by Katy Hopkinson
Only a few hours north of where I live, you will find the Sibu people group. They number about 800 and in the last two years, they have been blessed to have the New Testament in their language. There are less than 20 believers, but amongst this tiny group, the first ever Christian wedding has been held.
My friend Por was the first believer of her group. Her brother, Prem, hated it when she told him about Jesus. She challenged him repeatedly to pray for healing in Jesus’ name as he suffered from terrible skin allergies. Finally, just before entering the army, Prem prayed, “If you are real God, take this allergy away!” Almost immediately, his skin cleared up. Prem dismissed the healing as he was in the army and was strong and fit.
More things happened to Prem on his return home. Every night in his room, he was plagued by an oppressive demonic presence. The house was filled with strife and abuse between family members. Again Por challenged her brother, “Pray for Jesus to cast these evil spirits out of the house.” He did pray and the suffocating demonic presence began to lift. One day he ripped the spirit charm amulet from his neck and threw it away. He put his trust in Jesus and received full and continual relief from the demonic forces.
From there he began to pray earnestly for the rest of his family and his girlfriend, Praew. Peace and harmony began to reign in his house and Praew became a Christian. In spite of opposition from her parents and the village, she was publicly baptised. The next step was marriage. Her parents did not want her to marry a Christian and set a huge bride price. Again, more prayer was needed, and Prem was joined by many others in his prayer for breakthrough.
The breakthrough came and Prem and Praew, two very brave Sibu believers declared their love in a wedding that combined solid Christian values and vows with treasured Sibu traditions. Much thought and planning went into this wedding, including meeting with others to do worldview research to understand their culture better.
On the day, both sets of parents sat on the stage, first exchanging the bride price, then with great emotion for all, the bride and groom knelt before their parents to honour them. The young couple also revived an old Sibu tradition not practised in recent years. They went about the village for the first three days of their marriage, cleaning the bedrooms of all the elderly people. Prem and Praew reported that this was a wonderful bridge to building good relationships with villagers who had previously cursed them for their belief in Jesus.
It is a beautiful thing to see the gospel impact a people group and be blended into the rich cultural heritage of that group. Por wrote afterwards, “It was the first wedding in my life in Sibu history that was really meaningful for the bride, the groom and others.”
Material for this article was sourced from Derryl Friesen’s blog for Wycliffe Canada. Read the full story here (Sibu and B* are both pseudonyms).