Meet The Primate Of The Church Of Nigeria (Anglican Communion): A Special Interview With The Most Rev Henry Chukwudum Ndukuba (Part 2) By ACNN TV
How did you meet your wife and how long have you been married?
I met my wife at home. When I was being deaconed as a young man, my bishop, Bishop Ayam, told my father he should ensure that I got married, as soon as possible. My father promised to see that. After my priesthood in 1985, I was moved from St. George’s Parish to teach at St. Francis of Assisi Theological College in Wusasa.
The pressure was not as much as in the parish, where you deal with students. But when the time came, I was restless. You don’t force anybody to get married. When the time comes, the young man will be restless. He will look, pray and fast for it. As a pastor and with the sense of calling that desires to please Him, I didn’t want to mess up my life. So, I told my friends. Then in Zaria, I had a team of friends, young people that I was mentoring, and they were my prayer group. Sometimes, we moved out to have retreat and just pray. At one time we met, I told them I was going home, and one of my intentions was to look around for a wife.
So, I travelled home, and got information about this wonderful woman. By then, her brother, the retired Archbishop Benneth Okoro, was a Canon in St. Paul’s Pro Cathedral Nkwere. So, I went to visit him because we knew ourselves. I went to visit him, being my home Diocese. I asked of her and they said she was not around, that she went to Aba. I repeated the visit on September 4, 1986. As I knocked, she came and opened the door. When I saw her, it dawned on me that she was the person and we started chatting. Why I remembered the date is that it was the eve of her birthday, September 5th. I visited on September 4th and she went and cut cake and brought for me. We chatted and I told her my mission.
I was a pastor and by then I had a Volkswagen beetle, which was given to me by St. George’s Church I pastored, as a gift to support me in my ministry. As a young man I really used that beetle, it went across this country. I told her I was a poor pastor, not even one of the big ones, but I wanted to marry her. I proposed to her straight away. You know, then, if you were a born again, you had to guard it jealously. You had to guard your faith and your testimony jealously. So, I told her what I wanted. She said she was not ready to say anything. So, we gave ourselves time to pray. I returned to Zaria. I called my friends and told them that I had found my wife, and that I was going to wed on February 14. She had not given me the answer, but I felt in my spirit that that was what would happen. They said, haba! Brother Henry, why are you already fixing the date? I said: “Just go and pray. I am wedding on February 14.”
That was in September. I later took her to my parents to introduce her and left my dad to follow up by visiting the family and start the process. True to that proposal, we wedded on February 14, 1987. There’s nothing like being guided by the Lord. It’s not even the length of courtship. When God directs your paths, when God orders your steps, He takes care of whatever may be on the way. We have been married for 33 years now, and it’s like yesterday, and the Lord has blessed us with six children and five grandchildren. I just have the latest one. It’s so spectacular that, when we were elected in September, a week after, my third daughter put to bed, and after our presentation, almost about the same length of time, my first daughter put to bed and both were daughters. It’s a thing of joy and I thank God.
What is your advice to singles and young couples on the secret of lasting marriage?
As I said before, if there is anything a young man or a young woman should fast and pray, as well as cry out to God for, it’s for God to give him/her life partner, his/her soul mate. It’s best settled in the place of prayer because when you meet that person, number one, you will have peace. Number two, there is that satisfaction that this is your own; number three, you will be open and sincere to one another and there’s that element of desiring to see the other.
Nowadays, when you see a man or a woman, a young man and a young woman moving together, if care is not taken, there might be the tendency to go overboard. But if you are a child of God, guard jealously your testimony, guard jealously your salvation, whether a man or a woman, guard it jealously. Number two, love sincerely from your heart; be true. There is no need to please somebody and at the end, you make mistakes. For young couples, love is of the essence, just like truth and sincerity. I remember when my wife joined me after our marriage; I took her to our room and opened the drawer where I kept my money. How much was my salary then, even as a graduate? It was about N120. I opened the drawer and said: “This is my bank, any day you open here and find money, you know there is money. If you open this drawer and you see that there is nothing there, you know that there is no money.” That is how we lived.
Fortunately, she got work as NCE teacher at St. Bath’s School, and she was earning more than me. Her salary was about N200. So, she would bring her own and I would bring my own, we put it in that drawer. The day you opened and found money, money was there. If you opened and there was no money, you know that there was no money. There was no hide and seek. Both of us had access to it; we knew what we had. There was that openness, support and love and bearing with one another, and managing whatever we had to meet our needs. God has been faithful until today. Whatever I have is her own, what she has is mine and if there is any need, we pray about it. In fact, when it is good, it is good for both of us, when it is challenging, it is challenging for both of us.
But more importantly, there was an experience we passed through early in our marriage that God used to bind us together. Few weeks after our marriage, on March 11, 1987, our house got burnt with all our gifts, books, our property – everything we had. That was when there was this riot in the old Kaduna State, when the present Kaduna State and Katsina were one state of Kaduna. There was a crusade at Kafanchan College of Education, when somebody preached and there was trouble. The Muslims rioted and started burning churches. What started in Kafanchan went through the whole state of Kaduna. Churches, pastors’ houses, some pastors even lost their lives, everything was burnt down from March 9 to 12.
On that fateful day, we heard that they were coming, because that of Zaria started on the night of March 10, and by morning of 11th, we heard that they were coming to Wusasa. After a while, I jumped out, took my wife and my cousins, who were staying with me. We jumped into our car and ran away. We came back in the afternoon only to find that the whole house had been burnt. Rev. Jephens from CMS was the school’s Warden then, and they nearly killed him. After that, Jephens had to be repatriated back to England. We lost so much. When we came back, I hugged her and we wept.
The Lord spoke to me and said, “Henry, the life of a man does not consist of the abundance of his possession.” That was the word that comforted us and from that day till today, cars, house, books, money and whatever the material thing doesn’t matter to me – if you like, take it; if you like, burn it; if you like steal it; if you like, destroy it. That was the word that shaped our life and our attitude towards material things. It is not that we don’t have it, we have it but our life is not in it. If we have it, it is alright, if we don’t have, it’s okay.
For two weeks after that experience, we slept in the corridor of the classroom. That was how we started our married life. We slept on the floor until we had to go back. I took permission from Bishop Ayam to go and tell our parents that we were alive. After staying at home for two weeks and was about to return, they said: “Look, you want to go back and die there?” I replied that that was where my calling was, that was where the Lord had called me and He had not changed it. Around that time, there were pressures that I should leave the north and come back. But I said: “No, this is where the Lord has called me and He has not asked me to move, and I have no reason to move.”
That was the beginning of the pressure. Even after the attacks, difficulties and challenges had characterised our lives in ministry. But we prayed together as husband and wife and said wherever the Lord sent us, we would never leave the place in haste, we would leave in His due time. He would make us to go and we would move with honour and dignity, not in haste, and the Lord has been faithful.
So, I think when young couples go through experiences that may be challenging, they should lay it at the Lord’s Feet and allow Him to lead them through. Remember, if God will lead you through life, through the valley of the shadow of death, He that leads you through the valley of the shadow of death, is able to lead you out of it and to keep you. So, challenges in life, difficulties in marriage, especially as young couples, sometimes it may come, but in all those, I have seen that when you surrender to the Lord, obey and follow Him, He uses it to shape you and give you a testimony.