I can't get over how much I enjoyed being their teacher today! I started off teaching English, focusing on conjugating irregular verbs. At one point, we landed on the verb 'to marry'. I asked them to explain the meaning of this word, which led to a very intriguing conversation. David, an orphan originally from Lodwar (an area struck with droughts and, as a result, intense fighting and killing), explained marriage as people making a family together for the woman to cook and the man to eat. A pretty good definition considering I'm learning that in Kenya a marriage and, more often than not, a family is hardly of much value. He also informed me that their are two options: to marry or to have a nighttime lover- his words not mine. It seemed like a good opportunity to pause for a little chat about marriage and lovers so I plopped myself up onto the teacher's desk (which actually happens to be a cement table formally used to prepare dead bodies for burial or cremation- did I mention that class 4 meets in the hospital's old crematorium? Yeah, kind of grossly weird, I know).
Just so you know, marriage here is a completely different concept than it is in the United States. A Kenyan once explained to me that women here view sex as a part of their wifely duties. It is never something enjoyed or wanted and rarely seen as a way to express love. In her words, sex is a duty much like washing the dishes is-- it's just something a wife has to do. It breaks my heart to think about the role of women in these communities. They're seldom viewed as beautiful creatures deserving of love and tender care. They're more frequently items of mistreatment and abuse. Sorry, I've somehow gone off on a tangent, but I want to give you a picture of what most marriages and relationships we work among look like. I think this idea that sex is just what you have to do in a marriage often translates into other aspects of what it means to be a family. Because sex is not considered an expression of love nor a way to create an intimate union between a husband and a wife, children are viewed as mere result of a household job. As you can imagine, this does little to create a bond of unconditional love and adoration between a parent and their child.
I asked David what he thought was more honoring and pleasing to God-- a marriage or a nighttime lover. I was thankful that his answer to my question was a marriage- it means we've taught him something of importance at Oasis! This was the perfect opportunity for me to talk about God's design for marriage and relationships. I wanted them to understand that marriage is more than just forming household responsibilities, it's a means to glorifying God. The kids were eager to hear me explain why I wanted to get married someday. I've never seen this group of boys sit so quietly as they listened intently to each word I had to say. They were amazed that my thoughts on marriage had so much with to do with bringing glory to God as I told them that I believed marriage was intended to unite two people who could do more for the kingdom of God together than they could do apart. My 4th grade class had suddenly turned into a dating/marriage counseling session as the kids asked questions that I attempted (although lacking any experience in marriage and only failed experiences in dating) to answer. I didn't realize when I decided to teach about irregular verb conjugations that my lesson for today would transition into such a talk, but God had other plans. I love that when I least expect it he will give me an opportunity to talk about his love, grace and design for life.