Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Circumcision Camp

It's exactly what it sounds like: a bunch of boys gathered together for a month, sequestered from the outside community while undergoing the rite of circumcision and beginning the transition into manhood.  It's customary around here for a boy to be circumcised sometime between 10-15 years of age.  It's also customary for a group of boys to go through the process together and they become "age-mates" (a common term here which refers to a very close friendship).  Going through this rite of passage together creates a bond between boys, and as they grow into men they usually maintain close relationships with each other because of this shared experience.

We had the privilege of attending the "Coming Out" celebration (yes, that's what it's called) after a circumcision camp last month.  The full-day affair was tantamount to a wedding celebration with hundreds of people, hours of singing and dancing, a feast for the whole crowd, a tree planting ceremony, and a couple sermons mixed in between.  One of Eli's Family Medicine residents, Elijah, is the father of one of the initiates, and he also coordinated and hosted the entire circumcision camp. Elijah performed the circumcisions on the boys, which in and of itself was a blessing since it ensured that the procedure would be done safely and correctly.  (Boys come to the hospital far too often because of complications from ill-performed procedures.)  He built a small compound behind his house for all the boys to live in for the month, and his wife cooked all the food for the 23 boys participating in the camp.  Needless to say, they were quite busy!

What was so amazing about the camp was that Elijah used this tradition as an opportunity to teach these boys about what it means to truly be a man: a man of God.  So, throughout the month, various men came to speak with the boys about God and faith and manhood, and they read Scripture together and prayed together and ate a lot of food together while they fellowshipped inside the compound.  Elijah used a God-centered approach with the purpose of raising up a new generation of godly young men.

This was one of the most beautiful things we've seen since coming to Kenya.  The American church has nothing like it, nothing to commemorate when a boy becomes a man, nothing to deliberately pull them away from the rest of the world for the sole purpose of discipling them further in their faith and shepherding them in paths of righteousness.  In an era of immaturity and outright godlessness, nothing is more encouraging than seeing boys being taught the ways of the Lord as they journey from boyhood to manhood.

We returned home thinking about our own three sons and how much we wished there was a rite of passage like this for them.  We continue reflecting on this and hope that we'll find a way in the future to pull them aside not only to focus on, but to commemorate, what is of utmost importance: choosing to live as a man of God.

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