A teacher, preacher, author, mother and humanitarian, Reverend (Mrs) Laurie Idahosa, is a Senior Pastor of Church of God Mission, Benin City, Edo State, and the Director, Campus Life Division of Benson Idahosa University. She shares with Rita Okonoboh, the peculiarities of cross-cultural marriages, her experience waiting on the Lord for a child, how women can make positive difference in society, among other issues. Excerpts:
How would you describe your growing up years?
In my early years, my parents were involved in business; they owned their own companies. I was helping in the business up till the age of nine. When I was about nine years old, my parents went to Bible school. Thereafter, they closed down all their businesses. We were in Delaware, United States of America (USA) before we moved to Oklahoma. They sold everything and told us they were going to be full-time missionaries. So, we started off in Indonesia and we were there for several months after they finished Bible school. During that period, the Lord spoke to my father to go back to Delaware where he was from, to start a church and that through him, the Lord would raise a thousand full-time missionaries. I was about ten years old then. For most of my teenage years, I was a pastor’s kid and we did a lot of mission work as well.
What were the peculiarities of being a pastor’s child?
As a pastor’s child I felt like there was no place to hide; that I was always in the limelight and people were always watching me. I thank God for that training because that helped to prepare me for the work here in Nigeria being a white and the wife of a bishop. I think being a pastor’s daughter prepared me for being Idahosa’s wife.
How did you meet your husband?
I’ll give a shortened version. My father and his father were friends. I first came to Nigeria when I was 11 and that was before I met the Idahosas. Then I came back again when I was 13 and that was when I met FEB, my husband, for the first time. We liked each other even from that young age and stayed friends all through our high school and university years and then, eventually, he asked me to marry him, 15 years later, although we weren’t exclusively dating for those fifteen years. On September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Centre bombing took place he was on a flight to the United States and I was living in America then. His flight was rerouted to Canada, and he called me to ask if he could stay with my family for a few days while they sorted out his return to Nigeria since the programme he came for was cancelled because of the incident. I didn’t even know he was coming to the US at the time. So, he came and we spent time together. He had to stay in a hotel because my parents were out of town. That day, it was 2:00 am and we were sitting in a car in front of the hotel. In his words, he said: ‘Laurie, I think I can trust you, and I can tell you anything and that’s what I want in a wife. Why don’t I just marry you?’ And that was what started the ball rolling and we were married a year later.
Were you shocked when he asked you to marry him?
Although I wasn’t expecting it, I wasn’t shocked. I always loved FEB and always hoped that we could be together someday.
How easy was it settling down in Nigeria, especially in Edo State?
That’s a loaded question. I chose to believe that everybody was going to love me. Even when they didn’t, I chose to believe that they did. Even when people showed me, in no uncertain terms, that they weren’t happy with his decision, I just chose to believe that it was because they didn’t know me yet. Only a few people were bold enough to let it be very clear to me that that they didn’t think I was right for him. And those people are now very close friends of mine and I respect them for their boldness and courage to tell me their thoughts.
You enjoy a wonderful relationship with your mother-in-law, has it always been this smooth?
My mother-in-law is a really wonderful woman. In the beginning, I knew that I wasn’t probably the first choice for her son so I asked her about that before we got married. I asked her if she was happy with his choice, because sincerely, if mama didn’t want me, I wasn’t going to stay because the stress on me would have been too much. I asked her those questions privately, and she told me ‘Laurie, I want FEB to be happy. If FEB has chosen you, then I choose you.’ That gave me a leg to stand on, especially for people who would insinuate that I wasn’t accepted. She’s been a great mother-in-law. Also, while we were coping with the issue of infertility, she understood because she experienced it first-hand. So, she was very careful not to allow me pass through some of the challenges she faced. So, I wasn’t under pressure. She was very sensitive.
As a minister of God, what is your view on the rising cases of divorce, even among clerics?
I think a lot of it has to do with pop culture and Western influence. I’m from the West, but my influence is from the word of God and a Bible-based culture. Wherever we come from, our culture should be based on the word of God. I think one of the reasons a lot of couples break up is because there is an allowance for it. If you watch something for some time, you believe that it is normal. People watch, listen and read about these things on a daily basis and so, when people feel unhappy in their marriage, they believe there is a way out. Before, there was the belief that marriage was for life. However, nowadays, people are doing all sorts of things because they’ve been exposed to a culture that is not God’s culture. It’s sad to see marriages in Nigeria break up. When I got married fourteen years ago, they told me if I was ever going to ask for divorce, I would have to bring all my family members and all the guests that attended my wedding. Some of them are dead now. That would mean if I was going to divorce, I would have to raise people from the dead. They painted this very impossible picture for me and I believed it. My faith also tells me there’s no way out. So, it’s easier to just stay married.
Women are becoming more prominent in the ministry, with some even founding churches, sometimes to the detriment of their homes, what do you have to say to this?
I would never advise a woman to go into ministry full-time if her husband is not in support of it. It’s important for the couple to work together. I didn’t start pastoring a church until three years ago. I was pastoring in the US before I moved to Nigeria. When I got here, my husband wanted me to first adapt to the environment and I did willingly. Three years ago, he encouraged me to go into the ministry, and look for more outlets where I could minister. I believe that the man is the head of the home and that God will give me the wisdom and grace to function under his leadership
How will you advise couples waiting on God for the fruit of the womb?
I will tell a couple in this state to communicate a lot with each other. Infertility comes with emotional and physical pain and it tells on a marriage. So, communication is very important. I also advise them to take it as an extended honeymoon. God didn’t give you your children right now because there is a stronger foundation that you both need to build and there’s more love that has to be cultivated between the two of you. We had an extended honeymoon of five to six years while waiting for the fruit of the womb. During this period, I really began to understand my husband and love him better and our relationship was really wonderful, so when the kids came, they were just an addition and not a frustration. For some people who have their kids right away, it’s just hell on earth because the couple never had the chance to know themselves first. So, the couple should take it as an opportunity to know and love themselves.
What’s your favourite Nigerian meal and how easy was it adapting to the change in cuisine?
I just started changing my diet to more of that of a vegan so I’m not eating some of the stuff I used to eat. Before the change in diet, however, it was black soup. I love black soup with pounded yam.