We received this story from one of our partners on the ground in Sudan, Kimberly Smith, in the village of Nyamlel.
“Abuk: a Dinka Queen Esther”
Abuk (on right above) with one of her discipleship students during an ‘08 Sudan mission trip where she served as translator.
When Abuk was 13 years old, a much older man who was already married began to draw close to her. When he saw her in the market or fetching water, he would try to make conversation with her. In the Dinka culture, this could only mean one thing: he wanted to take Abuk as another wife.
Abuk wanted to stay in school, and when she did marry, she wanted to marry someone her own age. So Abuk tried to discourage and avoid him. Nothing seemed to deter him. At one point, he even said to her, “If you run, I will catch you. In the end, you will marry me.” Finally, Abuk cloistered herself in her family’s tukel refusing to even go to the river for bathing or fetching water. After many days of silence, she began to relax and to think that perhaps he had lost interest in her. Abuk went with her sister, Tabitha, to bathe in the river.
Tabitha was ahead of Abuk, already swimming out into the river. Being out for the first time in many days, Abuk was slower. Suddenly her heart leapt; she didn’t know what was wrong but she was certain danger was near. She turned from the river and ran for home.
A few feet from the bank, four men jumped out from the reeds. They each grabbed Abuk’s arms and legs, hoisting her from the ground. Abuk screamed, but there was no one who would fight this culturally permissive kidnapping of a wife. The men took her to the older man’s tukel where he took her by force. After having sex with her, he said, “Now you are my wife. I told you that you would marry me.”
Once recovered, Abuk went to visit her mother. Her mother did not want her to marry this man. Abuk’s mother was a rare Dinka mother who wanted her daughter to finish school and choose a man who would respect her. Abuk had thought and prayed on this much.
Abuk told her mother, “I wanted to stay in school. I did not want to marry this man. But, now he has taken me. We are one flesh. It would be a sin for me to ever be with another man. I will let go of what I wanted and trust God to honor my commitment to be faithful.”
As I listened to Abuk, her testimony flailed against every cultural sense of self-preservation I have ever learned. I wanted to scream out in protest. Instead I listened and observed. I thought of Esther. How like Queen Esther this modern-day woman is. Abuk submitted herself to a higher authority than that of man. Being willing to sacrifice even her right to life and putting her own desires aside, (whether we agree with her or not), she lived what she felt led to do in submission to God.
My daughter, who is about to graduate from college, was listening intently. I thought of all the things I dream of for her and my other daughters. I asked Abuk, “So, what was your marriage like.”
Abuk smiled. I realized her mind’s eye was recalling many memories. She said, “He was a good man.” (He died about six months ago.) “He was a good husband. He took care of me and eventually let me finish my education. He was a good father to our five children. I grew to love him very much.”
Abuk’s life is very hard now. During an attack upon her village, her family fled and made it into Kenya. Only now, as a foreigner, she cannot find steady work and has a very difficult time providing for her children.
Abuk’s face carries a constant smile of joy and serenity. Truly I have never met anyone like her. Please pray for Abuk and her children as she lives a life of faithfulness, trusting God to care for the widows and orphans.