Reflections by Sybille Ngo Nyeck
From Louie Crew's notes at Sybille Ngo Nyeck' presentation to Oasis Ministries at Episcopal House, Diocese of Newark, on July 11, 2001
Ms. Nyeck, 25, is from Camaroon. She spent several weeks in the summer of 2001 in the USA, most of the time with the Order of St. Helena. She has a new book manuscript on homosexuality, titled Por Qui Parle Les Buchers? (roughly translated, "Who Speaks for This Holocaust?")
Note: This is not an exact duplication of Ms. Nyeck's presentation. I do not type fast enough or accurately enough for that. Instead, this is a transcription of as much as I could write in longhand during her holy time with us. I hope that you find it useful. If you wish to quote her for publication, you should contact her directly for any corrections that she might want to make: email@example.com
As a child I chose the male role in girl-girl friendship. Yet, I was trained to be submissive and the helper of men. In my culture a woman is valued only when she is near a man. That includes all men in her father's household. But I never viewed myself as a part of this pattern.
In tribes some meats are not edible when a woman is in her period, or when she is pregnant. Some meats are not edible at all, just because one is a woman. Yet I have been eating the forbidden meats since childhood, and nothing has ever happened to me.
I have witnessed the oppression since I was a child. As a woman, I would never be allowed to be recognized as Mbowbk (the highest religious authority).
The church in the Camaroon has never fought against rape or the abuse of women.
By the age of 8 I knew my feelings had more than just sexual friendship. I never heard about women or men having these feelings, and at first I felt sinful. I felt that maybe mine was the biggest sin of all. Homosexual and lesbian are not words in my native language. When I confessed these feelings, ministers warned that I would go to hell.
I come from a Presbyterian and Pentecostal background. From early on I was devoted to the church. I viewed myself as sinful and abnormal, and I did everything to be delivered. I repressed my sexuality. I was taught that it was a hindrance to my spiritual growth, and I prayed for deliverance.
I knew that my choice would be to be with a woman, but I chose instead to empty myself for God's sake. In that personal relationship with God I was able to learn what is a good sacrifice and what is just a fearful sacrifice. As God with Abraham when he tried to sacrifice his beloved Isaac, God gave me my gift back.
My love for a woman is carnal, emotional, and spiritual.
In church I met rejection, but I new God accepted me. I was able to transcend everything because of my relationship with God.
My Christian relationship is nothing if I cannot share who I am and help others to be free.
I was afraid when I wrote my book. I needed to go to my personal Gethsemane, letting in the light that shines from the Gospel. Standing in God's presence with an empty brain, waiting patiently for God's presence was the starting point for my book. Then I was able to dream a new church, like the saliva that Jesus used to recover the sight of one blind. Even in Jesus's own time, spit was a bad thing, a dirty thing. What marvelous lessons God gives us even from what we call dirt.
"I see something like trees walking" the blind person told Jesus when he first applied the spit. How would the world be if trees really could walk? Many things would change in the ecology of the Gospel; many things would change about who we are in community.
Jesus Christ completed the healing and sent the man back to his house, back to his inner being. Jesus sends us all back to our real house, our inner being, where we are not diminished by our culture or by those things that govern the life of the village. We must think in a cosmic way.
I researched and found one scholar who identified an African tribe that accepted male homosexuality into it, while still expecting the homosexuals to marry a wife. Another tribe in New Guinea (Etoro) actually prefers homosexuality to heterosexuality, stressing that while men may be heterosexual for 105 days of the year, but can be gay all the time. When behaving as heterosexuals, the men are not allowed to go near farms or houses. The tribe believes that homosexuality makes people stronger.
Look also at the Sambia in Baryua, in the western part of Kenya.
I personally chose another model, less focused on the construction of masculinity than these. In Camaroon, my affirmation as a lesbian came not as a struggle to find a way out, but as a new gift from God because of my personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
How can I know Christ and be rejected by the church?
I ask whether the Sodom story is a mystification or a mystery. People judge by intention, not by action. In Sodom there was violence against women: Lot slept with his daughters.
We know from Ezekiel that God is looking for just one person to save a city. Then why ask for 10? Why do we celebrate Melchisedec and Abraham, but not the King of Sodom? This is another way to view the Eucharist: Melchisedec says that God does not accept blood sacrifice. Melchisedec brought as gifts to God only the fruits of the earth. By the time that Abram becomes Abraham and Sara becomes Sarah, they had a new view of the world and of how the world is united.
Sarah incarnated divinity. Isaac means "he laughed" but in reality, "she, Sarah, laughed"!
I have spent much time looking at all things said, and not said, by women in the bible. In Eden we see the birth of the Patriarchy. God asked three questions: "Who told you? Have you eaten the fruit? Why have you?" If God had asked Eve, she could have told God. Instead he asked Abraham, and Abraham took control and 'explained' everything.
Even the story of the flood suggests that women are here only to bring catastrophe.
I came to view Christ as my savior and Messiah, with a powerful cosmic message: there are no more men or women, just creatures.
John the Baptist said to some, "Don't fool yourselves by making special claims that you are the sons of Abraham. God can raise children of Abraham right out of these stones. The axe is already doing its job."
Knowing God, being in fellowship with God, is the most important thing that we can do. My strength comes not from my brain, but from my encounter with God.
Most lesbians and gays in Africa are invisible, but not passive.
Blessed are those who believe in lesbians and gays in Africa without seeing them! Cosmic powers are revealed through despised vessels.
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