Dr Bayo Adeniji
The foundation to minister to the couples in Oju, Benue state was unknowingly laid in 1990, few months after Mary and I returned from the training we had in Navigators Leadership Development Institute (LDI) in the U.S.A. We went for a one-year training under the auspices of the Navigators Nigeria.
While at the LDI, we observed that, as at then, out of every five marriages in the U.S, two would end in divorce before their 5th wedding anniversary (I learnt that, it is even worse now). Mary and I were fully aware that, whatever happens in Europe or America would soon reach Nigeria, it was only a matter of time because Nigerians and Africans generally copy the good, bad and evil that they see in those continents. With this in mind, we saw the need to invest our resources in helping young couples build a strong relationship based on God’s word and principles. Helping young couples to us was like a preventive measure rather than curative. We felt that, if couples that are 1 week to 10 years old in marriage are helped early enough, issues that easily lead to divorce can be handled and dealt with more timely and earlier. Thus by so doing, the rate of divorce, especially among Christians, would be minimized.
In view of this, in 1990 we began our first couple’s fellowship with a couple who were our friends and were a year older than us in marriage. We were meeting once a month using the Navigators material – Design For the Family. We met together for a period of two years sharing what God allowed us to learn at the LDI and through an older Couple, we met with regularly while at the LDI.
Our friends were from Oju, the husband was working in the University of Jos as a Lecturer, and the wife was teaching at the University Staff School. At the end of our two years of meeting with them, they had a call by God to go back home to work with a Christian Vocational Training Centre in Oju. The Centre just took off then. While there, we maintained the relationship. We sometimes spent our holidays with them in Oju, especially when the children were on a long vacation.
Mary and I had the opportunity of meeting with different batches of young couples, whom we worked with for two years and at the end of which we encouraged them to do to others what we had done with them as the Lord would lead them.
As time went on, in 2011 along with our Church, we organized the first Couples’ retreat which took place at Miango Rest Home with the aim of bringing together the couples we have been reaching out to. My friend at Oju was informed about this and he sponsored his son who just got married and one of his staff to attend the retreat. They all came with their spouses. The son and wife were living in Makurdi. The following year, we organized another retreat. This time two couples came from Oju and another two from Makurdi.
This went on annually and the number of couples coming for the retreat kept on increasing. As at today, we have at least ten couples from Oju who had attended the annual retreat at one time or the other. However, in 2019, many of the couples that wanted to attend the retreat could not do so because of the bad economy and none payment of salaries since most of them are government workers. In view of this, we thought of how to serve them and came up with the idea of organizing a mini-retreat which money-wise, would cost less since each participant would come from home and the programs would be in the evenings.
This idea was accepted and our friend and another couple who is coordinating the activities of the couples in Oju took up the responsibility of carrying out our plans. They did the mobilization of the couples, got the venue and worked on all the logistic details. I was given the responsibility of being the Guest Speaker and they asked for my inputs where necessary.
They invited couples from different denominations and focused more on young couples who were not more than 10 years old in marriage. We, however, had a few who were more than 10 years old in marriage but were not the majority. To the glory of God, we had 36 couples attended and 5 others whose spouses were not available. Thus we had a total of 77 persons attended the retreat( this is more than what we ever had at any of our annual retreats).
We did not charge any fee for the retreat but tried to raise funds to support it. We did not receive much financial support but we got in kind. For instance, the hall we used was given to us at no cost, someone provided the refreshment served for the 3 days we met. We did not have to hire a generator, overhead projector and chairs. They were all provided for by a family. God provided cash for what we need cash for.
Here are highlights of the feedback we received from participants, comments extracted from the Evaluation forms and SMS turned in by the participants:
“We lack words to appreciate U for dat wonderful time spent with us… U have given a lot of drugs to treat our family, they’ve started working…”
” I learnt that my culture should not be the guide to my marriage but the Bible”.
“I learnt how to admire my husband with words of appreciation and affirmation for every effort he is making towards the good of the family”
“Next time, I will invite some of my friends to come and benefit from the retreat just like I did in this.”
“Through this retreat, I have received a lot of healing where I was hurting in my relationship with my wife.”
” This retreat has opened my eyes to many things I did not know about the husband-wife relationship”
” The retreat has helped me discover my mistakes and offered me solutions to my family relationship problems.
” A day at the retreat, with my husband created a new life in the family. Please make it an annual event”
” I am going to place on the wall in my house, my wife’s likes and dislikes. This is to enable me to remember what I need to do regarding her.
From the feedback received, we saw the need to organize this retreat at least once or twice a year. We are also encouraging the participants to meet in smaller groups as frequently as possible for the purpose of mutual encouragement and accountability.
We would be encouraged to do this in other locations provided we have those willing to support financially. It is our prayer that God will touch more hearts towards this.
In conclusion, for us, it is a great privilege to be involved in what God is doing in transforming lives, family and consequently the society for good. We cannot do this alone, we need the support of as many as belief in what God is doing through us for His glory and kingdom. Indeed, the harvest is truly plentiful but the labourers are few.