The Kayiwas and their one-month courtship

Pastor Simeon Kayiwa and his wife Celia with their youngest child Deborah, who is at university. The couple have four biological children and an adopted daughter. PHOTOS BY MICHAEL KAKUMIRIZI.

What you need to know:

At the pulpit, they seem to have the perfect life. Having been married for 33 years you will imagine that there is a lot to tell, and true the story of Pastor Simeon Kayiwa and his wife is different from any other. Benjamin Jumbe spoke to the couple and they shared the story of their love.

You have known him as a pastor with a church in Namirembe and founder of Kayiwa International University. Pastor Simeon Kayiwa is also a doctor of Psychology. It is 2pm and I rush to his office at Namirembe Christian Fellowship. When I get to the office, the receptionist asks me to wait a little for the pastor.

Not long, he emerges, dressed in a black body-hugging T-shirt and black jeans. He welcomes me into his well-furnished office. However, being lunch hour, there are some believers praying in the church, which is just in front of the office, so I cannot hear him well.

Pastor Kayiwa suggests we go to his home, which is just below the church.
Entering his spacious well-decorated sitting room, Kayiwa introduces me to his wife, Celia Kayiwa, a doctor. They both dash into their bedroom, leaving me alone in the sitting room, for a few minutes, wondering what is next.

To my amazement, the professor shortly after opens the door to their bedroom and welcomes me in. I hesitate for a bit, wondering if I had heard him well. After all, not many people invite strangers to their bedroom. But before I know it, I’m ushered into this exquisite well-furnished bedroom where I’m welcomed by Celia, who gives me a chair next to their bed. She then pulls another seat and places it just in front of me, ready for the interview, as Pastor Kayiwa rests on the bed.

At this point we are good to go with the interview. But to wipe away the thought that I could be an exception, I begin by asking the couple if they let anyone into their bedroom. And to this they say yes, because they “have nothing to hide”. With the heart settled, I then ask how they met.

“We met in 1981 and we first talked about it on April 16. We had known each other for a few months because I knew her mother was in my church,” Pastor Kayiwa says. He adds that when Celia came back from France where she had been studying, she joined the church. “She was very beautiful and naturally for a man, that’s the first thing we do; look at a beautiful girl and that can be the beginning of other things,” Pastor Kayiwa says.

Celia chips in: “My mother was the first to meet him and she used to talk about a young man who was praying for people, performing miracles and used to come to the church. So, I started coming with her for prayers and that’s when I met him and admired his work; praying and healing.”

“I was attracted by his kindness, the way he talked and his looks too. He was handsome. I love dark-skinned people and it seems our hearts got connected in a strange way,” Celia says as the two burst out in laughter.
Pastor Kayiwa adds that besides Celia’s beauty and having known her family for a while, her care and love were other factors that attracted him to her. He says by then, the church was being held in his house and so most times members left the place littered and disorganised.
Celia, however, stood out because she always stayed back to clean up the mess.
Pastor Kayiwa says after getting permission from her mother, he finally asked to take Celia out so that they could talk about how he felt about her.
“We went to Imperial Hotel, had lunch and discussed whether we could get married or not. That was on April 17, and we got married on May 16 the same year,” Pastor Kayiwa recounts.

He adds that since he had known Celia’s family, especially her mother, for some time, it simplified matters. He says it is within that one month of courtship that he was able to learn more about his wife-to-be.

In fact, he scoffs at many young people who take long in courtship, saying: “Falling in love takes only five seconds, and all other things just follow.” “When we met, we had been both hit by our five seconds,” he says before bursting out into laughter.

Celia interjects, saying the professor was lucky that he did not have to wait long before he got his answer. “I consented to his proposal because I saw in him a good partner and it took me one month to feel satisfied in my heart that he was the right man for me,” she says.

33 years together
The couple has been together for 33 years and have four biological children, an adopted daughter, and many spiritual children. The two, however, seem so into each other that you would hardly believe they have spent all this time together.

As the interview progresses, the couple keep stealing glances at each other and occasionally tap each other as they try to emphasise a point.
Pastor Kayiwa, then says the most important thing about a relationship is knowing that the person you are sharing a life with loves you for who you are and not what you have.

Celia confirms this, saying when she met her husband, he wasn’t rich, didn’t have a lot of property, not even a car, but she loved him the way he was and she trusted that God would make their life prosper.

“My idea of love is that it is not in boundaries of property or sex, or the ability to have a child or not. Love is universal, it is a biological force that cannot be stopped,” Pastor Kayiwa says, adding that while sex and property can be bought, love cannot.

So, what keeps these people’s love young and strong?
Pastor Kayiwa says they have learnt to deal with ugly situations in their past and have made a deliberate decision to forget things they do not want to remember or those that bring back pain in their lives.

He says he learnt about temptation before he became a Christian and was tempted by a lot of people, including false businessmen, bad people and girls. He learnt to face temptation, and armed himself with principles he would use in the face of trying situations. Before he became a Christian and got married, the professor says he never believed he would ever get a faithful woman.

He says before he met his wife he drunk, smoked and played around with women, but he promised God that he would stop all this, and asked for a pure partner. But like any relationship, the couple’s marriage is no bed of roses. Question is, how have they dealt with all this?

“If you get annoyed with your spouse, talk about it. I can say we have good communication, which involves listening to each other,” Celia says, before her husband interjects, “A lot of things, which could have caused anger, are not there. Things like drinking, fighting and adultery.”

“When an issue arises, we sit and talk about it. If there is trust, it will be easy to explain anything. We also sing, eat, preach, teach and travel together, so no one can tell a story about us. I am not saying that we are in heaven, but we try to do a lot together,” Pastor Kayiwa shares.
I ask the couple whether it is not tiring to be around each other all the time and they say sometimes they do not move together, especially while in the country, depending on the circumstances.

Pastor Kayiwa, however, says when long distances are involved, it is better for them to travel together. He cites an example of a time they were ministering in the West: “We have had problems in England where some people, even wives older than us, try to get me, and there is a man who tried to get her too. He even followed her to Uganda. I think he had got some five seconds in his heart,” the pastor jokes.

He also recalls a time he had gone to preach in Alabama: “One of the male ministers in the church approached me after the summon and told me he had fallen in love with me and was sorry that my eyes were attractive.”

Another incident was when a man took his phone number and called him as they were travelling with his wife to Minnesota and told him how he had dreamt he was sleeping with the pastor in the same bed. He says it is for such reasons that they endeavour to travel together so as to protect each other from such people.

Well, knowing that they are both counsellors, I ask them if they have had any challenges with some of the people that come for counselling.
Pastor Kayiwa tells me they have experienced several such cases over the years, but have both learnt to plan how to face temptation before they go for counselling. He, however, adds that if a person comes on too strong, they have security people to help out.

I then ask for a specific example of such a situation and he says: “There were some ladies who came to me and told me God had spoken to them that they should be my second wife, that I should take my wife away, and yet when you look at them, they are nothing compared to her.”

Kayiwa, however, says since they are not dealing with angels, such things are bound to happen.

Celia chips in and says her experience was not in the counselling room but at the National Theatre where they had gone for a concert. “Our choir, Calvary Cross Choir, went for a concert with other choirs and after singing, there was a man who wanted to offer me a bottle of beer because I had sung very well. He wasn’t aware that I was already married,” she recalls with a hearty laughter.

Pastor Kayiwa interjects, noting that on the same occasion, in another corner there was a girl who told him she loved him so much and wanted him to go with her wherever.

Dealing with challenges
I switch from this and ask the couple how they deal with negative publicity, having seen stories where the pastor was accused of witchcraft and fraud.
“Negative reporting sometimes may give you temporary pain but when it is garbage, I don’t keep it in my head,” Pastor Kayiwa says. He adds that there were many other accusations but society helped them deal with the negative media by fighting for them since they knew him and could attest to his behaviour.

“We did not even go to court. We thought reacting to such lies was not worth it and would turn us into mentally-sick people,” Pastor Kayiwa retorts.
He says as a leader, there is a certain level of modesty he must maintain, adding that those who were behind such stories and fought them were jealous.
And to Celia, the fact that she knew him well and trusted him, gave her confidence not to believe the stories. “The reports could have moved me but I have learnt to handle them the way he does,” she says.

For those who are not yet married and those already married, the couple has some advice for them. “Avoid entering a marriage based on what you will get out of it,” Pastor Kayiwa advises, adding that for those who are married, there are many people who interfere in your love life like relatives, friends or children but they must all be put aside to avoid confusion.

“Marriage is like a garden. In order to keep your garden fresh and good, you have to prune it and spray the insects out of your garden. In the same way, spray any insects or bacteria that could have infected your relationship and clean it up,” Celia advises, as her husband nods his head in support.
She says marriage will always have ups and downs, people may have misunderstandings and weaknesses so couples must try to clear such malfunction.

With this advice, I end my interview and I’m escorted out by the couple, who show me around their home, the garden, and orchard and then the university buildings under construction.

The Kayiwas’ secret to happiness >

Meeting needs
Pastor Kayiwa says the first thing is meeting his wife’s needs.
“I have been trying my best to see that her needs are met, and that she lives in comfort. That’s very important.”

Pastor Kayiwa also says the feeling of approval is equally important.
“I always appreciate her for everything she does, even if it is just giving me a glass of water. I say thank you and she does the same thing. In every human being there is a desire for being appreciated,” Pastor Kayiwa notes.

Kayiwa says communication should be clear and open and agreements must be reached. “We agree on everything we do. She knows the people I talk to, and even when I’m taking a cup of coffee somewhere miles away from home, she knows where I am and with whom,” Pastor Kayiwa says.

Trust for the Kayiwas is very important as it brings a sense of security in a relationship.
“I trust her 100 per cent and you can’t come and tell me that someone is in love with my wife. That would be a lie and I would not listen and she too can’t believe if somebody told her that another lady is in love with me,” the pastor says.

Going out is very vital.
Celia tells me that up to today, going out is one thing that has never stopped for them. “We go out nearly every weekend. It gives me peace, comfort and also time to be with him. You know you need time to be with your partner to make friends because you are not merely lovers but become friends and so you get time to communicate in a good way. We also talk over things, and share with one another and this has made our love grow strong,” Celia says.