“How many camels for your daughter?”
This was a question asked of us as we toured Istanbul. It was a compliment to her, and to us, with its roots in the antiquated practice of paying for brides with camels. She apparently looks very expensive!
We had not been in this country very long when we began to get offers for our children in marriage.
I must admit that this was one of the most surprising times I got to share about my faith! The first couple to make an offer for our daughter, when she was about 8 or 9 years old, just saw her and wanted her for their son. In response, I was able to share that we don’t marry outside of our faith and shared some of Jesus’ words as well.
Here, many parents still try to arrange marriages for their children, and some even arrange these marriages while their sons and daughters are still very young. They will often wear an “engagement” ring from their teenage years until the actual marriage.
The attitude towards marriage here is one of old. Sometimes marriages are arranged for financial reasons, or sometimes to keep land in the family (which echoes feudal times).
These arranged marriages are becoming less and less common, so when a well educated and very modern friend of mine began to meet prospective grooms through a match maker, I was very surprised! I didn’t even know match makers still existed! I probed a bit because I was curious if it was something she really wanted or if her family was forcing her into this situation.
She shared her thoughts on this issue; if her parents chose someone for her, they would of course be thinking of her safety and future security(while assuming love will come later). They would try to provide a suitable and good husband for her. As an extension of that, if the marriage turned out to be a bad one, they would be there for her. The thought was that if they chose him, they were responsible for the outcome of the marriage. She felt protected by this process. This was a revelation to me! Growing up in a Western culture, this was a much different perspective!
I think of our believers in Christ who often have to give up family ties and this sense of protection when they declare their faith. Akif, who lived with us for two years, lost his job and was thrown out of his home because of his faith. He prays for a Christian wife every day. The number of Christian believers is so small in this 99.9% Muslim country that our young, single believers often lose hope of finding a mate of the same faith.
Please pray for believers to find one another so they can marry. This is a great need inside the church in the Middle East. Many want to give up after years of waiting on the Lord to provide.
Pray for more people to come to the Lord and to find Christian mates. Many people think they can exist with someone of another faith in a marriage, but we know it is a great challenge be unequally yoked.
We are beginning to see more marriages between believers in the Middle East as the children of the first generation believers grow to adulthood. These couples and their children are going to change this country from within! Just imagine the families and their warm homes shining light into schools and neighborhoods in all the dark places in this world.
The following was written by one of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship’s field personnel living in the Middle East.
*Photo courtesy of albatros11 via Flickr.