A lakeshore wedding like never before

The first Christian wedding on the shores of Lake Tanganyika took place in Tongwa village on 10 July 2011.

When Zambian missionaries first began planting churches in the remote villages on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, they knew the journey would be challenging and long—most of these villages practice polygamy, witchcraft and are illiterate.  

After nearly four years working in Tongwa village, church planter Lewis Musonda and his wife, Priscilla, felt the young church they had planted was ready to continue under its own leadership. Lewis and Pricilla relocated and began visiting the church frequently to observe its growth.

Nearly 12 months after they left the village, they were blessed to see God to bring about fruit from this new church. Two young people, Moses and Marjorie, who were raised in the church, expressed the desire to be married before God in a Christian wedding.

Polygamy and traditional custom

Until this time, no couple amongst the thousands living in villages around Lake Tanganyika has ever been married before God. Traditionally, after paying a bride price, a young man would take a girl for the night, and in the morning the village would recognise them as husband and wife.

Until this time, no couple amongst the thousands living in villages around Lake Tanganyika has ever been married before God.

Oftentimes, during the weeks before the event, the girl’s family members would force her into the woods and harass her according to traditional custom. Thus, couples began their lives together amidst family abuse and without any real preparation or commitment.

In reality, men and women in the villages cohabitate and change partners freely. The HIV rate and the number of abandoned women and children are high. Most men leave their first partner when they decide to take a new one, as not all can afford to financially support multiple households and achieve the higher social status polygamy brings.

Transforming the foundations of family

After extensive preparation by their extended families and the village to help them understand the meaning of a wedding and biblical commitment in marriage, Moses and Marjorie declared their vows before God in a wedding ceremony on 10 July, 2011. It was an event most villagers had never seen before. 

 

A white wedding dress was even provided for the bride and fit her perfectly. And a wedding cake, baked by a visitor from the United States, was a special treat, as many of the people had not tasted cake before.  

The headman of the village, although not a member of the Tongwa church body hosting the wedding, proudly announced at the reception that Moses and Marjorie have taken a step that brings the village out of shame. He admonished the parents in the village to adopt the practice of the wedding ceremony and lifelong commitment in marriage as they help their sons and daughters become husbands and wives.

Real changes in a community resulting from a newly-planted church show in moments like this, when family foundations are transformed.

In the Lake Tanganyika area where broken family structure is so prevalent, this first Christian wedding is seen as a major milestone. Real changes in a community resulting from a newly-planted church show in moments like this, when family foundations are transformed.

Moses and Marjorie’s public commitment of love to Jesus and to each other has touched and changed the direction of the Tongwa community.

 

By Holly Steward