Two weeks after moving to Nigeria, I had the opportunity to be a mentor at a purity conference with a Nigerian youth group ¦the youth were between the ages of 18-28. This was the third day of the conference and in the morning we only had about 10 attendees ¦but by lunch our number had grown to over 30. It was a great experience for me and I really enjoyed getting to know a handful of Nigerians.
As you would expect at a purity conference, we spoke about sex before marriage, God's guidelines, HIV/AIDS, and came up with ways to resist temptation. The young people (which seems odd for me to say since they weren't that much younger than me) had many great ideas and many of them seemed to have a true, growing relationship with Christ. While we helped them to look at scripture and biblical ideals for dating and marriage, they taught me more about Nigerian culture.
A custom that I learned more about was the tradition of a fiancÃ© paying a dowry or bride price. Since this is not a widely practiced tradition in the west I was very interested to learn how it works. Well, it varies by tribe. Some tribes have a set price, such as 10,000 naira (about $66). Others say one year salary. Most have a combination of money and gifts, for example, one girl mentioned that when she marries her fiancÃ© will need to give a bag of salt to each woman in her family. The person responsible for setting and collecting the bride price varies among tribes as well. In some tribes the father of the bride sets and collects the price, but in many tribes all the men in the family set the price and the gifts are divided among the entire family. It was quite interesting. I really wanted to ask the girls how the bride price makes them feel but I didn't want to ruffle any feathers. Also, in Nigeria the man, not the woman, pays for and plans the wedding!
One topic we discussed, which greatly surprised me, was what they should do when their parents are pressuring them to have sex before marriage . Yes, you read that correctly. You see, in some tribes the girl must show that she can get pregnant before her fiancÃ© will marry her! As westerners it was very hard for us to know exactly what to say to this as this is a cultural tradition, not a church tradition. So we let them discuss this and they all agreed that the right thing for a believer to do would be to abstain and convince her parents that God has a better way.
An interesting part of the day was that half of the conference took place in the dark. You see, the electricity went off after about an hour so and the room we met in had very few windows ¦plus it began to rain!! We were all excited for the rain as they have just had 7 months without rain and it has been very hot here. So, yesterday was a very exciting day for me.