Dear Family and Friends,
This is more like a journal entry for me to read in the future but it is very interesting, which is about funerals. In every country there are customs that have evolved from many years past and some develop in recent times as well. I have written about the weddings here in Botswana and the traditions that accompany them with the Labola which is common in most countries here in Africa. Because of it many couples just live together and don’t get married. The Labola is the price paid by the groom to the family of the bride to show that he loves her. It originally was set that you give cows to the family so that if anything happened to you and you couldn’t support their daughter the family would use the cows to support her. If they got divorced the family is suppose to give the Labola back to the daughter so she would have an income to live on. That has all changed and the family and I mean the extended families all take of the Labola as personal income and use it how they like and none is ever returned to the bride even if her husband dies or divorces her. Many single men cannot afford to get married so many live as couples never married.
There is several types of marriage here in these countries (of course we speak mostly of Botswana because that is where we are serving) one is when they place their banns or intentions to be married in a public place for three weeks so all can see and even object if they would like to. If anyone objects it will go before the magistrate judge to decide if the objection is justifiable or not. Legally after the 3 weeks of the banns when they pick up the papers they are married (1st marriage). If they so desire which most do the magistrate court will council them and perform a marriage (2nd marriage). Those that have a religion they prefer will be married by their minister or Bishop in the case of our church (3rd marriage). And after all this is worthy the couple will go to the temple within a short period of time and be married for time and all eternity (4th marriage). We have a couple that we have had a hand in activating the man back into full fellowship in the church (Kgosi) and his bride Maipelo have placed their banns and will soon (about the 25th pick them up and be legally married but custom is having them have the magistrate marriage as well. Then on the 29th they will be married by Bishop Matswagothata and then because the temple is being closed for improvements they will wait until the 15th of February to have the 4th and most important marriage. We will be at the magistrate wedding, church wedding, and they have asked Mom and I to be their escorts for the Temple Wedding.
Now back to the funeral traditions that Bishop Matswagothata said is a fairly recent or a new tradition. Rather than take cookies, cakes, and a meal in to help the family of the deceased it is almost the opposite here. Yes the neighbors and family come in to console the family but they stay all day and come back every day until the funeral, which is usually a week after the death. They stay for at least two meals each day and just set in the yard, porch or wherever and visit and then they eat the meal that the family provides. I mean the family pays for it and they fix it and the funeral guests just eat it. Bishop Matswagothata said if they don’t like beef they will ask for chicken or goat and expect it. This family that is having the funeral of a 27 year old return missionary is very poor and they are already in some debt and the income from the 27 year old recently returned missionary was going to help the family eventually get out of debt but he just got a job a few weeks back and doesn’t even have a pay check yet. This family because of tradition will have to borrow money not only for the funeral expenses but also for feeding the neighbors and extended family for a week. This just about makes my blood boil but of course I can’t say or do anything about it. Bishop Matswagothata is very opposed to this tradition and rightfully so.
How grateful I am for our founding forefathers that broke free from the traditions of the world and came to America and we a free people are not bound by these traditions. I am sure we have some and many of them are good traditions but I hope we have the foresight to turn loose of those that are for the benefit of man only. Let’s look and see if we are creating a burden on anyone as a culture or someone individually and if we are let us have the gumption to make the changes needed. Some traditions are great if they are uplifting and are beneficial to others and ourselves then we need to look at them and make sure they are not selfish just for our own benefit.
I can fully understand Elder Oaks talk in the regional conference that was given to all of Africa when he spoke firmly about traditions such as the Labola. He is speaking for the generations past and the generations yet to come.
Maybe I got carried away today but this is the things that are in my heart and I haven’t even mentioned the immigration department and I best stay away from this subject as I will be writing about it next week as things are coming up again.
With Love Out Of Botswana,
DAD and MOM