Grace is the wife of the immediate past General Evangelist of the Christ Apostolic Church Worldwide, Prophet Samuel Abiara, she got married as a virgin at 56. She shares some of her experiences with Ademola Olonilua,
How would you describe your childhood?
I grew up in Ikole Ekiti even though I was born in Ondo Town. At an early age, I was ‘posted’ to Ikole to live with my grandmother. The reason I used the word ‘posted’ was because I was sent to Ikole on a market day and I was placed in the care of one of those drivers who left Ondo for Ekiti to buy kola nuts. The driver was charged with delivering me to my grandmother.
Why did your parents send you to live with your grandmother?
My grandmother had only two children; my mother and her elder brother. At the time, my uncle did not have a child and I was the first girl in my family, so I was sent to my grandmother to be with her. I stayed there for a while till I came back to Ondo to start my primary school at CAC Primary School, Oke Isegun.
Have you always been a born-again Christian or something prompted you into this lifestyle?
I have been a born-again Christian right from my childhood days and all my siblings and I were born at the CAC Mission House. My father was one of the elders at CAC, Oke Isegun.
Being a pretty young lady, weren’t you ever pressured by friends to probably backslide by indulging in things like partying and the likes?
I have never been tempted to backslide. What has been keeping me going is that I know that there is God. Everybody in life has been faced with one form of temptation or the other but for me, I noticed everything was going on fine with me apart from the issue of marriage. I told myself that if God could perform wonders in other spheres of my life, he would do it for me when it comes to marriage; I waited patiently on the Lord and he made other things available for me. There was never a day I was denied promotion; even at work, I was always recommended for various roles; good positions that only a child of God can manage. That has been my motivating factor for holding on to God.
Some people felt you actually left CAC for MFM because you were in search of a husband.
I heard some things like that but I made them understand that there are some scriptures in the Bible where there were a lot of people that waited upon the Lord. Look at the case of Abraham and Sarah, God told Abraham that he would give him a child but he held his faith even though the child did not come on time. Look at the case of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego; look at the Israelites whom God had already promised to take out of bondage into the promised land. At the moment when the promise is not forthcoming, you need to wait patiently upon the Lord. When you know that God is doing something for you, then you would have to be steadfast. I could have as well derailed but I knew that God had a purpose for me. Also, I waited for God’s promise to be fulfilled because a man of God had once told me that I was going to get married to a man of God. The prophecy was fulfilled after 12 years.
You did not get married till you attained and passed the age of 50. Was it that suitors did not come to seek your hand in marriage or no man of God approached you for marriage?
You can see what happened in the life of Abraham, Sarah and Haggai. That is the perfect example of my life. Despite my age, I did not go against the word of God. Immediately the Holy Spirit said something about a particular suitor, I listened. Everyone that came was rejected by the Holy Spirit. I prayed myself; I did not need to meet any man of God. When my husband asked me to marry him, I talked to God and the revelation came without any delay. Immediately, I called my prophet who told me he would call me back after some days. When he called me, he told me that God approved of the marriage. The devil would make every effort to derail you but when you are focused and determined and you ask for the grace of God, He would lead you.
Does it mean that the devil tried to derail you?
Yes, because it got to a stage where the devil started telling me that was it not obvious that I was ageing and kept urging me to settle for anyone that came my way. But immediately I prayed to God about it, I had to remind God that He is the only one with a perfect answer and He is a good God and my case would not prove him to be a liar.
Was there any time you actually gave up on love and marriage?
I never gave up. There is an annual programme in MFM which holds around my birthday. I remember telling God a year before I got married that I had never asked Him for a birthday gift but He should give me my own birthday gift by granting my heart desire last year. Before the end of that programme, God proved himself. I have always put my trust in God.
Did you not face pressure from family to settle down especially when you were getting past 40 years?
I faced a lot of pressure but I had God on my side. I faced pressure to the extent that my family, friends began to tell me to marry just anybody even if the person was not a Christian. Anytime I got such advice, all I used to say was ‘okay’. I never fought them because I knew that it was borne out of the love and care they felt towards me. If they did not care, they would just be watching me.
For instance, one of my bosses in the office advised me to change my church but I had to tell her that the issue on ground was not about church. I told her that when God finished with me, everything would be a thing of the past. I thank God that she is still alive even though she has retired. Before my wedding, she deposited a huge sum of money into my bank account. She was so happy for me that she attended my wedding with her family members. Even friends that are Muslims were concerned about my situation because they all knew that I have a wonderful character and I do not fight with people. Within me, I knew that God was going to answer my prayer.
Did you not feel pressured personally especially when your younger siblings got married and began to bear children?
No, I did not feel any form of personal pressure. I brought up all my younger ones even with their children. I helped raise my younger sister’s first child till she got married.
How did you meet your husband?
It was by divine intervention; everything was prepared by God. When I say that we met through divine intervention, it is beyond human reasoning. It is beyond human imagination.
But for a divine intervention to occur, God has to use people. Was it a case of match-making through a mutual friend?
We did not meet through match-making. I had initially said that there was a prophecy about 13 years ago that I would get married to a man of God; so when it happened, I was not surprised. When you ensure that you are not derailed and you are on God’s side, immediately a breakthrough is coming you would see it clearly. The revelation would come in a very clear manner.
When your husband asked you to be his wife, what was the first thing that came to your mind?
Because I saw God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in him; that settled everything for me. I did not see him as an old man or in any other light but I saw God in him.
For someone who had waited this long, does it mean no special thought came to your mind?
I felt favoured. It got to a stage where after I read Psalm 91, my next favourite Bible passage was Psalm 92 verse 14. The passage states that at my old age, I would bring forth fruit; that I shall be fresh and flourishing.
Does it mean that you have plans to bear children?
As the Lord lives, I would. What age was Sarah when she had her child? She was in her 90s, I am just in my 50s, so what are we saying. The God that did it for Sarah then is still the same God. He does not change.
So that means you are still looking forward to having children?
Yes, by God’s grace.
While walking down the aisle in your wedding dress, what was running through your mind? Weren’t you nervous?
I just had two Christian songs playing in my head. The first one was, ‘Oyi biri biri ire kan mi; Oyi biri biri anu Oluwa kan mi which translates to ‘I am excited because it is my turn to attain success; I am excited because it is my turn to enjoy God’s mercy’. The second one was ‘Emi na re Oluwa, emi na re Oluwa, mo wa dupe ore atodun mo dun,’ which translates to, ‘This is me, Lord, this is me, Lord, I am here to thank you for all the blessings brought my way all these years.’ It is possible that before then I could have died but because God is on my side, I lived to witness one of the happiest days of my life. I have travelled a lot within and outside Nigeria and anything could have happened to me. At my place of work, I attend various international seminars, yet God has been preserving my life; so for me to witness my wedding day, I was overly grateful to God and joyous. I had everything; all that remained for me was to get married.
In one day, I bought three plots of land without borrowing money from anyone and I travelled out of the country the next day. I have never joined any cooperative society, meanwhile, that is what some people depend on. I have never begged or borrowed money from anyone, yet God has been blessing me. There are a lot of things to be thankful to God for. I had nine people with me and I fed everybody daily. There was a time that my sister told me that there was every probability that I was blessed because I also helped others. I have never collected money from a man and it got to a stage where I even forgot that I was unmarried. A lot of people said it in my church that with the way I behave, no one would know that I was not married. Anytime people asked about my husband and children, I always replied that they were doing fine. As a result of that, most of them came to my wedding just to witness it and be sure that I had been unmarried all the while.
How were you able to keep your virginity for that long?
Throughout my university days, I was never one of those girls that had sex with lecturers to pass their courses. I was always adequately prepared and I could stay in the classroom till 2am before I got back to the hostel to sleep. If a lecturer scheduled an early morning class, after reading I would sleep in the classroom despite the noise and after the early morning lecture, I would return to my hostel. When God prepares a person for a certain journey in life, you would not know but he would give you the strength and knowledge required for the journey. You just notice that you are going along a certain path without your knowledge but you would get to a stage where God would be calling your attention to the journey ahead; you need to appreciate God when you get to that stage. There was a point in my life when I began to worship God like a blind person. There were times I would have got to MFM headquarters as early as 8 am, either it is a working day or public holiday. I was never tired of serving him. I knew that God would make it possible for me to get married and when he did it at his own appointed time, he did it effortlessly.
How would you describe your relationship with your husband’s children?
It is very fantastic; the first son is my second daddy and I refer to him in this manner regardless of who is present. God had prepared the house for me even before I got there. If you are present whenever we are chatting, you would assume that we had known ourselves for a long time. I have a very beautiful relationship with all of them, we have no problems. I am grateful to God. When God promised the Israelites that they were going to the promised land, you know that the crops Joshua and Caleb found in the promise were described as very good ones; my husband’s children are wonderful people.