When Bishop Johnson Onovoghakpor and Pastor (Mrs). Roseline Onovoghakpor met about 40 years ago, situation didn’t quite look as if they would get married because Rose, a staunch, dyed-in-the-wool Scripture Union (SU) member, didn’t initially see him as a husband material. Simply because he was not born again! But somehow the Lord overruled her objection and they eventually got married. Blessed, today, with six children, all male, the marriage has turned out to be a well-blended blissful one. The couple who runs a church, Jesus Ministry Bible Church, with branches in some parts of Delta State, shared their marital experiences with PAUL OSUYI in Asaba. Excerpts:
Sir, how did you meet your wife before you got married?
Husband: It was through an introduction by my cousin. We met her uncle with whom she was staying about 1978. That was before I graduated from a polytechnic and went on youth corps service. During my service year I visited her from Kaduna where I was serving. We met and discussed. She too visited me in Kaduna when I had an accident. And, we took things up from there.
But did you tell your cousin that you were looking for a wife?
Husband: Of course I did! I studied in Calabar. I attended Calabar Polytechnic. My parents were always telling me that they don’t want me to marry someone from Calabar or any other tribe. I was staying in Asaba that time. They wanted me to marry an Urhobo girl. I would reply that I had not come across any Urhobo girl. So my cousin who knew the uncle she was staying with that time introduced her to me. Her mother is from my village while her father is from Ughelli. He made an arrangement and I visited the uncle who told me that the girl was still in school. Not only that, he said that I had not graduated. That was in 1978. After graduation before I went for youth corps service. I visited the uncle. I saw her but I did not chat with her. It was during my youth corps service year that I visited her and we chatted. We discussed before I returned to Kaduna. In January, 1980, some armed robbers attacked me on the way after I alighted from a bus. When she learnt of the attack, her father said it was good that she visited me. So she came to Kaduna to visit me. After that, we started making arrangement for marriage, and we got married on November 30, 1980.
Is it the same story with you or would you like to add more details?
Wife: The story is the same, the only difference is that I was reluctant in accepting his proposal because I felt that he was not a very good Christian at that time. Then the Scripture Union (SU) people used to feel that they were the only Christians in the whole world. He was a Catholic, so I felt we were not compatible, except he wanted to be born again and become an SU person. That was just the only snag. But at the end of the day, God spoke to me that he is the right man for me. He said I should not judge or condemn him because He was going to use him in future. He said that I was the right vessel that He needed to bring into his life so that the godliness in him could come out.
What was the striking quality that you saw in her that made you choose her?
Husband: One of them was the fact that she is a believer indeed, although I was not a believer then. I was just a churchgoer. That quality in her and the family background and her character drew me to her and I said I would marry her at all costs. And, thank God, I patiently waited till she agreed to marry me.
Apart from that revelation that he is the right man for you, what other quality did you see in him that made you accept him instead of any other suitor?
Wife: I wouldn’t say there was any quality. I was born again to a fault or to whatever you may call it. Whatever God says, I was okay. I didn’t care about the educational background, the physical appearance, the career, the profession. I just believed that what God says is okay by me. So I go by faith.
How did you propose to her? What were the exact words you used?
Husband: As a matter of fact, that time we were still very naïve. I approached her directly: ‘Please, I want to marry you’. I was very blunt. I did not go into any other process, and she agreed.
What was your reaction after his proposal? What exactly did you say?
Wife: I will not say I said yes or no. Like I told you, I just trusted God, and kept praying when he came up with his proposal. I respect him today because of his patience in those days; few men would accept that. After all, there were so many girls out there. There was his coming and I did not show any interest in him. He would sit down with my siblings and all that. He just bore it patiently. If I knew he was around, I would just walk away. But I finally heard from God. I think that was the reason I had to travel to Kaduna. My traveling was a way of saying yes. SU people are well-disciplined; they hardly say yes even if they are willing. They feel it is a carnal thing to say yes to such proposal. So I didn’t say yes but my actions confirmed yes.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding in marriage and how you resolved it?
Husband: Our first misunderstanding was when I wanted to go to Ogbe Stadium to watch a football match because we were in Benin at that time. But she said no. She said that I should not go because something would happen at the stadium. She spoke prophetically. So she locked the door and took the key away. We quarreled and quarreled before I eventually resigned myself to fate. But do you know that in the evening there was an announcement that there was a stampede at the stadium and many people died? So from that day, I started trusting her word. I didn’t know that anything would happen but she spoke prophetically that something would happen. She said she would not allow me to go. From that day on, any counsel she gave me, I always accepted. Each time I remembered that incident, I always say that this woman is a prophetess.
Wife: I don’t really know how to answer the question because we don’t drag a matter for too long. You don’t even know if it is misunderstanding. This is because shortly afterward, we are talking together, eating together as if nothing happened. We don’t really have that nature of holding offence against each other. As he said, after that I held firmly to the key, he struggled and dragged. I held firmly to the key because I knew what I saw. At the end of the day, he became relaxed. Like I told you, we would soon afterward walk into understanding where there was before then some misunderstanding. So, there is no spirit of malice or carryover of grudges because something would go wrong if we have that kind of mind.
What do you like most about her?
Husband: She is very frank, very truthful. She is a counselor: anything she tells you and you do it, there will be success. That is why I always listen to her even now. If I want to do anything and she says no, I don’t go further.
What do you like most about him?
Wife: The thing I love most in him is that he loves God so much. And, that is my weak point: anyone that loves God is my friend.
What advice do you have for a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Husband: To start with, before you marry, seek God’s counsel; be prayerful. If you have a pastor, you can also introduce the topic to him, to help you pray. People should not be carried away by beauty or character. If God does not approve, no matter how beautiful, no matter how good the girl is, there will be trouble. That is why you need to take time and seek His direction. It is possible that the girl may be beautiful, comes from a good family, well-educated, the manners might be okay but if it is not the will of God for you, you will run into problems. That is why you need to start with God. Ask Him about the quality of girl you need and He would bring her your way.
What advice do you have a young spinster who intends to get married?
Wife: Like he said, it is not easy to understand human beings because they are full of deceptions. That is why God said that the heart of man is desperately wicked, who can know it? It is only God that can know it. You can’t correctly assess a human being. The deception in human nature is so much. That is why you see marriages crashing today. When a girl is carried away with material things, with appearance, not seeking the mind of God, that kind of girl will run into problems in future. What I will advise girls, which is difficult now because they will say it is old school, is that they should not be carried away with what the man has or what he does not have. They should focus their attention on God and trust Him, and whatever God wills they should go for it because at the end of the day, you will love what will come out of it. So spinsters should be prayerful. They should also check backgrounds of their prospective husbands and be convinced. There are some backgrounds that may be very bad but God can give approval because He can use you to turn the background around. You should see marriage as a vision, and focus on God when He is trying to give acceptance to any man seeking your hand in a relationship. They should pray. They should go for counseling, and they will get it right. On their own, they should have good character because nobody wants to marry a bad girl. You cannot be of a bad character and want to marry a good man.
From your personal experiences, what pieces of advice do you have for new couples wants to enjoy long lasting marriage relationship like you are doing?
Wife: Marriage is not something you just rush into; it is a very serious-minded business as far as God is concerned. So you don’t toy with it. You don’t marry because people want you to marry. When you enter your husband’s house, the only person you will see in this whole wide world is your husband, and you must be ready to serve him, be there for him. No stories. No best friend. No mother. No father. Your husband becomes everything to you. Even if he is a truck pusher, he is your choice. When you get into marriage, you must stay put. When you see the weakness in your husband’s life as a young wife, be ready to accept it. Accommodate the weakness because with time it will manifest. With due apology to men, you cannot truly know a man until you enter into marriage with him. So you always enter by faith. And, when you have entered, you begin to see things that you do not expect. Habits, certain things that are not publicly accepted like mannerisms. And, if you find your husband doing that, you will accommodate it; you can only do small corrections. And whether the correction is accepted or not, live with it. You will need to cope with it because these are the things that must come up. So whatever that is inside your husband, be ready. But you can overcome with prayers, love, understanding. And in most cases, the man would change to what you want and how you want it. But it is not through fighting or quarreling. Sometimes you just sit as if nothing is going on but in good times, you iron things out. Some of them have very good conscience. It is not easy for the man to adjust; it is easier for the woman to adjust than for the man to do so. So you don’t force men to change; you pet them to. Men are the easiest to handle but you don’t do it with strength, power and vigour. Humility, love and submission are what you use to get a man down.
Husband: What I want to add is that once you are married, your friends should change. As a married woman, you must drop your spinster friends and begin to follow married women. Without knowing it, a spinster would be dragging you down. So it is advisable that a young married woman should gradually start dropping her spinster friends, and begin to have friends that are married. The same applies to young married men, you have to do away with your former girlfriends so that you would not have problem. That is one of the things that bring problems: former girlfriends, former boyfriends, those ones will have to be done away with. You then choose new friends especially those who are Christians. The reason you need to do away with friends who are not married is because they could give you counsel that can ruin your marriage.