By Jayna Richardson
The culture and values of the heavily patriarchal country of Mali sometimes clash with FamilyLife’s biblical teaching on marriage. The dividing gulf between men and women, husbands and wives, can make it difficult for FamilyLife speakers to teach on marital oneness in a way that will be accepted. For example, the concept of a man asking his wife for forgiveness is foreign and often rejected. Wives rarely have a voice to express their concerns and opinions to their husbands. When these cultural concepts were challenged by biblical truths during a recent conference for pastors, many pastors and wives experienced a huge breakthrough.
One pastor and his wife who attended the conference in Yorosso expressed that it was the first time in their lives that they had sat next to each other in a church. Usually churches in Mali provide separate seating areas for men and women. Men and women sitting side by side in church can be a bit shocking for Malians, but once they got used to the idea, most of these couples thought it was wonderful!
More than 20 church leaders and wives attended the event. Emmanuel and Elisabeth Keita, who provide leadership for FamilyLife and the entire Campus Crusade for Christ ministry in Mali, understand that churches and families are often a target for spiritual attacks. Ministry to pastors makes churches stronger and provides a model for families in the congregation.
The Keitas taught on threats to oneness, God’s plan for marriage, communication, sexual intimacy, roles, conflicts, and leaving a legacy. Although the FamilyLife marriage principles are biblically based, some of the concepts were new and unusual to these pastoral couples because these teachings are in conflict with the cultural norms of Mali.
One pastor’s wife commented that this was the first time she was able to express her real thoughts and feelings to her husband regarding their marriage. Often in Mali, men make all the decisions without discussing with their wives or taking their opinions into consideration. The couples’ project time between sessions was a new experience for many of them.
Emmanuel and Elisabeth were happy to share the biblical principles of oneness and see the change it made in these couples’ lives. One couple said, “We’ve been blessed by this training. We learned many things, including the divine plan for marriage, how to love without selfishness, and how to overcome isolation. We are committing to continue studying within our family first and then invite some families to join us.”
The conference was a blessing to these couples, and many of them are finally experiencing marriage side by side as true partners and equals for the first time.