By Richard Chowning
"I want you to be mine." Kiplang'at leaned against the tree. At his feet a river flowed lazily. Fifteen year-old Cheruto sat on a rock. "We will be married traditionally. There is no money for a Christian wedding."
"We can't. We have begun to follow the way of Christ." Cheruto's hands covered her face. "I do not want the spirits' blessing. I want Christ to bless our home."
"So do I, but there is no alternative." Kiplang'at kicked a rock into the steam. "You must be mine no matter what the Christians say."
"Not that way."
"Then I will take you to my home tomorrow without a ceremony." Kiplang'at stomped up the path. Cheruto cried and prayed for a long time at the river before she headed home.
She met Mary on the path. Mary married last year. A baby was tied on her back. Cheruto wanted so much to be like her, settled in her own home. Tears seeped from the corner of her eyes.
"What is wrong?" Mary wrapped her arms around Cheruto. "Sit on this log." Mary guided the young girl. She waited for her to speak.
"Kiplang'at wants to take me to his hut tomorrow, without a ceremony. I wanted a church wedding. He does not have the money for the clothes, food and the ring."
"You must not go without a ceremony. He will cast you off when times are tough. You must be bound with a ceremony. Your children will be cheated out of an inheritance."
"He is too poor for a ceremony."
"The traditional ceremony is the only way. You're new. The Christians will understand if you repent afterwards."
"Repent." She wiped the tears. "That ...is a way out."
She smiled. "Thank you, friend. In the morning I must tell Kiplang'at I have the answer."
"That is the only way." Mary lifted Cheruto to her feet. "I must go."
Cheruto walked quickly home.
"Hello, Cheruto." The wife of an evangelist sat near the fire with Cheruto's mother.
"I have come early. I want you to take me around to see the women before tomorrow's meeting."
Cheruto lowered her head.
"What is the matter. Do you not want to teach the women?"
"Yes, but ..." Cheruto walked over to the stool against the wall and sat.
"I must see Kiplang'at tomorrow morning." "You are not able to wait."
"No, we will be married."
"Married? I must tell my husband to make plans."
"No. Kiplang'at does not have enough money. We will marry traditionally."
"The beer, the spirits, the blessing by the diviner - they are all sin."
"We will repent. It is the only way."
"No there is another way. It is good that such an opportunity comes so early in a new congregation."
"I will not be taken to his hut without a ceremony."
"There is a ceremony. We faced this problem long ago. The early missionaries' ceremony is expensive. Now, some Christians have been married with the Bible and not a ring."
"With a Bible?"
"No special clothes; no ring. Only your faith and your pledge before the church and God."
Three weeks latter Kiplang'at and Cheruto sat before the congregation. They signed their names in a new Bible that had the following words written on the inside cover:
"We pledge to become one. We pledge to build our home upon our faith in Jesus Christ and the Words that are written in this book."
Two witnesses signed after them. It was simple.
Simple enough for the young people to consider a church wedding. It was a ceremony and Cheruto was Kiplang'at's wife.