My team leaders are living on the island right now. Below is their blog this week. I thought it was great insight into some island life and I thought I’d share with you:
Ma Imani is a good friend. She’s a bit younger than us, probably in her late twenties. She is quite petite, but full of life. She has a big smile and is quick to laugh. Our children love her a lot. Often times we stand and chat in the kitchen. This day she was saying something about a woman coming to her house and a marriage…She spoke more and more quickly, the words pouring out of her like a flood.
“He wants three wives! He has no situation, what is he going to do with three wives!?”
It was her husband: Ba Imani was arranging for a second wife. Island men are “allowed” to marry up to four women at once, but this is never pleasant news for a wife. Especially unpleasant was the way she learned the news. Ma Imani found out when an older woman came to the house to explain that Ba Imani was making arrangements to marry her daughter. A short time later, news of another woman came, who apparently was also receiving the advances of her husband. Finally, Ba Imani showed up to talk things over. Ma Imani stood firm. “Fine,” she told him, “we’ll divorce and you can marry whoever you want. But I don’t want to be a part of all the mess and drama. If you want to marry more women, you need to leave me.” But that was the problem, Ba Imani doesn’t want to divorce Ma Imani.
“You’re my first wife.” He tried to say in way of appeasement, “and our religion says….” “Our religion, our religion, our religion,” says Ma Imani with scorn. “That’s all he kept saying. But it’s not right and I won’t be a part of it.”
The next day there was more. “He wants to take Imani!” (Imani is their only child and just 5 years old.) Now Ma Imani was visibly upset. She vented some of her anger and spilled out her frustrations. She told us about how her husband doesn’t do anything to help her and Imani, how he refuses to pay for anything and only comes to take. “I’m the one with a job. I’m the one making things to sell in the shop for extra cash. I’m the one paying for Imani to go to school. What does he do? Nothing. He doesn’t have a job. He doesn’t help. I keep telling him. Go ahead, leave. It doesn’t bother me. You want to marry again, then just go. But he isn’t taking Imani!”
She was very upset and our hearts were breaking for her. We know of so many broken marriages; broken families–it’s epidemic here. But the frequency doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking. Feeling the heaviness and sorrow of it all, we asked to lift up the situation. We sat down with her and started to pray. We prayed for wisdom and a clear path ahead of her. We prayed for changed hearts and for God’s guidance. She thanked us at the end and was calmer.
Today she laughed nervously while she told me how her husband brought some neighborhood elders to her house in the morning– to continue to push his point. But by the time Ma Imani told the whole story, the elders agreed with her. “Leave her alone and marry someone else if you want, but the child is too small to leave the mother.” Apparently Ba Imani was very quiet and has promised to bring different people to talk tomorrow.