Families in the Gulf are a little different than families in the West. Our Bedu family that we made friends with there have 10 children, 2 grandchildren, a daughter-in-law, a son-in-law, and Mom and Dad, a total of 16 people living in one large house. With three one year olds, there is never a dull moment there. It took me several visits to figure out which baby belonged to which mother, since whichever woman was holding a baby when it cried fed it. Crazy confusing, but what can I say? They have really tight knit families. Then there was the father's brother who lived next door. Well, he lived next door part of the time and across town the rest of the time. He has two wives and many children. Each wife has a similiar home, and by law the husband has to treat each wife the same, and spend the same amount of money on each family. Some men in the Gulf have as many as four wives, and when you see them walking down the street, the wives follow their husband in a row like little ducks. There is definitely a pecking order among the wives. The first wife is the oldest, and each additional wife is younger than the last. The last wife is usually young enough to be the man's daughter. There seems to be a severe injustice here, but there is a positive to all of this madness. If we can share Jesus with a man with several wives and many children, he will surely share with his whole family. In the Gulf, people don't do things individually, but as families.
Another interesting and alarming custom in the Gulf is the practice of marrying first cousins. Most young people don't get to know anyone of the opposite sex while growing up except their cousins. It is taboo for men and women to talk or even look at each other unless they are married or related. Would you want to marry someone you didn't even know? Most people wouldn't, so the ancient custom is still alive and well.
As far as we could tell, there weren't any more problems with this custom than with our customs in the West. We didn't see or hear of children born out of wedlock, and there didn't seem to be any higher incidence of birth defects. Who knows?
Families in the Gulf have a love and support for each other that is seldom seen in the West. There are few or no orphans because the extended family takes them and there are no nursing homes to speak of. Families there just take care of their own. We became a part of the Bedu family and they took care of us just like their own, feeding us, giving us clothes, and making sure we were well.
We must all choose what to think and how to feel about these strange people and their strange customs. We can choose to be disgusted and do nothing but criticize, or we can choose not to judge their lifestyle choices, but instead, to reach out to them with the good news of Jesus and how he is the sure way to heaven. It's always your choice to either love and serve others right where they are, or just stay away from them because you don't like what they do.
Until next time,