By Gbenga Osinaike
Ever attended a conference where over one hundred couples are gathered for three days? That was a reality recently at the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. It’s been a yearly reality for Grace Family Enrichment Foundation.
Every year; since 2005 Johnson Olaniyan, who runs the marriage ministry has been at the vanguard of uniting couples through a yearly summit.
Olaniyan who is also the General Overseer, Grace Baptist (Pentecostal) Church, informed that the summit “started with a dinner in our local church. We felt there was a need to bring couples together and interact on teething issues. We were doing that for about two years and we discovered that many couples were being blessed through the interaction. We then moved to make it a retreat. The retreat is such that couples are encouraged to come apart for three days and share experiences and also hear life transforming messages.”
That was how the couples’ dinner became a yearly retreat which attracts couples from all over the country. For the past five years the event has been held at the Redemption Camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God with top marriage counselors always in attendance. The beauty of this retreat is that it comes at virtually no cost to participants. And yet, they are well fed throughout the programme and also enjoy good accommodation apart from being blessed spiritually.
This year’s edition came with a bang. It is the tenth of its kind and it brought to bear features that left many of the couples in attendance with a divine touch. Two couples: Revd and Mrs. Alli and Pastor and Mrs. Tayo and Biodun Sosanya were on hand to lead strategic sessions that helped to enliven the summit. Also at the event was Pastor Deji Dania who took the couples through sessions on how to guard their children against ungodly and satanic cartoons.
At his session, Pastor Sosanya noted that marriage problem has no hiding place. “It is difficult for anybody to hide the problem he or she faces in the home. If there is problem in the home it will reflect on the health of the couples. It will affect your income and it will affect your relationship with others and with God. So any sensible person will work at ensuring that he lives in a peaceful home.”
The trick, according to him, is for either of the partner to seek the happiness of each other. “I tell men, if they want to be happy they should seek the happiness of their wives. As a matter of fact anybody who wants true joy will seek the happiness of others. Women can really frustrate your life no matter how strong you are if they are not happy with you.”
Sosanya observed further that many homes are in trouble today because the men are not taking their proper place. “The man should take the lead spiritually. He should be the one praying more. He should be the one getting involved more with God and he should be a step ahead of other members of the house. But what we have in many cases is that women are the ones taking the lead. They are the ones who are more involved with spiritual things. They are the ones who pray more and in some cases they are the ones providing for the family. This should not be. It is an aberration. If a woman is praying more than her husband, something is wrong”
He observed that many of the problems in homes were as a result of communication breakdown and lack of appreciation for the peculiarities of the two sexes. “The way the brain of the man works is different from the way the brain of the woman works. That of the man is linear. It is one way. It thinks one thing and pursues it. But the woman is multi-task. She has capacity to put so many things in her mind and work at them.”
While observing that money is not all that makes a home thick, he says, “There are many women who will rather want their husbands to be poor so that they can enjoy their homes. The woman wants attention. Every man should be a student learning to know his wife. It is difficult to change your wife or for your wife to change you. But if there is proper communication and understanding it will be easy to understand one another.”
Addressing a question and answer session, Alli and his wife used the opportunity to explain to the gathering that sex within the context of marriage is not only healthy but necessary for the bond in the home. While noting that a woman needs a lot of preparation before she can accede to a sexual experience, Alli said, “As much as possible, couples should fight masturbation. It is a product of lust. Couples should also be careful about oral sex because of the health issue involved. There some things people do in sex which is animalistic. If a man licks the sexual organ of his wife he may be courting trouble. There are lots of health implications. As Christians we should run away from things that don’t glorify God.”
In a separate interview with our correspondent, the convener, Pastor Johnson who cuts the picture of a practical and down-to-earth person said anybody who wants to make heaven must not toy with marriage. “There are chances that anybody who misses it when it comes to the issue of marriage may miss heaven.”
Johnson who comes from Okeho, Oyo State told our correspondent that he is in a second marriage having lost his first wife. “My first wife passed to glory four years ago and I remarried a year and a month after her death. It was a painful experience for me but I had to move on with my life and ministry. It can be traumatizing losing one’s spouse but I like to tell people that when such things happen, it is better to move on because mourning will not bring back the loss.”
When reminded that people frown at people remarrying shortly after the death of their spouse especially women, he said, “you can’t live your life for people. It is better you remarry than to fall into sexual sins because the people that criticize you for marrying again are the very ones who will condemn you if you fall into sexual sin. That is the irony. So it is better not to live your life under the watch of people.”
He observed that women are worst hit when they lose their spouse. “Our society frowns at women who remarry when they lose their spouse. But the truth is that they are flesh and blood and they have the tendency to misbehave if they don’t settle down in good time.” He said.
He believes marriage is a life and death affair. “I don’t believe in divorce no matter the difficulty one experiences in marriage. We counsel people not to rush into marriage. If a woman was deceived into marrying a man, the woman should remain in the marriage and seek for mercy and God’s intervention except she realizes that the man married her as a second wife. God hates divorce of whatever kind.”
Can’t a marriage be dissolved on the ground that God was not involved? He responds, “If the couples did not get God’s consent before they go into marriage, but went before the altar to consummate the marriage, I believe God is already in it. Once a man agrees to marry a woman God is involved. The moment there is sexual relationship between a man and woman, God is involved. It is not a question of jumping from one woman to another. It is better a man or woman waits for a longer time than go into a wrong marriage.”
He reasons that it is God in the life of a man or woman that makes a marriage blissful. While insisting that there should be no divorce on any ground, Olaniyan stated that Jesus’ response to the question of divorce is clear. “He said only in the case of fornication can a man put away his wife. But married people don’t commit fornication they commit adultery. The example of fornication was what Joseph suspected Mary had done.
“Joseph was planning to put away his wife when he found out that she was pregnant. He taught she had committed fornication. That was what Jesus was talking about. But let us agree that Jesus said for the sake of adultery because some Bible translations used the word adultery. I believe anything that your spouse does that makes you not to forgive; nullifies your ticket to heaven. You can’t divorce and say you are going to heaven. That is why the apostles say it is better not to marry when Jesus gave them that verdict. It is as serious as that.”
For the ten years of the retreat, Olaniyan observes that God has been wonderful. “We have had countless testimonies. There have been cases of couples who were waiting for the fruit of the womb that God blessed. There are cases of broken homes that God restored and several other testimonies that time will not permit me to share. But the one that is more striking was the case of a couple that separated for about six years. The church and people who knew them had tried to help restore the relationship; it did not work. But somebody invited them to the retreat separately. They came and at the end of the retreat the Lord restored their home. That to me is a big miracle.”
He posits that with God there is no marriage problem that cannot be solved. ‘If you can’t manage your home then you can’t manage life. Naturally as a person we have challenges. We fall sick at times. What we do is to look for solution. You don’t say because you have a sore throat then you will cut off your throat? The same principle applies to marriage.”