Saturday, June 21, 2008

Kinshasa- Church ceremony

On the morning of my brother's wedding, I woke up and decided to check out my sore throat in the mirror. Since developing a chronic sore throat last summer, I had become familiar with what my throat generally looked like. Before that, I wouldn’t have known where my tonsils were or what color they were supposed to be.

Yikes, my tonsils had gotten huge! Problem! I medicated throughout the day by taking aspirin and gargling. There wasn't much else I could do at that point.

We got to the hotel in the afternoon where the bride and her mother were getting ready. I thought it would be a bunch of chattering women, but it was just the bride getting her hair done and her mother hanging out nearby.

On the floor there were three baskets with flower petals. Who were those for? One was for the flower girl. Two were for the first two bridesmaids. Which meant-me. Ummm, we didn't practice that. I had absolutely no flower-scattering experience, and when practicing the "march" certainly hadn't factored in the weight of a basket into holding my balance. Panic!

The flower girl got dropped off. She was a teeny little tyke with a perfect outfit and hairdo and no hint of a smile. She sat totally expressionless and likely petrified, engrossed in the tv.

Soon after, the other bridesmaids arrived. They had had costume problems, and my mom stitched them up.

Then they went out to the cars while the finishing touches were being put on the bride.

We left a little late, but not too bad. There weren’t enough seats in the other car, so I ended up in the front seat of the bridal car. My mom, the bride, and the mother of the bride were in back. We were all a bit nervous, and I suggested that we sing a song to try to calm down. So we sang something silly, in English and then French, and then we were already pulling into the church parking lot.

When the car pulled up, there was this dilemma because everyone was waiting for the bride to get out, but I had to get out too. And we had pulled up right onto the red carpet. So the best man helped the bride get out first. Then I got out, although I felt like I ruined the shot.

Meanwhile, the rings had been left at the hotel and Hortense's mom had to go back for them. Luckily, the hotel wasn't that far away.

When all the wedding party was there, we lined up and got ready to process.

After the moms were seated, the music changed and it was my turn. I was the first of four bridesmaids. The coordinator said, “take a minute to find your step and then go.” I think I was looking for “my step” halfway up the aisle! The song was very slow in the beginning, with no beat. I had mastered the step, but the petal-disbursing completely threw me off balance!

After a few minutes, the other bridesmaids followed and then the bride. I knew because I could hear the cheering (an African wedding is not a silent affair). Then I relaxed because I knew the attention wasn't on me.

At the end of aisle, we took our places and turned to watch the bride process with her father. He took her hand and put it in my brother's hand.

After the greeting, we sat down and everyone began to sing a hymn, I Surrender All. I liked being in the wedding party and getting a front-row view of everything going on. The photographers were pretty aggressive and got in the way, but I could still see most of it.

The pastor who officiated was Walt Shepard, married to Valerie Shepard, daughter of Elisabeth Elliot. They had been serving in Kinshasa for a few years, helping run this church, which has an outreach to missionaries and other ex-pats, as well as local Christians. I'd heard a lot about Valerie and it was interesting that her husband had gotten to know my brother and counseled him through the courtship and wedding preparations.

Helping Walt and translating into French was "Uncle" Martin, a doctor and devoted believer who also mentored my brother. He had been the one to speak for Nate at the family negotiations.

The service was long with the translating, but it wasn't boring.

After the vows and rings, some soloists began to sing, "We come rejoicing." I could feel tears starting to well up, which was embarrassing since I was standing very close to the bride and groom. I didn't want anyone to see me crying during the most joyful moment!

The customary photo session followed...

At the reception, it turned out that my sister and I weren't done with our bridesmaids "duties," although we didn't know what was supposed to happen. When the newlyweds were ready to make their appearance, we were suddenly summoned to the gate where the car was waiting. Then people told us in French to line up once more facing the groomsmen. A song started and being the first bridesmaid, I was told to "advance." But I didn't know where to advance to! So I started walking forward slowly in time to this song that I didn't know, with floodlights and cameras pointed at me. It turned out that I totally messed it up, but hopefully we can just edit that part out of the wedding video!

Then the newlyweds were already there, also walking in time to the music, and everyone was cheering. The bridesmaid behind me was yelling at me in French to keep up with groomsmen, who were opposite us. Then there was more cheering, clapping, and photography. Finally I escaped to my seat.

Later, there was dinner, special dances with our two families, general dancing, and a present "assembly line" involving my sister and me and some other members of the wedding party. There were also speeches made by friends of the bride and groom.

The reception was our farewell to these people since my family was leaving the next day and I would be transferred to another hotel for a few days.

I went over and kissed Maman and Papan Mpunga as I left. We were family now, as they had said.


  1. I am actually surprised that so much of this wedding is like an American wedding! Photographers and all!

  2. Hi. This may be a little strange, but a friend stumbled across your blog and sent it to me a few weeks ago (ok probably months now). I've been following it for a while.
    I am currently in the process of possibly coming to St. Petersburg with Campus Crusade for Christ's HS program, Student Venture.
    Thank you for blogging about your life and ministry there! It's always exciting and encouraging to read what others are doing to serve Christ!

  3. Hi Sacha, thanks for introducing yourself. Let me know if you have any questions about St.Petersburg. I know a lot of Christians here. My church is planning to start a youth group in the fall. In the meantime, I'll check out your blogs too!

  4. It was meant to be more American, since we had already had the African cultural ceremony. But it still had a Congolese "flavor"!


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