Written by: The Bridge on Monday, August 21st, 2006
While Eddy Vetter was here, we tried organizing some things differently, so that they run more smoothly. However, you can about imagine what it`s like trying to change people’s long established habits of doing things. For example, in the dining room, the children were making too much of a mess on the floor and table, a solution just had to be found. It was decided that each family would eat together at one table. They objected so strongly that a different idea had to be tried. They absolutely refused to give into the idea. It was decided that the women would take turns looking after the children’s table, so far that seems to work out reasonably well, we’ll see.
That Sunday, Eddy Vetter held a sermon on Mark 7, where the Pharisees and Scribes asked Jesus why his disciples break the traditions of the Elders. Jesus rebuked them and said, “All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition.” The excuse that the people here too often use is, “Oh, it’s our African culture”, very much like we would say, “It’s our Hutterite tradition”. I suppose one could say in that sense, ‘se sei echte huttrischa’. However, not all things inside a culture are a benefit to God or even the people inside the culture. How true of our own lives, where we would rather go on doing things the way we have always done them, rather than stepping into the unknown, and the uncertainty of trying something different. We are afraid things might go out of our control or that things would end up worse than before, so it’s much easier for us to do nothing and just go on as always.
Here in Nigeria, the cultural style of hair dress for the women is to wear wigs, sometimes black, brown or sometimes dark red. In Palmgrove, we try to discourage such practices. We would rather live a life separate from the world then trying to assimilate ourselves with them. It’s rather strange to see people who barely manage to feed their families, spend money on something so useless, but once again they call it ‘our African culture’.
Another one of the cultural traditions is; when an adult dies, the family has the body embalmed and kept for months and sometimes years before it is buried, depending on the social statues of the person. Then they have a huge burial ceremony where the family has to supply all the food and drink. The problem with this is, it often leaves the family poor and in dept. They spend all their money on the dead and the living have to go hungry. This leads to unbelievable poor living conditions, theft and dishonesty. Wouldn’t it be better to just bury the dead and spend the money on giving the living a decent chance in life? If a person who died was really important, and had lots of money, then they sometimes build a huge shrine and put the body inside.
The other day I saw one such place, it was quite an impressive building and in the middle was a smaller building the shape of a coffin. The guys who were with me, told me that the family go into the shrine once a year and have some kind of ceremony. It even had a small window on the side so that you could look inside; it’s really strange! Too bad I didn’t have my camera along!