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Marriage is sweet when you find your true love. When couples are compatible, and God is the foundation of the relationship, the marital experience tastes like a cup of tea sweetened with honey. In the same way that God renews the life of the eagle, heaven-brought-together couples daily find joy in their union despite the numerous challenges that buffet marriages from all sides.

That is the story of Rev. Mike Iwunze, presiding pastor of LoveBase Assembly, Festac Town, Lagos, who was once a man acquainted with sorrow. And it was during his days in the valley of agony that he met the bone of his bones – his wife Mary-Ann, whose name he changed to Ruth, and it stuck to her like evo-stik.

Together, they are showing that true love smoothens all the rough edges of the marital relationship. Though Ruth runs a thriving private business, she still gives 100 percent support to the 10-year-old Christian ministry headed by her husband. In this interview they speak on their love relationship and the challenges of ministry. Excerpts…

What kind of woman is your wife? What qualities did you see in your wife?

I remain very grateful to the Almighty God for my wife. She came into my life when I was at my low estate, when I didn't have anything. It was at a time when everybody else had deserted me. I found some sterling qualities in her. She has the fear of God; she is a woman that understands the things of God, she readily identifies with my calling, she has been there with me, we started together and God has been helping us.

So I can tell without any reservation that I have seen in her exactly what I asked of the Lord: a divine wife, who understands me, a virtuous woman. If I'm going through fasting, she fasts with me and we share feelings. Let me give you one particular example. If I had a discussion with you about something and my wife was not there, if she came around later, she will repeat the same thing I said.

That is very interesting. What would you say accounts for that?

I believe God has given us a perfect understanding of each other's thought pattern. It is what I ask from God. I didn't go and marry a woman because I felt her father is wealthy. I told God for me to do this work, you need to give me a divine and understanding wife, and it is a confirmation to show that this is my wife. If I go out the particular food I want to eat, I have not called her, and if I come back the food is just there on the table.

For a person who was in a low estate, what gave you the confidence to woo her?

Immediately I got converted, I told the Lord I would spend the rest of my life working for Him. So I told the Lord to give me a wife that will identify with me in my predicament and the Lord answered my prayer. My wife is a lawyer from a wealthy family.

She is the only child from the family. Both of us have been working together and God has manifested his power. I was not shy the first day I met her. She met me in my low estate. She met me when I was nobody. When we started the ministry, there were times we didn't even see food to eat but whatever God gave us, we shared with people. If managed to buy buns and mineral, we shared with other people around us.

You said you met your wife when you were in low estate. What exactly do you mean?

I was doing well in business trying to get foreign exchange when the government restricted the issuance of import license. I was involved in a transaction that did not go well and put into trouble. During that time I gave my life to Christ. Immediately I got born again, a lot of people were scared; most of my family members even refused to visit me because I became a preacher.

They felt that there was nothing a pastor could achieve. But God has been solving my problems and taking care of my responsibilities. Most of my friends who were engaged in business then are coming back. They just marvel at my success. God is helping me do greater things than what I was doing when I was in the world. My ministerial work has exposed me to the international world.

I have met people of substance doing the work of God. Run through this short list: Bishop Mike Okonkwo and his wife, Pastor Adeboye, Pastor Ayo Oritshejafor, among others. These are men of God who have been in ministry for up to 30 years. They handled their family responsibilities, trained their children in the best schools.

It is common knowledge that some women try to seduce men enegaed in Christian ministry. So do you cope with such women?

Improper female attention does not move me. I came from a background of strict upbringing and I have never really had interest in women - even when I was not yet born again, whether during secondary school days or in my business life. I was once an apostolic church member and my parents took us to church and we grew up as disciplined children.

When I got born again and was praying for a wife I told God give me a woman that would understand my calling. And is exactly what I got: a good wife who was also properly trained by parents as well. She was church worker under Pastor Tony Rapu. My wife pray together and God has been keeping seducing spirits from coming near us.

I see pretty women but I'm not moved by their looks. I hold this strong conviction that none of them is prettier than my wife. I made a vow to my God, that I won't have anything to do with a woman and the grace of God has been sustaining me in this vow. When I read about Solomon and some other great men of God, I knew their major problem was about women. I earnestly prayed to God to give me the grace to overcome this problem and God has been so faithful.

So how did your journey into ministry commence?
I said earlier that I was engaged in import business. I had a problem with the Central Bank over foreign exchange transaction, and this led to my affliction. During my affliction, people came to preach to me and in the course of that I got converted.

While still going through the affliction, I vowed to God that if he delivered me out of the trouble I would spend the rest of my life and all my earthly resources to do the work of the gospel. God made me to come out of that affliction and that was how I left everything. It was only God that helped me in that affliction; money could not help me, nobody could help me, I was alone. So when God delivered me, I gave Him everything I had and started the work of the gospel using my house.

I have been in ministry for a little over 20 years. I served under another pastor before God asked me to start this ministry.

This year marks our 10th anniversary. We started from our house in 2000 and continued like that till 2003. When the Lord began to increase the church we moved to Akpatera. We spent six months there. The land that was sold to us was resold to another person and our money given back to us. But then, we were able to rebound.

Within six months of that year, God gave us where we are now, and that's why we call it the Everlasting God city. By the special grace of God, we took possession of the land in January. We started construction in February and finished the project on November 6, 2003 because we asked God for divine speed. In 2005, we opened two new branches. First was the Abuja branch (The Wealthy Place) in March and the Upper Room, South Africa, in May. The Lord has been so faithful. Though the church has existed for one decade, I have been in ministry for a little over 20 years. I had served the Lord in several other places before He asked me to start off this ministry.

Looking back 10 years how do you feel today?

Mr. and Mrs. Mike Iwunze
I have every reason to glorify the Lord. He has been abundantly faithful. He has enlarged our coast beyond our wildest imagination. I simply give Him the glory for what this ministry has been able to achieve through his His grace. God is doing something great things in my marriage and in the ministry.

The wife
Just like what he told you, when we got married, we had nothing. Not even a bank account but I knew the hand of God was upon him. I have always told my daughters in church that they should marry somebody they can bond with. Don't marry somebody that is already made.

Get married to somebody that both of you can build a home, no matter what happens he will have respect for you. If you get married to somebody who is up there and doing so well he may throw you out tomorrow. And also get married to somebody that has the fear of God, my husband loves God, he has the fear of God, I think that is what is keeping our marriage. Against all odds, God has sustained us; God has kept us. My husband has a good heart, I think he is the best man in the whole world.

God gave me a friend, a brother; I call him my bishop. Like I would always say, he is my mentor too. God has also used him for me. In the ministry, he has been mentoring me, he's been there for me. In ministry, you really need somebody to talk to, ministry is not a bed of roses, and it takes the grace of God. My husband is my friend, we discuss everything, there is nothing we don't discuss.

What should look out for in a prospective spouse? ““s by giving me my heart desire. Before I got married I told God that I wanted a husband that will be my friend and brother and everything. I'm his best friend and he is the same to me. We are so close and that is God's grace.

You find out that whatever you want God to do for you he does it for you, it might come late and you're thinking he is not answering your prayers. Meanwhile, He was just waiting to give you the best

Looking from the biblical point of view again, what kind of woman is your mother-in-law?

I have a good relationship with her. The last time she came to visit us, she spent six years with us. She calls me every time. I'm like a daughter to her and not a son's wife to her. My mother-in-law is a nice woman.

Most women don't like their mother-in-law stay with them. But yours stayed in your house for six years. How did you cope?

I allowed her to stay because I realized that one day I will get old I will also go to visit my own children in their home. I had a good rapport with her. She is a good woman and she's also God fearing. She actually took care of me, at times she will bring food to me on the bed and I will tell her, mama you don't have to do that. I have a cook, but she will insist. I remember one particular day I came from a business trip so tired. I was still sleeping on the bed and she called me by my Ibo name, saying, 'Azu, I have prepared water for your to bath.' She turned on the jaccuzzi and said I should put my leg in. That day she bathed me and me feel so cool. She has been there for me all this while.

We never had any misunderstanding those years she spent with us. I know she loves my husband so much and because I'm very close to my husband, I try as much as possible to make sure that whatever my husband loves I adapt to it. I'm an orphan; she's like a mother to me.

The problem women have when they don't allow their mother-in-law stay with them is that they see their mother-in-law as a stranger, they think their mother-in-law is trying to take their son away from them, but when you see her as your mother that same love you have for your mother, you give same to my mother-in-law. Most of the things I do for my mother-in-law my husband is not aware. Every time I travel, she will write a list of all she wants. I try as much as possible to buy everything for her. I try to make her happy. I believe that is the only thing I can do for her.

I believe that when you have the fear of God and you sometimes know that one day you are going to get old. Of course you know that when people become old they usually behave like children. My mother-and say, 'yes, this is my daughter. She will look at me from head to toe and she will say 'when you travel buy me this one.' Just the other day, I told my husband that Mama should travel with me.

Whenever my husband and I travel, she is in house, she takes care of the house and when I come back she would tell me everything that happened. You can't afford to do rubbish in the house if I'm not there. It's good having her around.

Challenges in Ministry
Running a ministry is not easy. It takes the grace of God to keep you. That is why I feel for the wives of upcoming ministers. You have to be independent, you have to look up to God, and not your brethren. If you look up to the brethren you'll be downcast because some of them will disappoint you. The last thing I wanted to do is to be a pastor's wife. But God has kept me and been there for me.

You find out that in ministry, you don't have privacy. Sometimes, you are hurt. I advise pastors' wives to get close to people that can really mentor them. So many pastors' wives are dying in silence; so many of them are sick in the body because there is so much pain and no one to share it with. That is why their husbands should be their best friends. Most of them, their husbands do not even have time for them, everything is ministry, ministry, ministry and the woman is just there. That is why I feel for these upcoming pastors' wives.

What do you do for a living?
Apart from being a pastor's wife, I was into full time ministry until God spoke to me to go into tent-making, that is begin to earn income from some other source. Right now, I am still a minister of the gospel though I 'm engaged in furnishing and interior decorations. God has been faithful, he has blessed me.