscure the names a bit. This report came out from the Uganda ministry that hosted them.

Marriage Seminar Stuns Pastors

An estimated 40% of the men at our marriage and parenting seminar in January had a history of wife battering and child neglect. These are our own pastors! We focused on marriage relationships, including understanding one another, communication, conflict, physical intimacy, family finance, and parenting.

We found that most men here, even some of our own pastors, weigh women and family in terms of cost/benefit against their wealth; in other words, women are but a mere form of property, giving less contribution to the family than the man – not only a drudge, but a drag as well! This explains the battering, denial of rights, failure to educate children and much more. “I realized that all this while I had never loved my wife the right way, or looked at her as my equal,” says George K., Pastor of ____ Church. “I have learned for the first time the position of my wife in my life as the Bible states and I am going to change from this day on.”

Pastor and Mrs. K. are among the 120 pastors and wives present at the conference whose eyes lit up as they realized that it is both partners’ responsibility to raise and discipline children, and to encourage, respect and show love in their homes. Mrs. K., like the other women, was glad to be able to openly express issues such as not being loved and appreciated, and experiencing sexual harassment. In short skits the women expressed their frustration with not being involved in critical matters such as finances and land. In one of the skits most of the women said their husbands had never bought them even a simple gift as a sign of appreciation. It was eye (and heart) opening for the men to see their treatment of their wives played out in front of them.

However, Mrs. K. also says she too has learnt that she had a part to play in stirring conflict in the home. Like many, she had not grasped the notion of respect in the home, especially towards her husband, contributing to conflict in the house. Mrs. K. was grateful for the lessons learned on looking after her husband, supporting him especially in ministry, disciplining her children and respecting him as the head of the home.

The pastors thought the seminar was awesome. They really loved it, and so did their wives. We get text messages from pastors we never hear from normally about what a blessing it was and they hope we do more. Pastor K. and his wife were able to hold a similar seminar in their own church after this conference, to pass on the same knowledge and lessons to their congregations.

Pray with us that many more churches will follow and that these churches will help their entire communities to change.

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