Rev Ademola and wife, Pastor Ajoke Adebiyi of Family Life Ministry, the Great Commission Movement of Nigeria, Ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ International, Jos, have been married for more than twenty years. Before they came together as husband and wife, Ajoke was a Nigerian missionary pastor in The Gambia. In this interview with VERA WISDOM-BASSEY the couple who anchor a marriage programme that is fast becoming popular among viewers of Jos Television, every Sunday, shares the secrets behind their long-lasting marriage blessed with two children, all boys.
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How long did you stay in The Gambia?
Wife: Three years.
Husband: Surprisingly, we are both from Osun. But she wasn’t living in Nigeria as at the time we met. In fact, she was home on a three-day visit to the country, from The Gambia, as a missionary, when I ran into her.
Tell us how it all happened?
Husband: That is interesting. I was scheduled to have an interview with a missionary organization, and I went to ask a friend of mine to arrange for the transport from Enugu to Ilorin. When I got to his apartment, I met him and this lady discussing and he turned to me and said: “Meet our missionary from Gambia.” That was how I set my eyes on her for the first time. I was surprised at how somebody could give herself totally to God’s call, and a lady for that matter. Initially, there was nothing a feeling towards her. But after two months I discovered that my mind always went to her. I tried to find out about her, collected her address, wrote letters to her and for about a year, we were exchanging letters. Today, the rest is history.
What was the attraction?
Husband: The attraction was her godly character. Actually, I had other women around me that I could have married but the more I came closer to her, the more I knew that she was meant for me. The feelings that I used to have about her made me know that God ordained this marriage for two of us. It is that conviction that has sustained this marriage through thick and thin in the past forty years. We’ve had issues, challenges and all that. But it is conviction that we married according to God’s will that has continued to keep us together.
How did you propose marriage to her?
Husband: Sometime in August 1992, I got information that she would be attending a wedding of a mutual friend of ours, so I planned to go and catch her there. I started by asking her questions on matters of general interest, such as what she wanted to do then. She replied that she was waiting on the Lord on what next to do and that was the second time we would meet. I collected her house address. I visited her, located the house and left. Three days after I came back. This time around, we had extensive discussions on parents, family, politics, economies, and international relations. And, all the while I was trying to gauge her thinking, her spiritual commitment which, to me, was basic, and her plans for the future. After that, I left. I told her that I was going to Lagos to check on some friends and from there I would be going to Ilorin to resume pastoral/missionary work where I had been posted. By then there was nothing like cell phone as we have it today. Two weeks later I visited her again. She was shocked and asked me what I was looking for. I asked her if she was not happy to see me. Of course, she blushed and smiled, and we spent some time chatting. I said: “Well, I had been here thrice, won’t you come and visit me?” She promised to and we arranged when she would visit. On that day, I took her to an amusement park but unfortunately we got there to find the place locked. So I quickly thought up another plan and took her to my pastor’s house where I was staying. Looking straight into her eyes, I asked her: “will you marry me?”
Just like that?
Husband: Just like that, and she said: “Why did you ask me that question?” I said: ‘Have you not been expecting it? Or, why did you think all the while we had been meeting?’ She said in that case I needed to come and see her Pastor. I joked that she should not use Pastor to do shakara for me.
When your husband proposed, what was your reaction?
Wife: I was called into the ministry as a single lady. One of my desires then was to have one of His sons as a husband so we could do His work together. So I had been praying about that. Initially I did not say yes. So in his subsequent visits he wanted to know my answer. I later bought a card and wrote ‘Yes’ on it and gave him.
Husband: That card is still with me till date and all her letters.
Why are you still keeping them with you?
Husband: To reinforce my conviction because I want to be accountable to my commitment. Records are important, sometimes we need to go back to them so that the decision we made in the light, we don’t change it in the dark. When we are out of the track and heading the wrong way in marriage, the gifts or letters we exchanged can draw us back.
When you were finally convinced and presented the matter to your parents, how did they feel about it?
Wife: I was actually getting advanced in age and I didn’t present any man to them as my husband, because I answered God’s call as a single lady and they thought I would remain single or a celibate. So, when I presented him to my mom she was happy, and my dad was happy too.
What was their consent like?
Wife: They were concerned for two of us, because my husband was a physiotherapist and my mom was a retired nurse, and my mom thought that we should open a small clinic to generate money to feed our family. They were happy but they were concerned that as missionaries where would we get money to sustain a family, because we were doing God’s work. But this is our 32 years of doing God’s work together, and we never lacked, and today my parents have come to respect that when God calls, He provides.
You mean your biological parents?
Wife: Yes, my mother is 85 years, my two parents are still alive but my husband is an orphan.
How do you handle differences?
Husband: For us, there are no-go areas. Being imperfect, I expect her to have patience with me when I make mistakes. I deal with her also with grace and patience. Marriage is give-and-take; we keep wobbling till we get there.
Between two of you, who apologises first?
Wife: Initially, when the marriage was young, when my husband wanted to show remorse for the wrong he did, he would go and buy something that is not available in the house and keep it where I would see it. He never said, “I am sorry”, so with that I knew he was saying sorry Husband: Whenever I was wrong, instead of rationalizing and doing all kinds of things, I would admit that I am wrong.
In the light of your busy schedules as pastors, how do you train your children?
Wife: Our organization teaches us that husband and wife must have an agreement so that when one is on the go, the other would be around for the children. Usually, the woman would be with the children, so in their formative years, I was with the children because my husband was not around. God gave us two boys. If I had to travel my husband would be at home and if he had to travel I would be at home. The mission field starts from home. There were some principles we imbibed before the children came that made us prioritise.
Who do the children fear most between you?
Husband: We take their training seriously, everyday we pray with them. By 8:00 p.m. every day, everybody must be home for the family prayer. We draw a lot of spiritual strength from it. We have also taught them about reading the Bible. Today, our first child is 23, while the second is 15. We do remind them of their Bible reading, and the principles of life – how to become useful to themselves, and to represent the family well. We do tell them to remember the son of whom they are. There was a great crisis my son had some years ago, and he said one of the things that kept him going then was the words being spoken to him everyday by his mother which says, “Remember the son of whom you are.” So we make ourselves available. Although she does the school runs, I try as much as I can to make myself available for the children.
What advice would you like to give to new couples on how to manage their homes?
Wife: I would want couples to recognize that marriage is God’s idea and also a gift from Him. Therefore, they should see each other as a gift from God. The Bible is the manual for life and marriage. It is like any manual attached to a gadget. To make our marriages work, we need to be close to the word of God, to apply it in our homes. Practical application of it matters.
Husband: They should understand that marriage is ordained by God. Marriage institution is not man’s ordination but God’s institution. When we get married, we should know that a day is coming when we shall give account of our lives. Again, we don’t become anything significant in life without discipline, hard work and training. All professionals do training every day. So, good marriage needs everyday training. Good marriage does not just happen like an accident.
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