The O people of East Africa
Location and Background: The O are semi-nomadic herders who live in the semi-arid bush lands of East Africa, in round, dome-shaped structures which can be dismantled in order to move with their herds. They are the most southern representatives of the once more powerful nations to the north.
History: They migrated south as cattle and camel herders, raiding more settled peoples as they went. They controlled a wide area of territory around 400 years ago, but due to health epidemics and surrounding enemies the size of the tribe was reduced. They resisted the Islam of the Arab slave traders until the 1920s, and by 1950 the whole tribe had converted. They are often in conflict with their neighbors over conflicts about access to good grazing, wells, and river waters for their herds. Recently there have been times of violent clashes, revenge raids and cattle stealing between ethnic communities.
Culture: Cattle are central in O culture, being used to pay bride price, and are slaughtered for weddings and funerals. Boys are taught to shepherd smaller animals. Girls help with household chores and younger siblings. There are special ceremonies for the birth of babies, and for funerals.
Polygamy is practiced by half of the men, marriages used to be arranged but now elopement is more common. For men, bravery is stressed and riding, spear throwing, and fighting are admirable skills.
Modern education and the practice of Islam is creating change in the culture. Traditionally the elders had authority and were respected, and decided cases when there were disputes. They led the people to repentance and forgiveness through blood sacrifice and confession. The breakdown in traditional ways, replaced by the five pillars of Islam, has left people uncertain about their forgiveness until the Day of Judgment.
Religion: The O culture is becoming more and more Islamic in nature. Traditionally they believed in a creator God associated with the sky and believed in the spirits associated with locations in nature. These beliefs are now combined with their Islamic beliefs. Blood sacrifices are decreasing and observance of the five pillars of Islam is done in order to please God and gain forgiveness.
Latest Prayer Updates:
Hk sat right next to me for the showing of the Jesus film at her extended family home compound. She leaned forward to hear every word most of the night, until half way through when her father in law pronounced that he was tired and said we should finish another time. The next night he said we couldn’t come back because the community didn’t like it. Pray against Hk’s fear, and her father in law’s fear and all the fear in our people of what others think and would do to them if they receive or even show too much interest in Jesus. Pray for opportunities to disciple Hk, and for the Holy Spirit to convict and pierce the hearts of 5 ‘men of peace’ across our area to get the DMM started.
A woman, Hk, responded to the Gospel this week! For her to share her newfound faith boldly will certainly mean persecution. Pray for others in her extended family group to respond, and that a Disciple Making MOVEMENT may begin. Pray for the whole mission team to be empowered by the Holy Spirit to continue to share the Good News broadly – and that as we abide, God will bless with much lasting fruit! Pray for Hk’s protection, wisdom and boldness. Pray that she grows strong as we disciple her. PTL for a new Sister in Christ!