FAMILY LIFE MISSION
I didn’t have a Christian background as my father who was a catholic stopped going to church and my mother never went to church but I came to know Jesus Christ in training college and that was a drastic transformation being exposed to God’s ways. My wife was raised in a Presbyterian church so when we decided to get married it was a question of “how do you marry a Christian?” and I think that we had the desire to find God’s purpose regarding marriage and that means searching the scriptures but especially reading Christian books. Some of the books I read include two of George MacDonald’s books namely “The Effective Father” and “The Magnificent Marriage”. These including Normal Dickson’s counseling experience really give us a good portrait of what marriage is about.
We got married and we were committed to do whatever it takes to marry as a Christian to glorify God, a few parameters were set like our devotional life in the morning, evening and so on. This was also to discuss issues and one thing that my wife and I also agreed upon was for the Lord to pour in our heart the key he wants us to unlock. We came to the conclusion of Ephesians 4:26; “you shall not let the sun go down on your anger and give the devil a chance” and we were convinced, that was God speaking to us about marriage. That means if there should be anything between us that will make one uncomfortable, we must resolve it within 12 hours.
We started practicing this almost mechanically just in obedience and to our surprise never thought we were married. People started taking notice within three months into our marriage and were coming for marriage counseling and some of them had problems which we didn’t have the understanding left alone have solutions. The result was to research and read more because people come to you expecting that you will be able to help them. That was the beginning of the ministry and we kept on reading, praying and then soon after our marriage I had to go to Australia so we went to Australia to do my doctorate and we were there for four years. It was quite helpful because it takes you out of your environment and with the foundations and decisions we had taken we were even closer. We had challenges and because of our commitment it brought us closer and closer to each other rather than the opposite.
When we came back to Ghana early 1981, the Family Life Mission team came to Ghana to hold a marriage sermon and my wife and I went to the seminary. This gave us a systematic way of looking at Christian marriage and also how to help others because ours was clearly self-taught and I think that became a very big blessing to us. But the most important is when it ended, we the participants decided to form a group to continue the fellowship.
My wife and I emerged as the leaders giving partly our interest our home became the meeting place and monthly prayed for about ten couples who attended the meeting. Those who were interested were invited and we had to prepare monthly to lead the group. Again, using some of the materials we had obtained from the meeting and others we were reading, we found ourselves in the leadership role and now not only enjoying marriage but also having to encourage and strengthen others. So we continued to hold seminars and that was the beginning from 1982, we held family life mission meetings till early 1986 when we had to go to Britain.
Then in Britain we decided to formally study, so we did diploma in marriage counseling in the Institute of Counseling but that was way after we had tried to do the best we can and then later on with family life mission which encouraged us greatly. A challenge surfaced when I got the job with the Commonwealth. The challenge was what to do with the new group of people and that led us to write what became a very useful Family Life movement all over the world, a manual of about 46 lessons from courtship to marriage.
We were invited to seminars in Germany and Kenya as well and that was the start of the seminar series. We were encouraged by Jean Mason to write books on communication and parenting and our two first books almost had a market of about ten thousand. Basically that was how we became involved in Family Life for the past 36 years of our marriage.
Family life is so important because it is one of the most central tests of spirituality. The test of spirituality of a married person is the quality of their marriage. The quality of your Christianity is not how much you preach or what you give but the quality of your relationship with your spouse.
The core of people’s sense of wellbeing and joy is the quality of their family life and no matter how successful they are in business, rich, famous etc., their sense of security and wellbeing leads to their marriage life.
The third lesson which over the years have become more and more strong for us is that, marriage as God intended is different from all the cultural marriages whether it is an American marriage, a British marriage or a Ghanaian marriage even though relatively some are closer to the biblical concept. And for me, it is so important to rediscover from our individual perspective God’s master plan for marriage. There are other purposes and unfortunately often times we make the other purposes the ultimate but to really discover the purpose of God is wonderful.
The process of marriage is a decision to transform all other relationships including the most important to a single person to that of relationship of family, parent, so that you give room to your spouse and you will become one in mind, spirit and soul and transparent as being naked and not being ashamed and forging two personalities into our wonderful picture of marriage by living, craving and becoming one flesh, spirit, soul and body.
God’s master plan also has to do with the fact that God has given clear cut responsibilities for husbands and wives which are complementary, mutual submission to one another, giving respect to their husbands and husbands loving their wives the agape way. Study biblical marriages and marriage practices, how communication becomes such a cardinal catharsis of good marriages. The effectiveness of your marriage all depends on your ability to communicate effectively with one another and impart love and communication. But within it too is the willingness to communicate, admit faults, apologize and forgive one another. And how to communicate is not really by focusing on communication but by doing some cartelistic ones like reading the bible together, giving gifts to one another, sitting together, sharing and holding hands and there are certain things which are not of communication but they help you to lay the foundation for good communication.
In terms of principles, marriage requires a certain minimum knowledge and skill in handling some issues we call this marital flash point in other words whatever you do if you don’t know how to handle those flash points you will have predicaments. Of cause trouble can occur anywhere else but these four areas turn to be often a source of worry and people must acquire knowledge and the skills to deal with them in every marriage.
One is dealing with in-laws. When you marry you have two other families therefore one must acquire the skills to relate with their in-laws because they have a stake in your marriage no matter what. I believe that if you are able to manage that one then you have expanded the relationship.
The next flash point in marital life is sexual love which is very, very important. What we have found is that people who have pre-marital sex have more problems when they marry than those who didn’t have pre-marital sex. They simply arm themselves with experimentation and want their spouses to behave the same way as their boyfriends and girlfriends.
The third has to do with money. I found out that all those who had more or less have the same problem when they come to us for counseling which means the issue has nothing to do with the quantum of money but the attitude towards the money and towards humility because money has always tested the humility of couples and in our part of the world couples are scarcely one in their finances and that undermines totally their oneness. Handing money is one of the flash points and you can’t help it from school fees to household money to a building house.
Fourthly, traditions are several but the most important is your family background. It has to be a conscious effort but more than that, our traditions prescribe to us our belief systems, our values and our norms. People must be willing to confront their cultures to take from it what is good because there is something good in every culture and those ones can be reinforced, but then those which are contrary to marriage as God intended must be surgically dealt with. Inbuilt resistance is an outcast Christian marriage and people don’t realize it, there are many good things about our culture. The key is to sit down look at your culture with a sub culture in your nuclear family based upon the best of traditions and the principles in the bible.
The final end is Satan. If it is a Christian marriage then you have Satan as your enemy. And Satan becomes your enemy because he is the enemy of our God and father and the Lord Jesus Christ and anything that will bring glory to God, Satan will attack. That is why today we are almost having as much marital scandal in the church as it is in the world. Again it is through the family that generation will be imparted for eternity and for the world and for the country. So therefore we have being excited to be doing this for God’s ministry of life. We have being doing seminars, talks, writing books, personal counseling and teaching. We like having seminars so that we can reach many people because we are limited to how many people we counsel in a day on face to face bases. But we write the books which are tools of the ministry so that the ideas can go to other Christians for goods use.