A Kenyan Wedding

Weddings here are quite different to what we’ve experienced in the West. If I were to start a business here it would be in the wedding industry – there’s masses of money to be made. Our friends Steve and Edith invited us to a business partners sons wedding in Nakuru. It meant leaving home at 6.30am and returning the next morning at 1.30am.

We took Steve’s Pajero which broke down half way through the trip so we had to wait for another car to come from Nairobi. I was quite happy with that as the service was 4 hours long! We got their in time for the last 45 minutes. It was all in Swahili except for when the MC gave instructions for the reception.

Check out the video HERE

Because we were two of only three white people we were all the rave for shaking hands. As if I could remember any of their names!! We even had photos with the bridal party. Instantly we were family.

Silly me thought I would go to the toilet when we got to the reception area as it was a sports club. We got there to find out that it was at a sport grounds in marquees. I wasn’t sure if I could make it through the day but then the MC announced that there was a washroom AKA toilet in another area. The day was saved!

cake

The cakes

At Kenyan weddings there is lots of dancing, usually before the bridal party arrives. I used the excuse of a sore foot (it was true) but a bit hard to explain a neuroma when no one can see it and wearing high heels is a killer. It was a convenient excuse from being totally embarrassed, especially when you’re the only white women amongst hundreds.

We ended up sitting in the VIP area right next to the grooms parents. The food was typically Kenyan so very nice. By the time we had food the bridal party still hadn’t arrived. Apparently they might not do so until the end.

bridesmaids

The bridesmaids

The setup was that the brides family sit under one marquee opposite the grooms family with lots of grass in between. In the middle were several cakes under a smaller marquee.

After the bridal party arrived of course there were the speeches but the important part was the family gifts. It was a major competition between the families about who could bring more and bigger presents. It was mentioned about the gifts that had already been given like an oven. Of course when it came to the grooms side it was done with much ceremony and pomp and the announcement was made that the father had bought them a piece of land.

marquee

One of the many marquees

We thought it was all over until the cake cutting ceremony. The bride kneels to feed her husband a piece of cake and then vice versa.  Another cake is cut and then served to the parents (and us), they didn’t get it that I can’t eat cake because I’m gluten free. Hope they didn’t think I was a snob!

After everything we planned to head home, but no, we had to go to the parents place for an after wedding thing, apparently it’s the norm. Hence we didn’t get home until 1.30am!

Church in Kenya

There seems to be a church one every corner here in Nairobi. They go from a little tin shack to the huge 5,000 seat auditorium. Some are in huge marquees, others in buildings without windows to the tabernacles that you can see from miles away. There’s some that have short names, others like ‘The Church of the Deliverance of the Holy Ghost in XYZ’. I kid you not.

Worship at Frontrunnerz

Labels and titles are so over rated here. If you’re a ‘bishop’ you almost have to treat them like a king. A Deacon is a church leader and not someone who helps physically set up the service. On the other hand you will see people in top jobs who are happy to be in the car park making sure everyone gets in. Only a few have services online but one thing they all have in common is that they like their music loud.

Dance Moves

The thing that Kenyans know how to do is praise and pray. Some church services go for 3 hours, then they have other programs in the afternoon. As far as I know there are no night services in Nairobi. Probably because people have been in church all day, but also it’s a security risk getting home when it is dark (around 6.45pm).

We decided before we came that we would got to the International Christian Centre (ICC) where I visited in 2007. One mistake people make when moving to a new place is to try every church out in town for one that suits them. Sometimes you just have to make a decision and stick with it. It’s and English speaking church with mostly Kenyans in it. Some songs are in Swahili so it’s good practise to figure out what is being sung.

Pete, Liz and I go to the 10.30am service which is aimed at young professionals, it’s called Frontrunnerz and led by Pastor Gibson (meet him below). They have 2 services in the morning, with about 600 going to the second service. They do have a Saturday night service but we work most weekends so it’s not always easy to get there.

Meet Gibson

Some people might say it’s a happy clappy church. I figure it’s much better than attending a service that is like a funeral. Sure, there’s time for reflection and quietness, I’m all into that but sometimes it’s just great to enjoy the good things that God has done. Here in Kenya things like getting a job, being able to study, making safely through the week or having food on the table is something to get super happy about.

Not a funeral service

We’ve been to some African churches where they get so excited they lift up the plastic chairs and do a dance with it. There’s been some where all the women get up and do a special dance (a good opportunity to hide behind a camera). I’ve been in ones where Pete gets to sit up the front and me way back (being just a woman of course!).

Dancing up the aisle

What I love about Frontrunnerz and ICC is that they present a relevant message in a relevant way. Sure, it’s not perfect but neither are we!!

It wasn’t our goal to come to Kenya to start a church but it is part of our DNA to be a part of a local church. We’ve all heard how no person is an island but it’s so easy to do. It’s easy to look at ‘The Church’ and point the finger, look at all the deficiencies and things that are done wrong and decide not to be a part of it. That’s the thing though, no one nor any organisation is perfect. We’re a work in progress.

Everyone getting into it

I remember Pastor Simon McIntyre who was with us when we were at C3 Oxford Falls (Sydney) saying ‘This church might not suit you, but there is a church for you, a church for everyone’.

If we stopped complaining about ‘The Church’ and decided to be a part of it, we would see some of the great things that are happening. We would meet some different people, some who would drive us up the wall. We would be challenged to get out of our comfort zones. We might even find a place we can call home and a family that accepts us, warts and all.

Worship at Frontrunnerz