What you need to know:
- Brian thought he was always destined to be a chef, until a higher calling to be a “fisher of men” happened.
- Anne was always a church girl; from a young age, she knew working hard was the only way to finance her education.
In the beginning, Venerable Brian Odhiambo, an Archdeacon at St Paul’s Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Athi River and his wife, Reverend Anne Kyeni Odhiambo of Utawala ACK, were just classmates at St Paul’s University pursuing Bachelor of Theology degrees.
They interacted as brother and sister in Christ before they blurred the lines and became a couple.
Throughout the interview with Lifestyle, the two recall the joys and memories of their campus dating life as staunch Christians.
Today, they are blessed with three children – two girls and a boy. And now, Anne lightheartedly reminds Brian to relive the moments he would sneak his hand and reach out to hers briefly, knowing how much they avoided any public display of affection.
In 2010, they each walked into the university single. At the time, neither of them knew that they would graduate years later with a degree certificate –and a spouse.
Brian’s parents lived abroad while Anne was brought up by her mother as an only child. From a young age, she knew working hard was the only way to finance her education and everything she ever needed in the capital city.
Brian was a full-time student, with plenty of time, while Anne was a working student, and only attended classes in the evening. She was also notorious for reporting late for lectures. Brian noticed.
Hours turned into days, days into weeks… and a few months later, they sat their debut exam in campus.
When the results were released, Brian and a clique of friends had aced the exams, recording several As, but Anne barely managed Cs.
A concerned Brian sought to know why. And that would be their first close interaction.
Anne partly blamed her schedules for the poor results. But it turned out Brian and his friends were doing something extra: they had a discussion group and would meet and revise hours to exams. He offered to introduce Anne to his circle in the hope that this would result in better marks and grades.
Of course, she says, in the subsequent tests, she performed well. Yet it is her dedication to whatever she puts her heart into that melted Brian’s heart.
As a reward, and as motivation to keep her coming for discussions, Brian always carried an extra snack to the discussion forums. One day he would carry two apples, another he would have two packets of yoghurt.
Some days he would offer to cook for the group.
“Whenever we were meeting for a group discussion, he could come with things in twos. The other group members started noticing, teasing him, and commenting on that,” she says.
“We started out as friends. I only knew he was acting nice,” Anne says of their relationship back then.
“I didn’t know then that he was trying to impress me before he gathered the guts and asked me to be his girlfriend one evening.”
She, however, told him that she needed time to pray about it.
Of course, she says, no “praying about it” happened. It is just but a “Christian way” to respond.
“Ours was holistic dating,” Brian says. “We used to meet over coffee and lunch in various social places and restaurants in the city after classes. It was strictly in public spaces, to avoid the temptation of going overboard and compromising our faith.”
Brian always stood out as, at some point, he had dreadlocks. He thought he was destined to be a chef, to eke out a living preparing sumptuous meals –and he was very much on course to it until a higher calling to be a “fisher of men” happened. His wife, Anne, was always a church girl. And, she had devotedly decided to serve the church all his life. “I always desired to become a pastor someday. “
In the Anglican way, Brian says, everyone has their individual call. Like the Biblical Samuel, he explains, everyone is called by their name. There is no group-calling, he adds. Brian was the first to be ordained, and three years later, in 2017, his wife was ordained. They now serve in different Anglican churches as priests.
“If he had been serving in one church, we probably would have had a greater impact…But everyone is called at their own time,” says Brian.
Born and raised in Nairobi, Brian was a typical Kenyan “Brayo”; tactful and streetwise. He knew too well that “campus love” could easily evaporate if he did not commit to Anne after graduation and take steps towards marriage.
In August 2013, a month before the duo graduated, Brian proposed to Anne. In October he paid dowry and wedded the love of his life on December 7, 2013. Eight years later, they have three children aged seven, four and two.
“According to ACK doctrines, child baptism happens in the third month after birth. We always use our family priest. We take the children to be baptised where he is serving,” Brian says.
“We’ve adopted the way of the Anglican church for our family,” Reverend Anne says.
The challenging part with the children, they say, is their preferences on whose church to attend. They sometimes opt to remain with their father. Other times they follow their mother. Whichever way, the ground rule is: everyone must attend a church.
Being a priest is very demanding, and striking the balance between church work and spending time with their young family is sometimes a challenge, they offer.
“We’re still in the process of learning how to strike a balance between our time and job. We resolutely decided to become very intentional about anniversaries,” Reverend Anne says.
With both working as full-time priests, and with varying responsibilities, they have learnt over time to understand each other better.
“Previously, I would get frustrated whenever he postponed our coffee dates. But now, we help each other become better versions of ourselves,” Reverend Anne tells Lifestyle.
Their job sometimes involves counselling the congregation, listening and being accommodative to everyone, for it is the “love that Christ left us with when he left” and it comes with a lot of expectations from the public.
Yet nothing feels as “heavenly as knowing you’re dealing with lives and souls”, according to Reverend Anne.
“It involves speaking to the souls directly. But, it is through speaking to others that you remind yourself as well of the ways of Christ. According to Brian, knowing you changed or touched a life is always very humbling.
“You’re an SI Unit for measuring integrity. You always live your life knowing you must represent God well.”
“It also calls for having fewer friends in the inner circle that you can share with whenever you’re bogged down by life pressures, because we’re also humans,” he adds.
In the ACK setting, priests/reverends are always transferred depending on the need to do so. And, the Anglican Church is among the few churches that ordain both men and women for priesthood. Brian and Anne are both priests and a couple. But where do they draw the line between their priesthood jobs and their personal life?
“Immediately I step into our house, I become his wife and the mother of his children,” Reverend Ann says.
“So does Brian. He becomes my husband and the father of our children.
“Inside our house, we are open and real with each other,” she adds.
When Brian, an introvert and Anne, an extrovert, first fell in love, one would have wondered how the relationship involving such a mix of personalities would pan out.
Eight years later, they find courage in the words of the scripture.
Specifically, it is the reassuring words of Psalms 27:13 that keep the couple going. They “remain confident that they will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living”, as the Holy Book says.