How would it work?
Missionary Linda Krieg had her misgivings about introducing a very western idea into the Siawi culture.
Taking an approach that was featured in the movie Fireproof, Jason Swanson challenged the men in the Siawi church. During a 21-day period Jason gave them a daily assignment to broaden their understanding of what it means to love their wives.
“As it turned out,” Linda wrote, “it was so very much exactly what they needed.”
Thirty-eight men, including young single men who wanted to learn how to love their future wives, attended the sessions to hear concepts that presented problems for some of the men.
On the second day of the Love Dare, Jason gave the men an assignment to help their wives, doing something nice for them in a new, creative way. That assignment gave one man an immediate test.
As the Siawi man was leaving the building with Jason he called for his wife to come to him. He then gave her his string bag, Bibles, notepad and pen to carry.
Jason could see that the woman was not pleased with the extra burden so he took the opportunity to make a suggestion that would fulfill the day’s assignment.
“Brother, your road for helping your wife is open and right there. Look, you go take her bag and carry that stuff for her back to your house.”
The man looked at Jason, then at his wife and back to Jason. “You want me to go up to her, get her bilum and carry it back to the house?”
Jason told him that it was just a clear way he could serve his wife.
“I’m not ready yet,” the man said as he turned to walk away. “Let me consider how to help her first.”
The next day some of the men shared that if they did some of the suggested things – carrying water and fire wood, helping cook sak sak and cleaning under their house – they would be shamed for doing work that is traditionally done by women.
“Yes, the road to loving your wife might be one of getting shame,” Jason said. “But let’s remember our example, Jesus. Did he take shame for us? Then let’s be willing to take shame for Him.”
One man told Jason that he did try to help his wife with cooking the sak sak. He did OK with part of it, but when it came time to turn the sak sak or cut it and pull it out of the pot with sticks, he kept dropping it. His wife told him to go outside because he didn’t know what he was doing.
On the third day, the men were encouraged to show love to their wives by giving them something.
“You could make something with your hands, or give them their favorite garden food, or give them the best piece of meat from an animal you shoot,” Jason said. “Or, if you don’t have any food right now you can come to our house and do a little work and use the pay to buy your wife some food.”
Malakai had a question about their assignment. “What if I decide to get her something from town later? Can I wait until then?”
“That is great thinking,” Jason said. “Later, when you go to town don’t forget about your wife. Buy something for her then and give her something today too. Do both.”
The next day Malakai said he gave his wife a shirt. His wife had admired the shirt ever since Malakai bought it in town and had asked if she could have it. His answer was “No.” But after considering the assignment he offered it to her.
“Here, take this,” he said.
“Are you giving this to me?” she asked.
“Yes,” Malaki said, “but if you don’t want it I’ll keep it.”
“No way,” the wife responded. “I like this shirt. I’m taking it.”
After the next day’s assignment, encouraging the men to show love to their wives by their actions, Beiyem said he was very tired because he was busy cooking sak sak, doing the dishes and carrying two loads of firewood to the house.
The next task Jason presented the men – speaking kind words to their wives for the meal they cooked or the way they dealt with the children – was met with uncomfortable silence. Jason asked what was wrong and one man finally answered.
“Jason, we don’t talk like that. We don’t say sweet talk to our wives. That isn’t our way.”
“OK,” Jason replied. “Starting today let’s work on changing that. With God’s help you can say a kind word to your wife. I know you can. Let’s see what happens.”
After several assignments one man said, “My wife asked me today what I was doing. Why I was helping her all the time. What am I supposed to say to her? We’re supposed to keep this work we’re doing hidden, right? I don’t want to tell her this is a class.”
“Tell her you are trying to follow God’s straight road,” Jason said. “Tell her you are glad she is the wife God gave you. Tell her you have no plans to get a second wife. You are fine with just her. You are trying to love her and that means helping her. Tell her something like that.”
Around day 12, the men were asked to do some work with their wives.
“Work together with your wife in the garden or something, but do it together,” Jason said.
One man reported, “We went to the garden. Actually I arrived at the garden after her and the kids. She worked over there and I worked over here. I finished my side of the work early and went home. She came home after I did. That’s what I did, but I don’t think that is what you meant is it?
“You wanted us to work the garden together, but we don’t do that. Maybe we shouldn’t call this part of the garden mine and that part hers? Is that what you are saying?”
Another man said, “I’ve got some talk about the garden. Yes, I go to the garden but I always fill my wife’s string bag with all the heavy bananas I can, and the papayas. I don’t want to carry them because they are heavy. I let her carry the heavy stuff home and then I eat it.”
He laughed as he lowered his head in shame.
“But now I am thinking that isn’t the way of loving our wives, is it? Making them do all the heavy work. Is that something else that we should be changing? Wow, we really don’t know about this way of loving our wives. This is all a new thing for us.”
The biggest challenge seemed to come on day 17. Jason talked about how love gives sacrificially and challenged to men to give their wives something of theirs that the wives didn’t have.
What a horrifying idea! In Siawi culture you only do that if you have two of an item. Jason was asking them to do without and let their wife have the item.
Some of the men couldn’t follow through on the assignment. Yet the Holy Spirit did convict others and bring them to the point of loving their wife more than themselves.
Yaniwi said, “Last night I wanted to sleep, but I couldn’t. I knew it was there. So I opened up the box and gave my wife the bed sheet that was hidden.”
Mesiau came to Jason’s office later and said, “Yesterday I didn’t understand what you meant about giving my wife something. Did you mean food or water for her to drink or what? We each have a mosquito net and a bed sheet. Then as I was leaving the church building the Spirit told me to give her my extra battery for her flashlight.
“So, I gave it to her. I told her that I was happy that God had given her to me. I told her ‘Jason didn’t tell me to give this to you, the Spirit shot my heart. This is how you walk the loving your wife road.’ She took the battery and her eyes brightened. She was pleased.”
The men faced some tough decisions during the challenge. On day 15, one of the Siawi men, Nokee, expressed the difficulty in prayer.
“O Father, help us. We are not good at loving our wives. Before, we didn’t know what the road of loving our wives was like. We didn’t know how big and hard that road is. Now we know and want to love them and follow You. But it is hard. We are not strong. But for You nothing is hard.”