Bishop Uba Udenyi, 63, the presiding Bishop of Hope Alive Christian Assembly International, Makurdi, Benue State, is married to Rev. Patience Aye Udenyi, an accountant with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), as well as a co-pastor, and they have been living peacefully and happily as husband and wife since after their wedding. In this interview with ROSE EJEMBI, in Makurdi, they share with our readers the challenges and secret of their happy marriage. Excerpts:
How did you meet?
Husband: That’s a funny question because unlike other marriages we didn’t actually meet physically at first before our marriage relationship started. We met in the spirit because our marriage is a product of prophecy.
What were the things that made you know that she was the one meant for you?
Husband: I would say that the day that I knew physically that she was the one meant to be my wife was on July 1, 1995. I wanted to go to my Reverend to tell him what her Reverend (that is, my wife-to-be’s pastor) said when I went to meet him. The man of God saw me as an unkempt person and asked if I knew who I was coming for and I said no. He then asked me to go and look for her and tell her not to give me an answer. So, I was a bit discouraged by those words. I went to my Reverend’s house with the intention of telling him that this thing would not work. But to my greatest surprise, as I got there, I saw her seated and that was when I concluded that God was in our relationship.
What attracted you to him the first time you met him?
Wife: Personally, what turns me off about a person is lie. Instead of you to lie to me, it’s better you kill me. I discovered that he is a very truthful and blunt person. He says it the way it is without minding how you feel. He’s always on the oath of truth. That is what attracted me to him.
So, how did you become convinced that she’s the one meant for you?
Husband: My conviction came when the two of us sat down and began to x-ray how the marriage relationship was to start. And by the time she started telling me how she got a revelation after a prophecy came during the single ladies fellowship meeting, I was fully convinced in my spirit that she might be the one that God wants me to marry.
At what point did you propose to her?
Husband: The real proposal was on July 1, 1995.
And did she give you an answer immediately?
Husband: She did in a way. She told me that day that I was the one that wasn’t ready for marriage but that as for her, she was ready. That means she had been following in the spirit realm what God had been revealing to her.
How long was your courtship?
Husband: It was not long. We met and I proposed on July 1, 1995, and then we had our traditional marriage on October 7th of the same year because the church was fully aware of what was happening and they encouraged us to do whatever we could to get the wedding done as fast as possible.
What actually attracted you to her?
Husband: Her humility. She was always calm. I tried as much as possible to make her angry as often as we met but she was so calm in addressing issues raised. So, I said to myself that I needed someone by my side to be this humble because I was a radical person.
After he proposed to you, at what point did you make up your mind to accept him as your husband?
Wife: In fact, God had been in our relationship from the beginning. Because the way he was then, if I wanted to make a choice of a husband, there was no way I would have accepted him. But because God had spoken, I couldn’t do otherwise. Even before he came, I had already known that that is the kind of person I would marry. So, my mind was made up. That’s why when he proposed, I just accepted.
What was your first quarrel as husband and wife and how were you able to resolve it?
Wife: Throughout the courtship, we didn’t quarrel but on our wedding day we did. What happened is that we met the church untidy. He had earlier told me that his people were coming to clean the church. But they didn’t do it and he did not follow up. So, I became very furious. In my wedding gown and within the church premises, we exchanged hurtful words. People were like ‘these people have not even wedded and they are quarreling like this, how are we sure that they would be able stay together?’ It was funny. I was weeping because I was already dressed up and all the guests were standing outside. Instead of him to reply me calmly, he flared up and it was a big quarrel. But at the end of the day, because we were mature and born again, we didn’t allow the quarrel to last especially as it was our day. After the wedding, he tried to find out why I was so outraged and I told him it was because of his response. And he told me that he would try to apply wisdom henceforth.
Was there a time in this journey of marriage that you got so stressed up that you felt like quitting the relationship?
Wife: Of course. Personally, between me and him, there was no issue. But a problem arose when his nephews and nieces started flooding the house from all over the place and our income was meagre and they were not helpful. They were just there. If I said ‘do this’, it would become an issue. He would not find out from me before believing whatever they told him. Worse still, he would start keeping malice with me. That was the problem and I told him that he should just watch it because these people cannot afford to scatter this marriage because they are only here for a while. A time would come and they would go. Today, none of them is here. They have all married and are staying on their own. So, it was third party interference that was the cause of the problem. In fact, I had to meet my mother and told her that I was tired of the marriage and she asked what the problem was. I told her that it was because of the crowd in our house. We were over 15 adults at a point and we hadn’t had a child yet at that time. So, I was finding it difficult to cope because everybody was uncontrollable. My mother encouraged me by saying what she passed through in my father’s house before she could stay nobody can pass through it and still remain married. She said if she could weather the storm and still remain married to my father, then whatever I was passing through would be surmountable. She believed that since my husband is a man of God, those stress would be over. So, with her encouragement, I decided to believe God that it would come to an end one day. And to the glory of God, they are all in their various homes now. It’s just me and him today.
What has it been like relating with your in-laws?
Wife: I like relating with people. If I have people around me who are very understanding, who allow me to have my space, that doesn’t stress me; there’s no way we would quarrel. It has been good. His brothers and the only sister that brought him up who is regarded as their mother now have not been giving me any stress apart from their children that came to live with us. So, I have been getting on well with my in-laws.
How would you assess the union so far after so many years?
Husband: Our union is a reflection of God’s gift because year in, year out, instead of seeing ourselves going opposite direction, we are just fusing together, blending together and understanding ourselves better. I think God actualized what He said concerning us. God said He would bless our home if we got married. It has been awesome since we tied the nuptial knot.
What pet names do you call each other?
Husband: I call her “Sweetheart” and that name came by inspiration because I didn’t know how to give a pet name to a woman. But when I got that name, “Sweetheart”, I had peace in my spirit and that is the name I’ve been calling her till now.
Wife: I call him “Daddy” because he’s like a real father to me maybe because of the age difference. He is about 13 years older than I am and he has really been there for me. He gives me useful pieces of advice just like a father would do. That’s why I decided to be calling him “Daddy”.
What’s your advice to younger couples especially in the light of the rising number of broken homes and marriages in our society today?
Husband: I think the reason some marriages fall apart is because each partner has his or her personal mode before entering into the relationship. And then when these modes don’t blend, there’s the tendency to think that God is not in the business. And that’s why you see that even some young guys that would tell you that God said you made a mistake going into that marriage in the first place. Now, the question is: who made the mistake? Is it God or you or your wife? Young people should allow God to lead them in marriage. Even in times of quarrels, you should listen to what God is saying first before you react. If you do, you will see that what you thought to be offensive yesterday is not so today. In a nutshell, we must put God first in marriage before any other thing.
What’s your advice to spinsters who prefer to marry already made (rich) men than struggling but promising men?
Wife: My advice is that it’s better to start life together. I don’t like a situation whereby a man is already made before I come into his life. It will make me to begin look like a gold digger. If there’s gold to dig, let’s dig it together. It’s better to start life together and grow together so that if tomorrow God helped us, we would look at whatever God has given us and nobody would say: ‘you came and met it’. If it’s a house, let’s build it together. If it’s a car, let’s contribute money, pool resources and buy it together. So, my advice is that we should not be high-minded.
Are you not worried about the increasing spate of divorces in our society today?
Husband: I’m very much worried. What is even making me more worried about is what is happening these days especially among the pastors. A pastor would tell you that marriage is not a do-or-die affair and that if your wife wants to take your life, you better put her away and go and marry another one. And some of these senior men of God that are divorcing to go and marry another person are the same senior men and women that are supposed to say, ‘don’t do that’. The fear of God in marriage is no longer there. And if we continue like this, I bet you there will be nothing like Christian marriage anymore. The Christian marriage we are talking about is not the church wedding but involving the word of God in your relationship. This is totally lacking in many homes and it’s very worrisome. And the earlier we address this, the better for all of us.
What’s your advice to younger couples, especially ladies, on the issue of divorce?
Wife: My advice is this: any marriage that is not built on mutual trust cannot last. If you got married to a man and both of you are working in different places, for instance, I am in Abuja and my husband is in Makurdi, if the trust is not there and he’s monitoring me to know how many men spoke with or to me on the phone or going through my calls to know, and the same thing with me, there is no way that marriage will stand. So, I would advise younger couples to learn to build trust in their relationship with their spouses. Couples should believe in each other and demonstrate genuine love towards each other because there are always storms in marriage but your trust, love and belief in yourselves would help you to overcome, no matter how fierce they might be.