A wedding invitation from Canada to attend Maria and Roy Bartle’s wedding on January 4, 2023 in Ingwenya was my main reason for visiting Zimbabwe last December and January, the second I attended there in two weeks. Maria Kerkhoff has been employed as teacher at the John Tallach High School for almost five years now.
How honoured I felt to be invited to the wedding by Maria’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Willem Kerkhoff, being a family friend of theirs for almost 50 years. Although it was going to take place in Zimbabwe, I knew it was not going to be a traditional Zimbabwean marriage. No lobola was going to be paid by the bridegroom’s family. It was not like in the Old Testament days either, when the dowry or lobola was a compensation to the parents for the girl, as they lost the girl’s labour. David married Michal and the compensation was a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. In Europe it was the other way round up to the 1970s. The father of the bride paid for the wedding as a compensation for all the work the daughter had done for the parents. The Kerkhoffs did it in the traditional way and made sure all the guests were looked after well. Mr. Moyo, the Boarding Master, assisted with the wedding preparations.
Being foreigners, The Zimbabwean government found many excuses not to approve a wedding license for this couple. After many complications, the much-desired paper was finally obtained, with just a few days to spare!
Both marriages took place in the Free Presbyterian church of Scotland in Zimbabwe. This couple had met through the FP Church like Velani and Gugulethu had. Maria from Canada and Roy from the UK met in London in 2018, when he informed Maria of what to expect as a teacher at Ingwenya, as he had been teaching there in 2015. Both love working in Africa with the Africans and feel it as their calling. Maria is the only non-Zimbabwean currently working at the John Tallach High School at Ingwenya Mission.
The wedding took place in Ingwenya, the site of the primary and secondary school. This time, the summer holidays, there were no teaching activities and there was plenty of space for the family friends who had come from afar. Early morning, on the wedding day, we all awoke to the roaring of the school bus heading for Bulawayo to pick up Maria’s colleagues and about 40 students for the wedding, which was to take place at Ingwenya Church at 10.00 am. How elegantly dressed they all stepped out of the bus! Locals, teachers and the ones staying at the compound all joined the wedding service. The ushers showed everyone where to sit, whereby women to the left and men to the right is common practice.
Dr D.W.B. Somerset, minister of The Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland in Aberdeen had been busy with coaching the two catechists who are going to study in Scotland to become ministers and conducted the wedding service. Mr Moyo, the boarding master, translated from English to Ndebele simultaneously. Unbelievable how fluently he was able to do that!
After singing Psalm 136 a cappella in the Ndebele language from the Psalms of David in Metre (English script provided), the minister read John 2 about the marriage in Cana in Galilee. It teaches us that marriage is a divine gift to mankind, and we are to rejoice. Wine in a marriage is associated with rejoicing. Jesus was present at the wedding in Cana so we know that marriage is an honourable thing. Marriage is ordained by God and involves a solemn vow in which wedding couples commit themselves to each other. It is a public matter, as we are the witness of it. This and other marriages are a picture of the bond between Christ and his church. The solemnization was done by the moderator, Rev. S. Khumalo. Heavy rainfall on the corrugated iron sheets made his words barely audible. He was the one who made sure all the vows were said and all the signatures put on the right place, including thumbprints by the bridal couple. On behalf of the bride’s parents, Rev. Khumalo presented the newlyweds a Bible with the words that in this Bible they could find the way for the future.
After the ceremony, everyone present was invited to the school’s dining hall. The Zimbabweans had been quiet up to the moment the bride and bridegroom entered the dining hall. Local Zimbabweans would expect a cow to be slaughtered on the occasion of a wedding and they would certainly break out in exuberant singing upon the news of the lobola agreement being settled. Here, however, the Zimbabwean guests spontaneously started singing in their Ndebele language, in traditional Zimbabwean style, with Nkosie Khumalo as lead singer in After five minutes or so of singing, we had a delicious lunch served by the school dining room staff.
At 2.00 pm the school bus took the guests, including the students, back to Bulawayo and at 4.30 pm it was time for the special guests invited for the evening dinner at Bulawayo Club to board the bus. Mr Ncube, John Tallach School’s principal sitting opposite me, suggested that I order some Mopane worms. Those worms are cheap and healthy food with three times more protein than beef. It is a delicacy for the Zimbabweans. We both tasted them. Not something I particularly liked. but how international and special!
The table setting was carefully planned, with wedding guests from countries far and near like Zimbabwe, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. How enriching it was to be in international company and how special to notice that, in spite of the cultural differences, you conversed with like-minded Christians from all over the world, all supporters of the Mbuma and Ingwenya Missions, who were joined together on the wedding occasion of Maria and Roy. What an interesting experience this was!
Roy concluded this special day by saying: “on behalf of Maria and myself We beseech you in God’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. He alone, it is not our wives, our husbands our relations in this world, but He alone Who is the Friend that sticketh closer than any brother. It is our prayer that God would bear with us together”.