A Very Special Wedding
IN THE north of Mozambique lies a lush valley surrounded by beautiful mountains—some rocky, others covered in luxuriant vegetation. This is where the village of Fíngoè is located. On clear winter nights, the heavens sparkle with stars, and the moon is so bright that it illuminates the straw-roofed homes of the villagers. It was in this splendid setting that a unique wedding took place.
Hundreds of people walked for hours, even days, to attend this special occasion. Some crossed inhospitable and dangerous regions inhabited by hyenas, lions, and elephants. Besides personal baggage, many visitors brought along chickens, goats, and vegetables. After reaching the village, they found their way to an open area normally used for Christian conventions. Though tired from the journey, they were happy, and their smiling faces reflected eager expectation of what was to follow.
Who were the ones getting married? They were many! Yes, scores of couples. These were no part of some headline-grabbing mass wedding. On the contrary, they were sincere and well-motivated couples who previously were not able to register their marriages because they lived in remote regions far from registry offices. All these couples became aware of divine standards regarding marriage when they studied the Bible with Jehovah’s Witnesses. They learned that they needed to marry according to the laws of the land to please their Creator, the Originator of marriage, even as Joseph and Mary complied with registration requirements around the time of Jesus’ birth.—Luke 2:1-5.
Preparing for the Event
The branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Mozambique decided to help. First, the Ministries of Justice and Interior in the country’s capital, Maputo, were contacted to determine what procedures were required by law. Next, the missionaries in the capital city of the province of Tete got in touch with local authorities to coordinate arrangements further. A date was set for the missionaries and officials from the Notary and the Civil Identification Department to travel to the village of Fíngoè. Meanwhile, the branch office sent a letter of explanation providing direction to all the congregations involved. Both Witnesses and local officials eagerly looked forward to the unique event.
On Sunday, May 18, 1997, three missionaries along with government officials arrived in Fíngoè. The local authorities had prepared comfortable accommodations for the officials adjacent to the administration building. However, the visiting officials were so impressed with the hospitality of Jehovah’s Witnesses that they preferred to lodge with the missionaries in improvised huts. They were surprised to learn that one of the cooks was an elder in the local congregation and that a traveling overseer was among the volunteers doing the more menial chores in preparation for the wedding. They likewise noticed the good humor of the missionaries, who, without complaint, lodged in a simple hut and bathed using a small can. Never before had they seen such a strong bond between people of such varied backgrounds. However, what most impressed them was the faith displayed in making great sacrifices to come into harmony with the law of the land and with the arrangement of God.
A Joyous Occasion
As the couples arrived, they immediately prepared for the first stage of the marriage: obtaining a birth certificate. All waited patiently in line in front of the Civil Registry team to provide their personal data. Then they proceeded to another line to be photographed, after which they went to the team from the Civil Identification Department to obtain their identity cards. Next, they returned to the Civil Registry team for preparation of the much desired marriage certificate. Following this, they stood patiently waiting for their names to be called over the megaphone. The handing over of the marriage certificates was an emotional scene. There was great joy as each couple held up their marriage certificate like a precious trophy.
All of this took place beneath the torrid sun. Yet, the joy of the occasion was undisturbed by heat and dust.
The men were smartly dressed, many in jackets and ties. The women were dressed in the traditional manner, which included a long, richly colored cloth called a capulana around their waists. Some carried babies wrapped in similar cloth.
Things proceeded well, but there were too many to process in a single day. When darkness fell, the government officials kindly decided to continue attending to the couples. They commented that they could not leave “our brothers” waiting after these had made so great a sacrifice to be there. This spirit of cooperation and self-sacrifice will always be remembered.
With the night came intense cold. While a few had lodging in huts, most of the couples were outside, huddled around fires. This did nothing to diminish the happiness of the occasion. Above the crackle of the fires rose the sound of laughter and song, sung in four-part harmony. Many shared stories of their journey, clutching their newly obtained documents.
At daybreak some ventured into the center of the village to sell their chickens, goats, and vegetables to contribute toward the cost of registering their marriages. Many truly made “sacrifices” of those animals, selling them far below their real value. To poor people, a goat is a precious and expensive item; yet they were willing to make this sacrifice to get married and please their Creator.
Rigors of the Journey
Some of the couples had walked long distances to be there. This was the case of Chamboko and his wife, Nhakulira. They told their story on the second night of the event while warming their feet at a fire. Though 77 years old, blind in one eye and with poor eyesight in the other, Chamboko walked barefoot for three days accompanied by the rest of his congregation, for he was determined to legalize his 52-year union.
Anselmo Kembo, 72 years of age, had already lived with Neri for about 50 years. A few days before the journey, he seriously punctured his leg on a large thorn while cultivating his plantation. He was rushed to the nearest hospital for treatment. Nevertheless, he decided to make the trip on foot, hobbling all the way to Fíngoè in pain. It took three days. Anselmo could not contain his joy as he held his certificate of marriage in his hand.
Another noteworthy newlywed was Evans Sinóia, a former polygamist. When he learned the truth of God’s Word, he decided to legalize his union with his first wife, but she refused, abandoning him for another man. His second wife, who had also been studying the Bible, agreed to marry him. Both of them walked through a perilous region inhabited by lions and other wild animals. After a three-day journey, they too succeeded in becoming legally married.
On Friday, five days after the missionaries and officials had first arrived, the work was accomplished. The result was that 468 identity cards and 374 birth certificates were issued. The number of marriage certificates issued was 233! The atmosphere was one of euphoria. Despite fatigue, all agreed that it was well worth their while. Without a doubt, that occasion will remain indelibly marked on the minds and hearts of all involved. It was truly a very special wedding!