What do you celebrate?
Another long update…
When I was growing up I never thought that an adult person would lunch on a sandwich. I thought it was too small to bring one to satiety. Well, I never knew that you could make a sandwich as big as you wanted. I only knew that sandwiches were made from the small bread – “Bani”, which weighed not more than 100 grams. I am not sure if the recipe of the old time sandwiches is still used in Eritrea. Bani, fried egg/s, tomato slices, green pepper slices and onion slices defined what sandwich meant to me, and I guess to many Eritreans of my age at that time.
Writing about the Kairos Course and Farming God’s Way under the title of “Moving With The Movements – II” would have been the logical sequence of updating my blog. But this is not going to be the case. Instead I am going to sandwich another topic between “Moving With The Movements – I” and “Moving With The Movements – II”. Don’t you like sandwiches – even in blogs?
When I was three and half years old and afterwards my older sister, Meaza, and I would sing in Blin language “Come sunshine, come! Go shade, go!” I have no memory if I sang so before that age. When the shade from clouds gives way and sunshine takes over we would shout for joy and make the valley echo our shout! We lived near a valley. We shouted, jumped, and danced to celebrate the victory of sunshine – our victory! The valley too celebrated with us.
The Dinka Agar people, with whom I live, celebrate for so many reasons. A week can’t go without our village having some people celebrating. And almost all the celebrations are not done privately – is it easy to celebrate privately after all? They celebrate with family members, other relatives, neighbors, friends, and sometimes the whole village. Any given celebration wouldn’t miss foods, drinks, dances, and songs. I am listing few of the reasons for which they celebrate. In doing so I also introduce you to some of the Dinka Agar cultural expressions.
Wedding: I can’t imagine of a marriage in which people wouldn’t celebrate – even among the gloomiest communities of the world – if they were any. My cultural background had made me to think of a wedding celebration in a certain way – an orderly way (without thinking who defined the “orderly way” for me). Several years ago I had heard the Eritrean playwright “Wedi Khwada” saying “Art has no rule”. If it is true, then the Dinka Agar are more artistic than Blin, Tigre or Tigrigna that I descended from biologically. Because they celebrate without much rules. I once celebrated a wedding of my friend’s uncle, in Dinka style, along with other villagers. As we crisscrossed the village, the rules dictating the way we celebrated were scanty. You just celebrate the way you want! Dress or undress the way you want as far as you don’t become completely naked. Put ashes on your face, naked chest (whether you are a man or woman), and limbs. Carry any flag you manage to get. Sing with people or sing on your own – a different song or even compose a new one. You can dance in a group or just isolate yourself and dance on your own. Just celebrate artistically – unlimited by rules – because a family member, a relative, a friend, a neighbor, or just a fellow villager is getting married! That is a big reason to celebrate!
Oxen from the herd: Every member of Dinka cattle is a reason to celebrate. They have the best cows in the world! If you want to contest this come to Aduel and I will arrange a debate for you with the cattle keepers at a cattle camp. Some oxen and bulls make bigger reasons for celebration than others. The value of the oxen, bulls, and cows is defined primarily by their hair color and to a minimal extent by their horns. Their names are also defined in the same manner. Besides, the Dinka Agar people share the same names with their animals. A man’s name can be Mayom, and I can name my bull to be Mayom, and still call my male dog Mayom. Almost on daily basis I see people celebrating their cattle. But let me share about two types of oxen.
One day I was visiting one of the nearby villages. There I found people celebrating. Because a certain man managed to own a Makur ox, pictured below. Makur was bought in exchange of 20 cows. And to celebrate the inclusion of Makur to the family 2 cows, 3 sheep were slaughtered. People ate and drunk. Sung and danced. A great celebration was done because of Makur and the man who bought it. There are many celebrations that take place in the villages either due to Makurs or other colored oxen.
If the security in our village is good, noises from big bells would wake people early in the morning. These bells are tied to a big ring made from skin or skin and brass and hang on the neck of the oxen. The oxen are then driven here and there in the village, while the bell brings out loud sounds. There are at least three types of bells carried either by oxen or cows. The hornless oxen would carry the biggest bell, which is usually bought for two or three cows from the neighboring Atwot tribe who are skilled at making it. (I was surprised when, recently, Jon Steury, our regional director, showed me a video clip of cows with big bells from his recent trip to Switzerland. Some Dinka men say that the Dinka people came from Israel via Egypt. Did some of them go north west up to Switzerland and became white to manage living in the cold?)
Menarche: A girl’s menarche is another reason for celebration for the Dinka Agar. Girls are source of income for the Dinka in general and much more for the Dinka Agar! For a girl to get married her in-laws have to pay several cows to her family. Some pay 40 cows, others pay 100 or 150 or 200 or anything in between these or above. Under normal circumstances paying below 40 cows is not common among the Dinka Agar of East Rumbek County. The cows paid by the in-laws are distributed among the girl’s “family”. Her father, brothers, uncles, grandfather – all are her family. The Dinka are polygamous community. So can you imagine how many brothers and uncles a girl can have? All receive their shares. The girl is expensive if she is beautiful, educated, and if she has bigger family. The cows collected from the in-laws are then used to get wife or wives for the men in the “family”. So the Dinka Agar see a very good reason to celebrate their daughters’ menarche. They know that their daughter is soon going to bring them a lot of cows. They call this celebration Kuac Nya. (C is pronounced Ch in Dinka). The family of the girl prepares food and drinks; and the relatives, friends, and fellow villagers (including Adhanom, if invited) celebrate with the family by eating, drinking, dancing, singing, and congratulating the family and the girl.
Bead-decorated stick: Another reason for celebration is if a woman, for the first time, owns a stick, decorated by beads. This is called “Lec”. (C is pronounced Ch in Dinka). One of the women in my neighborhood owned such a stick recently. Then made a celebration by slaughtering two cows and two goats. Lots of food and drinks were provided, and people ate and drunk, sung and danced – not only at the woman’s place, but all over the village.
The reasons mentioned above and many others make the Dinka Agar villages to be full of celebrations in spite of the threats of insecurity. At a certain point, while I was in Aduel thinking about such Dinka celebrations, I felt as if God was asking me “What do you celebrate?” I thought I grew up celebrating since my early childhood as I hinted earlier. But when I began to seriously think of what I celebrate, truly I was challenged. In the Old Testament we read of God wanting His people to have special days to celebrate – several times a year for given reasons. The context of celebration was changed in the New Testament. But still we are expected to celebrate during this New Testament time. Well, celebration will continue even in heaven! So I can think of my celebrations as a Christian here on earth rehearsals for the forthcoming, non-stop celebration in heaven. Since these thought processes began in me, I became intentional about celebrating for the gifts of God in my life, family, ministry, colleagues, friends, supporters, etc. What uncountable reasons I have to celebrate for!
In Mango Ministries we have many reasons to celebrate. If you read the blog updates of my boss, Joy Phillips, you will realize this. Check http://joyphillips.blogspot.com.
In the past few months I was able to continue build and developing relationships with the people in my village, Aduel, and other neighboring villages. God is giving me many opportunities to share his love though his Word. Opportunities to share where people celebrate, opportunities to share where people mourn, socialize, gather, worship, play, trade, travel, etc. Indeed God is worthy of celebration for all the opportunities he is giving me. I just needed to open my spiritual eyes to see the opportunities to give me a ride every day into the people’s hearts! I can’t be happier than being in a ministry that I wished 12 years ago! The resurrected Jesus didn’t need the conventional door or window to enter into the house where his disciples were. The same Jesus is the one using his servants to minister into people’s lives – for He is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow!
In ERC we have people who came to Jesus though the Community Health Evangelism (CHE), and encouraging and mentoring the pastors and listen to the reports of what is happening in the communities through the CHE ministry is a great blessing. I celebrate God for that. CHE is making some spiritual impact in the lives of the people. But not only that!
Commonly people don’t have latrines. They just go the bushes nearby. To wash hands water is poured in a basin and every body washes his/her hands inside the basin. If there are many people to wash, the washing of hands turns to be wetting hands with dirt! But people didn’t see it that way. I have seen these things changing in the areas where CHE ministry is extended. MM is not the only one trying to teach people physically and spiritually, there are others too. But I feel glad that we are part of this transformation process.
The CHE ministry is a good reason for MM and WGM at large, as well as friends and supporters of MM to celebrate!
Besides CHE, the oral approach of learning from Bible stories is also growing in ERC. Every month there is a one day training on this approach, and the approach has been accepted by the people very well. Dinka is traditionally an oral culture. They are storytellers, and this approach fits into their culture very well. Thank God for this tool of ministry!
After spending valuable time in Aduel, I came to Juba and had the opportunity to preach at Gospel Light Fellowship Church. You can read the sermon (in Tigrigna) from the church’s website http://www.brhanwongel.org/index.php/sermons-education/sbket/43-abitelieko.
I also had a very good visit to some projects in Uganda and Kenya to discover what I can learn from them and apply in South Sudan. I had a great time with my family in Nairobi, and I am now heading back to South Sudan where I am going to have busy schedule doing trainings until mid December. Praise God!
Dear friends, “What do you celebrate?” Celebrating for what God has done and is doing in your life, family, ministry, colleagues, friends, nation, etc does not mean everything is going smooth. The Dinka celebrate amidst difficulties and insecurity. The Israelites were celebrating while in the wilderness, and while in captivity. What do you celebrate? For sure you have several reasons to celebrate for. To the list of your reasons you can also add the reason of what God is doing with Mango Ministries if you have not already added it.
Through prayer Christians can get more reasons to celebrate. So I would like to share with you my prayer requests. Please pray for:
- Peace and security in ERC and the whole of South Sudan.
- For our forthcoming CHE trainings (TOT 3 in ERC & TOT 4 in Tonj).
- For the people getting trained in CHE and bible storytelling to be able to use and share what they learned.
- For God’s guidance as I intend to show the Jesus film and the God’s Story DVD to more people in ERC.
- For Farming God’s Way training in Abinajok.
- For leadership training with pastors from Rumbek.
- For several oral bible study trainings in ERC.
- For safety of my colleagues, the trainees and myself as we travel from place to place.
- For Helen as she does her hospital attachment for Kenyan Nurse’s License requirement. She needs strength as she commutes daily for busy assignments.
- For our family’s financial support.
I want to tell you that September was a special month for our family. In September we have two birthdays. Adhanom and Fasika. It is also the month in which I joined MM and travelled to South Sudan. Now three years! Praise God! Helen started her attachment after in September. Now she has three weeks. Well it was also an opportunity for me to do more housework. Great reasons to celebrate!
Lastly I would like to invite you to take an opportunity in participating with our family in the ministry through your financial support. If God is leading you to do so please use the link www.wgm.org/hidug. If you want to know more areas in which you can participate by your gifts please visit Joy’s blog that I have given above.