According to her, for a marriage to be successful and the home sustained, the commitment of the couple and sacrifice, especially by the woman is required. Pastor (Mrs) Elizabeth Abiodun Afolabi, wife of Bishop Mike Afolabi, Founder, House of Grace Christian Center, Akobo, Ibadan, in this interview by TOLUWANI OLAMITOKE, speaks on her activities and marriage.
Did you become a pastor by the virtue of your husband’s calling or you also received a calling?
I received a calling before I met my husband. There had always been that nudging in me to crave after God. I believe God saw the thirst and hunger I had in me to know and serve Him He therefore brought people my way who brought me to the knowledge and revelation of Christ. I remained constant and steady in my walk with Christ till my husband came along.
Did your upbringing in any way prepare you for this role?
Not really. I come from a polygamous family. My father had three wives while we were also Catholic. What we were practising in the home then was religion which was void of intimate relationship with God.
What were you doing before you became a minister of God?
I was working as a nurse till 1990.
Some Christians rely solely on faith when they are sick, as a Christian, pastor and former nurse, what’s your take on this?
As a nurse I have been exposed to divine healing while I also pray along with patients while they take their medication. I can’t discourage someone from taking drugs or medication. It’s actually not a sin to take drugs. For a believer, the Bible says by His stripes you have been healed, made whole. If you allow yourself to understand what Christ has done, you will apply faith. It takes trust in the Lord and the scripture not minding how your body is feeling to access divine healing. The knowledge I acquired through the scripture and some Christian literature which I read when I discovered a lump in my breast kept and strengthened me for the thirteen years it was there before it disappeared. I discovered the lump even before I got married. I persevered and kept applying the word of God till I was healed. I always advise people to go medical if their faith can’t take them too far. But the fact remains that there are some sicknesses drugs can’t handle but I know that when you tarry in the presence of God and worship Him with all that is in you, you come in contact with the reality of His power which can do all things, including healing.
What has your experience been in ministry, especially as a woman?
My encounter with the word of God on a daily basis makes my day. Everyday communion with God has made the world I am today.
How old is your marriage?
It will be 30 on December 13.
What method or procedure did you employ in deciding whom to marry?
My number one prayer point was, ‘God, give me a man, a Christian that is rooted in your fear. Any other thing I desired then was secondary. I didn’t even pray he should be a Yoruba or an Igbo man.
In the body of Christ, it’s a common practice for a man who wants to propose to a lady to say, ‘thus says the Lord’ or see a vision or dream. Is it out of place for such a man to simply tell the lady, ‘I love you and will want to marry you?’
If you are deep in devotion with God, He can reveal to you whom to marry. My husband and I attended the same fellowship, Living Faith Church, (Winners Chapel) Kaduna, but we were not close. God told my husband my name. He actually told him three of my names not known to people in the fellowship. Funny enough, God had told me about him six months before he came to me but I didn’t like the idea and kept arguing with God.
Even though he appeared to be calm and gentle, I didn’t like his appearance, it just didn’t suit my taste. He loved to dress casually while I like people to dress professionally, even to church. But I later succumb to the will of God.
What guideline will you give a young man or woman seeking a marriage partner?
People should know what they want and be sincere with their lives. If the truth, that is the word of God is not in you, you will make a mistake. Again, character and conduct matter when it comes to choosing a life partner that is why dating is necessary. You need to critically look into the details of the person’s inner life to know if you can go along. When it comes to the issue of choosing a marriage partner, you open your eyes wide, love is not blind.
These days it’s common to find people dating and getting married via the social media, what’s you take on this?
It is not the proper way to get married. I don’t agree with such an idea a hundred percent although few do work out. I believe the social media is not where you can access whom you want to spend the remaining of your life with. Such can even fake his or her life. If you see and study each other, then you can discern if he or she is right for you.
Looking through the years, did you get what you bargained for in marriage?
I feel so fulfilled. I will like to add that material things is not what makes you fulfilled in marriage, but God’s goodness. God makes a difference.
You are a wife, mother and then a pastor, how do you combine all these?
I do all by God’s grace. As I earlier said, by the time I wake up early and go into the presence of God my day is made. I derive my strength from this. My countenance after being with God encourages even the children to face the day as they struggle out of bed and I stretched forth my hand to help them out of bed when they were young. Though the children are now grown ups, our family alter is still intact.
There is an increased marital crisis these days and the Christian home is not an exception, what could be wrong?
Many people don’t want to submit to the word of God. You can’t rebel against God’s dictate and expect His covenant to work for you. Every step I took towards my husband was ordered by God. Many people don’t want to make the sacrifice, especially women. A woman needs to submit to her husband. When she does this her husband will gladly carry out his responsibilities. When you learn to fix into each other’s weaknesses you will be happy. We don’t struggle to get things done in our home because are both in agreement.
Evidently, money is one of the major causes of rift in many homes, how do you ensure that this does not generate conflict in your home?
Before my husband came along, God had been dealing with me on the issue of running the same purse. I was praying and God told me a husband is the head of the family and that if I desired happiness, I should let him run the home that is spiritually and financially. I didn’t like the idea because I was responsible for my mother’s upkeep. God said when I get married, I leave home and my husband and I are one. He added that my husband and I would agree on how we would take care of my family. I kept binding the thoughts as they kept coming but God said He was the one instructing me. I then prepared my mum for this.
How practicable was this in your marriage?
My husband was out of job early in our marriage and was just carrying out small jobs. For five years I was giving him my salary. I would remove my tithe and hand over the remaining to him to disburse according to the family’s need. Whenever I needed to do something I would go to him. It wasn’t quite easy but I knew I was making a sacrifice and sowing into our future. Today, I can confidently say I have no regrets doing so while I reap happiness in our marriage day after day. Now I just discover that many things are being done in the home by my husband, including the payment of our children’s school fees. I thank God for making me to obey Him from the outset of the relationship.
Having been together for some decades, what would you like to change about him?
By now I will say nothing. But I remember early in our marriage, he would take his car key and go out. I didn’t like this. Not that I was suspecting his movement but as a spinster, I had always yearned for a husband who would be my friend and always be around me. I put the issue before God in prayers. One day as he was about leaving home, I told him I would love to go out with him. He felt good about it and said he didn’t want to bother me all this while because he felt I was busy. From that time on we would go out together, chat and discuss many things on the way. But this has gradually reduced as a result of many things seeking for my attention at home and in the ministry.
You obviously have a tight schedule, do you create time for relaxation?
I must confess I don’t know how to relax. I think I only relax when we travel out of the country and even then, I still love to go for sightseeing and do some shopping.