When Isabela Mariga first met Osborne, she couldn’t stand him. When he walked into a room, she would walk out. Eleven years later, the couple narrates to Gardy Chacha how they eventually got married and started a family even when both of them were unemployed.
I was in a committed relationship the first time Osborne and I met. He had tagged along with friends who were visiting my college so I didn’t think of him as a suitor. A year later, we met in a church when I joined team for mission work to Meru. I couldn’t even remember who he was but he could remember everything about me.
It is in Meru that he began showing more than friendly interest in me. I rebuffed him. I even introduced him to another woman so that he could leave me alone. But he kept trying to talk to me. He did it relentlessly because I was being hosted by someone he knew and so he visited any time and every time. I would see him come in and I would get out.
I was committed to the man I was dating and, at the time, I saw nothing ‘handsome’ about Osborne. I just couldn’t stand him. Nearly a year passed as he played the chaser and I avoided him zealously. Then something drastic happened: I broke up with the man I was dating when I found out he was in a relationship with a Form Three girl.
The breakup affected my belief in love. I prayed and told God that I no longer wanted love or marriage; I was fine living life by myself. But Mariga kept chasing me. And I kept running away. I even ran away from Nairobi to go visit my folks back in Kisii – just to avoid his incessant visits.
One evening, around November 2006, he texted me saying, “I want to talk to you.” I didn’t answer but he found out from friends where I was and decided to come looking for me. I got tipped off that he was coming and travelled from Kisii to a friend’s place in Kericho — only for him to show up there as well.
I got tired of running away and decided to listen to him. We went to an open park where he told me that he wanted me to be his wife. I told him ‘No!’. By now you know that he doesn’t give up easily. He continued pursuing me. I, on the other hand, had made a pact with God: “No man for me please.”
One day, while still in Kisii, I got back home in the evening to find him seated in my mother’s living room. I almost fainted. I asked him to leave immediately but a sister-in-law prevailed upon me to let him stay. Before he left that day, my mother prayed. In her prayer, it was almost like she had accepted him as a potential son-in-law.
As we saw him off, I began to wonder to myself if I was pushing away my happiness. For the first time, I felt something for him. In February 2007, I got a call from him inviting me to Nairobi. When I got there, he took me to a church meeting (we both fellowshipped at Christ Is the Answer ministries – CITAM) for young people who wanted to get married.
His conviction was out of this world because I had not even agreed to date him at the time. I almost protested while in church but he had a very firm grip on my hand that I couldn’t disentangle myself from. He grabbed my hand and we got prayed for… to marry later the same year.
From church, he took me to his aunt’s place in Buruburu. We arrived to an engagement party where he formally asked me to marry him. To this date I don’t know how I ended up saying ‘yes’ but I did. He had no job. I asked him how he intended for us to survive and he said, ‘God will provide’. I had no doubt that he was hardworking. I trusted his word.
But my family largely revolted against us marrying when it came out that he was jobless. There were three other suitors asking for my hand in marriage and they were moneyed. Mom couldn’t believe that I would not consider these other men and instead choose a man who didn’t have a job.
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I argued our case to my mother (I lost my father as young girl) and she eventually gave us her blessings. We got married on December 15, 2007 and were housed by a friend. Then I got a job that paid Sh10, 000 a month and we moved out. But he couldn’t find a job. I was pregnant with our first born at the time. People talked and news would come back to us how my husband was generally looked at as useless. The same people said we wouldn’t last long; they gave us 2 to 3 years until I bolted off for my husband’s joblessness.
But I had no trouble with the fact that he was still job hunting. In the meantime he did house chores so spectacularly well: I would come back to a clean and sparkling house every evening. He treated me absolutely like a Queen. What else would I possibly want?
He was in charge of our finances. I made the money and he ran the ATM. He did such a good job balancing our needs that even with the meagre resources we managed going through a month.
He was chastised for having a wife who made money while he was at home. But I was not going to leave him because I knew our situation better than those talking from outside. I believed in my husband.
Six years later, he got a job that paid way better than mine. But even before that, he had asked me to help him start a photography business with a loan from the bank – which was also doing very well. We are in our eleventh year of marriage and I love my husband more than I loved him when we got married. My family eventually came around – just before our wedding – and now like him. We aren’t struggling as much as we did those early years and we are parents to four children - two biological and two adopted.
Through the good and bad times, I have been the happiest I have ever been.
>> HIS STORY
Two years after clearing college, I wanted to settle down. The woman I was dating left Kenya for USA, leaving me single. When I first met Isabela, something about her struck me and when we met again during the Meru mission, I liked her instantly. She avoided me like the plague. She wanted nothing to do with me. But I was persistent because she drew me towards herself every moment I saw her.
I knew she was dating someone else but I was deeply convinced that he was not the right man for her. She eventually broke up with him. One night, during a prayer vigil, I asked God for clarity. He revealed to me that Isabela was the woman for me.
The first time I confessed my love to Isabela, she ran away from me. First she took off to Kisii and then from Kisii to Kericho. But I followed her there at every juncture. When I went to her home, Isabela’s mother served me fantastic lunch. I loved her like I had never loved anyone else before. Somehow she accepted my proposal and began to love me back.
I was jobless. I did not have money. I was doing mission work in South Sudan as a volunteer. When Isabela asked me what my plan was, I told her I believed that God would provide. And indeed I had faith that He would: because I had read scripture that said, ‘Seek ye first my kingdom and everything else shall be given’.
My wife got a job almost immediately after our wedding. Years went by and nothing was happening for me. I won’t lie: it hurt my ego that I couldn’t provide for my wife.
But she never stopped loving and respecting me as her husband. In fact, she trusted me to manage the money that she was earning from her job. After four years of being jobless, I asked her to empower me with capital to start a photography business. She did and I began making my own money; enough to pay back the loan and feed the family. Her salary paid our rent.
After six years of joblessness, a call finally came through. I got employed. But I still have the photography business.
I love my wife and our children. The tribulations we have gone through have strengthened our love and dedication to each other.
Today my wife and I run a marriage ministry for young people who are looking into starting a family. I believe our story, however, convoluted, was God’s way of letting us know that marriage does work.