A hectic season of weddings in Congo

David and Jenny Juniper are CMS missionaries training Christian leaders in DR Congo. David preaches and teaches regularly and is also involved in theological education. Jenny works alongside women through the Mothers Union and the widows’ ministry. David shares about being involved in wedding celebrations in DR Congo, while Jenny reflects on language learning progress.

David: Weddings are huge in DR Congo. As part of our ministry here we have had the honour of being invited to many weddings, and I have preached at a couple, too.

In February, we had the privilege of being invited to the “meeting of the families” for the betrothal of Stella, the daughter of one of the pastors at the local cathedral, Rev Arcade, and Mama Meri. Dozens of people jammed into the little yard at the Arcades home. After some time, the groom’s family were enthusiastically welcomed and the ceremony began. Significant family members were introduced and gifts were exchanged.

Wedding in DR Congo

The time came to talk about the bride price. There was some bartering and bantering, which seemed to follow a well-worn pattern, and then, eventually, the families settled on the customary amount – two cows and five goats. Afterwards, the families shared a meal and spent time getting to know one another. It was a great privilege to be invited to such an important day in the life of the family. We came away with a greater appreciation for the nuances around preparations for the marriage.

A couple of weeks later, our diocesan secretary, Sadiki, asked me to drive for another couple getting married. It was an early start to pick up the bride and the honorary wedding parents – Sadiki and Mama Sandra. Then, it was off to the Commune (an administrative division of the city) for the civil ceremony. Family members jammed into a room beside a dusty road in the city. Once again, there was a negotiation over the appropriate fee. We couldn’t start until the family had presented the plastic chair they had promised to donate to the Commune.

David Juniper at a wedding in DR Congo.

After the civil ceremony, it was back to Sadiki and Sandra’s for a change of clothes for the bride and groom and off to the church for the religious ceremony. Following the church ceremony, we drove down to the lake for photos before heading off to a reception centre for the evening meal and speeches. I was exhausted! They had mercy on me and I headed home fairly early.

Marriage is a key area of growth for our pastors and our churches.

One of the lovely things about going to weddings is that, even with our limited Swahili, we can hear the rich theology of marriage as expressed in the Book of Common Prayer. Marriage is a key area of growth for our pastors and our churches.

David Juniper drives the bridal party in DR Congo.

Jenny: We have been in DR Congo for two-and-a-half years. I have been feeling encouraged lately with my slow progress in learning Swahili, the language spoken in our location. Word association is one of the “tricks” we use to learn language. The Swahili word for “to touch” is “kugusa” (koo-goo-sa). To help us remember it, we like to picture a hand reaching out “to touch” a “goose”! It’s crazy, but it works.

The women are very patient and long-suffering, as they let me try to get sentences out. They are so appreciative of anything I do and say, and are always praising God for anything I teach them. I was encouraged recently by a text message from Dave’s language helper.

He said, “Glory to God, the one who sent [you] to Congo for our comfort.”

Even though I wish I was already fluent and could understand everything our friends say, our presence here seems to be an encouragement, so that was uplifting to hear.

We are learning so much from them. I am learning how it is possible to keep praising and trusting in God despite war a few kilometres down the road. I am learning from how they pray. They pray constantly, out loud, all at once. They show no sign of concern for what others think. They cry out to God for everything.