Bishop Mike Okonkwo is the presiding pastor of The Redeemed Evangelical Mission (TREM) and he is married to Bishop Peace.
Enjoy the Interview:
How long have you been married?
Mike: This is our 34th year. We got married in 1980.
When and where did you meet?
Mike: We met in the church, at the United Church of Christ. It was at the youth fellowship.
Mike: No, there was none. Everybody in my family loves her.
Peace: Then, he was not earning any salary and had resigned from a bank job. He had already turned a pastor when I wanted to marry him and my people were concerned and asked if he would be able to feed me and train our children. But I went with a child’s faith and it paid off.
What was the attraction?
Mike: I was a very shy person and found it difficult to speak to women. When I saw her, I fell in love but we were like cat and dog in the same youth fellowship. When the Lord laid it on me to approach her for marriage, I didn’t have the boldness and I told my sister, Rev. Mrs. Iloh, who had developed a relationship with her, to help me. Later, I told my parents and they were happy about it.
Peace: I felt he was arrogant at that time because he was driving his father’s car. Then, he came to the fellowship and would be fiddling with the car keys in his hand! But I noticed that he is a very transparent, honest and serious-minded person. He is very caring too.
How did he propose?
Peace: The sister spoke to me. He gave his sister a gift to give to me. She said to me, “My brother likes you and he wants to marry you.” I said, “Okay.” Later he told me, “I like you and I will like to marry you.” Again, I said, ‘Okay’. Then, we quarrelled a lot and anytime he said anything, I would oppose him. Not because he was not right but I felt he was proud.
In what way has marriage changed you?
Peace: I was somebody who, when she needed anything, went for it. But since I got married, he makes me calm down and that has really helped me. He also taught me to be patient with others.
Mike: Some say my face is too strong but her smiling face has covered that area. She is able to remember people’s names unlike me. That has also covered for me. My wife made me develop an interest in lawn tennis because she loves the game. During the season, we sit together to watch lawn tennis and other interesting games.
Were there times you wished he was not a pastor?
Peace: No regrets. Maybe at the beginning, but not now. Then, I wondered why he resigned from his job. But as the days went by, God kept on manifesting Himself.
As a pastor, how have you fared as a husband and father?
Mike: It is a very challenging responsibility. However, it is something that I prayerfully asked from God because I just have to function in these capacities. But what happens is that we must clearly define each role and handle them in their perspective. For instance, when I come to the church, I know that I am in the church and I play my role as a pastor. Once I get home, I know that I am married to somebody and I must pay attention to her. There are children to attend to and I also play my role as a parent. I stay with my wife in the living room; we watch football, shout and eat snacks while watching football.
Peace: He is a very loving husband, very caring and very helpful. He taught me most of the things that I know and has helped me to get this far. As a father, he plays his role very well particularly now that our child has grown. He chats with her as if she is his girlfriend.
Do you still cook for him?
Peace: I wish I have all the time to cook but engagements limit me. I have people who help. No woman passes the stage of cooking for her husband, even if she is an archbishop. There must be time for the family.
What are the challenges in your marriage?
Peace: A lot of challenges. I lost my firstborn-a girl and it looked as if the world was down. We lost my husband’s younger brother who was there for me. When I got married, he was so preoccupied with the ministry and his late brother was always there for me. There were different deaths but the Lord has stopped the hands of the devil.
Don’t you get jealous especially when some female church members flock around him?
Peace: I know him and he is a faithful husband. I don’t bother myself with that because I know he fears God. He wants to please God, so why should I be jealous? In ministry, if he does not work with women, who will he work with? Such things do not cross my mind. I do not get jealous at all.
Whenever there is a quarrel, who apologises first?
Peace: If I am at fault, I will apologise but if he is wrong, he will apologise.
Mike: The issue of quarrel was in our early days and for many years now, there has been no quarrel. God has helped us to outgrow such a thing.
So, what has kept your marriage?
Mike: Love. Also, believe in the marriage and have a desire that it is going to last according to the scriptures. You have to come to a point in your relationship where you think beyond yourself. Think in terms of the people your life has affected. It is no more about you, but about those that will be affected. Also, it is prayer and the fact that we must be a shining example.
What is the best gift that you have received from him so far?
Uncountable. He just showers me with gifts. I do not demand anything from him. Whenever he sees anything good, he just gets it and gives it to me.
She has given me a lot of gifts beyond my expectations. She just springs a surprise and you wonder how she pulled it off. She is a priceless jewel and I am greatly enjoying my marriage.
Any advice to couples?
Do not go into marriage with a hidden agenda. Don’t marry for money! I am not saying you should marry someone who would not take care of you, but prayerfully ask God: ‘Who will enable me to fulfill destiny? God should be at the centre. But some already have something in their minds and want God to endorse their desire. Once you sincerely pray to God, He will lead you to who you will marry. To the married, I say, there is no marriage without challenge. Every marriage is a learning process. There will be differences but make up your mind to reconcile and move on.
Sometimes, God brings his blessings in rags. Marry a man who loves God and he will love you too. To the married, I advise, be sincere and do not be unfaithful. Temptations will come, but once you are together and work it out, God will help.
There is a high rate of divorce now…
People should learn to suffer wrong. You should get to a point where you must look beyond yourself. Much as I agree that there are situations that are so overwhelming, at the same time, there is no situation we cannot pray out. There is need for patience and prayer.