You Can't Raise an Elephant in a House

--Songhai Proverb

How would you announce your engagement? Try this idea on for size.

One day we were at the home of some friends. Our cell phone beeped telling us we had a text message. This was the message:

"Please pray for me. I am planning to get married to Z___.


Now we have known Amadou for several years. He is an intelligent young man from the Gourma tribe who lives in Tera. He became a believer during our last term, hungers to know God, and yearns to tell others about Him. We had prayed for a wife for him and had even talked about trying to arrange a marriage for him. But this was the first we had heard of any intentions he had about any girl. So it came as quite a surprise to us.

Not only this, but Amadou is extremely tall. When you see him sitting in a chair, you aren't aware of how big he is.

But when he unfolds his long, lanky body and climbs out of a chair, his height becomes apparent. He is about 6 feet 5 inches, and he dwarfs those around him. In fact he is sometimes known as "giant" or "Goliath." He has to duck to go in and out of many doors to avoid hitting his head.

Amadou will be marrying a Christian girl from the Baptist Church in Tera. I don't yet have a picture of her, but I hope I'll be able to post that in the near future. As far as we know, this will be the first Christian wedding in Tera, and we'll be setting a precedent for others to follow because we'll be creating new customs and replacing cultural practices with Biblical ones, we hope. So this will be quite an adventure. We don't have a wedding date yet, and that won't be set until one or two months before the wedding, but it will likely be sometime in mid to late 2007.

Now you're probably wondering what in the world the Songhai proverb above has to do with this story. Well, when I saw Amadou after receiving the text message, I asked him if he had informed many people about his intentions. He said, "No," and then he used the Songhai proverb, "Tarkund'ize si biiri huwo la." Those are the Songhai words for the title above, and they mean basically that you can't keep a big secret for long. I said I'd never tell, but the way the grapevine travels in Africa, once the secret gets out, the news travels fast.

What makes the proverb doubly meaningful is that Amadou is so big, he's like an elephant, or at least a giraffe. And you can't raise a big animal in a house like that because it will eventually burst the bonds of the house.

So, that's the secret. Don't tell anyone I told you.