Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Children & Babies

Note of caution: I know this update is entitled “Children & Babies,” but due to some mature themes, you may not want to read this update to them.

I was just trying to get to know our new porter, Tsabo. Sitting across the fire from him in the hut, I ask some general questions:

“How old are you?” Twenty-five.

“Are you married?” Yes.

“How long have you been married?” Four years.

“Do you have any children?” Yes.

“How many?” Four.

“How old are they?” The youngest is three and the oldest is fifteen.

Wait. Fifteen? Quick mathematics swirl around my head. “You had your first child at ten?! “ Tsabo chuckles at my jaw (which is hanging open) and eyes (which are open even wider). Yes.

My mind knows the Malagasy culture encourages early sexual activity and marriage as young as twelve, but still I was shocked. At ten years old I was playing dress up and having tea parties. We had an invisible friend named Fred in my ten year old Sunday School class. When the teachers would try to make us sit together, Fred would sit in between the boys and the girls because the boys didn’t want to sit by us girls and vice versa! Here those boys are fathers. And the girls aren’t playing dress up. They’re dressing their newborn babies.

Also, do the math for when Tsabo got married. Eleven years AFTER he had a child with his sipa (girlfriend). This is not at all uncommon. The relationship commitment level is very low for most couples here, and it is standard and accepted practice to have sex with people before you get married and with others even after you are. Oh how hearts and lives are hurt by that! There is another way!

One of our newest lessons is on “God’s Plan.” It tells God’s basic plan for our lives and then goes on to talk about God’s plan for our relationships. While taught in a culturally appropriate way, it is very anti-cultural. We head out to the villages this Wednesday through Saturday. Please pray that God would be preparing the people to hear the truth of this lesson from God’s Word. May their ears be opened and hearts be soft to consider this controversial message about relationships.

I hope to write another update before Christmas, but in case I don’t, a blessing for you all for the joyous season from Numbers 6: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.” The Prince of Peace has come to earth (Isaiah 9:6) that we may have life (John 10:10).

Cara :)


TheBeckyBlog said...

I am so encouraged each time I read one of your updates. Sometimes being a Bible student makes you feel like you're only learning the work and not doing it and then I heard about people like you and my sister doing work overseas and I know that my turn will come to make as big of an impact (whether over seas or not) and I am grateful to be able to participate in all of this with you in prayer.
I hope you know that the Lord delights in you and your heart for Him and His people.
<3 Praying for you!
and Merry Christmas!

Anonymous said...

This comment is one year late but I think it’s still worth writing. I disagree with the statement “the Malagasy culture encourages early sexually activity and marriage as young as twelve”. I think the story of Tsabo is a rare case (I assume he grew up and lives in rural area) . Talking about sex between parents and children is still a taboo in Madagascar. Even though, it’s true that the average age at first marriage for rural people (men: over 20, women: over 18) is significantly lower than their urban counterparts (men: 28, women: 24) , the society in the rural area is more conservative than that of urban area about premarital sex. Premarital sex and dating were uncommon until the mid-80s (major decline of arranged marriages). In my opinion, teenagers & young adults in the city are highly likely to engage in premarital sex due to Hollywood movies, sitcoms and the unintended consequence of HIV/AIDS and STDs awareness done by “PSI Madagascar” in schools, mass-media by promoting condom use.

Cara said...

Madalife, I think you're right in where you grow up has a huge impact on how you think about these issues. For example, my friends in Antsirabe wouldn't consider getting married at 12, and my friends from Tana think 21 might even be too young, but in the Tanala area, it is extremely common. Where are you from?

I talked with multiple parents in the rain forest about why their kids get married so young and they said it's because the kids have nothing else to do. They only go to school for three years (normally 5-8) and then learn how to do adult things - fields if they are boys, household chores if they are girls. By time they are 12-14, they know how to do everything and, the parents said, are bored. So they let them have sex and get married.

There are even practices "to turn the parents eyes" such as a boy will pay the parents 2,000 ariary and they, in turn, will let him have sex with their daughter.

I, as a single girl, was often given looks of surprise when I said I was unmarried. Then people would ask if I had children. When I said no, they would ask why not. When I said I was waiting till marriage to have sex, it was hard for them to even comprehend the idea.

But again, my experience was mainly with rural villages, and I know several people from the cities who do not think this behavior is okay, but for the area I was in, sadly, it was the norm.

I think you made a good point about condom use and premarital sex on television and movies, but it's also interesting to note that there are no TVs in the villages, and men there have a huge aversion to wearing condoms. Hmm...