I recently had a conversations with our friend Arthur that left me with my mouth a bit agape. I’ll share it with you, not for the shock and awe value, but because these are things that I am trying to work through with people for the purpose of refining all of our worldviews. I’ll let you eaves drop on our conversation so that nothing gets lost.
Arthur: How old is Wynnie?
Bethany: Almost five months.
A: So have you and Mr. Jeremy met yet.
A: I’m not sure what instructions they give you in America after a baby is born. Have you had intercourse.
B: (Answering without really answering the question) Oh, the midwives in America just say after six weeks or whenever the woman is ready.
A: Because here you know by four months you have to ukusunga umwana. Do you know ukusunga umwana?
B: I’m thinking I probably don’t.
A: By the time the child is four months old you have to meet together with the husband, have sexual intercourse and then when you are finished, the father should take his penis and drag it around the baby’s waist leaving that liquid there. Or some people they even do the same but use the penis like a wand to make like the form of a cross on the baby’s head.
B: Oh. Ok. Yeah, no. We haven’t done that.
A: You go and ask Bana Connie (Arthur’s wife) she’ll teach about ukusunga umwana.
Don’t you totally wish you were a fly on my wall? I should include here that we absolutely love Arthur. He’s one of our best friends and advisors. He’s a good man who we believe genuinely loves the Lord. He’s also extremely comfortable with all kinds of topics. I took his advice and saught out further information. Bana Connie was not available so I talked to our other neighbor lady, Bana Chiti who I think was a little caught off guard that I was asking her about sexual rituals performed with her husband/child. After a moment of blushing, she opened up and said that yes, they had done this with their children and she explained the reason why. Tradition dictates that if you don’t ukusunga umwana then if the husband sleeps with another woman, your child will die. If you have ritually christened the baby with this penile blessing, even if the husband sleeps with another woman, the baby will be safe.
Bana Chiti and I both know that her hubby is a bit of a wanderer, and so if what she told me is true, then it makes perfect sense that they would have insisted on following this tradition. Furthermore, most women who do this have plenty of examples of how this has worked – they know families in which the husband has cheated and the child who was not christened has died and families in which the husband has cheated and the child who was not christened has not died. The rule seems to hold true.
Jeremy wondered whether this tradition explains some of the sexual bondage that seems to exist in the village. Its possible. I’m still discussing with some of our church leaders about world-view and how to talk to people about adherence to a theistic world view instead of an animistic world view. Would husbands cease to stray if they knew that their child's health was not contingent on a ritual, and that marital fidelity should exist for no reason other than displaying Christ's intimate relationship and commitment to his church? I pray so!!!
Be praying for us as we engage people on this extremely personal level.