Bishop Aaron Mutebi, 49, of Entebbe Miracle Centre, met the love of his life, Justine, 43, twenty-four years ago. Samuel Lutwama brings you a story of marriage that was almost destroyed by abject poverty and how it grew from strength to strength
With a sigh, Bishop Aaron Mutebi begins the story of his life. “I was born to Evirio and Eviranto Katongole, in a remote village of Kiwumu, Kyampisi sub-county in Mukono district. We were 10 children; five boys and five girls and our family was one of the poorest in the area.
“Our parents could not even afford to take us to school,” he says, before adding that with his Primary Seven certifi cate, he was the most educated among his siblings. When Mutebi came to Kampala at the age of 21, a spiritual light shone in his path and it later transformed his life.
While growing up, Aaron felt he had God’s calling on his life. When he became a Born-again Christian, he enrolled for a three-year Bible course. In 1991, he felt God directing him to start a church in Entebbe. “I did not imagine the church would evolve to what it is today. When God begins something, he ensures its fulfi lment,” he says.
Unlike her future husband, Justine had a happy childhood, before the political upheavals of the late 1970s and 80s changed it all. “I was born in a family of 13 in a remote village of Kabonge in Wakiso district in 1970. We had a happy childhood, but it all changed when our father was brutally murdered during the war,” Justine reminisces.
After the war, she started school at St. Mary Kabonge Primary School and later continued to secondary school, but was forced to drop out in Senior Four due to lack of fees. Life outside school exposed her to immense suffering, which eventually, in her desperate search for happiness, led her to salvation. “I came to realise that the Lord was my strength,” she says with profound joy. In the subsequent years, she met her future husband at a Bible college.
How they met
Mutebi and Justine met at theological college in 1987. “Justine was undergoing pastoral training at Namirembe Christian Fellowship. I picked interest in her and expressed my feelings,” he narrates. But for Justine, the thought of marriage or committing herself to a serious relationship was far from her mind. “I simply wanted to serve the Lord and I feared that marriage would derail me,” Justine says.
Seeking God’s guidance
Justine prayed to God to reveal to her whether Aaron was meant to be her future husband. She says she received confi rmation in form of an inner voice. But she was still doubtful about the whole subject of marriage. At the time, she believed engaging in love relationships was satanic.
“I sought counselling from Pr. Robert Kayanja. What amazed me was, Kayanja, who had no idea about my future husband, gave me a true description of the man who wanted to marry me, although he had never met him. He also revealed many things about my life,” she recalls.
From then on, Justin believed that God had a hand in their marriage. “Although my husband was poor, I knew it was God’s will for us to get married,” Justine says. She says she broke the news to her relatives and explained to them that although the man she was going to marry was poor, he had a promising future.
The couple celebrating a wedding anniversary
According to Mutebi, the couple based their relationship on faith and hope in God, right from the beginning. For his introduction, Mutebi set off, together with a few brethren, to meet Justine’s family, with only sh6,000. “I put sh1,000 in each of the six envelopes I presented to her family. I did not have anything else to offer, but a lot of love and promises.”
Given his experience, Aaron says he has made it clear to his two daughters that fi nancial status should not be the yardstick for etermining their future husbands. “Money is not an issue, as long as both parties agree,” he says.
Poor man’s wedding
Since Aaron and Justine were devoted Christians, cohabiting was out of question. So, amid financial difficulties, the couple went ahead to organise a wedding on July 22, 1989. “Our wedding was a spectacle of poverty,” Mutebi says. “My wife and I agreed that after exchanging our vows, we would wait until the last person left church and walk to our reception venue,” he says.
“Luckily, the pastor who presided over our wedding got concerned and organised a car to transport us to the reception, which was attended by a handful of close friends and relatives,” he narrates. During the wedding preparations, Justine says she had borrowed a gomesi (Busuti) to wear on her wedding day since they could not afford a wedding gown, but luckily, her mother improvised a gown for her.
Forced to live apart
The wedding was proceeded with yet another challenge of the couple living apart due to fi nancial constraints. Aaron did not have a home for his newly-wed bride. One year into the Mutebis’ marriage, the woman who was housing the couple chased them away from their love nest, oblivious of the fact that they had nowhere to go.
They turned to a widow, who was living at Manyago near Katabi in Entebbe, for shelter. Sadly, she had no space for both of them. So, she chose to live with Justine, who was pregnant with their fi rst child. Aaron kept on wandering in search for a place to stay. Fortunately, one of his church members, Eddie Kyagaba, took him in. He lived with him in his rented room in Kitoro, Entebbe, for two years.
During that time, the Mutebis got their fi rst child, but the joy was shortlived as Justine’s host parted ways with her on grounds that the space was too small to accommodate the mother and her crying baby. Aaron says another woman got concerned about their plight and gave them some money to look for a house. “We managed to a get a dilapidated room, which was once used for poultry farming in Kitoro, at sh3,000 per month,” he says.
In the subsequent years, as the number of members in their church increased, so did the couple’s financial condition and they started getting relatively better houses. Today, when he looks back, he proudly says ‘Ebenezer’, which means the Lord has brought us this far.
Mutebi wonders how his wife managed to stand by him during those diffi cult times, when survival was by the grace of God. For Justine, her strength came with the belief that tomorrow would certainly be better. “The fi rst years were quite tough. Sometimes we went hungry and my husband would go out fi shing in the lake, using locally-made nets,” Justine recalls.
The couple has been blessed with seven children; five boys and two girls. Aaron says his children have been his source of pride. “Our first-born completed his university degree two years ago and our last-born is in kindergarten,” he says.
According to Mutebi, raising a God-fearing family is about teamwork. “Every member of the family has a role to play. We have made God the centre of our lives. Without Him, we are insignifi cant,” he says, quoting Joshua 24:15, which says: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” About parenting, Mutebi says he has tried to live an exemplary life.
“I walk the talk. We try to instil Christian values in our children. We also sit and discuss various issues with them,” adds Justine. Marital hitches Like the saying ‘marriage is not a bed of roses’, even the Mutebis have had their share of challenges. However, the couple says they dealt with them and emerged stronger.
“Our humble beginning has taught us the value of love and forgiveness. Whenever we have any hitches, we sit down, talk, forgive each other and move on. Marriage is a life-time commitment,” he says. They also thank God for blessing them with the beautiful scenery in Entebbe. “We are surrounded by a beautiful environment.
It is soothing. Whenever we get misunderstandings, we look for a beautiful, quiet area, where we sit and rekindle our love,” Aaron says. Living at church The couple has lived on church premises for the most part of their married life and this has had its own challenges. “It has been hard for us to separate the two institutions. As a pastor, you end up sacrifi cing your privacy to please church members. But very soon, we shall start constructing a new home away from the church,” Mutebi says.
However, Mutebi says living at church has helped them raise God-fearing children. “Our children were taught Christian values and this has infl uenced their lives. None of them has given us trouble,” he says.
Putting God first
As Justine sums up their marital journey, she says no matter the hardships a couple faces, they can overcome them, as long as there is love. “We had a humble beginning, but God has blessed us beyond measure. When God says yes, no man can say no. When I heard His voice concerning my husband, I obeyed, despite the fact that he was poor.”
For the marrieds going through hard times, her advice is: “Present your problems to God, the author of the marriage institution. We have emerged victorious because of God’s grace.”