The union between Rev. Ephraim Ifionu of Glory Restoration Ministry (GRM) Surulere, Lagos and his wife Beatrice Ifionu, did not start with love at first sight.
They needed to pray to be convinced it is the will of God for them to marry. 34 years down the line, the couple who are blessed with five children are still waxing stronger and stronger in their love for each other.
In this interview with Daily Sun, they shared the ingredients for their long-lasting love.
How did you meet your wife?
Husband: Through prayers God led me to my wife in the church where I was an usher at the headquarters of Christian Pentecostal Mission (CPM), Lagos. On that fateful day, she just walked by and God spoke to me that she is my wife, but I wasn’t excited at first because she was not the kind of woman I had in mind. Looking at her physical appearance because she was of a smallish stature, I didn’t talk to her, at first.
After a week, the voice came again, and after one month, I went to see her because I had to follow God’s will. When I approached her and told her what God said, she asked me to go and pray. One month after, I went back, she asked me to give her more time and for six months she kept on like that. I think she just wanted to be sure. Eventually, she was convinced. Then we started praying together in the church before we got the consent of our respective parents.
Was there any objection from your families?
Husband: Yes, there was. I am the last son in my family and my parents wanted me to marry within our state while my wife is the first daughter in her family, and they found it difficult to let their first daughter marry outside their state of origin. This was a big challenge for us, but we kept praying and God convinced both parents.
Wife: Yes, of course because I am the first daughter in my family, as Ada our people would always want their first daughters to marry within the state of origin. So, my parents were not happy. My mom said it would be difficult for her to visit me when I am outside Imo State, but my aunt intervened.
I didn’t know what happened after that but I told my father I was following God’s directive to marry outside Imo State. He had no option, he just agreed with me. He prayed for me. When my father-in-law came, my father only collected N700 out of the total bride price. My parents only requested that they should take care of me.
Was there any condition(s) or demand placed on you by your husband before he married you?
Wife: Not at all. He is a Godly man and very plain. He didn’t place any condition or pressure on me.
These days, some young men would rather give a lady condition for marriage. For instance, they would demand that the ladies sleep with them. What’s your reaction?
Wife: It is unfortunate because people have left the path of God to depend on their own idea. In those days, when I was working, there was a man called Mike who wondered why and how he could buy a fruit without tasting it and demanded that he must taste the fruit before buying it.
He tormented me and made me cry every working day. One day, God arrested him and he came to my office accusing me of praying for him to go to hell. He said that he had a dream and saw himself in hell and that was why he didn’t talk to me that morning. So I took him to Deeper Life fellowship where they prayed for him and he repented.
What attracted her to you when God presented her to you?
Husband: In serving God, you submit to Him completely so, I yielded to God and said, “God, even if you give me a blind woman, I will marry her as long as she is from you.” I know there is no mistake in God, so since I needed God’s divine direction, physical attractions were secondary, even if she wasn’t as attractive as I wanted. But having accepted God’s word, He began to put those attractions in her eventually. Thank God, today we both have no regret.
When your husband approached you, he wasn’t as rich as he is now, yet you married him. Why? We ask this question because majority of our ladies today are on the lookout for wealthy men?
Wife: Actually, it is not all women that do that or look for riches before they marry their men. Some still look for men with handwork. I know some ladies who got married without minding whether or not the men had money or not. Today, they are enjoying their marriages. What matters is who gives you peace. Some are wealthy, yet no peace of mind.
Was there courtship?
Husband: Yes, but unlike what you have these days. Then, I was worshiping at CPM and they had rules of which intending couples must follow. They didn’t allow long courtship. I courted my wife for less than one year before we wedded.
How would you compare Christian courtship with what they do nowadays?
Husband: Those days, we valued spiritual things more than anything but these days, the devil has polluted the hearts of men and women. They now pursue mundane gratifications at the expense of spiritual things which matters more than the physical. So courtship was based on holiness and righteousness so that you don’t dent your marriage, unlike what we see today. That is why there is crisis in modern marriages.
Since God spoke to you and you obeyed. Do you think men nowadays allow God to speak to them before choosing their spouses?
Husband: Ninety per cent of marriages are laid on sinking sand, just like this Facebook marriages. We have seen many cases of deceptive marriages. Unfortunately, some young people have a standard. For instance, some ladies are after a man’s wealth because they are from poor families.
Some men would prefer graduates and beautiful girls, and all other preferences. Most times, you find out that they are not in tandem with God’s standards. Look at Adam. Did he make any choice? He didn’t even know God was going to give him a wife, but as he woke up he saw a woman by his side.
He accepted her for who she was as God made her for him. He didn’t look at her from head to toe or asked: where are you from? etc. But nowadays, some people place criteria for the prospective husband or wife which themselves do not possess. It is unfortunate.
Do you consider religious and cultural factors in marriage?
Husband: Yes, the Holy book says, “we should not be equally yoked with unbelievers”, So, the first criteria is to marry a born-again man or woman, one who has the same faith with you and believe what you believe. For cultural factors, it is important to carry our elders along because they have seen what you are about to see.
Their inputs are indispensable but we must remember that decades ago, our fore-fathers were not exposed to the scriptures. There are many cultural things that are not in line with the Holy scriptures today. Between the two, the scriptures supersedes the culture.
Though, till date elders investigate the cultural background of a man or woman before they take a step. For instance, the Osu caste system is still a barrier to marriages but if you a born again Christian likewise your proposed spouse, the holy words says, no Jew, no Gentile, God made them all, we are one in Christ, the only outcast in the sight of God is an unbeliever/ ungodly people. Apart from that, no other thing should stop one from marrying another, be it ethnicity or culture.
When God’s will seems to not be in tandem with your culture or family stance, what is the way forward?
Wife: God’s will comes first before your ethnic culture or family stance. A young man married a woman whom they call an outcast and because he believes in God as the woman does, both of them went ahead and got married. They are doing well and are completely happy, today.
How do you resolve issues in your marriage?
Husband: Firstly, you should be able to study your spouse strengths and weaknesses. Promote her strengths and help her in her weaknesses and you can cover up for her, that’s why both of you should complement each other. Every woman has a particular thing that she does which does not give the husband joy. Some women do not know how to greet their husbands in the morning as they wake up.
Women can be funny, and most men can’t tolerate that. Some repeatedly do certain things inadvertently that would get the man angry, but when you know her weakness, you see God’s grace to manage it. Men have their own problems too. Some of them are stingy, while others do the shopping for the family. So understanding all these things, would help both of you resolve issues quickly.
Wife: Initially, I wasn’t given to apologising easily even when I was at fault. I would like to keep malice with him. Like what happened last time, I didn’t pull off my clothes before looking for food for him. He had told me this for a long time that I should first remove my clothes when I come back from anywhere before jumping on food, but I wouldn’t listen.
He teased me and I got angry and left the room to the parlour. My children noticed my mood. I remained there till he slept off before I went back to the room. By 4am he woke me up and asked if I was still angry. I told him I don’t like how he teases my people (Owerri people) whenever I do something wrong.
This November, we will be celebrating 34 years of marriage anniversary. I asked why he should be doing that after spending these years together. He promptly apologised.
Who apologises first when there is a misunderstanding?
Husband: Anyone does but I don’t mind apologising. I do for peace to reign, though when most men are quick to apologise, they call them woman wrapper or they say such men are weak. No problem. But remember that we can’t build in the face of war. Women can be terrible.
They offend you and still expect you to apologize, you can imagine? But I do, if I don’t, all my preaching is balderdash. Charity begins at home. A third party is not allowed to come in for settlement. Whatever it takes me to make peace, I will do that. Remember, the conditions of my family affects the church, I can’t be a hypocrite. Even at this age, I enter the restroom and wash every washable and she does same too.
What has been the secret of your peaceful union in all these 34 years?
Wife: It is a God-centered marriage. The Bible says that God created the man and woman in His own image and blessed them, so if we follow His instructions on marriage and live in the fear of God, everybody will be happy in their marriage. When two people of different backgrounds come together, if they understand each other’s weaknesses and tolerate them, I think it is the secret of peaceful homes.