When Stephanie and I taught teen girls at the rural youth conference in August, we encouraged them to consult with their parents regarding dating and marriage.  I pointed out that the advice of their father, as a man, is especially valuable in their relationships with young men.  When we took questions after the talk, one participant voiced what we understand to be the concern of many:  “My dad doesn’t have time to talk with me.”

We realized that the problem isn’t exactly that the men are too busy to give their daughters a few minutes of their time.  Our local culture is matriarchal and considers that the children belong to the mother — to the extent that if she dies, the children are divided between her family members instead of being left in their father’s care.  Daughters are especially disadvantaged as to their father’s attention by the rule that while the father may have a hand in raising the boys, it is the mother who must raise the girls.  So rare is the father who has a close relationship with his daughter that society looks askance at him with a suspicion of incest.  Why else would a father want to be a friend to his daughter?

Enter our father-daughter banquet.  As I prayed during the August conference about the cultural obstacles to paternal guidance in girls’ lives, I fondly recalled the father-daughter banquets my former church hosted.  Could such an event here in Africa serve to strengthen this weakest bond in local families?

Boniface and Stephanie were excited about my idea of opening our family restaurant for fathers to treat their unmarried daughters of all ages to a special outing.  We scheduled the event for October 15 and divided up the work between the three of us according to our individual giftings.  Stephanie’s tasks were few but laborious:  supply 100 chairs and place settings from our family’s storage unit, decorate the preschool’s grounds and the dining tables, and supervise in the kitchen.

Boniface’s work list was the longest.  He distributed invitations to fathers, meeting with them to explain the purpose of the banquet.  He prepared the budget and made the purchases.  He hired cooks and waiters and sent vans to bring the guests to the event and take them home afterwards.  Verifying the facility’s condition turned out to be his most complicated task, because just days before the banquet he realized that the bamboo pavilion where we intended to seat most guests was unstable due to rotten posts.  With his typical efficiency, he shored it up with new eucalyptus posts and it served beautifully on Saturday as our main dining area.

As for me, I received reservations with the nominal fees we charged, and supplied the remainder of the funds for the event thanks to my supporters’ generosity.  I prepared the printed materials:  invitations, menus, and lists of conversation-starter questions for both fathers and daughters.  I arranged the 100 guests among the 20 tables that our organization loaned us and placed name cards to designate the seating.  I trained the nine waiters and then personally welcomed and seated all arriving guests.

The banquet was a smashing success!  The hotel chef we hired led the kitchen team in producing delicious and beautiful cuisine.  Though the chicken ran out due to high demand, latecomers still had other hot, tasty options from which to choose.  The waiters in their bow-tie uniforms served our guests with professionalism and grace.

As I circulated among the tables, I was delighted to hear the fathers engaging their daughters in meaningful conversations.  Their fellowship continued as they strolled about the lovely rural grounds over the course of the afternoon.  After they had returned and savored their desserts, I addressed the group as a whole for the first time, relating the many positive ways in which my father influenced me and the story behind the banquet.  Numerous guests, both fathers and daughters, rose to express their gratitude for the remarkable event and the importance of strengthening healthy father-daughter bonds despite cultural leanings to the contrary.  Fathers presented their daughters with roses provided by Boniface and took photos with them before heading home as evening approached.

Though my migraines which began early this year are under control with medication, the light sensitivity which apparently provokes them has risen to a concerning level.  Even with sunglasses, a hat, and a parasol, I often squint and turn my head downward in the sun to minimize the discomfort to my eyes.  I sometimes wear sunglasses indoors too.  Please pray for God’s blessing on my proactive search for a diagnosis and resolution of the problem, and tell me if you know an ophthalmologist willing to comment on my writeup about it.  Thank God that my sunglasses and hat didn’t detract from my work as the banquet hostess, and that I suffered no migraine or eye pain despite the exposure to sunlight all day.

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