Theirs is that simple yet beautiful story where a boy meets a girl, falls in love and is determined to make her his forever. Joel Gabriel Opio and Ann N Opio met at Uganda Christian University, main campus where they were both students.
They came through false starts but managed to build a strong marriage. As they were enjoying their marriage and expecting their first baby, the couple ran into hardships that tasted them.
At seven months pregnant Ann was involved in an an accident.
“I was travelling on a boda boda when a car ran into us. I fell off the boda boda hitting the ground with my belly. Doctors later found out that the fall had caused a a tear on the uterus which resulted in bleeding. To save the baby I was advised to take bed rest until I delivered,” Ann shares.
With her bed rest, the couple was now completely dependent on Joel’s income. But as they say misery loves company, soon Joel lost his job too. Faced with raising a baby on no income, the couple was forced to look for creative ways to start earning.
“As usual we prayed and believed God would deliver us from these trials. But we also learned how to make priorities and live frugally,” the couple shares.
However, misfortune struck again when Ann lost two consecutive pregnancies after their first born.
“It was a terrible time but God changed our story because today, we have three children, two girls, Anastasia Manuela Achola and Ariane Witness Asianut, plus a boy, Avishai Jordan Ocuka,” she says.
While he later got a job as an employee of the Parliament of Uganda, we started Ulinzi Development Foundation where my husband is the CEO. It has divisions such as Ocuka Medical Centre based in Butebo District,” Ann says.
She adds that he is passionate about community work and through the foundation provides solutions to young people’s dreams, desires and aspirations.
Ann also founded Boss Mom Africa, an organisation that seeks to inspire and empower rising female entrepreneurs and stay or work at home moms to reach their full potential through capacity development, transformational programmes and skills training to achieve financial freedom.
From the beginning, the couple decided to conduct their relationship on Christian principles “We desired to honour God as we were both believers. So while we were in love, we never crossed boundaries that didn’t please God.
Building a foundation
Although Ann was unsure about dating while at University, Joel won her over with his persistence and honesty.
From the beginning, the couple decided to conduct their relationship on Christian principles “We desired to honour God as we were both believers. We decided to abstain from sex during courtship until the day we were married. We prayed and supported each other in many ways. For example, Joel financially supported me bought me presents and took care of me whenever I fell sick. I reciprocated by volunteering my time whenever he needed me,” she says.
All this however, came to a sudden end when Joel finished his course and left the campus because Ann did not think she could handle a long distance relationship. However, after eight months the couple decided to give each other another try.
Ann adds that when they got back, they realised how deeply in love they were.
“My man did awesome things such as cooking me surprise meals, buying me heart warming gifts, calling me every day and night. He took me on dates, made me feel special, loved me, but above all, he loved God. That made me feel he was the one I wanted to spend the rest of my life with,” she shares. In November 2009, he Joel proposed to Ann and she said yes. The following month, Ann told her parents about Joel and they agreed to meet him. The couple introduced on October, 10 2010 and wedded on December 4, 2010. They are looking forward to celebrating their tenth year wedding anniversary in December.
The first days
Many have termed the first year of marriage as a tasting period but for the Opios, it was exciting.
“We had spent years building a friendship, so it was exciting to finally live together because while we had desired to, we had decided not to cohabit or stay together till we were married. It was wonderful. Our first year was our year of getting stronger and closer,” Joel speaks of the commitment they had held to.
The couple also decided to wait before having children so they could first learn to live with other without the added pressure of raising a child. “We learnt a lot of things about each other and found ways to tolerate the other’s habits. For example, I am a perfectionist, very picky and particular while my hubby is the opposite. While we are still learning, it was a great learning and starting point,” Ann shares.
“Men love your wives, treat them respectfully, be kind to them, give them affection like their lives depends on it,” Joel advises.
He adds that it is prudent to avoid extra relationships, cheating, flirting as these hurt the marriage, break trust, and dishonor the Lord.
Ann adds that being faithful is a choice. “Deliberately choose to live with your partner happily. To those who intend to get married, choose to be friends before you get married because during tough times, you will sail through with ease.
The Opios have been married for close to a decade. They will be celebrating their 10th anniversary in December. The relationship that started all those years ago has crystalised into a family. The couple has built a life and business together that they are proud of.
“He loves to say, if you don’t build your dream, you will be hired to build another’s,” Ann relates of her husband’s entrepreneurial spirit.