Kay Warren is an extremely brave woman. As the wife of Rick Warren, the world-famous author of the runaway best seller The Purpose Driven Life and pastor of the Saddleback Church — said to be the eighth largest church in the United States — it seems many thought that her life has been a sheltered happily-ever-after kind of thing.
However, in a newly released bare-it-all book, Mrs Warren writes of a troubled past which includes molestation at the age of five, growing up with the pressure of being a pastor’s daughter, addiction to pornography, an early marriage that hit turbulence during the honeymoon, surviving breast cancer and melanoma as well as going through the mental illness of their son Mathew Warren who ended up committing suicide around Easter in 2013.
In an article in the Christianity Today magazine, Mrs Warren sums up her story contained in the book Sacred Privilege: Your Life and Ministryas a Pastor’s Wife.
She opens up to the struggles they have faced over the years while in ministry in a world that expects pastors’ marriages to be as clean as a whistle, to use the cliché.
Against this milieu, Lifestyle talked to a group of local pastors’ wives on their experiences and the verdict seems to mirror Mrs Warren’s story — the family life of a pastor is judged from a higher pedestal compared to other people’s.
From the various posters about crusades by many churches across Kenya, the overriding theme is that no male pastor worth his salt should appear on a banner without his wife by the side, and a number of high-flying pastors in Kenya have entrenched that notion.
Notable ones include Bishop Pius Muiru of the Maximum Miracle Centre — whose wife Lucy is also a pastor at the church — and Bishop Allan Kiuna of Jubilee Christian Church (JCC) whose wife Kathy is an outspoken pastor and television show host.
Wherever you see a poster of a church event by either of the two bishops, you will most likely encounter photos of the husband with the wife. In the Kiunas’ JCC, for example, most pastors are listed as pairs: Pastor Andrew and Cathy Mwangi, Pastor Edwin and Beth Kanja, Pastor Dennis and Nish Kimani, Rogers and Mercy Cedar among others. The perception, it appears, is that a pastor’s wife completes the perfect picture — and it is ideal if she too is a church minister.
Such expectations and stereotypes put pressure on women married to pastors.
Mrs Lizzy Yogo, whose husband Osborne Yogo administers at the Breakthrough Chapel in Nairobi, says wives of the men of the cloth face lots of challenges: to make sure their children do not misbehave and to ensure she is a mirror image of her husband, among other things considered consistent with a pastor’s high standing.
“People often expect me to be perfect, or do the right things according to their definitions of what is right. They will be disappointed when I do not meet their expectations, which I often won’t, and can’t. I’ve also let people down because they expect me to be everywhere with them — funerals, weddings, birthdays, showers — and at my best, which most of the time is not possible considering I am a wife, mother and a full time employee. I know I’m not perfect but it can still be difficult to feel like I’m letting people down,” she says.
According to Mrs Yogo, pastors’ wives go through emotional challenges, which not many people can understand.
“Imagine on a given day you accompany your husband to conduct a wedding. Later in the afternoon you go for a burial. Not many people would understand the emotional gear shifts needed for all this,” she says.
Mrs Yogo’s position is supported by Mrs Liz Anduvate, whose husband Gibson Anduvate is the Senior Pastor at the International Christian Centre (ICC) Nairobi West Campus.
“Balancing who you are as a person vis-a-vis people’s expectations can be quite challenging. People also expect you to be perfect: always wear a smile, be mild tempered — but we’re human, there are moments that threaten our patience,” she says.
Then there is the issue in some churches where the wife is expected to abandon her career and “support” the husband in tending the flock, which some have said is being unfair to women.
Mrs Sarah Maiywa says her Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) Church is clear on this matter.
“In our setup, the wife mostly complements the pastor. I support my husband in his pastoral work, not directly but in a complementary way. The wife is allowed to follow their career path but she takes up assignments in the church according to her spiritual gifts and talents,” says Mrs Maiywa whose husband Kibiisyo Maiywa is a pastor at the Karengata SDA Church in Karen, Nairobi.
Mrs Anduvate says she quit her job in the hospitality industry to follow her passion of working with the community, and she gets her fix from working alongside her husband in the church.
Mrs Yogo agrees with Mrs Anduvate, saying that although she is right now happy serving as a public relations professional, if the time comes to join her husband, she will gladly do so.
JCC’s Mrs Kiuna, in a past interview, said that in the church’s formative years, she had doubts on whether to be a pastor or just complement her husband.
“I actually thought that I was going to play that role for the rest of my life. I never thought that I was called to minister to the women myself. I thought that I was just gonna support my husband, be by his side,” she told a local television in a March 2015 interview.
Mrs Kiuna said she joined the ministry on the prompting of her husband.
“I was fine with that until the Lord led him to raise me up. He started to tell me, ‘You know, you’re called to the women and you know you’re gonna transform women’.”
She added: “I was like, ‘really? Me?’ I just couldn’t see it. But when he spoke it, then the Lord gave me that passion for the women. And it came so strongly in me that I tell people my blood group is women. So, I just got into it and I love doing it.”
Today, the Kiunas have managed to strike the image of a preaching couple so perfectly that church members call them “Dad” and “Mum” and Mrs Kiuna runs the “Daughters of Zion” programme tailored for women in her church.
An intriguing case of a woman who takes up both her career and church ministry is Mrs Nancy Oginde, the wife of David Oginde, the presiding bishop of Christ is the Answer Ministries (Citam) and the Chancellor of the Pan Africa Christian University.
Mrs Oginde, a lawyer, is currently also the board secretary at Standard Chartered Bank apart from being a passionate preacher at Citam.
In 2007, Mrs Oginde was appointed a judge by then Chief Justice Evan Gicheru. But she declined her appointment, saying in a letter to Justice Gicheru that she could not take up the job because it would severely impact on her family.
Unlike Mrs Oginde, popular gospel artiste Princess Farida, whose husband is Pastor Isaac Migwalla of the Redeemed Gospel Church, has not taken up the roles of a pastor on top of her career in music. She is into her singing but she notes that if she feels God’s prompting, she will have no problem abandoning her flourishing occupation to join her husband.
“I have no problem joining him and serving alongside him in the church because I do understand that my first calling or mandate is to be my husband’s helper. That’s the meaning of submission and there is a blessing in doing that,” says Mrs Migwalla.
She, however, cautions that pastors should let their wives pursue their own career paths away from the pulpit.
“But a word of caution to husbands not to force their wives to the pulpit because there are wives who aren’t called to the pulpit like their husbands. So, this issue depends on one’s calling. It’s not a matter of one just waking up and deciding. One has to depend on God’s leading; otherwise you’ll force your wife to do something she is not graced to do,” she says.
Her case mirrors that of songstress Emmy Kosgei, the wife of Apostle Anselm Madubuko, the General Overseer of Revival Assembly Church in Nigeria. In 2014, a year after wedding Mr Madubuko, she said she had been trying hard to balance her responsibilities as a wife and a singer.
“It’s been a very eventful one year, both as a married woman and a gospel singer,” she said. “At first, I didn’t know how it was going to work, but everything has fallen into place. Being a minister in the church complements my music career a lot.”
The Taunet Nelel singer also noted that because of the different demands of their jobs, many are the times they are away from each other.
“My husband has been very supportive because he understands the gospel music industry. He knows that many times I must travel to perform in different parts of the world, and so does he, to preach,” she said.
But Mrs Migwalla’s story is far more complex. She started off as a dancer going by the more recognisable stage name Princess Farida, and winning the “Queen of Chakacha” title many times over.
She was to find salvation while in between performances in Kenya and Dubai. She comes from a family of performers and she danced with her sister (now deceased). She says she still believes in God for the salvation of her younger brother, the Lingala music star, Kanda King.
She was born a Muslim and, in all her dancing career, she was still a Muslim until she converted, cut all links with her chakacha dancing past and concentrated on her new life. She has since turned to gospel singing and being a wife and mother of two daughters. She is also the author of The New Me, which details her life story.
The musician, who granted this interview to Lifestyle from the United States where she was on a performing tour, agrees that sometimes a pastor’s family can feel neglected, especially if the man spends too much time addressing his congregants’ needs.
“The challenges range from the fact that you get to share him with the congregation and at times when not handled well this may lead to lack of attention to the family or other areas. So, balance is needed,” she says.
She further concurs with her counterparts that the church and the society in general have higher expectations from a pastor’s family, a situation she says should not be encouraged.
In the Christianity Today article titled “We were in marital hell,” Mrs Warren says she and her husband went through the dilemma where the whole world thought they were doing pretty well despite the fact that everything had gone south to the extent that their matrimonial intimacy was affected.
“What made it worse was that everyone considered us the perfect couple. When we returned from the honeymoon, already miserable and shocked at the depth of our unhappiness, we felt like we had nowhere to go with our wretched pain and marital failures. I had told Rick about being molested as a little girl — he was the first person I ever told — but because I was so unemotional about it, he figured it wasn’t that significant an incident to me and basically forgot about it.”
She adds: “I kept my occasional ventures into pornography a complete secret. Between the effects of the unaddressed molestation, the resulting brokenness in my sexuality, and the off-and-on pornography fascination, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that sex didn’t work.”
Additional reporting by Elvis Ondieki