Pages from a Missionary’s Diary
I have been renting a room from a Fijian family in Kinoya for the last few months while I continue to teach at the Pacific Regional Seminary. My landlady is a widow with two daughters and a son in the background. The younger daughter is 5 years old and always speaks English to me. At breakfast as I put marmalade on my toast she watches me like a hawk and as soon as I go for a second helping of marmalade she shouts. “Enough, enough!” I retire ashamed.
On Saturday I can laze over breakfast and chat with my landlady. One Saturday she was going to a wedding later that morning. “I always cry at weddings,” she admitted. “Why?” “Because when I see the bride all dressed up and radiant with joy, I think to myself, ’You don’t realize the problems and troubles that are waiting to ambush you!’”
My landlady has a guava tree in the small patch in front of her house. Beyond that there is a bus stand. This year the guava crop has been good and she sells them to the people waiting at the bus stop. I asked her one evening how much money she had made that day. “Nineteen dollars” she said. “But some days I can make twenty four or twenty five dollars.” You know,” she said, “Yesterday I went out and hugged the guava tree and said to it,” You are great! It is because of you that I can feed Father!”
Death of Love
Mani Ram told me today that he had just had a terrifying experience. He was in love with a girl in the settlement but her parents rejected Mani Ram and arranged a marriage for her with another young man. Mani Ram said that he then began to have dreams every night of a female ghost coming to him and extracting his life source with his semen. He began to get thinner and thinner. It seemed to him that he was going to die. He was very troubled.
Mani Ram was ashamed to tell anyone about this but eventually he confided in a friend. His friend listened sympathetically. When he had understood the problem he told Mani Ram not to worry. He knew who could put an end to this life-threatening process. “Go to the old lady who lives up the hill there,” he said. “She will be able to help you.”
It was even more embarrassing for Mani Ram to have to explain his problem to the old lady. She took it in her stride, however. “I’ll tell you how to get rid of that female ghost,” she said confidently. You buy a packet of biscuits and take them with you to the toilet. While you are sitting there doing your job begin eating the biscuits. That female ghost will be so disgusted at you for mixing two functions that should be strictly kept separate that she will leave you and never return.”
Mani Ram did as he was told. His dreams stopped and he began to gain weight again. On hearing his story I thought, “What a fascinating interaction that is between human experience, psychology and culture.”
Learning the Marriage Vows
The village catechist came to me recently and told me that Iowane who had been living with Maria Rosa for about 18 years. They had five grown up children, and now they wanted to get married in the Church. The catechist assured me that he had given them both the usual marriage instruction, and they were ready for the sacrament.
The wedding was fixed, and all the usual food preparations were made. I walked to the village and met the couple. We completed the prenuptial form, and I went over the ceremony with them. When we came to the exchange of vows I suggested that they say the vows to each other themselves rather than repeat the words after the priest. I gave them a copy of their vows to look over and learn by heart, if possible.
There is no electricity or indoor plumbing in the village yet. At 2:00 a.m. the next morning, as I made my way out of the house to go to the bush at the edge of the village I noticed someone standing at a burning fire in the center of the village. I went over to investigate. It was the groom. He was reading the marriage vows and trying to learn them by heart! My heart went out to him. I suggested that he go to sleep and not to worry about the vows. I would help him by getting him to say them after me. The wedding went off fine. He was nervous, but he managed to follow my lead and to vow to continue to love his wife until death would part them.
Columban Fr. Frank Hoare lives and works in Fiji.