Rev. Dr. Samuel Joshua Udofia, National President Emeritus of the Lutheran Church of Nigeria (LCN), and his wife, Deaconess Mfon Samuel Udofia, have been married for 42 years. The couple celebrated in February this year, their 42nd anniversary which has produced 20 children and grandchildren. In this interview with JOE EFFIONG, the couple reveals why their union is getting better as each day goes by.
How did you meet?
Husband: We are from the same village – Afia Nsit No.1 in Nsit Ibom Local Government Area of Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria. Our parents and us belonged to the same place of worship in our village, the Lutheran Church of Nigeria Inc.
Wife: We grew up in the same village and we were worshippers in the same Lutheran congregation in Afia Nsit I. We went to separate Lutheran institutions, both at the Headquarters of the LCN. We knew each other by name right from when we were not of marriageable age.
Was there any opposition from anywhere, from friends, relatives, etc. concerning your marriage?
Husband: From my side, I had no opposition. No, not one.
Wife: Few of my relatives whispered their objections to me. They objected to my taking a husband from my own village. A few family friends who learned of the moves also raised objections to my parents. They based their reasoning on the fact that church pastors were generally poor. They would support my parents to give their daughter in marriage to someone whose profession would be lucrative, not to a church pastor.
What made you to go for your partner out of so many others available?
Husband: I was motivated by the existing cordial relationship between my family and hers. I was attracted to her since I was convinced about her family background and Christian upbringing. On the inside, we shared the same confessional creeds and on the physical looks, she met my desire for a light-complexioned lady, well-mature and opened to more education. Among others available, she stood out as the answer to my prayers.
Wife: What made me go for Samuel as my husband amid other suitors were my knowledge that he is a God-fearing person, and the encouragement from my dear parents to accept him as against others who also made approaches. Moreover, I developed a strong conviction that God has presented this young man to be my husband.
How did you propose to her, and why do you think she accepted your proposal?
Husband: In those days, marriages were not arranged by the man and the woman themselves: the consent of the two families was paramount. The underlying concept was that two families work together to produce a third family. So, in my case, a senior member of my family made an official approach to her parents. In that meeting, the official proposal from their son (Samuel) to their daughter (Mfon) was delivered. Her parents asked for time and reconvened after some months to respond to the request. Agreement by both families was the approval for engagement of the two. When both of us met, I said to her: “My parents and your parents got married and are living together. We came into this world through that arrangement. As your parents must have told you, I want to get a wife. I choose you to be my own. Would you accept me for marriage?’ She did not give me an answer immediately. In our subsequent meetings, she told me how she has been praying over my pledge to marry her. She obliged and on that eventful moment, I gave her the engagement ring which had been with me, ready for the right time. She was glad to get it and we prayed together.
Wife: When the marriage proposal was brought to my parents and from them to me, I took to prayers. My parents encouraged me while some other people discouraged me. That made me to pray a lot. God placed it in my heart to accept Samuel. The day he got my affirmative response, he gave me a beautiful ring. I said to him; “Now that you brought me this diamond stone ring, I accept this with my whole heart. Thank you.”
What do you remember most about your wedding?
Husband: I remember many things but let me name the two that impressed me the most. First, our two wedding ceremonies drew large crowds from the Lutheran Church denomination and the society at large. We had the traditional marriage ceremony and the church wedding ceremony about one month apart. Second, I remember also the exchange of traditional marital gifts done according to our laws and customs by both families. On the wedding day, we exchanged marital vows before the altar and in the presence of that mammoth crowd.
Wife: I remember mostly that, that was my first time of being surrounded by a huge crowd of people. They showered us with numerous gifts. Some of those gift items have been valuable all these years and we still use them in our home. The other thing I cherish most, as I look back to our wedding over four decades ago, is the wedding sermon. Rt Rev. Okon A. U. Idiong (now late) spoke from John 2 verses 1-11. His theme was a prayer, “That Wine Shall Never Run Dry In Your Marital Life.” Wonderful homily from that National President of The Lutheran Church at that time.
Could you remember your first misunderstanding and how you handled it?
Husband: I can’t remember. We are over 40 years in our togetherness and we do not keep record of wrongs.
Wife: I cannot remember. One thing I remember is that we love each other and still do so.
What is your favourite food?
Husband: Vegetable salad with rice and fish.
Wife: I go for pounded yam and white soup. Aside from that, I also prefer vegetable salad with rice and chicken.
What do you like most about your spouse?
Husband: She has a God-fearing personality and a motherly lifestyle, which adorns our family union. She is certainly a gift from God to me and to our family. She is an amiable lady.
Wife: He is always showing sincere love at all times. He is a good listener, never tired of pursuing the path of peace, justice and understanding. He is a true minister of God within and outside our family.
What areas would you like to see improvement in your spouse?
Husband: We have tried the best we can to dwell in the word of God. Husband loves and honours wife and wife loves and honours her husband. Under this spiritual principle, when we notice an area that requires improving, from either or both of us, we go to the Holy Scriptures for counselling and guidance. We do not put up an attitude that says, “I am better than you”. As such, this question you asked me is not applicable.
Wife: There is none. We are okay. The word of God is guiding us.
What advice do you have for a young bachelor who intends to marry?
Husband: Look for a God-fearing Christian young woman. Do not act like the butterfly, visiting all the flowers and not taking anyone with you.
What advice do you have for spinsters who intends to marry?
Wife: Marriage has a spiritual aspect also. As you meet a man who wants you to be his life partner, pray over it very sincerely, and listen to God’s promptings. Pay close attention to your spiritual advisers. Love is paramount in the whole matter of marriage. Therefore, let your choice be guarded by your readiness to love and cherish the person who asks for your hand in marriage.
In light of rampant divorce cases these days, from your own personal experiences, what piece of advice would you want to give to the newly married?
Husband: The newly married must know full well that marriage is not a contract you sign in and can sign out any time. No! You commit yourselves to each other for as long as you both shall live. Marriage results in bearing and rearing children. That is a long-time project that demands father and mother to do a team work for many years until death separates them, as the Bible teaches.
Wife: The loving, joyful and peaceful co-existence by the couple is the legacy they will hand over to their children. In the face of disagreements, anger, misunderstanding etc. your motto, as wife and husband remains: “My partner is a gift to me from the Creator”. I value him/her as I value my own life. Keep communication channels open all the time and that dispels mistrust, that archenemy of marriage and family. Strive to see that the life you live together is of benefit to people around you. It pays not to be an island in this world which has become a global village.