What can you do today with N127? Go on; admit it! Nothing much! But that was the amount that Pastor John Oluwadare, General Superintendent, Christ Redemption Bible Church Worldwide, with headquarters in Ikosi, Ketu, Lagos, and his perceptive wife, Pastor Martha, started life with, after their wedding, 36 years ago.
But today, the story has changed. The couple’s story isn’t to make single ladies sign up blindly with men who they know cannot take care of themselves, much less their families. It is to make them fix their gaze on the other side of the ‘caution-instinct’: the morning does not always tell what the end of the day will be. Are you in a relationship, right now, and which you hope will end up at the altar soon or later? Bring with you a great deal of faith because sometimes a bad beginning can make a good ending. In this interview with VIVIAN ONYEBUKWA, the couple shares their sweet story as well as their advice for young and intending couples, drawing from their wealth of experience in marriage and ministry.
How did your marriage start?
Prophet John: I would say my father found and married her for me. That was 36 years ago. But today I have no cause to regret marrying her. My father was a man of prayer. He was an evangelist and loved prayer very much. He prayed and the Lord showed him the woman his son would marry. He said he took two names to God in prayer. According to him, the Lord told him that although the first woman would have plenty children, I might not live long with her. For my wife, He told him she would have four boys but she would almost lose her life before the fourth boy would come. Truly, that was what happened. The first three were delivered normally. But the fourth was through caesarian section (CS). And my wife nearly lost her life. But thank God, she is alive today and the child is alive too. In fact, he got married in March this year in the United States of America.
Your father told you that this is the woman you were going to marry, and you just accepted?
Prophet John: Yes, because he is someone that I love and respect. I resemble him. He is a godly man. Actually, I rejected it initially and told him that I was not interested.
Prophet John: The reason was that I did not want it to look as if we pre-planned it because we were in the choir and belonged to the same Sunday School class. What happened was what we were having a religious crusade. But I could not attend because of the nature of my work. I was working in the oil industry then. I used to close late from work. That day, I was returning from work when I saw her and my father. When I queried him, he said I should keep quiet and leave whatever was happening to him. When eventually I learnt details of what transpired between them, I went to their house to tell my wife not to listen to my dad. I told her that I didn’t send him to her. She said there was nothing to worry about. But, afterward, I found myself back to their house to talk about marriage long after I had said I was not interested.
When his father told you about marriage, how did you react?
Pastor Martha: I stayed away from their house. What happened that day was that we had a religious crusade somewhere in town. After closing, we decided to check on those who did not attend. In his own case, he could not come because of the nature of his job. But on that day, I went in the company of other church members. I was the choir secretary while my husband was the choir leader. Whenever he was not in the church for any programme, I was the one that always deputised for him. That particular evening, after the crusade, we all went to his house to find out why he did not come. But it turned out that he had not come back from work by the time we arrived. To keep us busy, Baba (his father) regaled us with stories. But, at some point, some of the people that I came with started leaving one-by-one. After waiting without seeing him, I too got up to go. But Baba insisted on seeing me off. That was the time he was referring to about seeing two of us together. He told me he wanted me to marry one of his children. As I was not sure which of them he meant, I told him that I would pray about it. At that time, I was doing my industrial training (IT). All I wanted was to go for my Higher National Diploma (HND), after that, complete my degree course and go for National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), get a job before thinking about a husband.
So, how did you later come to be married to him?
Pastor Martha: After Baba told me of his intention to have me marry one of his sons, and I told him that I was going to pray about it, my husband came to our house to say that he did not send his father and that I should not tell anyone about it. I told him that I was not a kid so there was no problem. But before Baba told me , I already had some revelations in which two of us got married. But I kept them in my heart. Initially, I fasted and prayed for seven days against it, thinking that it was from the devil. Like he said, we belonged to the church choir and the same Sunday School class. I didn’t want people to start gossiping about us, saying that we might have been seeing each other secretly. But later, the Spirit of God made me understand that the revelation was from Him. Not too sure, I had to take it to the Lord in prayer again. I did three days marathon fast. I told God that if he was the man He wants me to marry, let Him give me back the revelation like He did previously. After the three days fasting, God gave me the revelation again and I held on to it. I also told God that if he was the one, he should come back and tell me by himself the same way he came to refute what his father told me. That was what happened. So when he proposed, I agreed. Immediately, they contacted my father who was a Muslim, and he agreed.
Was there any opposition from any quarters?
Pastor Martha: Yes, the first opposition came from our evangelist, the one in charge of the Christian assembly we attended at that time. My father-in-law took it upon himself to tell him about our marriage, and he was very furious. He said we did not inform him earlier, and that he had another plan for me. His wife said they had spoken to another man concerning me. But when they sent for me, I told them that they never told me anything, that I had already given my consent to this one and there was no going back. He persecuted me for that and took from me every post that I held in the church. But I did not take it as a personal offence. As a child of God coming from a Muslim background, I had already made up my mind to serve God. So I did not look back. There was also opposition from my mother-in-law. I come from Ijebu in Ogun State, and she had a kind of negative perception about the Ijebus. But I told her that I am different, that all Ijebus are not bad. I also told her that all tribes have their peculiar problems. Later, she accepted me. When we were planning for the wedding, my sister who brought me up also resisted it somehow. But later, she supported it and everything went well.
What was her reason?
Pastor Martha: She said she did not have money to support the wedding and because of that she was not ready for any expenses at that time. But later she contributed and participated fully.
What has kept this marriage going?
Prophet John: Trust. We don’t have a reason to doubt each other. Since I married my wife, she had never queried me over who I was chatting with. This is one of the issues that cause problems in some homes today. Suspicion. Again, food can’t bring problem between us. There are times she would be busy and would not be able to prepare food on time. We settled that when she was working with West African Portland Cement as an Admin Manager, and I was working with Ashaka Cement as the Head of Procurement. That was before we were called into the ministry. These are some of the things that cause problems in marriage. ‘You came back late’. ‘You didn’t prepare my food on time’, and all that. And, because of that, husband and wife would begin to quarrel. No. I think we have enjoyed the mercy of God so far.
Pastor Martha: God brought us together. This is the kind of marriage I prayed for, right from my childhood days. Like any other young couple, we had our challenges, but, to God be the glory, we were able to surmount them. Separation or divorce was not on the cards. Those were never in our thoughts at all.
How do you usually handle things when there is a misunderstanding?
Pastor Martha: I am always the first to say sorry whether he is right or not, because Proverbs 14:1 says every wise woman builds her own home. But the foolish brings down the roof on themselves and their families. I don’t want to be the foolish type. So, I have to apply wisdom. So whether my husband is right or wrong, I always ask for forgiveness from him. Again, I am somebody that does not like to keep grudges because I don’t know when Jesus will come or when I will die. So I don’t allow matters to drag on without settling them that day they happened. I don’t sleep over them.
Prophet John: She is a no-nonsense woman; not because she likes keeping malice, but she can flare up at any time. I have known her for that. So what I often do is that if I respond, after sometime I would keep quiet. After a while, you would see her calming down. But she is always ready to say sorry. But me, I don’t know how to say sorry.
How much trust do you have in your husband as a man of God?
Pastor Martha: Though the Bible says trust no man, I have absolute trust in my husband because I know him to be a real child of God. Don’t misunderstand me; nobody is immune from Satan’s temptation. At the beginning of this ministry, I saw some cases of women who wanted to come into the family. On one occasion, he was counselling when a woman tried to seduce him. At that time, we shared the same office. What happened was, after the church service of that day, I felt like resting, so I was taking a nap and did not see when the lady walked in. But in a flash I remembered that there was someone I had an appointment with and stood up and quickly rushed out. As I did so, the lady followed me. But my husband sent for me to come back. I was wondering what for. On getting back, he told me how the lady wanted to seduce him. He said he was trying to signal to me not to go yet until the lady had gone. He told me that the woman who claimed to have come for counselling was busy using her leg to tap his, an attempt to start a secret affair. My husband does not hide things from me. In another case, a woman who claimed to be blind, and on whom I had some pity because of her condition also tried to seduce my husband. In her own case, she opened her mouth and expressly told him that she loved him.
But if a woman comes to say that your husband has a child for her, what will you do?
Pastor Martha: I will not believe it. Thank God, we live in an era of technology. I will ask her to go for a DNA test.
Any regrets in this marriage?
Prophet John: No. There is nothing to regret.
You mean you have never thought of walking out of this marriage for one day?
Prophet John: To where? By the virtue of my calling, that cannot happen. What legacy will I be leaving for my children and for others? What am I preaching? What do I want people to see in me that will make them look up to me as their mentor? Rather than that happening, I would prefer that God take me home to go and rest. Our properties and bank accounts are all jointly owned. So, where I would be walking out to?
What is your advice for young and intending couples?
Prophet John: To be patient, especially the sisters. I discovered that today’s ladies are not ready to marry someone that has no money or car. Today’s men are also greedy, always looking for daughters of wealthy men. Is that life? My wife married me when I had nothing. I was living in one room and parlour. There was no chair in my sitting room. The television that I had then was loaned to me by my uncle. Immediately after our wedding, he was on my neck to return the television. The bed that was in my bedroom and the cupboard were given to me by my dad. The car that we used for our wedding, a Volkswagen, was lent to us by my uncle who lived in Canada. During our courtship and after our wedding, my wife said to me, “Never you promise me anything you know you can’t afford. Do whatever you know you can do”. That was like taking a burden off my neck. I was earning N127.67 kobo. So when we reached home, I just brought my pay slip and showed it to her. She said: “This is good; we can plan our future with this”. And that’s where we are today. I thank God. We may not be rich, but today anything money can purchase, we can buy it. I have bought her cars as birthday gifts. Not once, nor twice. This is God. If you are a lady, before you go into any marriage, ask to know the will of God. Don’t depend only on your pastor or prophet to pray for you. You too can pray and hear directly from God. Finally, couples should learn to trust each other. That your wife is busy on the phone does not mean that she is talking to her boyfriend. The same thing applies to the wife. So, remove suspicion from your relationship. Be patient because no marriage is perfect.
Pastor Martha: Young couples should learn to live a godly life. The second piece of advice is tolerance. Couples should learn to tolerate some things from each other. To women, your husband is your head, no matter what. So you have to submit. There are rules and regulations that guide marriage. The problem today is that a lot of people don’t want to adhere to them. If you do, you will discover that marriage is good.