A life partner in faith

For Ben and Kesa, marriage is a union ordained by God.

It was not love at first sight, neither was there a fancy pick up line, nor the spoils of extravagance, but for newly-married couple Akesa Davuiqalita Lagilagi and Ben Lagilagi it was the power of God that brought them together.

For the Lagilagi couple, the saying is true that “only fools fall in love. For love is an inner emotion of feelings shared by two people over time and with the hope that two hearts will beat as one.”

They first met in 2009 at their Calvary Temple church in Samabula, Suva — both were members of the Campus Ministry committee that looked after secondary school students.

Looking back at when they first met, they both agreeed that “no, it wasn’t love at first sight. It was two people discovering love through God. We had to seek God for confirmation. And yes, God answers prayers”.

They started dating in 2010 but having to date the young Kesa (as she is commonly known) started off at a rather strange but unique way.

As Ben recalls he was one of the camp boys on duty cleaning up the compound and sweeping the church when Kesa’s face flashed before him.

“I thought maybe something was wrong with her or maybe she needed help. This happened occasionally and I began to wonder why it kept occurring.

“I then sought the counsel of one of our church elders and his words to me was to ‘check your prayer list’. I went back and checked my prayer list and found that on my list was a prayer request for my ‘missing rib’ — for God to help me find her. And I definitely found her. God truly answers prayers in very unusual ways.”

From their first date, Ben, a budding pastor, was confident that Kesa was the one that he had been praying for.

As for her, she was not interested in a relationship back then.

“I was completely the opposite to Ben. I wasn’t looking for any guy. I was so engrossed in God’s work, my family and my studies.

“Ben asked me to go out on a date after he sought the church elder’s counsel. I remember sharing a serve of barbecue and Coke that night and he began sharing his thoughts about us and how much he wanted to get to know me better.

“He truly believed that I was the missing rib and that God had showed my face to him when he was cleaning up the church compound. I told him that night that if God had showed my face to him, God also had to show his face to me. Because I wasn’t falling for it that easily (laughs). So we decided to pray and fast about it for the month of February, 2010.

“We needed to seek God’s confirmation and assurance that getting into this relationship was for the long run and it should lead to marriage.

“On the 30th of March 2010, I said ‘yes’ to Ben and from that day, I had not looked back. We’ve had moments when we both wanted to throw in the towel, but the thought of giving up faded away as we recalled God’s faithfulness in our lives and how He’s been central in our relationship.”

Some people are attracted by the other half’s smile, work, looks or how they carry themselves but for Ben it was none of the above.

“With Kesa, her love for God and others is attractive and contagious. She has this smile on her face that lights up the room and yes, such a beautiful soul she is and yes I did fell for that.” (laughs)

Ben did not need to throw a pick up line but it was the way he carried himself that caught the attention of the young Waiqanake lass.

“He didn’t try to be impressive to get my attention. He was just himself, keeping it real. He always have this beautiful scent around him and that was something that attracted my attention (giggles). He’s also the type of person that would make people laugh whenever he’s around. That’s something special about Ben which I noticed but I didn’t get to fall for him that instant (laughs).”

In 2013, their relationship was put to the test when Kesa was offered a scholarship by the European Union to study for a year in Sweden.

Within that one year, they got to know each other more and none was willing to back down.

“We discovered many things about each other and many to be of similar interest such as:

1) our love for God has to be a priority;

2) our love for our families, friends and others whom we meet along life’s journey;

3) the desire and the yearning to do and fulfil God’s purpose in our lives;

4) the need to always find the good in each other; and

5) the need to acknowledge the challenges and the differences we face.

“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? Matthew 16:26

“We might have each other but if we do not allow God to be central in our lives and more so in our marriage, we would have lost everything.”

Finally, after five years of courting, Ben popped the question.

He first had to ask Kesa, before his family made the traditional request (iduguci / ilakovi).

It was an honour for her family that Ben had to traditionally ask for her hand in marriage.

Six months later and in the presence of their families and friends they finally tied the knot.

“Marriage, to us, is a union ordained by God. Marriage is our commitment to God and each other for a lifetime. For better or for worse, we are in it together. Our love for God and each other has been strengthened as we become one. This is one season we had anticipated and we look forward to making memories together.

“Whatever is good and perfect comes down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” James 1: 17

“God has filled our hearts with so much joy and love that we have been overwhelmed.”

Ben has found his missing rib and Kesa has found her covering. “There will be mountains to climb and valleys to bear, but through the strength, perseverance and grace of God, we will overcome.

“Life is to be celebrated and this is one we will enjoy celebrating. Our season of singleness has ended and we have transited into marriage. God makes everything beautiful in his own perfect timing. May God be glorified through and through.”

A week leading up to the wedding day, both families gathered individually to prepare. For Kesa, she was to be the first in her family to be accorded a full traditional wedding. She had to prepare herself of leaving behind her parents, two sisters and a brother and devote her life to the man whom she has grown to love and his family.

On the eve of the wedding her family made the trip to Ben’s family to present their traditional gifts — tevutevu. The gifts included colourful mats, tapa and household items.

A whales tooth — tabua, was presented before the gifts were traditionally handed over.

The wedding was held at the Calvary Temple, before both families gathered at the groom’s family residence for the final traditional iTaukei ceremonies.

First the bride’s family had to present food cooked in lovo (earth oven) — known as the “magiti ni veiwaraki.” It was the traditional food prepared by the bride’s family for the couple.

The most important and emotional of all was her traditional betrothed “tataunaki”. It was emotional because in iTaukei customs, it would mean the bride would, from that point on, be part of the groom’s family. They would take care of her needs and look after her.

Tears flowed as Kesa’s paternal uncle Tevita Qounadovu presented the tabua of itataunaki.

“Nona mata kana, me nomudou mata kana, nona baca o Kesa me nomudou baca.

“Se tu na veika keitou via tukuna vua, ia ni dou sa mai tama koso ena neitou mata ni katuba, au kerekere dou maroroya na veiwekani.”

(Should she hunger, let it be your hunger. Kesa’s sickness should be yours as well to take care of. There is still a lot that we want to teach her growing up but because you have come to our doorstep (seeking her hand in marriage), we are asking you to protect our relationship.)

The wedding reception was held at the Novotel Hotel’s Convention Centre in Lami, which was attended to by more than 600 people.

And as they began their new journey of life, the traditional wedding ceremony has set a platform for the young men and women who attended the function.

A shining example of maintaining purity, where patience is a key word and the spirit of togetherness is strengthened by trudging on the righteous path before the right moment and the right time is unveiled.

There is no love if there is no trust, and there is no trust if there is no love, as for Mr and Mrs Lagilagi if there is no God, there is nothing.

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