Thursday, March 31, 2016

Washed Clean

Binta Kamara has been our house help for a year and half and has grown to be a good friend of mine (Karen’s). She is the wife of a church leader, Siga, and a mother of four boys.  I have blogged about her before as you may recall.  She has faced many trials in her life, both before and after she became a christian.  When Djibi and Michael first started talking about our church doing baptism on Easter Sunday I went to Binta to ask if she wanted to get baptized.  She was a woman that had already confessed, was living out her faith and was obviously growing as a christian every day.  The only thing that lay between her and the water was her family.  

Binta is Siga’s wife, but not technically.  In our eyes, she is his wife, but by definition here she is not technically married, truly only two of the women in our bible study are technically married.  Let me explain, here in Guinea Bissau the husband must purchase his wife.  If you are a man and want to marry a girl, you will choose someone to go and talk to the girls father.  This person you choose could be your best friend, your brother, or uncle, any male you trust, but typically a family member. This person will go to her father and let him know you want to marry his daughter. The talks will then begin about how much her father would like you to pay to marry her.  Included in that price will be everything needed for the wedding ceremony and reception (here it’s a party).  The girl will pay nothing.  As is the case when purchasing anything here, the man never accepts the first price, there are always many counter-offers.  If an agreement is made then as soon as the man has the price and purchased everything needed for the wedding they will get married.  The girl typically doesn’t have a say, however, many times the family will ask the girl if she wants to marry or not, but the girl doesn’t get the actual say. Siga hasn’t paid for Binta and therefore she must still get her family's permission to accept Christ as well as to be baptized.  

Last year, Binta had asked her family if she could be a Christian, this year she was seeking their permission to be baptized.  If she would confess or get baptized without their permission, they could take her away from Siga. This is constantly held over their heads until the man pays fully for the woman.  Binta asked if I would be willing to go to her family’s village with her to ask their permission. This included a bike ride further into the bush to her village.  We went out the Thursday before Easter to meet with her family.  Binta’s birth mom passed away many years ago, but her father is still there. We needed to get his permission as well as his three other wives, as well as her uncle's permission.  In this culture, your father’s brothers are also your dads. Her father accepted right away with hardly anything to say in regards to the baptism, but her uncle talked a lot, all in their tribe language which I didn’t understand but a few words enough to know they were talking about the baptism.  In the end he accepted because Siga is a christian and he believes it is good for the man and woman to be on the same path, basically to be equally yoked.  Binta was beyond thrilled, but you wouldn’t have known it from her facial expressions, until we got far enough away from her family's sight and ear shot.  She then stopped her bike and started talking non-stop about how they accepted and she thought her chest was going to burst from her heart pounding.  She had wanted to be baptized for a while and this was her time. On that day, she boldly walked into the water and beaming from ear to ear she answered each question about her faith with a sound yes.  

On our way out to Binta's home village we stopped to take in the view.  
The old has been washed away and new has emerged.  
Siga, filled with joy, swooped his newly baptized wife into his arms for photos. 

When we were preparing to come here to Guinea Bissau I remember one conversation with Andrew, the long term missionary that left shortly after we came.  He asked me if I wanted a christian or non-christian woman to wash our laundry.  I said I wanted someone that was open to coming to church, but hasn’t yet accepted Christ.  My prayer was that through our daily living and friendship with her she would one day come to know the Lord.  Missionaries that were already serving here are the ones that picked Mai Mane for us.  When we came Mai was maybe 18 and had a six month old girl named Rebekah.  We instantly fell in love with Rebekah and she became part of our family.  There was no language barrier between Rebekah and us, but with Mai the gap was huge.  As we slowly began understanding Creole our friendship with Mai grew.  Her love and respect for Michael is huge. She has watched the way we interact, the way we talk to each other and to our children.  At first we noticed a fear of Michael, but now she loves him like a big brother.  Two and a half years ago I never would’ve imagined what God has done in Mai.  She started coming over to hang out with us and started being open to discussing Christ and how he gives us freedom.  She has been coming to church for years now, but hasn’t accepted Christ. About two weeks before baptism day I, Karen, asked her why she hasn’t confessed yet. She chuckled and replied, “No reason.” The next day when she was doing laundry, she told me a few things other churches say you must do in order to be a christian and so therefore she was confused.  I asked if she’d be open to Djibi and I coming to her house to talk with her.  She was very open and so that began two weeks of us talking with her and praying for her.  On Saturday before Sunday baptisms she told both Djibi and I that she still had doubts.  She came to our house that night to talk, but someone else was there so we couldn’t talk.  That night as Michael and I went to bed I was feeling sad we couldn’t have talked to Mai.  Michael reminded me that we wanted Mai to come to Christ because of Jesus, not because of us.  We prayed together that Jesus would come talk to her that night.  Sunday morning we went to church with hearing nothing from Mai.  When Djibi called the people getting baptized to the front of the church the three we knew about went up and sat down.  Then Mai stood and went up front.  It was a surprise for all of us.  Jesus indeed had spoken to her! She said she was ready to give her life to Christ and she wanted the church to pray with her that she would have great faith.  We all then walked out to the water where the baptisms would take place and when it was her turn she walked out to Michael and Djibi with boldness and a smile across her face.  Mai is not a person that says a lot or even smiles a lot, but that day her smile showed a new joy we haven’t seen before.  Mai is very shy in front of others, but when she answered those five questions about her faith she answered the loudest of all the others, ‘SIN!” (“YES!”).  
Mai is terrified of water, but here she is ready to be wash cleaned.
Welcomed into the family of Christ! 
We had to add a picture of Mai's daughter Rebekah. Here she got a short ride on 'Baba's' motor. 

We know God is big and we know he hears our prayers, but when you see it being answered, it is the most humbling experience.  Mai and Binta did not get baptized because of anything man did, but because of the Creator of our universe, because of the one that holds all of our lives in His hands.  It is because of God that lives are changed.  We are only blessed to get to be a witness to it.