Today we are speaking to the beautiful Pastor Mildred Kingsley- Okonkwo who co-pastors David Christian Centre (DCC) with her husband the debonair Kingsley Okonkwo. Mama as she is fondly known by many of the congregants has a soft spot for young women and finds expression through numerous programmes for women.
Pastor Mildred kindly give us your brief bio?
Born Mildred Isioma Chijide to Michael and Patricia Chijide. I’m the fifth child of six children. I was actually the baby of the family for five years till my younger sister came along and displaced me (laughs). My mother was a teacher and my father a banker and they are both still alive and well and live here in Lagos so my kids have very involved and active grandparents.
My parents were very particular about getting the best quality of education so my nursery and primary education was at Corona School Apapa. Then on to Command Secondary School Ipaja Lagos for my secondary education. I moved on to Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) Ile-Ife and University of Lagos (Unilag) for my first degree in English Arts and my second in International Law and Diplomacy (MILD) respectively. Career wise, I started out in the media working in television. I also worked a bit in customer service till I eventually settled into full time ministry with my husband after marriage.
DCC recently celebrated 20 yrs in Ministry, Congratulations! Knowing you from school I wasn’t surprised you ended up in full time Ministry, were you?
Thank you. You know it’s funny how people often say that to me. It’s the one thing I never thought I would be. I was so averse to being a pastors wife that I made sure I stayed away from anyone who had even a tiny inkling that they might be involved in ministry. In my mind I would end up getting married to a doctor , not because I didn’t love God or want to serve him but I felt if I married a pastor he would be getting the wrong end of the deal. I said as much to my husband when he proposed, I said to him “I’m not pastors wife material.” And after he had a long good laugh, he asked “what’s that?” I felt pastors wives were a certain breed. The picture I had in my head was the gentle, quiet, warm, always smiling, never offended, people person who loved to wear big pretty hats who would sit beside the pastor and say Amen to every thing he said. Oh! My God (laughs uncontrollably) honestly I have no idea where I got this silly picture from. One thing I knew was I was definitely not that kind of person. Even after we got married my husband didn’t even want me in full time ministry either. We both agreed I would do a secular job but after a while God told me in clear terms I would work for only Him. It was a gradual decision and my husband felt I was pivotal to ministry at the time since we were just starting our media arm of the ministry and I had some experience and some links in media so even though the ministry couldn’t afford to pay me at the time we had to make some sacrifices. So it wasn’t something I jumped onto, I just got so busy in the ministry and one thing led to another and It just kind of happened when God knew I was ready.
Being a Pastor/ Pastors wife is often misunderstood but we know it’s not bed of roses as you are held to a higher standard. For you what helped you settle into the role and calling.
It’s definitely not a bed of roses but God has been good to me. I’ve had some really rough moments especially since I’m normally a very private person so living in a glass house was one of the hardest parts of being a pastor. My husband is a very open person and loves people around him without unnecessary protocol. If you were to come to our church on a Sunday morning you will see him walking about gisting with people and because he’s so friendly and so down to earth it often gives people the impression that our lives are also open for dissecting. I ‘m totally the opposite of my husband I’m more reserved and more private so I struggled a lot with being a pastor. However God helped me when I prayed… I did that a lot. I spent time flat on my face just saying “Lord I feel so inadequate and so unqualified, You picked me so help me” and He did just that. Apart from praying , studying the word of God and finding practical principles that could help me be an effective minister and ministers wife helped.
Also my husband Oh! My God, he’s simply a gem and constantly holding my hand through it all,teaching me, telling me the truth, like “no! You shouldn’t have handled it that way..you should have been kinder and more patient or no you should stand your ground.” He gives the best counsel and a lot of times he’s more my coach than my cheerleader but he’s an amazing person to have in my corner any day. Then God surrounded me with the right people who have made this job so much easier. People who love you, see what you see, are loyal to you because they know God sent them to you to fulfill destiny, without them it would be so much harder.
Can you tell us about Just us Girls? What inspired that and how have you been able to impact the life of young women?
Just Us Girls started as a column in our monthly relationship newsletter at DAVID’S CHRISTIAN CENTRE called Bliss and over time grew beyond being just a column where the issues faced by today’s women are trashed out but has evolved to become a channel of healing, learning and above all an opportunity to build friendships and give hope.
We hold an annual Just Us Girls conference in September and When Women Worship in June of every year amongst other meetings that we come up with throughout the year to help women refresh and refuel but it is just a tiny part of what Just Us Girls is all about. In its entirety Just Us Girls is much more than that… it is my heart. It is my dream that one day, women will begin to see themselves as they really are, choose to make a difference and refuse to settle for less than they deserve. I know it’s a big dream but I believe that achieving big dreams starts with taking small steps. So in my little corner of the world I’m taking these small steps. I may not be able to host as many women as I would like to in person at those conferences so I host them on my blog www.justusgirlsnaija.com
The blog is really just an online diary of my thoughts, experiences and my relationships with God and my husband. I kind of just pour out my heart. Some people consider me a Christian blogger but I see myself as a Christian who blogs as I am not always bringing some deep revelational truth to the blog. It’s simple things like sharing pictures of my babies to celebrate the fact that God has cancelled the doctors reports or I’m sharing what I did on my husbands birthday to teach younger wives or I have a counseling dilemma on my hands and I would like to see the average woman’s perspective on it. However my love for God and His word is often reflected and fully represented. I don’t however underestimate how God uses it to minister to women everyday but I am in no way deluded enough to think that my not blogging regularly if I have to concentrate on other areas of my life for sometime that I have somehow shut down some grand plan of God. So sometimes I pull away and ask myself what that one thing that is needful is at that point in my life.
Apart from the online platform God is doing so many new things that I would like to share. First it’s the JUGN doing life together trips- I find that too many women just get into work mode all year round. Taking care of everything and everyone else. They never take out time for themselves. They rarely travel so the plan is to get them to take out like one or two weeks in the year away from husband, work and kids on a trip that will be about them and God. This year we went for Joyce Meyer’s Love Life Conference. The ladies had an amazing time at the conference and then we took 3 days in Dubai just resting and shopping. They made friends with some ladies they had never connected with before, caught new visions. It was an amazing time. So we will probably do more of that.
Also I have a few “babies” – I’m working on revamping something I started a while back which I haven’t really given much attention in the last few years. It’s called Ruth’s Gift – a haven for single mums. I feel there’s still a stigma attached to it especially in the church today and like I always say “na who dem catch be thief” so it feels like the ones who were brave enough to say I’ve made one mistake by having premarital sex and I’m not making another by aborting are being crucified. If only we know how many babies are aborted and destinies truncated because we won’t give these women a safe place to heal. Some are even raped. Some are widowed and left with nothing. I feel such a compassion towards them. So I’m trusting God to do my part in helping to empower them and give them hope and support however I can. I’ve seen so many great people who were raised by single mums so I’m fighting not only for these women but the great children they carry.
My other baby is my love for the girl child. However, my advocacy is not focused on all this child sex education going around. My fight is with the mothers. I think we are taking the responsibly of protecting these children off parents and making the children grow up faster than they should. My fight is let the children be children. Jesus said “let the CHILDREN come to me…” In my opinion we are sending him adults. Till we can get to the point where mothers believe their daughters over their boyfriends or even husbands we haven’t started. The girl child should besides having same opportunities as their male counterparts should still be allowed to be just that a CHILD.
Finally oh! My absolute heart is my ministry to women trusting God for the fruit of the womb. I’m bringing it fully out there next year. I minister to wives under my married women’s ministry called CHAYIL but I find that this is a major area where a lot of women suffer. I went through it and I know how hard it was but God helped me. So I want to with the same comfort I have received, comfort others.
Can you share some testimonies with us?
You cannot imagine how amazing it is to walk around and see someone who doctors told could never have children carrying not one but two babies because she tapped into my testimony at a worship meeting I did called IMELA. I remember one particular woman who couldn’t make the meeting and when I told people if you have a friend and she’s trusting God for the fruit of the womb you can come out and stand for her. We will pray. Two of her friends were at the meeting. They both came out not knowing either was coming out. After the meeting they got her the video. She played it everyday and believed. Guess what? She came back at the next meeting with twins a boy and a girl. Another person came out for her sister because she was done having babies herself. When she got home she called her sister to tell her she stood for her. Surprise surprise!! Her sister was already pregnant. Guess what happened? She has a baby today. She got pregnant instead (laughs) God just has a sense of humor.
So for me like I said its everything. At our when women worship meetings God usually gives us one issue he wants to deal with at each meeting. At some point it was jobs. There were so many testimonies. It’s just proof that Gods word works and that’s my biggest conviction that Gods word works absolutely 100% of the time. If we will just believe.
Please tell us how you able to juggle ministry with being a wife and mum to three gorgeous children.
That’s the word- juggle. I doubt that anyone ever really balances everything. For me I Pastor full time and that means I am very involved in the day to day running of the ministry and two churches. Everything still ends of up on my table as I try to let my husband focus on the bigger picture as he’s not really into details. Then I run JUG. I blog. I’m a wife and a mother of 3 kids. My oldest is 5 and my youngest just turned 1. And I always breastfeed my babies exclusively for 6 months. No water nothing till I start adding solids alongside till they are weaned at one. So for the last year David was my handbag. Then I’m a very present wife as my husband is my first assignment. He runs all his ideas by me and I love to do things for him. I’m also a daughter, sister, Aunty- I love being an Aunty and god mother to quite a number of babies. So in order to deal with what could be regarded as a chaotic life I prioritize.
So its about the two “Ps” Prioritizing and People. Those two things are the most important ingredients in my being able to juggle this life. I always ask myself what’s the most important thing for me to do at this time? What can I and only I do? What can others do for me? For example I can cook soups, stews, beans at the weekends because my husband is a bit picky about what he eats and have people boil rice or fry plantain and do the daily cooking and serve him when I’m not able to. I can even get him to eat out sometimes but no one can have sex with my husband or spend time with him for me. That’s my sole preserve and my job so it’s my priority. Someone can do homework with the kids when I’m not home or bathe them or do school runs for me but I make all the major decisions in their lives and pray with them. Breastfeeding my baby had to be done by me so I had to make adjustments to accommodate that. I worked from home a lot with my daughter Davida. With David I took him to work with me. When I have to blog and I have to talk to my husband or do homework with my kids I pick family first. What’s the point in blogging about christian parenting and having wayward kids because you didn’t live what you preached? . I always ask myself what is that thing that is needful?
Also my motives. I always check my motives. Why am I doing this? Sometimes we can pile on things on our plate that nobody sent us. We just want to appear like superwomen. It’s better to be a healthy, happy woman than a stressed “superwoman”. Happy women make happy homes and are more productive.
Finally with people. I take advantage of help. I will carpool with someone rather than drive. I will send my kids off to their Aunty for a few hours. I take advantage of grandparents love. I send the kids to them when I can. I have an amazing nanny who has been with me for 3 years now and practically a part of the family now. I have assistants who help me with many things. I don’t ever claim to be able to do it alone. The proverbs 31 woman had a lot of help and having help doesn’t make you a bad mum or wife so . You can’t do it all alone so please don’t try to.
We know you waited a little bit before God blessed you with your precious gifts. How did you keep the faith during that time and what message do you have for other women who are waiting?
Yes it took us eight years before I conceived. The waiting years? Hmm… I honestly think that what makes the difference on any journey is who we go with on that journey.
I always knew I would have issues conceiving even as a teenager. At 16 I was diagnosed with Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) so once my husband proposed I told him the doctors said I may never be able to have children. He totally ignored me and went ahead to marry me. He told me “I’m not marrying you for children I’m marrying you because I love you but you will have my children” and that to be honest with you was the last he ever mentioned the issue. All through the eight years, he was very calm and kept reminding me to live in the now and enjoy just being the two of us as he was sure the children would soon come and we wouldn’t have so much “us” time.
I will be honest with you. I had my moments of crying and worrying and praying faithless emotional prayers that did me no good but I guess the turning point came when I finally settled down in faith. I actually just sat down and searched the word on this matter. Once I got God’s promises to ME. I knew I was home free and it was only a matter of time. We got married in 2005 but I actually settled down in faith in 2008. I finally got it. So for the most part of 2008 I spent it trying to find out what God had to say about this matter. Promises barraged promises…
There are two nations in your womb. Two kinds of people shall be separated from your body. One will be physically stronger than the other (one will be male and the other female) “-(Genesis 25:23)
“For your shame I will give you double…you are having more than the child-bearing women” – (Isaiah 61:7; Isaiah 54:1)
“You cannot be barren. You cannot have a miscarriage and I will fulfill the number of your days (all your babies will be carried to fill term)”- (Exodus 23:26)
“Your children will be known all over the world as the ones Jehovah has blessed” –(Isaiah 61:9)
So I rested and believed. I began to live. I wrote them down and meditated on these promises and more. Said it to myself over and over till I could almost see the word become flesh. I shopped for my kids. Named them. Sowed seeds in their name. Gave gifts to pregnant women. Spread love. Spent time with my husband, travelled a lot with him both for ministry and leisure.
My husband’s family was amazing. I wasn’t under any kind of pressure at least no one spoke to me. I always felt loved and protected. My father-in-law whenever he called would tell me “Mildred, all will be well.” And the way he said it I wasn’t sure if it was directed at conception or our lives as a whole. It was just a prophecy that I applied to conception. Initially everyone must have been worried but I guess seeing our attitude to the whole thing they all just kept quiet and prayed. There wasn’t so much pressure from family and friends as there were from strangers.
Unfortunately when you are in the public eye people feel like you belong to them. So I endured rumours, side remarks, sarcastic comments and constant “you people are still doing honeymoon?”, “when will you start having children?” Sometimes from total strangers. If it wasn’t so annoying it would be hilarious. I felt like telling them, “I’m Nigerian. Nigerian women get married and have babies and if after five, six, seven, years I don’t have a baby then you should have figured it out by now….it’s because I can’t!” (laughs)
Like I said though going through this with Pk made it really easy. He was so calm and sure that the kids would show up. His confidence in God gave me strength.
I’m sure by now you would have discovered that the scriptures are very personal for me. I’ve shared a few but for me, the truth is there’s something about knowing that this particular scripture is my word for this season not just a general word but a personal note written to me from God. So I would really recommend studying and searching the scriptures for yourself.
I’m currently working on my book My Journey To Motherhood where I will share the scriptures that helped me but I honestly believe God has something to say to you as a person. Take for example after I had two girls and I got pregnant again, I truly wanted it to be a boy just because I wanted both sexes and I went to seek God’s face and this is what he spoke to me through the scriptures…
“Don’t worry a stranger will not be your husband’s heir but a son from his loins” (Genesis 15:4)
I mean it’s amazing how personal the word of God can be. I knew there and then that I was having a boy. So, basically what I’m saying is go after the word of God like your life depends on it because after all is said and done it actually does. It’s not just about the scriptures you have heard from someone or seen work in someone’s life but more about the scriptures your hands have handled that have brought you result (1 John 1:1)
But I guess the two that settled it for me that I could never be barren and that it wouldn’t be an only child were Exodus 23:25-26 and psalm 128:3. As far as I was serving God, I knew I couldn’t be barren and that I could never have a miscarriage. Carrying my babies to full term was my right. I also knew that I wouldn’t have just one child. One child can’t surround my table. This confidence came from finding it in the word by myself, meditating on it till I believed it with a depth of assurance that waiting an extra five years after this encounter could not shake.
I would also suggest going after materials, books, cds, stuff like that especially with godly testimonies in them. Two books that really helped me were You Shall Not Be Barren by Bishop David Oyedepo and Supernatural Childbirth by Jackie Mize. Confessing the scriptures you have found and written also helps which is why I really like Supernatural Childbirth. Also get a good support system. Sometimes even friends going through the same challenge. I was a part of a couple of groups on social media of some amazing women who were all waiting. We prayed together, encouraged each other and celebrated when any one got pregnant because it encourages us that God was in our neighborhood. Today most of us have babies.
My pastor Rev Albert Femi Oduwole was an absolute strength through it all. He encouraged me, prayed with me, listened to me and even let me cry Sometimes. But all in all he made sure I stayed in faith and didn’t remove my eyes from God or his word.
Finally I would also suggest considering adoption. As my pastor Rev Femi once said to me, “the same way you are praying to God for children is the same way some children are praying to God for mothers” I also remember Pastor Bimbo Odukoya of blessed memory always used to say “whatever you make happen for people, God will make happen for you.” I strongly recommend adoption but let me also say this, adoption is not a charm. It is not what makes you get pregnant. The beauty of adoption is that it gets you out of worry mode and that is important because worry or anxiety and faith don’t go together. Faith also works by love. Once you become a mother and the truth is once you adopt a baby that’s what you become: a mother, your whole life changes. I became a mother long before I conceived my miracle babies. We had always planned to adopt after having our biological children. We talked about it before getting married so once we got a chance to we did. My daughter is precious. Daring, bold, lively, strong, fun and very caring. If I don’t tell you, you’d never know she was adopted and if not for interviews like this or people asking me questions about adoption, you would never know because we forget that I didn’t carry her in my womb. I call her my free gift baby, God’s gift of grace to me and she’s an amazing big sister too. Too many women out there are crying for babies while babies are crying for mothers. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself, go out there and give love, spread joy and don’t do it because you can get anything out of it. Don’t do it for the magazines or newspapers just do it to be a blessing.
What message do you have for women struggling to find self and purpose?
You just need to trust God to re-introduce you to you. There’s a you that you haven’t met and that you is amazing. First you need to accept that God has a plan for your life (Jer29:11) and He has no reason to keep it a secret (Jer 33:3) He will reveal it to you if you ask him. Also spend time serving God and people in any capacity and eventually you will find what unlocks your passion. One thing I’m sure of though is that you are definitely not a mistake. God has a plan for your life. And he’s just as committed to your finding it as you are to finding it.
On a final note what do you do to refresh and reinvigorate yourself?
Ah! My sister I shut down. There are days believe it or not I have stayed in bed all day and I mean literally all day. Nothing but my bed and a tv remote. I found out I like to travel and my husband much more than I so I tag along a lot. We always have a family vacation but I’m not too sure if it’s very relaxing to have 3 kids travel with you. I love massages Kai I can actually live my life massaged everyday for the rest of my life (laughs) Now wouldn’t that be a treat. I also like pedicures. I don’t know why I just find it really relaxing.
If I’m being totally truthful, I don’t rest as often as I should but once I notice I have overdone it, I just simply shut down. I don’t often get to just go away on a retreat because my kids are still too young but I can shut down for a few hours away from everyone in my room. For a few hours.
Thanks Pastor Mildred… Love you Mucho ?
Thank you so much. I had a great time. Love you too darling