What a rural African woman wants from her husband, the pastor

From last week’s leadership conference for pastors in rural Western Kenya. For the the session on marriage, we divided the twelve women from the the about thirty-six men and had them discuss these questions:

  1. What problems or challenges do you face in marriage?
  2. How can a husband demonstrate love to his wife (Eph. 5:25; Col. 3:19)?

[Keep in mind that these come out of specific cultural context. Nevertheless, I think you will discover that many of the answers are universal.]

Pastor, marriage prophet – far right, black and white blouse

When we got back together, we started with the ladies. Their spokesperson was a pastor from a church with “prophet” (navi) in the title. (She was the kind of prophet that boxes the devil in worship, and she looked like she was built for it). She preached to the men pastors as if they were her own husband. Following is translated summary  list of what she had to say, but I would have given anything to “hear” her Kiswahili; she had the rapt attention of every single man in the room complete with guffaws and sheepish looks. It was the highlight of my time at the conference. This list can never do justice to her presentation, but it should give you a general idea; it’s what I copied off the flip chart. [#1 & 2 kind of run together, and the description of the problems frequently become appeals.]

Problems women face in marriage:

  1. Lack of sx, attention, and intimacy
    “I work all day in your garden; I care your children; I cook all the food. Then you come home late; I’m still cooking for you. Yet you go to the bedroom and start calling for me. You don’t ask me how I’m feeling, whether I’m tired; you don’t even look at me. [Poor Erick – our designated scribe for the flip chart; he was single, so half-way through this one, Nelson had to rescue and replaced him ;-).]
  2. Our husbands do not prepare us for intimacy. [After going through all of #1,] she pleaded, “Prepare me!” [It was a poignant moment; you had to be there.] “Look at me; admire me; touch me. Don’t treat me like the rooster treats the cuckoo hen out there – motioning to the yard.”
  3. Meet my needs–especially clothing and care–so that I am beautiful to you always.
  4. Allow us to do business/work for the family. [Many men don’t allow their wives to work outside the home.]
  5. Communication: our husbands do not like to communicate openly. Be open to your wife; she loves your openness.
  6. Planning: Involve me in all family plans.
  7. Do not undermine me because you are a man.
  8. Do not be harsh towards me.

How a pastor’s wife wants him to express his love to her

  1. Let’s pray together
  2. Let’s talk and plan together
  3. Let’s eat together as a family
  4. Dress me up
  5. Let’s discuss our children’s discipline
  6. Appreciate me – even in church
  7. Do ministry with me, not with Mama Kanisa [church]
  8. Trust me and be confident about me
  9. Come back home early when we are awake (with the children)
  10. [From later discussion] Don’t take money from me by force. Don’t say, “It’s my money, my children . . . everything you are is MINE.”

Kudos to Carol for leading the women in this discussion. Keep in mind that this list is drafted quickly in limited time. Comments?

Men’s list: How we can demonstrate love to our wives:

  1. Discuss all family projects together; plan together.
  2. Be open
  3. Fulfill marital needs (s_x)
  4. Support her in times of need
  5. Forgive at all times [In later discussion the question was asked, “How about apologizing and asking for forgiveness?]
  6. Take her out; give her a break (retreat)
  7. Bring surprise gifts to her
  8. Know her size (so that we can buy her clothes)
  9. Appreciate/compliment her
  10. Respect her family; support the in-laws
  11. Always bid her bye/greetings
  12. Never use abusive language
  13. Support her by doing household chores
  14. Pay up bride price
  15. Let your wife be next of kin

[This last item led to a long and sometimes heated discussion. Basically, land goes to the sons, and

many husbands fear that if they die before their sons are 18, the wife will remarry, sell the land, and their sons will be left with nothing. What happens instead is that they leave the land to their sons. Since their sons are not yet of age, the paternal uncles take over the land and neglect the sons anyway. ]

I had despaired the previous day when we had discussed how they would advise a newly married–or about to be married–couple. I didn’t copy down the flip chart, but I remember the first three.

Problems you will face:

  1. Barrenness; lack of children
  2. Children of only one s_x – namely having only girls; lack of a boy.
  3. Money – lack of
  4. Inlaws

Foundations of a great marriage:

#1 – Meeting needs – s_xual and for housework. [When I pressed the pastor who offered this about what he meant, eventually he averred that he meant “awareness” of expectations we bring to the marriage. I hope so, but the needs he mentioned were still male exclusively needs.]

Many of the others on this list were what I call “church speak” – e.g. “Fear of God.” Things that are very true, but hard to express in terms of concrete realities.

I eventually gave them the following for homework (after reading Eph. 5:25):

  1. Write down a list of five ways you can demonstrate love to your wife in the coming week.
  2. Have your wife write down a list of five ways she would like you to demonstrate that you love her this week.
  3. Compare your lists.

One guy complained at the end that I had only focused on the men. I told him 1. the majority of pastors are men 2. The majority of sermons I’d heard on marriage appeared to focus on Eph. 5:22-24 (leaving out 21 and 25).

Other basic texts on how love expresses itself: 1 Cor. 13; 1 John 4:7-21

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3 thoughts on “What a rural African woman wants from her husband, the pastor

  1. […] conference for Pastors in western Kenya. One of the sessions was on marriage, which he has blogged about, giving a fascinating insight into some of the issues facing Kenyan Christian couples. From last […]

  2. […] wrestled to plan the marriage and family section I had been assigned (against my protests) for the recent rural pastor’s conference. After dinner, I just asked, “What would you say to pastors about being husbands and […]

  3. […] conference for Pastors in western Kenya. One of the sessions was on marriage, which he has blogged about, giving a fascinating insight into some of the issues facing Kenyan Christian couples. From last […]

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