On a clear June day, the wedding march swelled inside the little chapel on the hill. Everyone stood as the bride, her eyes leaving no secret to the contents of her heart, made her way toward the only person in the room whose eyes spoke the same volumes back to hers.
Whether you’ve already been this bride or groom or are still dreaming for the day to come, others will actually live that wedding tradition this month.
But for the Hewa people of Papua New Guinea, the traditions are very different – yet just as meaningful.
Yanis couldn’t believe the day had finally arrived. He would make his offer for Unai today! She would be his! His heart hammered at the thought. Was it his imagination, or did the jungle along the trail seem greener than usual?
But the village leader only scowled at him in disgust. “No! 28 pigs are not enough to marry my daughter!”
Yanis was cut to the core. He loved Unai deeply. He had finally found a young woman who believed in Jesus just like he did. So he had worked hard to deserve her. He had done everything required by Hewa culture to be considered a man and ready for marriage.
Yanis had combed the jungle to gather the best poles, bark and leaves to build an acceptable house. He had carefully taken care of three small pigs to show himself industrious. He had faithfully followed the expected procedure of gathering the necessary pigs from his friends and relatives to give as a bride price.
Now he was told it was not enough. But there were no more pigs! Would Unai be given to someone else? The thought made him sick.
Then Eyaka had an idea that gave him hope.
“Let’s go to every village,” his excited friend gestured grandly. “Let’s visit every relative, even the distant family you haven’t seen in years. Let’s see if there might be people that will be willing to donate just a few more pigs. You’re almost there. Don’t give up now!”
Everyone would think he was crazy, but Yanis was willing to do anything at this point.
So Yanis and Eyaka hiked the trails together. They stubbed their toes on hidden rocks, scraped blood-thirsty leeches off their legs, introduced themselves to long-lost relatives and made the awkward plea for more pigs. And they succeeded. The young man received what he needed for an acceptable bride price.
Soon after his return, the families gathered, the pigs were distributed and Yanis and Unai became one.
As you perhaps attend a wedding this June, remember the Bridegroom who took the longest journey of all for us. And pray for the tribal people who still need to hear that love story.