|Cooking class in Thailand with the family.|
Saturday, June 18, 2016
Stop having sex!
I have been stewing about how to write this blog today without completely offending my Swazi brothers and sisters, but still speaking the truth in love about “fatherhood” in this beautiful Kingdom, on Father's Day weekend.
When the topics of sex, incest, rape or abuse come up, I seem to snap pretty quickly, and often lash out verbally to anyone in listening distance. Last week I was told that a young woman whom I care for very much (who has a baby already) was having a sexual relationship with another worker. I quickly pulled her in to a room and asked her what she was thinking? I reminded her (not that she needed reminding) that she already is a teenage mother and is living in a country with the highest HIV rate in the world. I asked if the guy was worth it, then left a long, pregnant (pardon the pun) pause. She eventually said, “no”. My final words to her were, “STOP HAVING SEX OUTSIDE OF MARRIAGE!"
But the truth is, these men are telling these young women how much the love them. “Love” here means “sex”. If someone says, “I love you”, it means “I want to have sex with you.”
Everyone wants to be loved. This is not a Swazi phenomenon. God is love. The bible tells us so and I believe that it is the greatest of all human emotions, so why shouldn’t it be okay?
One of the ways that a Swazi woman shows a man that she loves him is by having children for/with him. They are his property (and so is she if they actually marry), but this “possessive” relationship has provided a sense of security to woman for generations, in a country where women have very few rights of their own. Sadly, there is no law that prevents a man from forcing his wife to have sex with him, even if she knows he is HIV positive, drunk or covered in STD’s. But I will say that the domestic violence police are working hard to educate men to not beat or sexually abuse their wives, while lawyers are working to create laws that make beating and marital rape illegal.
When we receive a baby through Social Welfare the child typically comes with a health card. The health card is their “identity card” until we get a birth certificate made. MANY (most?) of our babies have no fathers name on the card. OR, worse than that, the fathers name has been changed several times. It always hurts my heart when I see the name crossed out and another one, or two, written in.
But here’s the good news. These babies (and all of us) have a heavenly father whose name does not get crossed out, ever. Our earthly fathers may abuse us, abandon us, be too busy for us, put their jobs before us or whatever their faults as human beings may be. But Jesus is always there. He will never leave us nor forsake us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us exactly what our heavenly Father has in mind for us. He says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
As we continue to live and serve in Swaziland, my prayer is that we can help disciple, and model what love between a man and a woman looks like. Both Ian and I were blessed to be raised in families with a loving mother and father and we have done the same for Spencer and Chloe. It doesn't mean that our marriage or our parenting has been perfect, but we have learned to "err on the side of grace" as Ian often says, and that has worked well. We can't "fix" the problem here, nor are we here to judge, but we are here to encourage, educate and love.
As we all celebrate Father’s Day this weekend, please pray for hope for all who are suffering around the world. We will be praying for you too.
Live from Swaziland … happy Father’s Day to Ian Maxwell: father to 2 + 123=125 children!
PS – if you want to give your dad a special gift this Fathers Day we are looking for Smoke Detectors for our children’s homes from our Canadian friends and help to buy a Tire Changer from our friends in the US.