When, years ago, Mr. Mordecai Sunday Ibrahim, today pastor, publisher and chieftain of Southern Kaduna People’s Union (SOKAPU) proposed marriage to Martha, now his wife, she reportedly resented him and began to dodge him. But with time, the Spirit of God revealed to her that he was the right man for her. In this interview with NOAH EBIJE, in Kaduna, the couple shared how that truth has continued to bind their union and to bond them together 30 years after their wedding. Excerpts:
While we thank God for keeping you together as husband and wife, all these years, could you tell us how you met before two of you got married?
Husband: My wife is the daughter of my former pastor. She was schooling in Katsina while living with her uncle in Kano. We met when she came visiting her parents who were resident in the church premises. Her immediate younger brother, David, happened to be my close friend. One day, he and I were seated in a corner of the church compound and discussing when she greeted us and walked past. She walked towards the pastor’s house. That was the first day and time I would set my eyes on her. As she greeted us and passed, a voice sounded in me that she is my wife. I tried to dismiss it because then I was in a relationship, although I honestly could not describe it as a serious one. This is because the girl I was dating had two other young men in her life. To cut short the long story, I later made my feelings known to Martha. Today, we have been married for three decades.
Madam, was it the same thing with you, or are there details you would like to add, at least on your own part?
Wife: I never thought that I would be married to him. Of course, I first met and knew him as my brother’s friend. They were friends before I returned to Kaduna from Kano. Because of that, they were always together. But to me, he was not more than our choir director or choirmaster. When he expressed his interest to marry me I never welcomed it. In fact, I started withdrawing from him. I told him that I would need time to pray about his proposal but my intention was to send him away. But I discovered that he was okay with my answer. But when I later discovered that he had told some brethren about it, I called off the relationship. Luckily for me, my father who was pastoring the church in their area, Kakuri, was later transferred to Narayi branch of the Assemblies of God Church. I was happy that at least, that we were no longer close. But when I was ready to get married and started praying for God’s leading on who should be my husband, it was then that it became clear to me that he was going to be the one. Each time I asked the Lord about it, his name would come up in my mind. And, each time it did, I would stop praying about the matter. This happened three times. God clearly told me that if I wanted to do His will, I would have to marry him. I told God my fears about him and He said, “I know.” I remember that one night I cried aloud so much that my father heard and came to my room to comfort me. Eventually I decided to submit to God’s will. After leaving Kakuri Church on transfer with my father, we did not meet again because I was always dodging him. But that night, I prayed like Gideon did, asking God to bring him back. I said if he was His will for me, please give me peace whenever I see him and that was what happened. I then told him, yes and we began to make preparations for our wedding.
Was there any opposition from anywhere, relatives, friends, concerning your marriage?
Husband: Oh certainly. I am going to give you some details because of youths, your readers, who may be passing through this kind of challenge or shall pass through it later in life. I believe my testimony will be of great help and serve as a guide to them on how to handle similar situation. I had tremendous opposition from my mother and her sisters – my aunties. My aunties were not in support and succeeded in winning my mother to their side who had earlier consented to my marriage proposal to my wife. Through my mother, they captured my father. He too withdrew his consent and support. But prayerfully and with wisdom I sat my father down and asked why he did a U-turn. He said it was because my mother and her sisters were not in support of our relationship. But the Lord however, gave me wisdom to sit first my father down and later my mother, of blessed memory, to ask them some soul-searching questions, as to who chose their spouse for them and whether their parents opposed them. Each of them told me that they made their own decisions to marry independent of coercion. When they answered so, I politely, respectfully and humbly asked them that if they were allowed to choose their spouse, why were they then trying to oppose and dissuade me from marrying the woman I had chosen? My father was just a churchgoer, his knowledge of God’s word was almost zero. My mother was a genuinely born again Christian, but her understanding of scriptures in the manner God was leading me was not the same. So, I had to prayerfully and patiently handle the matter until such a time they saw reason with me. I was not rude, insolent or stubborn to my parents because I needed their blessing, which I could not do without.
How did their refusal affect your marriage or wedding plans?
Husband: In fact, their earlier refusal caused us some delay. It caused us to slow down and to postpone the wedding until the time we got their consent. Let me quickly add here that when I got my father and mother’s consents, my aunties were still not in agreement with my plans to marry. However, since I had my father and mother’s consents and I also had the peace of God in my heart to proceed, I went ahead to plan for the wedding. I thank God that I heeded His voice and married my wife. I truly cannot tell what life would have been like for me if I had gone for another woman. God gives us His best but the choice to take or reject is ours and the consequence of rejecting is equally ours. Marriage is a delicate institution and relationship. It is not good to rush into it without God’s leading. For believers in Christ, it is the reason for many divorces we are witnessing today. If God is allowed to arrange and lead, His grace will sustain the couple and help them to weather the storms that may rage because heavy storms must rage. You are two different people with two parental values and training coming to live together. The differences in you will manifest with time.
Wife: There were oppositions here and there from my relatives, friends and some Kakuri Church members. But since I was convinced that God was leading me into the marriage, I resorted to prayer and was quiet, no matter what people said to my hearing. Thanks to God, the wedding eventually took place.
What made you decide to go for your spouse out of the many ladies or men available for a pick within that period?
Husband: I started praying for a life-partner long before I was ready for marriage. I was a student of Don Odunze’s marriage teachings. I read many of his books and attended his marriage seminars. Then, I lived in Enugu. Those books and seminars taught me what to look out for in the woman I want to marry. The first and principal thing, he said, is that she must be truly born again and loves God. Those teachings helped to build and prepare me. Again as a member of the Assemblies of God Church, 31, Nanka Street, New Haven, Enugu, Rev. Michael Ibekwe who was my pastor also taught us in the Christ Ambassadors (a group comprised mainly of young unmarried adults and a few married elders) many things about marriage including how to be the husband after God’s heart. He always stressed the need to be prayerful and to always listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. One thing I knew was that I was persuaded by the Lord to marry her. Don’t forget that it was on the first day I saw her that I got the message from the Lord saying that, ‘this is your wife.’ Since God was involved, loving her was not a problem. Today, I do not regret obeying Him because our love for each other is daily increasing.
Wife: I married my husband because I heard from God and there was peace about the decision.
What qualities made you choose him above other eligible bachelors or suitors within that period?
Wife: I love singing in the choir and he was a good choirmaster and a child of God.
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: I recall that raising funds for the wedding was very tough because there was no help from my aunties who were against the wedding. The good thing is that because God was involved; He showed himself mighty on my behalf. One week to the wedding, I had not finished paying the bride price not to talk of the suits I would wear or the wedding gowns and many other things. And the wedding cards had already been distributed. But God came strong for us. He raised one man, Chief (Dr.) Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, whom I just called to tell that my wedding was coming the following weekend while apologizing for telling him very late. And that was when the financial miracle came. He invited me over to Owerri from Kaduna and gave me what he called his contribution, which turned out to be a huge sponsorship funding. It took full care of our wedding expenses beyond our expectations. I completed the bride price, paid for a cow, trucks of minerals, goats and chickens, paid for all the bridesmaids’ clothes, best men and many other things. God knows how to sufficiently handle our lacks and short supplies. I can tell you confidently that because the Lord was the architect of our relationship, He ensured that all we needed was supplied thereby demolishing lack and the embarrassment that was staring me in the face.
Wife: Preparing for the wedding was a challenge as my husband was having issues raising money. But because I had already made up my mind that there was no going back, I began to pray for him to be able to complete the payment of the bride price and other traditional requirements. As for the wedding gown, a sister who wedded two weeks earlier called me and said: ‘here is my wedding gown if you don’t mind’. Another friend in my office also gave me her gown to use. They were all willing and ready to help. That was how we saw God move on our behalf.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding in marriage and how did you handle it?
Husband: It was when my aunt visited in my absence. My wife cooked cocoyam for her and fried palm oil which, first, was the fastest thing she could provide and second, it was our local (traditional) meal. My aunt was angry because my wife did not serve her egg sauce along with the cocoyam. She was offended and sharply rebuked her. On my return, my wife told me what happened and I asked why she did not serve her egg sauce since that would have solved the problem. She was sad and accused me of supporting my mother’s sister. I asked her whether she would have served her mother or aunt just fried palm oil instead of egg sauce especially when she knew my aunt would need egg sauce. With my explanation on the need to work towards winning their hearts she reasoned with me and that was the end of the matter.
What do you like most about your spouse?
Husband: Love for God, His word and the things of God
Wife: He loves God, his family and he also loves my brothers and sisters.
What advice do you have for a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Husband: He must cultivate the attitude of listening to God and wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. He must be a man. Boys don’t marry because they cannot make good husbands. He must have a godly business or work he is doing, no matter how little, that earns him some money to take care of himself and his wife-to-be. If you don’t possess these qualities, you are not ready for marriage because you are still a boy.
What advice do you have for a spinster who intends to marry?
Wife: First, be a child of God and God will give you His child for a husband. Pray for God’s grace to see, hear, know and be willing to say yes to Him at the end. Prepare yourself to be a good wife by allowing the Word of God to build you up. Be willing and ready to surrender to His Word as the final authority in your life. Determine to build your own home.
In the light of rampant divorce cases these days, from your own personal experiences, what pieces of advice would you want to give newly married couples on how to make their marriage last as long as your own has lasted?
Husband: They must be submissive to God and His Word. If His Word is made the regulator of a man or woman’s lifestyle, there is no crisis that cannot be resolved. Truth be told, neither the husband nor the wife is an angel. Therefore, misunderstanding and offences must come. But when these show forth, it is the Word of God sufficiently taken in and hidden in their lives that will help them overcome whatever is the reason for wanting a divorce. The Word of God will help to grow love and understanding in their lives and love will help them to be willing to forgive each other of any offence.