Pastor Morris Gacheru Kimani, in his early 40s and his wife Pastor Pauline Gacheru in her late 30s have been married for almost two decades. They have been through the wilderness and back, yet their love is stronger and finer than before. They now offer pre-marital classes for couples intending to get married. They share their profound wisdom with FAITH MATHENGE-MURIGU
I was amazed at how quickly I got an appointment with Pastor Morris Gacheru Kimani and his wife Pastor Pauline Gacheru, since there are quite a busy couple. I was delighted and humbled when they called me barely a week after I sought the appointment to confirm the meeting date and time. And so on a bright, serene Tuesday morning, armed with my journalistic tools, I drove to Jubilee Christian Church (JCC), Parklands, Nairobi, where I was warmly received by the couple.
Pauline looked calm. Her hair all dolled up, well-manicured nails and classy makeup spoke of someone who is conscious of their looks. She was tastefully dressed, elegant and dignified in her mannerisms yet down-to-earth and very likeable. Her chic look was complimented by her husband’s masculinity – tall, dark, well built body with almond shaped eyes and treated curly hair, seemed to complete the picture of a perfect couple.
It’s the ease at which they responded to my questions that fascinated me most, a couple certain of their love for each other – almost two decades since they got married. Pauline describes herself as a happily married woman in a society that is sceptical about marriage. “We love each other genuinely,” Pauline says as she eyes Morris adoringly, adding, “We always have.” This admission paves way to our candid conversation.
‘Marriage is like a beautiful house set on a hill for all who pass by to either admire, pity or mock, depending on how well it is maintained. Love is the door to this house. It requires hard work, commitment, dedication and selflessness, but the rewards are enormous. We put God first in our marriage. We are both born-again Christians who have learnt to solve our problems like real believers,” Morris says, hunching forward.
Morris and Pauline are resident pastors at JCC. Just like wine, they say, their marriage only gets better with age. If they were to remarry, it’s crystal-clear they would still go for each other. They have climbed mountains and have been to the wilderness, but love has kept them grounded in all the seasons.
Morris was born and raised in Nairobi in a family of five. He attended St.Teresa Boys’ Primary School in Eastleigh before proceeding to Jamhuri High School for his O levels. He later joined the University of Nairobi for a public administration and political science degree and graduated in 1994.
He was brought up in a devout catholic family. At age 10, he felt a conviction and became a born-again Christian, which was met by protests from his parents. His mother enrolled him for catechism classes at the Holy Family Basilica to discourage his pursuit of salvation. He faithfully attended the classes and became a partaker of the Holy Communion, and even got a confirmation name, George, as is the norm in the Catholic Church. He joined the church choir and was among those who sang for the late Pope John II, when he visited Kenya in 1982.
“On January 15 in 1989, while in form four, I rededicated my life to God during a Christian gospel rally. I was determined to work out my salvation, as I was filled with the Holy Spirit and knew there was no turning back. My father, who was absent since I joined form one, re-appeared and was very infuriated by my newfound faith. He threatened to denounce me as his son if I did not leave that ‘salvation’ business. Luckily, my mother and sister, who by now were born again, encouraged me,” he says.
In December 1989 while waiting for exam results, Morris was helping out at his father’s shop in Eastleigh. It was there that one fine day he met the love of his life, Pauline. She was a student and lived with her family in Eastleigh. She had been sent to the shop to buy a mosquito net. There was nothing conspicuous about their encounter. In January 1990, she left for boarding school at Gathirimu Girls High School, Kiambu, while Morris joined the Nairobi University later that year. He persisted in his walk with the Lord and would grab every available opportunity to minister the gospel.
“In 1992, Pauline got a transfer to Sharda Girls High School, a day school in Parklands. I had moved back home from the university hostels due to recurring chaos in campus and I commuted daily to school,” Morris says. Their paths crossed often while they were both going or coming back from school and from there, a strong friendship developed. From this friendship, a deep love blossomed and Morris knew without a doubt that he wanted Pauline to be his wife some day.
Marriage without parental blessings…
After several years of courtship, the couple got married in September 1994 at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) recreation facility in Nairobi.
Morris: I fell out with my father due to my salvation. The hatred he felt towards me was manifested during the dowry negotiations and eventual wedding. He did not approve of my salvation and choice of spouse and therefore refused to attend the two ceremonies.
When I set off to make my wedding arrangements, I only had Kshs 500. My fiancée advised me to offer it as a gift to the church. God worked miracles. Our friends helped us to plan thewedding, gave their cars and one offered to buy the wedding gown, and cake. It was a very simple wedding but we were glued with unshakeable love for each other. We spent the wedding night in a hotel in Parklands, Nairobi, and since we did not have money to go for a honeymoon, we spent the following day in a gospel crusade organised by the Faith Evangelistic Ministries.
Years in the wilderness…
The couple’s marriage began on a low. They were jobless and were living in a room next to their father’s main house. When Morris’s mother passed on in September 1998, things took a different turn.
Morris: My mother was in a kesha (overnight worship service) when she suffered a severe pulmonary attack and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. We grew up in a dysfunctional family; my parents’ marriage was very shaky. With her passing on, we had to relocate from our room for our safety. My father disliked my wife and never greeted her until after five years of our marriage.
We rented a house at Kingéero near Wangige at Ksh2500 a month. It was hard raising this money and also taking care of the new addition in our family – our first daughter. Life was tough but I was hopeful and kept myself grounded in the word of God and fervent prayers. With my degree plus accounts qualification and Japanese language certificates, I expected to get a job easily but none was forthcoming.
My calling into ministry was getting clearer. I would interpret for pastors, and attend many gospel rallies. Sometimes I could get some money from well-wishers. In early 2001, I was sent to preach in India for one month. I only had Shs300, which I left with my wife who was then nursing our newborn second daughter. It was hard leaving her but God in His miraculous ways ensured that they did not lack.
Towards the end of 2001, we faced another blow with the passing on of my mother-in-law, Salome Wanjiru. She was a great friend and her death meant taking over the responsibility of bringing up two young children whom she left behind. It was hard but we knew God would help us.
Pauline: Our wilderness experience drew me closer to my husband. We had a lot of time to pray and talk about the future. What kept us is the love and hope that we had. My husband would cry on my shoulder and I would comfort him. I learnt the lesson that problems never break a marriage; it’s the attitude towards the problems that can either make or break it. After 10 tough years, God lifted us and set a standard for us. We have never looked back. We are blessed today. Our children are in good schools and we no longer lack. We have different mentors in our marriage among them Mr. and Mrs. Macharia Maina, our best couple, and Bishop Allan Kiuna and Pastor Kathy Kiuna. Their marriages show the possibility of a happy, inspiring relationship with your spouse.
Morris: Through my experiences, I can confidently say that a long lasting marriage requires dedication from both parties. Our problems drew us closer, and our deep love helped us emerge victorious. Marriage has changed me from being very guarded about my emotions to being more open, and it has helped to heal my childhood wounds.
Pauline: Marriage has made me more considerate about the needs of others, from listening to my husband’s view, as well as those of our children and I have become a better listener.
Morris: Pauline is friendly and gracious. She is fun to be around and brings light and joy to those around her. She is a great listener and advisor who shows appreciation for every small gesture. She is a woman of dignity, strength and poise and has a deep faith in God that is inspiring to my children and I.
Pauline: Morris is my ‘total’ man. He takes his responsibility as a husband and father very seriously. He is considerate and accommodating. He is not a push over. He is very principled when it comes to his beliefs and does not compromise his high standards to please people. I like the fact that we can just talk on and on. He loves and fears God and respects himself.
Morris: To raise well-rounded children, you need to love them unconditionally and establish clear boundaries, which you enforce more like a shepherd rather than a police officer. You also need to grow your life with integrity and truth so that you become a positive role model to them. My wife and I teach our children to love and obey God.
We have three daughters, Isabella, 17, Sharon, 12 and Wendo, one and a half years. I am always interested in their lives and they do not fear to share intimate thoughts with me. I have been a present father for them and our relationship is excellent.
Pauline: It is important to teach children from an early age, values that will sustain them as upright adults when they grow up. By the time the children become teenagers, they want friendship from their parents not a long list of dos and don’ts. My husband and I have always been there for our children.
Marriage is for life…
Morris: Gods plan for marriage is that it should last a lifetime. Mark 10:9-12 says: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate. And Jesus said to them, “whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; and if she herself divorces her husband and, marries another man, she is committing adultery.”
The fundamental tenets of marriage remain the same irrespective of one’s culture or religion. Love and faithfulness are key in any good marriage. A factor that enhances marriage is communication. Communication that is regular, transparent and aims at building up the other person prevents small things from becoming a crisis. Keeping promises and being reliable and dependable is what builds trust. As a husband, I make it clear that my wife is the most important person in my life. After God, she is my next priority. I have always protected her from my family while she protects me from hers.
Pauline: You should not quit marriage at the first sign of trouble, as some people do. As long as you remain focused on the reason you got married, there should not be too big a problem to solve. Our marriage works because we love God and we also love and respect ourselves. We use this love to cultivate values that make our union continue to thrive. We handle every challenge that comes our way with maturity and respect.
So, what breaks marriages?
Morris: Implosion! When one allows pressure from the outside to build so much that it breaks the relationship. Some example: interference by in-laws, friends, infidelity, lack or abundance of money, or even rise in career and success.
Explosion happens within the confines of the marriage where issues such as communication breakdown are not addressed. This begins in the privacy of the couple where there is resentment and bitterness. If it is not solved promptly, it can cause constant fighting, which may break the marriage.
Pauline: Real marriages have real issues. It is important tosort out your issues before they get out of hand. We attribute our success in marriage to God who has given us grace and wisdom to handle problems in an amicable way. All real marriages have conflicts, which need solutions. Knowing how to deal with the issues makes the marriage strong.
Which are the issues?
Morris: The following are issues that act as catalysts for marriage breakdowns.
Lack of communication. Marriages fail when a couple stops communicating. This may be due to underlying issues that have not been addressed. It could also mean that there is no longer respect between the parties involved. When we got married, my wife would get annoyed because of my melancholic temperament. A melancholic tends to be deep and thoughtful with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She could interpret it as lack of interest in her. However, with time, my wife got to understand me and she saw the positive side of my temperament: appreciative, faithful in what I do and compassionate.
Hardness of heart. Hardness of heart in a couple can also break a marriage. A person with a hard heart does not apologise even when wrong. He is driven by pride, is selfish and does not show affection as he considers it a show of weakness. A person with a hard heart derives pleasure from the misfortune of another.
Words. Words can break or make a marriage. Spoken words have power and people should be careful which words they use on each other.
Neglect/nagging. Some married people live as though their partner does not exist. This makes a marriage so vulnerable and the children are left to deal with their own problems as well. A man may walk away from a marriage if he has a nagging wife who never appreciates anything. This is a monster every man would rather not live with.
Morris: My wife and I are best friends. I appreciate the fact that we work in the same institution. This gives us more time to be together. We do pre-marital counselling together, a ministry that has drawn us even closer. We also look out for interesting ways to relate to each other and share. We have never reached a point where we had little or nothing to talk about.
I have discovered that if a relationship is founded on the Christian faith, God renews it every day and it never gets stale. It stays happy and energized. My wife and I constantly update each other on what is going on in our life, our emotions and thoughts and this keeps us bonded. Friendship keeps a marriage happy and provides room for growth.
All couples intending to get married should invest in pre-marital counselling as it equips one for marriage. It encourages people to talk openly so as to create the right impression of the other person.
Published in April 2012