I met Philip and his wife Dinah at their offices at ICC, Nairobi West Campus on Mombasa Road one warm and humid Thursday afternoon. They warmly welcomed me with a refreshing glass of cold juice as we settled down to start the interview. Cordial and easygoing, they made me feel as though I were talking to my own parents.

Philip is the ninth of eleven children, four of whom are deceased. He grew up in Tigoi Village in Vihiga County. By his own amusing admission, he was a naughty little boy and got into a lot of mischief. He recalls uprooting ripe cassava and maize from his neighbour’s shamba just before harvest time together with his cousins then roasting and eating them at a hidden hillside. “When we got home, we would cheat our mothers that we had stomach-aches because we were so full,” he says with a cheeky grin.

“There was also this time I fought with one of my cousins over maize and he broke my arm,” he adds, before bringing up yet another one of his childhood shenanigans.

“We wanted to make some money one time and stole fruits from our neighbour then tried to sell them at the market. We sat there from morning till about 4 p.m. and no one bought even one! I think God was punishing us for stealing,” he says with a chuckle. I think to myself that we cannot possibly exhaust all the mischief he got up to in his youth.

VALUABLE LESSONS ON RELATIONSHIPS…

Philip’s father had two children outside of his marriage yet his mother, a very gracious woman, embraced them and ensured that they were both provided for and were treated as part of the family. This had a huge impact on young Philip.

“I began to think about what makes a great family, how to be careful with relationships and how to remain focused especially when facing various challenges,” he says, adding that these were the sobering thoughts he always had when he started dating and later got married.

His mother always wanted to see relationships work. “In our family, you could never bring two ladies home. The one you brought is the one you married,” he says. “This means that you had to be very sure before deciding to bring your girlfriend to meet my parents. If my parents ever found out that you had a child outside of marriage, they would make you marry the lady,” he adds. In retrospect, all these taught Philip to regard relationships with the seriousness they deserved.

He went to Kakamega High School, where he was involved in a number of activities. He sang in the choir, played hockey, and was also part of the drama team. He became a committed Christian while in Form three and consequently an active member of the school’s Christian Union. One of his older brothers was then a deputy principal at the school. He continuously urged him to work hard. In fact he felt that Philip was wasting his time at Christian rallies and crusades instead of studying. He promised to fund his ‘A’ level education if he excelled in his ‘O’ levels.

Philip says that by the grace of God, he excelled and was accepted at Mang’u High School, a national school. “My brother was very proud of me. On hearing the news he came and gave me a big slap on the back, which is what he usually did when he was very happy,” he says. He made good his promise and paid Phillip’s fees at Mang’u.

Regrettably, he passed on several years ago. After high school, Philip taught at Liranda Girls High School as an untrained teacher. One time he was entrusted with the responsibility of showing a new teacher around the school, who turned out to be Dinah, a girl he knew from high school. Dinah was in Mukumu Girls High School when he was at Kakamega High School and their paths had crossed several times and once after high school at a Christian camp. They were both happy to reconnect and catch up. They went on to become close friends and a relationship, that led to marriage two years later, blossomed. By this time, they had both moved to Nairobi. Philip was then a student at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) studying mass communication and engineering, while Dinah was at a teacher’s training college.

ON MARRIAGE AND PARENTING…

The two were joined at a simple ceremony in 1981. “We had tea, sodas, sandwiches, mandazis and pizza at our wedding and very simple décor. Only the church was decorated. None of the cars we arrived in were decorated,” says Philip looking to his wife who nods in affirmation. Philip and Dinah say that it’s not the size of the wedding that makes a marriage last. A relationship is very dependent on  how good of friends you are. “We were very good friends and still are,” he says.

His wife has always been his best friend and greatest encourager. This is not to say that they haven’t had turbulent times in their marriage. He speaks of communication and other relational issues, especially during the early years of their marriage. He is however grateful that they had their first child about a year and a few months into their marriage, which gave them time to connect. Because of this, it was easier for them to transfer this same love to their children.

They have been married for 30 years, though they seem a lot like newly weds, who are still enjoying the first few moments of their brand new marriage. In an era where many are losing hope in the institution of marriage, they explain how they have kept the fire burning. “One of the things that has kept my wife and I together is acknowledging that we are human and have weaknesses. This has enabled us to be quick to forgive one another because God always forgives us, and also to continue to walk together and not use past mistakes against one another,” he says.

They also try their best to find time to be together, doing things they are both interested in. They teach marriage classes, counsel, travel and also write together.  They have together authored three books on marriage – The Marriage Dance, The Other Side of Bliss and an academic book used as a resource by pastors to teach about marriage in churches and bible schools. Dinah says that when you both decide that you want your relationship to work, you will do all you can to make it work.

“There are people who go into marriage with an exit strategy in their mind. They think, ‘If this doesn’t work, I will pull out.’

When Philip and I got married, none of us had a plan B in case it didn’t work. We decided from the very start that we wanted it to work and committed to do all we could to ensure this,” she adds.

The couple have three children, Sammy, Steve and Amanda. Philip says that it’s important to bond with your child from the time your wife is pregnant. “It’s also necessary to maintain a close bond with your wife at this time. The way you relate to each other is very important to your children,” he explains while cuddling his wife’s hand.