The office of the Rev. Canon Moses Isabirye at St. Andrew's Church, Bukoto, is not any different from others, save for one feature. A portrait of a smiling lady. He does not wait for me to ask who she is, having seen my interest in the photo.
"That is my wife, Sarah," he reveals. Immediately, Sarah enters the office, smiling. "My husband and I have been married for 29 years," she reveals. But how have the 29 years been? That is what Maureen Nakatudde sought to find out when she sat down with the couple.
Challenges welcome our marriage
"In the first five years of our marriage, we faced challenges that nearly tore our marriage apart," Moses says.
Waiting for the first born for a newly-wed couple can bring anxiety. With the Isabiryes, it also brought tears. "I miscarried my first child," says Sarah. "The second pregnacy was of twins. And at six months, the same thing happened," she reveals.
Moses says the two incidences brought a lot of misery to Sarah. "She wondered whether she would ever get a child, but I kept encouraging her," Moses says.
The couple had their first child in 1987, when they sought help from Dr. Ignatius Batwala of Mengo Hospital.
"He stitched me every after three months during the pregnancy to prevent a miscarriage. He also warned me against getting stressed and carrying heavy loads," says Sarah.
The couple says the challenges strenghthened their love. "We did not blame each other. When the baby came, it crowned our love."
A death-threatening illness
When the couple was in Nairobi in 1998, studying at the International School of Theology, Moses collapsed in class. After many tests, it was discovered that he had developed Hypoglycaemia (low sugar), which made him instantly lose energy.
This was another trying moment for Sarah. "I was in a foreign land where I hardly knew people. I feared that I would take back a dead person to Uganda."
Before discovering what was wrong, Moses conducted many tests, most of which cost them a lot of money. Fortunately, the students at the school gave the couple a lot of monetary assistance. But the worst was yet to come.
One day, as Moses was driving his family to church, the disease struck again. He lost control of the car. It was his wife who pulled the hand brake and stopped the car. Sarah gave him glucose and he was able to drive the car again.
When his classmates discovered Moses' challenge, they fasted and prayed for him for a whole week.
Moses said when he went back to the doctor for a check-up, the disease was no longer there. "I did not have faith, but God healed me. I am what I am because of God," Isabirye smiled.
How they met
Moses says: "When I went to Wanyange Girls' School on an evagelisation mission, I noticed an active young woman. She was serving the scripture union and at the same time giving directions."
He was impressed when he was told that she was the head girl and the president of the scripture union. Sarah was in senior four at that time in 1980, but Moses did not talk to her.
Their next meeting was during Sarah's senior four vacation, while at St. James church. During the fellowship, Sarah came in late.
"When she entered, I was short of words to tell her. Later, I confessed to the Lord for having evil thoughts about her."
Sarah was not decided on whether to go for higher education or join Bishop Willis Teachers' College, Iganga. Moses advised her to opt for the latter.
Sarah's first time to notice Moses was when he went to buy groceries at a shop where she worked in Jinja.Even though he had talked to Sarah before, Sarah says that time, their meeting seemed special.
"He wore a red shirt and looked smart. He was always with church elders and as young people, we looked up to him," Sarah reminisces.
In 1982, church elders wanted Moses to get married. When they inquired on whether they he had any one in mind, he answered in the affirmative.
"Have you told her about marriage, yet?" they asked him.
One elder asked Sarah: "Will you go with our son?"
Unlike other women who take much of their suitor's time to agree to the proposal, it was not the case with Sarah.
"I accepted. We had already been friends for two years and I already saw the proposal coming."
Sarah first sought permission from the school administration, which gave her a go ahead. Afterwards, the couple introduced in April 1983 and on August 6, the same year, they got married. Sarah later went back to study and finished her course in December that year.
The couple has five children, two of whom are married. The other two have finished their studies at the university, while the last born is in Senior Six vacation.
The couple say they heavily rely on Christian principles and exemplary life for their children to borrow a leaf.
Secret to a long lasting marriage
Transparency has kept the Isabirye's marriage intact. "There has never been a secret between us," says Moses.
For Sarah, the secret to their long lasting marriage has been prayer. "I am always on my knees, asking God to be with my husband," she says.