'50 years later, I still choose my Elizabeth''
What you need to know:
According to Nicholas and Elizabeth, even men of God must put their families ahead of any other responsibility, including the church. This and putting God as the overall in their marriage, the couple has been able to cruise through 50 years of marriage.
In the early 1970s, although Nicholas Wafula’s main desire was to serve God, he also wanted to get married and start a family. An opportunity presented itself in 1971 when he met Elizabeth Katewu during a Christian conference. Drawn by her love for Christ, the way she carried herself with dignity and without a doubt, her beauty, Nicholas was glad to meet her in subsequent fellowships. Certain that she was the one, he later confided in his friends about his love for her.
Elizabeth loved the fact that he was a born-again Christian. However, it would take a while for them to get to know each other better because while they both lived in Kampala, they were from different religions.
“I was a born-again Christian while she was from the Anglican Church and her father was an archdeacon,” Nicholas says.
Nonetheless, he wasted no time in making his intentions known through a proposal, pending approval from Elizabeth’s father.
“While I loved him, I told him that my response would depend on what my father said; if my father accepted his proposal, we would get married. But in the event that he did not, we would give up,” she says.
Thankfully, their respective churches organised conferences that would see them both travel to Kenya; Nicholas in Mombasa and Elizabeth in Nairobi. And when Elizabeth got stuck owing to changes in dates, one of Nicholas’ church members urged her to join them in Mombasa.
“Although baptised, Elizabeth joined others that were baptised in the ocean and became a born-again Christian. With that, the second hurdle was overcome,” he says.
When Elizabeth shared this good news with her father, he had no qualms about it which was a signal to Nicholas to go ahead with his plans. Seeing that they were already friends, Nicholas, who is also the head of deliverance churches in Uganda, says they did not want to waste any more time.
Their introduction ceremony was held in 1972 and later their wedding at St Francis Chapel, Makerere, on April 28, 1973.
Stepping into marriage
Marriage, according to Nicholas, is about making adjustments and they have made a number of these over the years.
“In marriage, one may have to change where the bed faces, how the furniture is arranged and the like, in order to accommodate their spouse. In our case, while she loved matooke, I loved kalo. So, we compromised by always having these two prepared,” he says.
On May 1, 1974, they welcomed their first child, Peter and that meant more adjustments because while Nicholas was a teacher of Biology and Physics at Gayaza High School, Elizabeth was a nurse at Mulago National Referral Hospital.
“When she was away for night duty, it fell on me to stay with the children. So, I was very much involved in feeding the babies and changing nappies. I am thankful that Peter and his brothers did not give me a hard time,” he says.
Elizabeth says God has been faithful to enable her to be a great mother and wife, ensuring that although she enlisted the help of house helps, she prepared all the family meals.
While there is a notion that today’s parents are less available because they have to make ends meet which was not so in the past, Nicholas disagrees, saying parents then still had the same expenses that had to be met.
“Children upbringing is a priority and as Christians, the emphasis was to raise them with godly principles and love. They got that from either side without compromise. The rule of thumb is to ensure that parents balance their roles so none suffers,” he says.
This very crucial journey began in 1965 when his housemaster at Nabumali High School, Michael Rae, sent him to a Christian conference in Kericho, Kenya.
“It was here that I got born-again and at school, formed the Young Christian Ambassadors fellowship. From Nabumali, we continued preaching even at university, meeting on Saturday evenings at the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) but went to our various denominational churches on Sunday.
‘‘Unfortunately, we were soon seen as rebellious and were kicked out from these churches, hence moving our fellowships to Sunday. This was the birth of Deliverance Church in 1971,” he shares. In 1974, the church started organising house meetings, a style that helped them when other churches were abolished in 1976.
In 1977, their leader, a lecturer at Makerere University visited the Wafulas in Gayaza to say that President Idi Amin was looking for him.
“Being from Busia, I knew the paths to get to Kenya so I assisted him to flee. With that, the responsibility fell on me to lead the congregation and in 1981, it became clear that I could not juggle teaching and pastoring, hence resigning from teaching,” he shares.
That came at a cost as the Wafulas had to give up their four-bedroom house for shared living. Reminiscing about those days, Elizabeth says at first Nicholas had proposed that they move in with one of the church elders but Elizabeth was against it.
“He was a married man and I told ‘papa’ that the arrangement would cause enmity as two women could not cook in one kitchen. We later moved in with a bachelor who allowed us to dominate his home. He surely enjoyed our cooking,” she says.
Nicholas looks back in triumph saying that as they made the decision to move, he was sure that neither a salary nor church would fend for his home. In that new location, the space was tight that the sitting room also doubled as a bedroom.
Manoeuvring this space was tricky that one day, one of the children hurt their foot so bad it needed surgery.
‘‘Nonetheless, today, we thank God that we own an acre of land, close to the city centre,” he says.
Balancing ministry and family
Often times, ministers forsake family for church but Nicholas says all the decisions they have made have been drawn from the Bible.
“The Bible cautions ministers to handle their family if they are to handle the church. Therefore, as a church, the hierarchy is God, family, ministry. However, I adjusted it to God, spouse, children then ministry. Unfortunately, many ministers are just careless as to put ministry before their spouses,” he says.
50 years and counting
Marriage has its fair share of challenges but Nicholas says because Elizabeth had committed to Christ, this made it all the merrier.
“A three-strand cord cannot be easily broken. Some moments were so hard such as when my wife lost both parents in one year. If it was not for Jesus being the cement holding us together, that year, I did not know what to do. We also continue holding one another, ensuring that the honey does not leave our marriage long after our honeymoon,” he says.
Learning from one of their pastor friends, Nicholas says he knows that his hands are not meant to slap or punch his Elizabeth but to hold her gently.
“That is not to say that any of us is an angel, but the love of Jesus helps me every day. If I were asked today, I would choose Elizabeth again. She has been good to me and the children,” he says.
Elizabeth also credits putting God first as the main reason their marriage is flourishing 50 years later. She adds that couples ought to accept one another and endeavour to put things right, confess and forgive.