Bernard Bwala, 39, and Lydia Nyambura Bwala, 38, have been married for 13 years. This charming couple’s journey to marriage was mired in a web of intrigues and uncertainty, which almost cost them their relationship. Despite their deep love for each other, tribal and background differences almost halted their wish and dream of becoming a married couple, as they share with FAITH MATHENGE-MURIGU.
Bernard Bwala and his wife Lydia Bwala are senior pastors at Nairobi Happy Church. Bernard is a full time pastor while Lydia is a part time pastor and a nurse at Kiambu District Hospital. She supports her husband in church ministry, mostly through pre marital and post marital counselling.
Bernard: I was born and bred in a slum in Nakuru. It was a very humble background such that providing a meal for my five siblings and I was a daunting task for my parents. By God’s grace, I attended Langa Langa Primary School and later Flamingo Secondary School both in Nakuru.
Lydia: I was born in a well-to-do family in Nakuru and my upbringing was totally different from Bernard’s. My parents took good care of us and we never lacked in anything. I schooled in Nakuru for both my primary and secondary education before proceeding to Thika and later Nairobi for college education.
Bernard: I first met Lydia in Nakuru Happy Church where she served in the worship ministry. I was at the time a casual labourer in the church, doing manual jobs for survival as well as serving in the youth ministry. When I first saw Lydia, I felt such an attraction towards her that I purposed to make her my wife someday. Never had I experienced such strong emotions towards a woman in my life.
However, I knew I faced numerous challenges because Lydia came from a well-to-do family and was also from a different tribe from mine. It seemed illogical that our paths would ever cross. Having grown up with a poverty mentality, I constantly had low self-esteem each time I came across people from well-to-do families. Lydia was confident and loved God and people. And our paths did cross when she joined the youth ministry to serve as a secretary while I was the chairman. To me this was a God sent opportunity.
Love against all odds…
Lydia: Bernard started expressing interest in getting into a relationship with me but I was concerned because we had enormous differences. I wondered how my family would take it. Although I admired many qualities in him such as his love for God, sense of responsibility, was loving, hardworking and humble, I was afraid that he was quite poor. He lived with brethren from church and would often get donation from church members.
All the same, I sort God through prayer concerning Bernard and when I felt comfortable about the two of us, I agreed to a relationship with him. I saw in him a lot of potential and I believed in him. Friends advised me against giving him a chance because he was not as educated as I was, was poor and from a different tribe. They argued that these differences would complicate our relationship.
Bernard: Lydia was bombarded with stereotyped information about my tribe. Her family and close friends in church thought I had brainwashed her. But she loved me and through prayer we drew even closer as each day passed. She was very special to me and I did not stress her about our love.
Lydia: Bernard first expressed his desire to marry me in 1994 just before I joined college. We dated for five years.
Bernard: I was serving as an interpreter and also in the church’s worship team during the period of our courtship. In 1996, I got an opportunity to travel to the USA for a one-year training programme in church ministry. While there I bought an engagement ring and waited for an opportune moment to propose to Lydia. On returning to Kenya, I invited Lydia to a hotel in Nakuru and proposed to her. She gladly accepted. This was an answered prayer.
I returned to the USA for another year of training and on coming back our relationship went a notch higher. By this time, Lydia’s mother had softened her hard stand against me and she apologised to me. She also gave us her blessings to get married.
Lydia: During courtship, we guarded our relationship with integrity so that no one would have the moral authority to accuse us falsely. I had many secret admirers who often sent Bernard with love letters for me. However, I never read them and instead I would ask him to return them to the senders. I loved Bernard just as he was and I was ready to marry him. We had a colourful wedding on December 18, 1999.
Overcoming challenges in marriage…
Bernard: Our biggest challenge after the wedding was adjusting to each other’s standards. Owing to our different backgrounds, we needed to harmonise and identify what would augur well for both of us. Our marriage was founded on prayer concerning all issues and we had a set of principles to govern us in our marital journey.
Lydia: We learnt to be patient with each other and accommodating. For instance when I was the breadwinner, I would give Bernard my salary and he would plan how we would spend it.
Bernard: From our early years of marriage, I discovered that conflicts arise out of small issues and it is therefore important to be understanding of each other’s needs. It is also important to learn what makes your spouse laugh, smile, and cry, in order to try and bring out the best in them.
For instance, my eating style annoyed my wife when we were newly weds. As a young boy, we would eat from one plate at home and competed to eat the most food. When I got married, I did not realise that there was no longer competition and continued to eat as if that was the last meal on earth. In marriage, one is capable of making their spouse the way one wants. It all depends on how you handle issues. Patience, love and deliberate effort are your best bet.
Lydia: Don’t despise someone because of their background. Their future could be very bright and you cannot comprehend it or predict at the time. I supported my husband in our early years of marriage financially and believed he would be a great man some day. Today, he has proven that God can raise someone from grass to grace.
I encouraged him to pursue his calling and vision and today we are blessed. My husband has been to many countries – USA, UK, South Africa, and Malawi among others, for motivational speaking engagements and also selling books that he has authored. I am a happily married woman and my husband is my hero and confidant.
Childless for five years…
Bernard: Our efforts to get a child were fruitless for five long years. This was a trying time for us as people started speculating that my wife was barren or I had a problem. We were ridiculed and laughed at but we had faith in God and had our parents’ support. At the time, I was a youth pastor and also served in the administration of the church while my wife worked as a nurse at Bahati Centre in Nakuru. Amazingly, we would pray for childless couples and they would conceive healthy children, but nothing happened to us.
Our senior pastor in Nakuru then commissioned us as resident pastors of Nairobi Happy Church in 2003. After prayer and fasting, we felt ready for the assignment and took up the responsibility. The church has since grown by leaps and bounds. Besides being a pastor, I give motivational talks in high schools and in companies in Kenya and abroad. I am also an author of several books including: Aspiring for Success and Yes You Can.
A devastating miscarriage…
Lydia: I got a job in Nairobi soon after we settled and a few months later I started feeling nauseous. Thinking it was malaria, I bought over the counter anti-malarial tablets and took them but the problem persisted. Although a colleague at work advised me to go for a pregnancy test, I dismissed her because previously I had gone for many such tests which all turned negative.
However, she was persistent and eventually I bowed to the pressure. The test turned positive and I was over the moon. I called my husband who was on a three-month visit to the UK and he was so overjoyed that he cut short his trip and came home to celebrate the good news. One night as I was sleeping, I had a sudden urge to go to the washroom. I noticed I was bleeding heavily and my husband rushed me to hospital. Devastatingly, we had lost the baby.
Bernard: That miscarriage was the worst experience of our lives. We mourned for a long period of time but never lost faith. Our doctor reassured us that my wife would conceive in two years time and sure enough she conceived and in December 2004. This pregnancy had no problems and we were blessed with our first son, Prince Bwala. And God’s blessing don’t come singly. In 2007 we were blessed us again with baby boy, Prosper Bwala and in June 2012, a baby girl, Pleasant Bwala. Our children are a testimony of Gods faithfulness.
Bwala: We have never disagreed on financial issues. All our money is ours and we plan for it together and share responsibilities fairly. Our bank accounts are accessible to each other, as we know each other’s P.I.N number. Our experience in handling finances comes in handy especially when we are counselling young couple on the subject of money. We have always lived within our means and learnt that openness is key to resolving financial issues.
Lydia: We honour and respect our parents by supporting them financially. This passes a strong message to them about our unity and they respect our oneness.
Faithfulness is essential…
Lydia: Many people who seek counselling do not like pastor’s wives because some think they are too protective of their husbands. This is never the case and even when it may be, it is done in love because ministry comes with its fair share of challenges. One has to have a discerning spirit to operate effectively.
My husband avoids counselling after five in the evening unless I am present, especially when counselling a female. This also helps to uphold his integrity. We are best of friends and we share candidly every challenge we go through in ministry, career and life, as we strive to help each other to become the best possible. It is important to understand that all of us are vulnerable and therefore take the necessary precaution.
Bernard: We always have time as a family, which helps us to bond. We go on trips together when time allows. We do household chores together particularly when the house help is away and this further enhances our unity.
Lydia: Sex brings intimacy in a marriage. We always desire to be intimate as a couple and therefore never use sex as a weapon. Wives should understand that using sex as a weapon could drive your husband to other women for sexual fulfilment. In addition, there are three statements, which have been part of our marriage and life: ‘Sorry, Thank You and I Love You. They are a powerful magnet that helps keep the family together.
Lydia: We support each other in disciplining our children and insist on disciplining by caning, because it is even biblical. We also strive to be role models to our children because children are moulded by what they see more than what they are told.
We thank God for the far he has brought us as a family.
Published on February 2013