Sunday, September 13, 2015

Another Wedding, Another Surprise - Carole's Post

Spring is in the air - except they don't call it spring!  About mid-August the cooler weather of winter passed and we are now awaiting  the hot weather of October.  We are continually warned about the heat of that month and since George and I arrived at the beginning of November, it will complete the yearly cycle for us.  Right now, the jacaranda trees are blooming, appearing as lavender clouds in the landscape,

and the frangipani (or plumeria) trees  of pale pink and white are just beginning to bud at the tops of the bare branches.

And they are mixed in with the ever present bouganvilla

in shades of fuschia

and pink and white oleander, reminding me  of my San Diego childhood.

This has also been a season of weddings.  How fortunate we are that we have known so many couples here in Blantyre!
One of the first women I got to know in the Zingwangwa branch was Sister Mkandawire.  The Relief Society visited her home the week that we arrived in order to "mourn with those that mourn" upon the death of her mother in the village.

I learned that day that Sister Mkandawire had recently received the results for final exams and she had earned her MSCE, Malawi School Certificate of Education (comparable to our GED).

Since that time, I have come to know Sister Mkandawire very well because I have worked with her in the Primary and have been her visiting teacher.  

Here we are working on a Primary lesson together.

I have been amazed at her ambition because she wants to go on to school and though she had considered nursing and business, she has been accepted for entrance into a pharmacy school this fall - and this is with a full household of a husband and four children!
The Mkandawire family: Dorica and Elliott and children (l. to r.) Esther, Elliot Jr., Wisdom (the son of Elliot's brother who died this year), and Violet.  As is common with so many of the families we know, Brother and Sister Mkandawire have made Wisdom one of their own and he seems to have blended seamlessly with the family.
In March or April of this year, I was finishing up a visit with Sister Mkandawire and she said she had something to show me.  She went to the bookshelf and brought back a two-page printed list of wedding preparations with names and costs.  I briefly glanced at it, smiled (not knowing exactly why she was showing it to me) and said "Who is getting married?"  
Her answer:  "We are!"
Clearly there was something I didn't know or didn't understand!  Brother Mkandawire, who is an accountant with an insurance company was in the elder's quorum presidency (and is now in the branch presidency).  I knew that tribal (or village) weddings were recognized by the church as official even though they are not necessarily recorded officially. What I did not understand is that many people, because of the tremendous expense, are unable to have the wedding of their dreams, and plan to have a church wedding or what they call a "white wedding", some day when their finances will allow. This can be years after a tribal wedding. Sometimes this occurs when the bride price is fully and finally paid.  
For the Mkandawires, the bride price had not been fully paid which meant he had to get permission from her family to go forward with the church wedding.  For Sister Mkandawire, I could tell this was going to be the long-planned day of her dreams - a bridal dress, the traditional drive through the city with the couple in the backseat, sitting on opposite sides and waving to the passerbys through the open windows (perhaps even sitting on the open window sills), and a honeymoon.

Sometimes in the United States, a couple will have a renewal of vows ceremony and celebration.  That was the closest I could come to understanding the situation through a westerner's eyes.  To everyone else, this was a WEDDING and no one batted an eye!

The Mkandawire's had drawn up a committee to help organize the important day.  George and I were on the committee and observed how everyone else was willing to give of their time to make this special day.  Many people were given responsibilities from the cake to the photographers, etc

The big day in August arrived.  Though the invitation said it started at 8 am, no one was in the chapel and many of the bridal party had not even arrived until close to 9 am.

Little did I know that I would fit right in with the bridal party.  I picked the right blouse to wear that morning!
If some of our friends look familiar, it is because they have been involved in weddings earlier this year.
Chisomo and Amos Monjeza were the center of attention at the chinkhoswe ceremony that I blogged about in June.

Jonathan Nkhoma is up next! He has been the best man for more than one friend this year.  We will be celebrating his marriage to Gracious later this year.

And Nancy Masoo was Chisomo's attendant earlier this year.  Nancy joined the church in April and is planning on going on a mission.

 The young bridesmaids had special shoes

and the youngest groomsmen wore bowties!

The bride waits in a quiet room with children of the family.  Little three-year-old Esther is not quite sure of all the fuss and is threatening to give her mother a hard time!

The time has come and the bridal party gets organized.  Everyone get ready!

The ceremony was held in the chapel.  George gave a talk on marriage and family and what it means in the LDS church. He used scriptures and related it to the plan of salvation.
Knowing the Mkandawire family as well as he did made it even more special.
Our district president,President Peter Chinyumba performed the marriage.  He is standing outside with them after the ceremony.

Their children could not be more pleased.

11 year old Violet

8 year old Elliot Jr.

3 year old Esther

After a drive through the heart of Blantyre and then back to the church for a luncheon for the wedding party, it was time for the reception.
This was similar to the chinkhoswe earlier in the year.  To the rythmn of the music, a master of ceremonies called out various groups of friends of the bride and groom and they would dance to the front and circle the couple, tossing small bills into a basket of at their feet.


The money on the floor was collected and taken to the bank, 

where it was counted and the the small bills were recycled to those who came up wanting change.

President Chikapa was happy because he had been designated the chairman of the entire event.

Sister Chikapa looked lovely in a dress she had made just for the occasion.

Family and friends looked on, enjoying the festivities.

Khama Gangire had just received news that he would be leaving on his mission in two days.  He had waited six months for a visa to South Africa to come through, and the mission president decided to delay no longer, and began Khama's mission in Lilongwe (where he still is waiting for that South African visa).
Even without the dancing, it was fun to just enjoy the spectacle.
Eventually the beautiful cake was served
and the bride and groom take off.

A week later, during a fast and testimony meeting, Brother Mkandawire bore his testimony and talked about the wonderful support and love he felt from the members.  He said that several years ago when he joined the church, he did so with a great deal of opposition from his family.  His siblings had tried to talk him out of being baptized and had unkind and misinformed things to say about the church. However, with his siblings in the congregation at the wedding (and their first experience in an LDS church), Elder Beal had delivered a wonderful talk on the family and its eternal nature and why marriage in our church is considered a sacred covenant.  Later in the day, his sister had come to him and with great emotion had told him that after hearing those words, she knew she was wrong about the church and she had felt the truth in George's words.  In fact, he knew that all of their hearts were softened after hearing those teachings.
What a great, great blessing from a very special day!