Wedding spans eras and continents
Burkina Faso village holds marriage ceremony for ‘Son of Saraba’ and wife.by Lynda Hollinger-Janzen
The elders in Saraba, Burkina Faso, had a lot of explaining to do when they resurrected a traditional marriage ceremony last Dec. 31 to honor Robin and Zachary Heppner Entz.
“I didn’t know the traditional wedding celebration honored the groom and bride together,” said Madu Ouattara, a young man from Saraba.
Zachary Heppner Entz and his best friend, Fuseni Ouattara, receive tokens of gratitude during Zachary’s marriage to Robin Heppner in Burkina Faso. Photo by Robin Entz.
Only people over 40 years of age in the village understood the protocol.
Zachary Entz is considered “a son of Saraba” because he grew up in rural Burkina Faso, one of Donna and Loren Entz’s three children. The Entz family has served with Africa Inter-Mennonite Mission since 1978 and Mennonite Mission Network since 2002.
After eight years in North America, Zachary Heppner Entz returned to West Africa with his wife of two years to begin agricultural development work in Mali with Christian Reformed World Relief Committee. Zachary met Robin at Canadian Mennonite University in Winnipeg.
Because Burkina Faso and Mali share a common border, the Heppner Entz couple was able to join Zachary’s parents for the Christmas holidays. The villagers wanted to honor the young couple but were unsure of how to do it, since their marriages follow Muslim customs.
“For the sake of doing something significant,” Donna Entz said, “they resurrected this old ritual—a sentimental moment for those 40 and over whose marriages had been celebrated in this way.”
Though the majority of Saraba’s population converted to Islam in the 1960s, traditional marriage customs continued for another generation.
During part of the wedding ceremony, villagers gathered in a circle around the married couple.
Women gave coins first to Zachary and then to Robin Heppner Entz to thank Zachary for the ways he had contributed to the well-being of the village during his growing-up years, such as helping carry loads of grain or wood in from their fields.
“This act would be remembered,” Entz said, “and a small gift offered on his wedding day. Ultimately, this system worked to keep ties strong between the generations. A young man knew he would be shamed when few gifts were given, if he did not make an effort before marriage to be helpful and thoughtful.”
An older woman, Muso Kura Ouattara, said marriage is more fragile when performed by Muslim ritual than it was in the old system because in former times, the tie between two families was built from the time the girl was just a few years old. The young man’s family would do bridal dowry work in the fields of the girl’s family each year.
“It is only logical that when the two are eventually married,” Muso Kura Ouattara said, “the girl is treated with the utmost respect. You wouldn’t want all that effort to be wasted by a marriage breakup.”—Lynda Hollinger-Janzen for Mennonite Mission Network
- Agnus Dei: Lamb of God
- 606: When, why and how do Mennonites use the anthem?
- 606 stories: from Sea World to Cuba
- It isn’t over until ...
News stories, digests and Meno Acontecer
- Executive Board wants major changes for Mennonite Church USA
- Two Mennonite pastors arrested in witness
- Health insurance proposal to be tested
- Year later, Bluffton remembers tragedy
- Goshen students open shoe business
- Bethel College nursing students light lamps
- Mennonites and Lutherans keep talking
- Church offers school for Iraqi Christian refugees
- MEA report goes to wider audience
- EMS grads pursue chaplaincy roles
- Wedding spans eras and continents
- King examines ‘sports-obsessed’ culture
- Being self-aware while riding waves of change
- Road trips, torture scenes expose war’s truths
- Bringing forth God’s peace
- Radical meals
- The body of Christ is sadly broken
- Apologies for misrepresentation
- Hold conventions in central location
- Do not try to quench the Spirit
- Congratulations on 10th anniversary
By Lynda Hollinger-Janzen for Mennonite Mission Network