Paul and Tunrayo Alagbe were married on September 3, 1998 and had their first child on December 29, 2014. RITA OKONOBOH chronicles the couple’s journey through the years of trials to the unfolding of boundless blessings.I waited patiently for the LORD; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear the LORD and put their trust in him (Psalm 40: 1-3).
The above Psalm verses aptly describe Mrs Tunrayo Alagbe’s testimony of the Lord’s goodness as she finally gave birth to a daughter at a few months shy of 60 years of age.It was a sunny afternoon on Monday, January 5, 2015, and the atmosphere was radiantly purpled by the stylish outfits of many who had come to witness the naming ceremony of the lovely daughter of the Alagbes. The crowd was surprisingly large, even for the African setting, as many braced the burning rays beating down on the premises of the Women Missionary Union (WMU) headquarters of the Nigerian Baptist Convention (NBC), Total Garden area, Ibadan, just to show their solidarity with the couple.
As the President of the NBC, Reverend Dr Supo Ayokunle, affirmed during his address at the naming ceremony, “This child has, from the beginning, started breaking records. I have never seen a naming ceremony that attracted this kind of crowd. Also, no naming ceremony has been conducted on the premises before now. This goes to show that God can do anything, anytime, anywhere and anyhow, pleasantly, for his own people. For those who wait upon God, it is never over until it is over. This is an occasion for us to understand that God’s ways are not our ways.”The Retired Executive Director, Women Missionary Union, Nigeria, and a close friend of the family who anchored the naming of the baby, Reverend Mrs Yemi Ladokun, took the audience through the time of waiting. She showed to the crowd some flowers from the bouquet used during the wedding and stated that she had kept the flowers thinking she would use them during the year after the wedding during the naming ceremony of a child but she was wrong as she had to wait for almost 17 years.
The child was given close to 40 names including, Halleluyah, Testimony, Esther, Jesulayomi, Ileri-Ayo-Mi, OkikiJesu, Adepate, Oluwatoyin, Omoronike, Ibiyemi, Oluremi, Motunrayo, Mo-F’Oluwa-ke, Aderonke, Odunola, Eri-Ipe, Ewa-Iyin, Itan-iyanu-ife, IturaOluwa, Favour, Oluwadamilare, Titilayomi-niwaju-Oluwa, among other significant names.‘A childless woman has no honour, no respect, no place’Speaking with Sunday Tribune on the experience during the years of anxiety, Mrs Alagbe noted that the many years of worrying, coupled with the delay before marriage, contributed to making the experience quite worrying. According to her, “I wouldn’t say we were not worried, but God was comforting and encouraging us. It was not a pleasant experience at all. We experienced delay before marriage but this one was more excruciating. However, God sustained us.”On the most nagging worry during the times of trial, the couple notes that the African tendency to look down on a childless couple was a constant source of concern. According to the mother, “In Africa, having children is very important. If you’re married and childless, it’s like you have no honour, no respect, no place. You’re nobody, so to speak.”
The father, Paul Alagbe, further stated that “She would sometimes say if she had known that it would be like this, she would not marry me as it seems like she is a problem to me.” His wife affirmed this by stating that “Medically, I was told he has no problem, but I was the one whose fallopian tubes were blocked. I felt like I was a burden to him, like I shouldn’t have come his way and instead allowed him to live his life.”‘Childlessness does not mean you are married to the wrong person’
The president of the NBC, Reverend Ayokunle, who spoke on challenges and godly responses noted that nobility and godliness does not immune an individual from trials. According to him, “Childlessness is not a modern-day challenge. The fact that your family is childless does not mean you are married to the wrong person. Some couples who do not have the problem of childlessness have other problems. Would you rather exchange childlessness for blindness, for instance? A problem is a problem but God is always there.”
On her general outlook during the period of not knowing how things would turn out, Mrs Alagbe, whom many describe as cheerful, warm and always ready with a smile, narrated “I kept hoping. I cherished my personal relationship with God because I know that the day you die, this issue of having children no longer has meaning. So, I was jealously guarding my personal relationship with God, especially in relation to eternity. I tried to enjoy other things God has blessed me with. Although, I was often disturbed by that one thing he had not done, I tried to enjoy what he has done and in my own little way, I served him, hoping He will do it. I thought that if He doesn’t do it, He knows why and knows how to sustain me. That’s also why I didn’t visit all sort of places because I know that if I eventually get a child from the wrong source and I end up in hell, what use will it be? Besides, God encouraged me that He will do it and I trusted in His promise.”
‘There was pressure on me as the only surviving male to have a child’
Her husband, Mr Alagbe, was not also without his own troubles. According to him, he was constantly reminded about the need to take the alternative option by getting a second wife. This was further hinged on his position as the only surviving male child of his family. As Mr Alagbe puts it, “We were six in my family; four of them died and it was just me and my sister left. All my siblings who died did not have any children and there was pressure on me as the only surviving male to have a child. However, I was convinced by my faith not to do anything negative.”
God never comes too late –Mother
Mrs Alagbe, who started treatment in early 2014, was confirmed pregnant in April 2014 and the reaction of the couple when the news first broke is too much to sufficiently capture in words.
“I didn’t believe it. It didn’t have much meaning to me. It was like I was dreaming. However, as time went on, I saw it becoming a reality. I just kept thanking God because He said He will do it according to his promise in Psalm 40. I know that this miracle is for God’s name to be glorified and for the hope of people to be reawakened so that they believe that God still works miracles. God never comes too late,” Mrs Alagbe stated.
For Mr Alagbe, his reception of the good news was almost unbelievable. In his words, “It was like a dream. I kept asking myself if it was true.”
While echoing the joy of motherhood, Mrs Alagbe stated that “I just praise God. I’m delighted that God kept his word. In January 2013, there was a prophecy in our church that God will do it. Several people came to me and told me to hold on to that prophecy because it was for me. In addition to what others had been telling me, and the support I received, especially from my church, El-Shaddai Baptist Church, Pastor Mrs Olateju and many people, I am happy that God has been faithful to His word.”
‘You can still help people even in your own sorrow’
While acknowledging that going through childlessness is no trivial task, Mrs Alagbe advises couples in this situation to guard their relationship with God whatever the eventual outcome. As she points out, “Even if at the end of the day, God doesn’t do it, it is to the advantage of the couple. I reached that stage where I told God that if He doesn’t do it, I’m okay with His decision because He knows what is best for me. My advice is that they should hold on to God and ensure that their personal relationship with God stands. They should also do other things to serve God because when you serve God, you are not likely to be too sorrowful and you’ll be happy to meet the needs of others and minister to people. Couples should not aimlessly trust God but anchor on a verse on the Bible and trust the eventual manifestation of God’s word. They should also help others. You can still help people even in your own sorrow. When you minister to the needs of people, your burden is lightened. The couple shouldn’t become so averse to others as if barrenness is the only problem in the world. Afterall, God has done other things that they can enjoy and appreciate. Let them hold on to God.”
Mr Alagbe, affirmed by friends and church members to be a friend of children and who also teaches children in the church, advises couples in the situation to ensure that they are not hostile to people, especially children, no matter how hard it seems.
Taking more wives is courting more problems –Father
In his advice for men who are currently undergoing the challenge of childlessness and who, like him, had been advised to take a second wife, Mr Alagbe encourages them to fear God, stating that “If they go for more wives, they are asking for more problems. The best thing is to hold on to God and see beyond the immediate situation. Right from time, I knew there was a problem but I also considered what the situation would be if I was the one who had the problem.”
The couple attempted to relive the priceless memory of viewing the child for the first time. For Mr Alagbe, “There was anxiety at the time of delivery. I read Tribune newspapers a lot and I had read something about a similar case in which the operation was not successful and I kept thinking about it. But when I saw the baby, I almost cried. I was very happy.”
For Mrs Alagbe, “I was just happy. I don’t know the words to use. I was excited. I was thrilled that the baby had come at last. I had her through Caesarian section at Vine Branch Medical Centre and at the theatre, when they told me ‘this is your baby; it’s a perfect baby,’ I wanted to scream and say ‘Wow! So this is what was in my womb!’ I lack words to explain. Even though I was in pains, I couldn’t sleep throughout that day. I was just looking at her and I kept saying to myself, ‘So this is you I have been waiting for. Where did you hide?’ I was really very happy.”
The President, Ibadan Baptist Conference, Reverend (Dr) Yemi Adekunle, in his prayers for the family, prayed that their faith remains unshaken and that God’s favour will radiate not just in the family but through all present.
For prayers, encouragement and for witnessing the ceremony, the Pastor, First Baptist Church, Ibafo, thanked and prayed for God’s blessings upon all.