When a pastor is asked about when and how they decided to embark on the path of service to the church, it is usually a response to A CALL. For their spouses and other family members, who have to find their place within the existence of this life, it takes a bit of an adjustment. Today, BellaNaija is sharing the story of ‘Layo Charles Emmanuel, whose experience as a pastor’s wife influenced the woman she is today… and not necessarily in the way you might imagine.
Her spunk, individuality and love for others, shines through every facet of her being. During our interview, I couldn’t help but be amazed by her metamorphosis. ‘Layo experienced untold emotional turmoil and has become a beacon of hope to other women. She describes herself as a woman “who is living a life that is authentically true”.. and boy is that a WORD!?
We hope you are inspired by ‘Layo’s story. It’s a long read but every step of the way I kept thinking, wow, what a woman! What a woman! But don’t take my word for it, read on.
Tell us who ‘Layo is
I trained professionally as a Medical Doctor at a University in Europe. I’m also a #1 Bestselling Author, international speaker, transformational coach as well as an entrepreneur. I stopped allowing anyone box me into the corner of what is politically acceptable for a woman, especially as a pastor’s wife.
I have long ditched the notion of trying to dress like a pastor’s wife, speak like one or comport myself like one to impress people. Given that human beings will always be human, you cannot please them.
Hey, I wear what I’m comfortable with, express my passions to the fullest, hang out with those who emit positive vibes and just enjoy my life in general. My small circle of friends includes a pole dance instructor and a flashy celebrity PR publicist amongst others.
We love us some girl power vibes. You’re all the way out there in Ukraine! How did that happen?
Ukraine was a happenstance in my life’s journey. It was all due to the fact that I wanted to study medicine. I tried to gain admission into the University of Ibadan and UniLag respectively, but my effort proved abortive.
In spite of the fact that I met up with the Jamb cutoff on one occasion, I still couldn’t get admitted to study my course of choice. I wasn’t ready to settle for any other thing in the medical field, hence I decided to try my luck outside the country.
It was all purely destiny the day I picked up a City People magazine in my neighbor’s house and I saw that Ukrainian schools were offering up admission to intending medical students who qualified.
I applied and Boo-yah! My application was successful. It was only a matter of months before I obtained my visa and landed on the shores of Ukraine where I have lived for the past eleven years of my life.
Who knew those ads worked? University recruitment guys reading, are you taking notes? Okay, on a serious note now, tell us about how you met your husband.
Well, the Ukrainian embassy in Abuja was our spot of love. He happened to have gone to the embassy at exactly the same time I was there, several years ago to obtain a student visa which would enable him also travel down to Europe to study.
Right in front of the gate where intending students gathered waiting their turn with the consular, I met this guy. He spoke and handled himself with a maturity that belied his age. His confidence and smarts attracted me to him.
We got talking and became friends. I played the initial hard-to-get game with him as a woman but eventually, I gave in and the rest, as they say, is history.
Love at the embassy gate. We love it. So, did you dream of becoming a pastor’s wife?
Nah! I mean, back in those days, who would ordinarily want to become a pastor’s wife amongst the several numbers of things you could become in your life as a woman?
Saying this makes me feel so old, but really, I am not sure it was any woman’s future ambition to become a pastor’s wife when I was growing up. It was, later on, I discovered that it was a prestigious thing to vie for and even die for… in some cases, judging by what some women will do to become one.
Yes, I heard some women say it to my ears in the early days of my marriage that if I didn’t hurry up and give birth, they would snatch my husband away from me! It’s that serious.
Wow, that is serious. Aspirations come in different forms. Interesting. So tell us, expectations versus reality: what were your some of your preconceived ideas of what it meant to be a pastor’s wife?
This is quite funny. You know when you’re just a regular churchgoer who doesn’t know the behind the scenes of what goes on in a church setting, you just assume everything is cool, nice and chill.
You just make the assumptions that everybody loves God the way you do; you believe that what people demonstrate in church during worship service is their authentic everyday personality. The reverse is the case though.
My husband started the ministry 5 months before I joined him in Ukraine. Even though we both obtained our visas at the same time, we didn’t leave Nigeria together. It was months after that I went to join him and he had begun the ministry then. And you know, he had told me about his team and the workforce he had with him. I was more than excited.
I had this expectation that I was coming into a big family and I was so looking forward to it. In fact, I remember a particular lady used to call my husband “honey and sweetheart” when I just arrived Ukraine. In my naivety, I loved it thinking that it was just a demonstration of the love and affection and oneness that was present in the ministry.
I didn’t know that I had a rival/competition for my husband’s heart already. It wasn’t funny. I had not even stayed up to two weeks before talks that I was not good enough for my husband cropped up. These things were said because I wasn’t cooking his meals, washing his clothes, nor was I very involved with church. I was accused of being vain, because I went to the gym regularly and visited the spa weekly.
Note, we weren’t even married then, just dating. And really, I wasn’t raised to be doing house chores for a man I wasn’t married to, so, I wasn’t doing any of those things.
So, my expectations were: well, this is a church and everybody has a heart for God and issues such as I faced will be the last thing to ever occur. But hey, they did. However, thinking about it in retrospect, I certainly don’t blame the ladies and I am being 100% truthful. I mean, we were all young.
And when you have a pastor who is charismatic, flows in the supernatural, is an “A” student, oozes charm, a power dresser and on top of that he is single, there’s bound to be people who will crush on him.
That was the situation of the ladies. It was a case of poorly managed crushes, especially since their pursuit of him continued even after we got engaged and finally after we got married.
That’s a lot to deal with. How did you manage this situation?
Truth be told, I did poorly. I struggled like an amateur at my role. When my expectations didn’t meet up to reality, I went by the advice of well-meaning but unqualified people that reached out to me or that I reached out to for help. I just went by my head and tried to approach things as I felt right. I messed up. I just ended up making things more difficult than they already were for me.
I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that. Did you have an independent life or was your career centered around your husband’s profession?
That was where the sorrows of my life stemmed from. My entire life was centered around my husband’s ministry. I mean, I breathed and lived his vision without regarding myself as an individual nor living as one. I basically lived through my husband. His thought was my thought. His words were my words. I scuttled my education, career, and sense of well-being in the process.
Relationships and marriages should be interdependent, not independent or dependent. Interdependent means see we are together as an entity (the both of us have formed one) but then, we can still function individually as human beings without violating our bond of oneness. I have a life, you have a life, we both add value to our union and yet we still function as a team.
And because your life was so centred around him, things got more painful when the cracks came. Tell us about the time your husband walked out
It’s part of a painful past, and I have worked so hard to bury the memories. That being said, I just noticed my husband started going out for hours, without returning home. When he eventually came back and I asked him about his whereabouts, his answers were usually vague and non-committal.
Even, when he was at home, he would usually have this distracted look on his face and keep mute without saying anything to me. It was as though he was avoiding me, which in fact, he was. Then, there usually was a lot of quarrel in the home then because that was the peak of the business failure and every conversation resulted in sparks of anger and protracted quarrels.
Right after this, he would usually leave the house. It was at this point the other ladies who had been vying for his attention began singing it in his ears that I am bad luck and I had brought evil upon him and his ministry. And that they would be willing to help him, support him, cook for him and even plead with his creditors during the trying period.
That was how he also bought into the idea that I was bad news and walked out on me. I will never forget the day he called a meeting of the church leaders and announced to them that we were getting a divorce. See, we had never discussed anything prior to that time, it was in that meeting I was hearing it for the first time. I was shocked to my bone marrow.
In fact, the shame I felt was horrendous, because even though things were not great on the home front, I had been trying to patch things up, hold my head high and cover-up. Only for him to drop the bottom on me just like that.
And guess what? Three of the ladies who were amongst those seeking to be his wife were present at that meeting. I felt like the ground should open up and swallow me as he uttered those words.
Did you have a support system at the time you were going through the emotional upheaval?
Social network in Ukraine? Support system in Ukraine? What’s that? Where? How? Nothing like that o. I had no support system. In fact, I was an outcast, since the word in town was that I was the evil woman who brought bad luck to her husband. I had no support system. I had loneliness, tears, fears, harassment from creditors, hunger and shame as my support system.
I’m so sorry to hear this. And, amidst all of this, you were defrauded by a long time friend. In light of your status as a pastor’s wife, and being a Nigerian in Ukraine, what steps did you take to seek justice for the crime that was perpetuated against you?
That’s the funny part, I wasn’t the one who did the business personally, it was my husband. But for some weird reason, the blame for the business failure was transferred to my head by some people in our church and in the university where we studied.
Some of the people who shifted the blame to me were actually some ladies who had always wanted to have a romantic relationship with my husband all along.
You know, they droned on about how they were better qualified to be his wife than myself and their reasons were that I was too reserved, sophisticated, worldly-minded (because I was buying expensive wears on campus, hitting the gym and visiting the spa weekly).
So with this business failure now, they just seized upon that and began the narrative that I am the cause of the business failure, I made my husband do it. In fact, I charmed him to do it so that I could ruin his life and ministry.
And that was how overnight, I became a shareholder in a huge debt as much as 35 Million Naira. A business I pleaded with my husband not to do. You know the way women are, we smell danger from afar. I begged him severally not to do that deal.
After we got duped, I mean, people would walk up to me physically on the street to threaten to blow my head off if I didn’t pay them back the money they invested in the deal via my husband. They would tell me how that bullet is cheap in Ukraine, comparable to the cost of a pack of cigarettes!
Of course, our house was flooded by security detectives who came to investigate the situation since a lot of students and people who invested in the deal via my husband reported us to the authorities.
I had even been picked up from church on a day when I was still preaching on the pulpit right in the middle of service.
Yes, we flew down to Nigeria to report to the EFCC, since the guy who duped us resides in Nigeria. We also got four lawyers to help work on the case. We even visited and lodged official complaints at the Special Fraud Unit but all of those were to no avail as even a dollar was not retrieved from the guy.
At a point, the dupe was arrested by EFCC and detained for a few days but he was later released. Then they charged him to court and till date, the matter is still in court and not a cent has been recovered yet!
This is a lot! I mean, just listening hearing you recall it. Wow! So, do you look back now and think of things you could have done differently?
Oh God…yes, yes and yes. I would never have sacrificed my personality to fit into the societal image of what the pastors’ wife should be like. In effect, I would never have attempted to speak, dress, read or do things that are considered politically correct for a pastor’s wife.
Also, I would not have ditched reading personal development books or novels because I was told to only read the Bible and other spiritual books as a pastor’s wife. I would not have subjected myself to wearing unflattering trouser suits as against my comfortable casuals.
And I would not have discarded my style of speaking, hobbies & lifestyle as I tried to prove that I was good enough for my husband.
I would never have sacrificed my dreams and jettisoned my ambitions because I was trying to be somebody’s wife. I studied in high school on scholarship and then got into University to become the girl who couldn’t even string two words together to express herself, because I had lost myself. Too bad.
Yes, a thousand and one things I would have done differently. One I always think about is that I would have been more loving, tolerant of people and patient towards them.
You have come a long way from that time. You’re now a speaker and work counseling other pastors wives. When did you come out of the tunnel of despair and how did you find your new calling?
I decided enough was enough and I wanted a different result from my life. Of course, I and my husband had been back together for quite a long time but I was just not feeling this sense of fulfillment or satisfaction within me.
So, I made a vow to myself that I was going to find myself back, rediscover my essence and live a life authentically true to my calling. It was difficult going on this journey as there was no coach, guide or mentor to hold my hands along. I virtually jumped into it not knowing how I was going to achieve my aim.
I recall vividly that the promise I made myself that day was that I was no longer going to be defined as “Pastor Charles’ wife.” That was what people knew me as. Most people didn’t even know my name, let alone what I embodied. I was living in my husband’s shadow without a clue as to what I wanted out of life for myself but I decided no more on that fateful day. That led me to embark on a transformational journey that turned my life around 360 degrees.
And as for how I found my new calling, the Bible says: “We encourage others with the same comfort by which we were comforted by the Holy Ghost”
It simply means, I found my way in life as a woman and as a pastor’s wife; hence, I serve others now by helping them to find their own way too.
With social media and the rising awareness for feminism – advocacy for the rights of women, what role do you feel pastors wives, can play to help ensure that women are protected from domestic abuse, physical and emotional?
I love this question. It’s so simple. Firstly, a lot of pastors’ wives are themselves going through abuse from their husbands. These women need to open their mouth, speak out and get help instead of them trying to cover up this unethical treatment that is being meted out to them.
That is of course after they must have exhausted other avenues like communication to get their abusers to reconsider their actions. If they can do this, they will open up the channel for other women to do the needful and speak up/get help too.
Then, you see that gospel of “give him good food, be his prostitute in bed and dress to a T to get your man to behave properly” has to stop. It’s killing a lot of women. What has turning yourself into a chef, prostitute and an eye candy got to do with getting a man to behave responsibly?
The truth of the matter is that these things can work temporarily but I promise you somewhere along the line, the woman will slip and everything will revert back to their original position.
For Christ’s sake, this is one of the criteria for getting a woman to lose herself when all she is thinking about is the man, how to please him and how to tie him down.
What happens on days when she’s ill and can’t give good sex? What happens on days she’s got to make a trip and she’s not there to make fresh food. Or on days, she’s not ready to play dress up? Seriously, this is just a confusing ill-advice i.e. cook, dress up, give him sex.
Rather, women should be encouraged to get a thriving life for themselves. That is, work at being “a somebody” without your man. I think if more women are economically stable, have a thriving life of their own with great network of friends and family around them, it puts them in a position of power.
A man will find it difficult to treat such women anyhow. The man knows he can’t get away with it for so long because heck, he knows the woman can decide enough is enough and walk out on him and the roof will come crashing on him.
Let’s face it, it may not be true in all cases but then, I think men abuse and maltreat women whom they feel are solely dependent on them and have nowhere to run to.
Also, rather than the pastors’ wives directing all their personal development, character building and homemaking teaching towards women, they should please teach the men too. I mean seriously, everybody is teaching the woman how to submit, honor, do these, left and right, but no one is teaching the men anything.
And yet, we have a plenitude of malformed men from their childhood who had no role models as they were growing up. Or worse still, those who were trained but threw away decorum as they grew into adulthood and became women abusers instead.
The constant teachings from pastors’ wives can help them imbibe the lessons they are in need of as it relates to their homes.
Very insightful words, ‘Layo. What are your thoughts on the role of the church in providing support for women who have gone through the same challenges as you have?
The church should be that safe haven where anyone can run to in times of trouble especially women. I believe that a Christ-centered ministry should throw its arms wide-open to anyone in need of their help.
You know what, it helps to be an active member of a particular local church. By that, I mean being a person who is committed to God and the things of God in your local assembly. It means that you have a family, like an umbrella for the raining days of life’s challenges.
I also think the church should weigh in and find every means possible to help couples/families going through a rough patch in life. The help they render should include visiting the said couple in their homes, counseling and speaking with them, praying for them and the pastors/anyone in charge can make themselves accessible for the couple to call on.
And of course as much as possible, the church could offer up financial assistance for a woman/family who is in dire need of them. Sometimes, the church may have to go outside her budget to accommodate some of these exigencies. That should be okay.
It’s been a long and eventful journey; please share some of the life lessons you’ve taken away from this experience.
You can become anything you set your mind on becoming in as little as 12 months. I did it in 9 months. I turned my story around and rewrote my history in only 9 months.
I rediscovered myself and my essence in life again. I wrote a book (The Survivor) that became an overnight international bestseller. My works got featured on FOX news, ABC News, Huffington Post and others, I got invited to speak on Nation Transformation at the Ukrainian Parliament. I became a sought-after speaker and coach across several women platform. I earned multiple 5 figures in dollars teaching, training and coaching women on transforming their lives, authoring their own books and leveraging their own stories.
All these I did in as little as 9 months still far away in Ukraine – without a guide, help, coach or mentor by my side. All these through sheer desire and determination to change my life and reinvent myself, bingeing on books, resources, webinars, podcasts and every form of training program that had to do with changing your life from inside out.
And of course, strengthening my relationship with the Holy Ghost and learning to follow guidance from within. Again, I believe that we all are the architects of this masterpiece called our lives. With our desires, thoughts and deliberate actions, we can rewrite our history and reinvent ourselves.
Thank you so much for being honest, open, and forthright. I’m so happy you shared this story with BellaNaija. We can’t wait to see the lives you’ll continue to change through your work. BellaNaijarians, please buy and read ‘Layo’s book.