Although they’ve been married for 39 years, Elder Luke Okpuruka still basks in the euphoria of what attracted him to his wife, Lovina, also an evangelist. Her voice, he says still sounds fresh in his ears. Okpuruka says: “the local champion- chorister’s voice” makes all the difference in his life, and that if he does not hear it in a single day, he feels less than whole.
In this interview with Lawrence Enyoghasu, these young-at-heart-lovebirds from Obowo in Imo State share their love story. Lovina, says though she had prayed to marry a pastor, her husband’s turning into one made her day.
How did you meet?
Husband: My wife is a gifted chorister, who used to be a local champion in the Anglican Church back home and that made her prominent and I got a touch of her from there. Seeing her on that stage with her microphone voice, I asked God since I am mature enough to get a wife, why not give me this woman with this type of angelic voice, so that when I flare up in anger, her voice can calm me down and God obliged me.
What year are you talking about?
Husband: This was in 1975 when we met, but we only got married 1977.
How did he then approach you?
Wife: Just as he said, I was a chorister. We attended different competitions which we won. I remember that one day we took first position in one of the competitions, after that late Mrs. Nwankiti called all the girls and asked us the type of man we would like to marry and she blessed us. It was there I made my intentions known that I wanted to marry a pastor, because I knew that God was using them; their children’s characters were quite different and people always wanted to tap from the blessings God had deposited in them. But my people disagreed, giving the reason that pastors were always poor. My husband did not tell you all, today he is a pastor and I am receiving that joy. Today we are approaching 40 years of marriage and it gladdens my heart as if we married today. That request I made that God should give me a pastor as a husband has happened. We have no worries or quarrel; even if we quarrel, we say sorry and move on. If you know our children they are good example for other children.
How did you get your family to come to terms on who to marry?
Wife: When we got married he was not a pastor. He just attended Bible School in the year 2004. Before we got married Nwankiti assured me that if I was not seeing any pastor as suitor, that any man I married would turn out to be a pastor. I will tell you that God is real, because a promise He made me in 1976 came to pass in 2004. So, he didn’t become a pastor to marry me.
Did you become a pastor for her?
Husband: My going to Bible School was not to fulfill her will; it was God’s calling. The first vision came from one of her co-workers. It was said that I was to resign from office work to serve Him. I pushed the message aside. The lady kept repeating the message. At that point, my place of work was becoming uncomfortable for me. My superiors were trying to implicate me. It was then I started to consider the message I had been given six months earlier. I did not until one day when I had a dream of myself standing on a pulpit opening the bible and the Lord said I should preach, that he was going to back it up. I woke up and told my wife. I started considering the message of her pastor –worker, but that didn’t make me move until one day the Lord touched me that I should resign from my office. I put in my papers and resigned. Nobody had any problem with me, I didn’t tell anybody. At this time I was only under one person, I was high up by then. I gave the letter to my boss, the Territorial Manager, who read it and kept it, only to demand my audience when others had gone. He was not happy I was leaving, but he accepted my reasons for leaving and he forwarded the letter to the Administration Manager who then sent it to the headquarters. The matter didn’t stop there, as the Administration Manager also called me. He even wanted to revoke the letter, but I was bent on my decision. At this time, I was supposed to be the next Territorial Manager according to the managers. I retired with the hope of starting a business, while praying to God for the business to grow. The following day, the reply I had was to go to a Bible School in Eleme, a place I have never been to. I drove down there, lo, and behold, they were on holiday, I was asked to return on a particular day, I did, but they have already had their entrance examination. The surprise was that the Administration Pastor was supposed to have released the list of the new intakes, but he kept procrastinating. Finally, he agreed to grant me a day to prepare and take the exam the next day, I didn’t have any choice. I took the exam, when the result was released I came second.
You wanted a pastor, but you got a civil servant. Were his attributes close to those of a pastor?
Wife: My God is not a liar, he keeps to His promise. Whatever we want we can only trust in Him for it. He has promised me a good marriage, even if at that time, my husband was not the person I wanted, but he was the right person. Before I married my husband, I had the opportunity to marry doctors or wealthy men, but I rejected them, because I wanted to work for God. Today as I told you, we have a ministry that is working, had it been that his path was different from my own, we would not have achieved the height we have today.
How was the first five years of the marriage?
Wife: It was a time we were hoping on God for intervention. We were managing the small ones we had. We lived as a married couple in his father’s house in the village. We didn’t have anything, but love and our agreement on things and we prayed for God to do His part. But now we have all those things that we have been praying for.
While you lived in his father’s house, were there cases of family interference?
Husband: While she was a trained teacher in my village, I was away working as a civil servant. She stayed only one year with my parents in the village while I was still in Port-Harcourt. Then she moved to Lagos, and we became independent of our parents.
So, how did you cope with the first years of the marriage and the children?
Husband: We started having children in the first year of our marriage. Though I was not there when she was delivered of her first child, I was glad because she was beloved by my parents. This completed their happiness. The first was that they were happy I left her with them and that it was in their presence that their first grandchild was delivered. The addition was that because she was also beloved by the pupils, they would always run errands for her at home. This increased my mother’s ego in the community.
I was in Lagos. It was a day of joy for me, as I jokingly mocked my peers. After this, I headed straight to the East. I was happy because we didn’t stage any prayer meeting before she conceived and delivered. I first applied for casual leave and took my annual leave afterwards. It was a joyful moment for me. We were (both) the first children of our parents and being the first to give them grandchild, they loved us and showed us love. Can you see the all-round-love we enjoyed? It was a great day. Then I was working in Nigeria External Communications. I told my bosses that the holiday was not enough to spend with my family.
Did you wish he was around when you had the child?
Wife: I wish he was around, but the Lord gave me parents- in -law that loved me. They made sure I did not miss the absence of my husband. All my husband would have done, they did and more. My father –in- law would go to the market in the morning to get all I would need for the day. All the food I ate was fresh. Because of me, my father –in- law repented at the age of 80. They did it because of the love they have for me. I knew that when he gets the news, he would not waste time to come home and that was exactly what happened.
When you started having children, did you shift the attention to them?
Wife: He would be the one to answer that, as for me I didn’t, but I would not know.
Husband: She gave the children their attention and I have mine. Though my daughters came first, I didn’t love them more than their mother. I knew my wife first, it was through her that I have them. So, I can’t leave her. I gave her what was due to her and the love that was due to my daughters I gave to them too, we have a good family. We always make decisions on the girls together; the clothes and the type of woman they ought to be. My job was to make sure that they have the money. Even if it required going to Aba, I would drive them down and they would do the shopping.
What has been your best moment in the marriage?
Wife: It was when he clocked 70, not even when we wedded. When I looked at him that day, I was in a trance, what man he turned to be, compared with how we started and what we went through. During the early stage of the marriage, we struggled to pay the children’s school fees. It got to a stage he had to use the car for commercial runs to raise the school fees, and the house rents, but on his 70th birthday, the children presented us with a car. I was surprised that we had a house to ourselves. I was rejoicing for the health and the host of ministers who stood guard for us to pass. I was looking at the crowd that came. I am happy that I was alive to see that day, I knew on that day that the Lord has kept his promise to me. On that day, I walked on a white rug to the altar, walking in pride of the promise of God. As we walk, they welcomed us with good music. In my heart, I was thinking that if God decided to come at the moment, we would make heaven. The joy in my heart was full. I really had the belief that if God had come on April 16, we would make heaven.
Does she still have that voice that attracted you?
Husband: I hear it almost on daily basis. Each time we are having our morning devotion, if she had not come up, I don’t feel whole. I feel a part of me is missing. I do not consider the number complete. When she comes out and join in the chorus it gladdens my heart. When I raise chorus, her voice would blend it.
How do you say sorry to her?
Husband: The Bible says that one should not allow anger to go on till sunset. So, when I get her angry and I see that the sun is about to set, I look for her to say sorry. If it is something that I know is totally my fault, I go to the market to get her favourite condiment. Before we came to this state, I had small cash with me, I called our driver and told him to take me to the market, I got her condiments and she was happy. It even blended with the food she was preparing on that day.
What is your advice for young couples and singles?
Wife: I would advise them that they should know God. The guiding principles in marriage are love, patience and endurance. There was a time my co-workers went for training in Lagos and they met my husband, they tried to lure him, but he didn’t look at them. They then reported that he was a loving husband. They confessed that they tried to seduce him, but he didn’t respond because he was always on call with me. Those who didn’t know me in the office heard the story and they respected me for it.