Today was a day full of God’s love and joy! Our hearts are overflowing as we end our first Sunday here in Naivasha. Normally, Sunday would have been “just” church, but today we were unbelievably blessed to be able to witness one of our 2013 graduates, George O., marry his beautiful Lilian during the service. I don’t think I’ve ever attended church for 7 hours straight, but it was such a wonderful day of celebration, there was nowhere any of us would rather have been.
We arrived at church at ten, but starting times are very fluid here in Kenya. We actually stood outside and played with the many small children for close to two hours while praise music drifted outside from the sanctuary. The kids were fascinated by all of us, but Katheryn and Spencer were especially magnetic. They played duck-duck-goose and Simon Says over and over, and had their hair played with and their heads petted for much of the day.
We were also thrilled to reconnect with Isaac, another Panua graduate (pictured here). Isaac has become a successful photographer/videographer and was hired as the professional photographer for the wedding. Isaac has also continued to give back to Panua, speaking to the current classes when asked. It was such a treat for the team to see him!
Once the bride arrived, everyone moved inside for the wedding. Like George, Lilian was orphaned at a young age, so they both understand the pain that the loss of both parents early on can cause. George is a member of Trinity UMC in Naivasha, so the church paid Lilian’s aunt and uncle a dowry so that George could marry her. Many tears of happiness were shed as the ceremony progressed. Our mission team was brought up front to sit among George’s family, and Jensie was asked to come forward as George’s family to offer a prayer for the marriage.
Pastor Paul Matheri performed the wedding ceremony, and reminded George and Lilian that the marriage license they signed was just a piece of paper the government requires. The real wedding was blessed by God and witnessed by those who love them. Pastor Moses gave the message. The Scripture was John 2: 1-11, which tells the story of the wedding in Cana of Galilee. This story is commonly referred to as the “water in to wine” story, but Pastor Moses keyed on the fact that (verse 2), “both Jesus and his disciples were invited to the wedding.” Pastor Moses encouraged us all – long-time marrieds, getting marrieds, and not-yet-marrieds – to “invite Jesus” into our marriages and into our lives. Invite Jesus. Powerful.
The music of the day was remarkably varied: two traditional hymns from the familiar Methodist hymnal (English first, then Swahili), a praise band, an incredibly talented choir, and some more contemporary tunes piped in over the sound system, like “God is Watching Us.” There was dancing, swaying, hand-clapping, even some tribal chanting; we had it all going on!
A striking thing for me was the children – there were dozens of them under ten. We all commented at how we couldn’t imagine dozens of children not only attending a wedding in Florida, but milling all over the sanctuary throughout, and being so well-behaved. It all seemed very normal and natural until you tried to picture the same thing happening back home. There were even parentless community children there treating it as a playdate with the members’ children.
During last night’s devotional, Laura handed out clothespins with one of the fruits of the spirit written on each. The one I drew from the bag was “joy” – we were instructed to look for that particular fruit during the day today, either by displaying it ourselves, or noticing it in someone else. Today it was not hard to find joy all around. May God bless the marriage of George and Lilian.