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Married 25 years, we’ve learnt a healthy marriage nurtures effective ministry

By Aaron Sseruyigo

Pastor Peter Kasirivu, the founder of Ggaba Community Church and the President of Africa Renewal Ministries just recently celebrated 25 years of marriage with his wife Irene, and it is clear the two are still smitten.

The two exchanged their wedding vows on 8th January 1994 at Makerere Full Gospel Church. At that time, Peter was only 32 years of age, while Irene was 29.

In an exclusive interview with UG Christian News correspondent Aaron Sseruyigo, the couple blessed with four Children opened up about their secret to long-lasting love.

Congratulations upon celebrating your 25th marriage anniversary. This milestone set social media on fire. How does it feel like?

Irene: Thank you. I believe God joined us together for a reason and purpose. I love him and he also loves me. So, love is part of the deal. Then the other is commitment. I usually share this, personally, my parents lived together until death. My pastor and his wife also lived together and were happily married. With those examples, I really admired that I would also do the same if I ever got married.

Being a minister of the gospel, there is no way I can live carelessly and then stand before the Lord. I know that a servant of God must have a family that glorifies Him. That was my drive the past 25 years.  

Peter: The day we walked down the aisle, our commitment was for life. We were not testing this, or trying it out. We were committing ourselves for life. Marriage is a covenant, it is not a contract. A contract has a life span and it has conditions. I feel I have kept my promise to her.

For my wife, her parents were examples, they walked with each other till death. Personally, my mother is alive. She is 85. She was married to my dad for 51 years. So we would love to have the kind of relationship, and commitment we grew up seeing.

Every major achievement in life begins with a step, how did your relationship grow to what we see today?

Peter: I got married at 32. I always say; I wish I got married earlier. My desire as a person called into the ministry was to get a wife who loves ministry like I do. Who has the same passion for God, and for His work like I do.

In the 1980s, I went to bible collage in Kenya, when I came back, I was starting out. I needed some pocket money. A Bible collage called Glad Tidings needed part time teachers. I got a job there. Every now and again, I would go and teach. Irene happened to be one of my students. At that time I was not so ready yet. She graduated 1989, but I never proposed to her until 1993.

In 1992, that is when I gathered strength and went to her pastor, who was also the Bible collage principle. I asked about her.

Why did you have to go through her pastor?

Peter: Of course young men these days will not think like that. To me, marriage was an important thing in life. And this was a person who was far away from me. Those days we didn’t have cell phones. You could only meet during a big meeting, revival or rally. 

Yes, I had seen her in class, but that was as a student. At that time I knew a beautiful girl but, didn’t think that I was going to pursue her. So, to know her more, I definitely needed someone who knew her.

Even today, I think people need to realise that if you are interested in someone, it may not be a pastor, but there should be people close to that person who can tell you more about them. People can pretend especially when it comes to dating. And once the wedding is done, that’s when you might know someone’s true colours.

Irene: My pastor approached me and told me; do you know Peter from Ggaba? I said; yes I know him, and then they told me; he has some interest in you.

I didn’t immediately respond, but they urged me to go pray about it. After a month, my pastor asked me again, and then also shared a Word from the book of Romans 12:1-4. He knew I was undecided but encouraged me to pray for God’s good and perfect will for my life through total surrender. I got several confirmations and finally had to make up my mind, and say; yes. 

It was on my heart to pray for the right person. I had several approaches from several men, but things never worked out very well. I was looking for someone in line with what I was doing, a minister.

First year of marriage: Is it that complicated?

Peter: I got married at 32, she was 29. I had been alone for many years. I had people I was taking care of, and then I was a pastor. So, I had a lot of responsibility as a person. The problem with starting later is that you are so formed in your ways that someone found you set.

I have always been independent from s6. Except for the years I was at bible college where I was a resident student in Kenya. I had a lot of independence, so what happens is that you have to adjust.

It is no longer me, it is us. It is no longer yours, it is ours. So there has to be a mental, emotional and spiritual adjustment. I will say she struggled with me because I had a lot of will power. I knew how to run my life. She had to adjust to this man. The first three years are quit tough because we were trying to learn who each other is.

Irene: The good thing is that I came when I was prepared. I knew that since I have made the vows before God, there is no going back home. It was a bit of a challenge, but I asked God to help me.

Meeting the church, naturally, I am a bit reserved, some thought I never liked them. Some of them thought I was tough. But at that time I didn’t know how to fit in. But slowly they begun to know who I am, especially the young girls. And generally, they all started receiving me.

Has it been a perfect marriage since 1994?

Peter: When people see us smiling, they don’t know that we always get to disagree. But one thing is for sure, our commitment is for life. And to me as an individual, we have never come to a disagreement where I say; I am reconsidering my commitment. It’s the same for her.

Whatever issues we face, we always looking at how best we can handle them. We found that if someone is gong through a stressful situation, you let them cool down. We have learnt to talk through our issues. Personally I cannot sleep when I know there is an unresolved issue. We have heard several opportunities to fight, but we’ve decided not to fight. 

We have disagreed several times but, we decided we never disagree publicly. If we have any issues, we take the matter to the bedroom. Our children have never seen us fighting or quarrelling . It is very important for you to protect your private life. You will never find us talk ill against each other to the kids. They know we are the greatest friends, and greatest heroes to each other.

If anyone ever tells you they never have disagreements, they are lying.

Irene: True

Peter: Everyone has areas of disagreement. The thing is that when you are younger, they are more tense because you are learning to understand your partner better. Personally, my wife knows when I am in trouble or stressed. She senses it all. When she has issues bothering her, I also know. We found that talking through issues is the best way.

We also found that you never bring departure or separation as one of the options. To us its not an option. If we are disagreeing on something, we better not do it until we find ourselves in the same line. There has to be peace in a decision.

Irene: We disagree on so many things, but they never grow so big that the children or entire neighbourhood gets to know. We know how to have self control.

In the past I would just keep quite but, later I learnt how to speak out about what really annoys me. Being a marriage counsellor, I leant that communication is essential.

What happens to a couple’s relationship after having children?

Peter: James, our eldest son can right away. But our family is very big. We have a calling as a family to take care of young people. We have children who are not our biological that we have take care of along the way. Many of them are married, so we have lots of grand kids.

Personally, I got married late, and needed a child immediately. In our advise to couples, we always say it is important not to have children immediately so that you can learn each other. That will help protect you from the future shocks. Children always come with another set of issues. I would rather you spend time to bond, before .

However, besides that I believe children are the best gift a family gets. They spice life. They are a joy to a family – but a lot of responsibility, so we had to be very intentional. 

I travel more than any average person does, but when I am at home, I am at home. You cannot find me on phone. The church people know this too, unless there is something very urgent. When its church time, we serve God’s people.

Pastor, Christian marriages are crumbling and many have signed divorce papers. How can one be successful in marriage and ministry at the same time?

Peter: As a pastor, I have a congregation with hundreds of marrieds, we have a family of Churches, more than 700 of them. I love marriage, and would love to see them succeed.

My wife knows, and I have told all church ministers, your message is more of what you do than what you say. If you have a failing marriage, I don’t care if the lame people walk, you are a failure.

In most circumstances, we look at the other partner to blame, but to everyone that works with us, we are very intentional about the health of our relationships.

As a minister, my personal desire should never over take my responsibility towards my wife, kids and people that I lead. If I fail at marriage, regardless of what anointing I have, I don’t have a message to preach. And because of that, I should do whatever it takes to cater of this relationship.

My wife and my relationship keeps me in ministry.  If I cannot have a relationship with my wife, I don’t have a moral right to stand before people and don’t have moral authority to help anyone. A health marriage will keep me healthy in ministry.

I am a man, warm blooded, I have eyes, I see beauty everywhere. There are many beautiful girls everywhere and for my wife, there are very many handsome guys out there who are more gifted than me, and probably have more money but we made a life commitment, and we would like to honour it for the glory of God.

If I start messing up, I will cause marriages to start to fail in church. If I start messing around with women in the church, that means I have become a laughing stock and will not be a testimony. I will not be honouring my God. Protecting my relationship is a commitment for me to be close to my wife. We must be friends and work together.

The cost of divorce is more expensive, painful than staying together even to those who say it is a “bad marriage”. I feel I am an example to hundreds of men. We are open books to them. 

Irene: As a minister, your family has to come first, next to God. Many times I see ministers putting ministry first before their children and wife, which is a challenge. When I look at a strong man of God, I am so eager to look at his wife and children. I am eager to know how their relationship is. That is when I am able to put out my ear and listen to his sermon. 

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