Death is not the end; rather it is only the beginning of eternity. For me, the transition of Mama Yewande Elizabeth Idowu, the wife of the pioneer Patriarch, Methodist Church Nigeria, His Pre-Eminence Professor Bolaji Idowu, was somewhat a “joyful sadness.” After a moment, my mind recalled the words of Hebrews 13:7. Mama Idowu’s transition invite us to remember those who spoke God’s Word to us and to consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. Mama Idowu’s way of life points to patience, kindness, understanding, flexibility, and respect. Mama was empowered with each of these by way of the Holy Spirit and the life-changing power of the Word of God. Mama as a clear characteristic of a godly wife respect her husband even in death (Eph 5:33). Mama Idowu’s traits was not in earthly apparels but a heart for God. She was a beautiful Rose that God allowed us to share. Her influence, dedication and passion lives on with us in own journey of life. Even in death Mama Idowu speaks, and is being used as a mouthpiece for the Kingdom. She was a woman of noble character. Who can find a virtuous woman because her price is worth more than rubies. I thank God for allowing me the privilege to meet Mama Idowu I felt the spirit of God in her with that sweet and humble spirit. She was a woman with a servant’s heart approachable working alongside her husband to fulfil the church vision and mission.

It is impossible to write about Mama Idowu without writing about her husband. Mama Idowu was a testimony to the fact that the people who best understand what it is like to be a bishop’s spouse are bishops’ spouses themselves. The Christian wife of a bishop in 1 Timothy 3 “is to be a woman worthy of respect” (v 11). Mama Idowu was a model of ‘a woman of respect.’ Mama Idowu’s legacy as Methodist grand matriarch reminds us that the bishop’s wife has a supportive ministry coupled with her relationship to the bishop. The bishop’s wife supportive ministry is different from the ministry of a “deaconess” that refers to women in the Early Church ordained to the order of deacons. Mama Idowu provide a spiritual history and legacy of the person who desires to serve in supportive ministry. Mama Idowu as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ was consistent and dedicated to principle of right relationship and behaviour, hence she was a model of faithfulness, truth, honesty and purity. His Eminence Samuel Chukwuemeka Kanu Uche, Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria described Mama Idowu as ‘one in a million, an embodiment of what minister’s wife should be, full of smile, full of humility, quintessential, sagacious, bold, courageous and always supporting her dear husband.’ According to His Eminence Uche, he came to know Mama Idowu during her husband’s visit to one of the Methodist schools to South Eastern part of Nigeria, ‘as the head of the Methodist Church so he came to address the entire school with over 80% Methodist students. Mama was seated beaming with beautiful smile and wearing a stainless silver glasses. She looked like an imported woman, very beautiful. Baba was lucky to marry her. She was full of gentle mien and candour. Mama Idowu was a personification of somebody inhabited by the Holy Spirit. She stood by her husband during the turbulent time of his ministry which brought transformation, reformation, positive revolution to Methodist Church Nigeria. Baba Idowu brought Methodism from obscurity to prominence, he brought us from grass to grace. Baba Idowu was very efficient because he has a supportive wife.’ To the glory of God, Mama married her life partner, and together they parented six children- four girls and two boys.

His Eminence Sunday Ola Makinde, Prelate Emeritus, Methodist Church Nigeria described Mama Idowu’s home call as a ‘mixed feeling of happiness and mild sadness. Happiness because she has lived a fulfilled life worthy of eternity for ninety-six years. Sadness because we shall miss her fellowship and motherly love, wisdom and counsel.’ His Eminence Makinde description of Mama Idowu as a virtuous woman is based on Mama’s practical Christian lifestyle, lover of ministers and their wives who led the Women’s fellowship by example. According to His Eminence Makinde, Mama Idowu ‘was not a loose talker’ but very enduring and ‘supported her husband in times of trouble.’

Mama Idowu was an ideal wife and mother – a woman of extraordinary character. It can be disappointing not owning her life, but it was part of the cost of the call Mama Idowu aligned herself with. According to the Methodist Archbishop of Abuja, Most Rev Oche Job, if a woman is not kind enough and full of care, she would not be able to live with our Papa, Patriarch Bolaji Idowu. Archbishop Job explained that, ‘in many cases, people are always afraid of Prelate’s or Patriarch’s wife. They fear the women more than men, in contrast, Mama Yewande Idowu was very simple, godly, and different. She identified and fellowship with the down trodden.’

Born on 9th June, 1925 in Lagos to Papa Elkanah and Mama Catherine Thomas, Mama Idowu was the first born in the family. Mama Idowu’s ancestral roots were from Hastings, Sierra Leone. Her father, a finance expert was a choirmaster at the then Tinubu Methodist Church, Tinubu, Lagos. Pa Thomas ‘was a highly competent pianist and ardent listener of church hymns and classical music.’ It was at Methodist Church, Tinubu that Mama Idowu ‘met the love of her life – the young and handsome Rev Bolaji Idowu, who later became the Patriarch of the Methodist Church, Nigeria.’

Mama Idowu attended Methodist Girls High School, Lagos and was formally trained as a teacher at Westhill College, Selly Oak, Birmingham, United Kingdom. Mrs Adegbola, wife of Rev Adeolu Adegbola, the founding principal of Methodist Lay Training Institute, Sagamu, and the Director of the Institute of Church and Society, Ibadan, attended the same school with Mama Idowu in United Kingdom. In her years of professional and religious activity, coupled with working as support for her husband in the ministry, Mama, as a foreign trained teacher, taught at Abadina Primary School, University of Ibadan before she retired from that institution as a headmistress. Mama Idowu left this teaching station at the University of Ibadan only when she and her husband moved to Lagos, where she then worked for the government as a schools’ inspector before her professional retirement.

After retirement, mama went fully into activity within the life of the church as ‘a class- and leader of women circles in different churches; she served as the first national president of the Methodist Church Nigeria Women’s fellowship; from 1947 to 1948, she was at Otapete Methodist church, Nigeria; from 1948 to 1949 at the Methodist Mission at Jos, Nigeria; from 1949 to 1951 at Tinubu Methodist church; and from 1951 to 1957 supported her husband as the Superintendent of Tinubu circuit. To the glory of God, ‘Mama indeed defined, exemplified, and well deserved the term, “Iya Yard.”

Mama Idowu’s life was centred on honouring her husband and reverence for God. Beyond the usual temptation to complain or be frustrated by the challenges of the ministry, Mama Idowu God’s given weird sense of no problem especially when her husband ministry’s was challenged remains as an inspiration. Mama Idowu will be remembered across Nigeria as kind and gracious, and a wonderful support to Patriarch Idowu in all that they did for the Methodist Church Nigeria and the academic world. Much of Mama Idowu’s work was unseen, and all the more valued for that. Mrs Iyabo Stephen, wife of a retired Methodist Archbishop of Ibadan and a former Secretary of Conference, Methodist Church Nigeria, Archbishop Kehinde Stephen aptly described Mama Idowu as the grand Matriarch of Nigerian Methodist. According to her, “My mother, Mama Yewande Idowu have really gone to be with her maker. The most humble human being I have ever met and interacted with, as a mother, and a leader of repute. I describe her as the grand Matriarch of our beloved Church, (MCN). I reminiscence on the kind of upbringing we got from a leader like her. Mama, Iyabo your daughter, even in retirement will not stop passing on the virtues that you left for us, which by God’s grace we are grateful for. You have fought the good fight, you have kept the faith, you have run the race, mama Idowu, rest in the bosom of our Lord your maker. Sunre o, iya mi owon.”

Archbishop Kehinde Stephen described Mama Idowu as someone ‘so unassuming with a quiet disposition which she carried all the days of her life.’ Archbishop Stephen explained that he met Mama Idowu many years ago simply as Mrs Yewande Idowu, the name which her husband Prof. Bolaji Idowu dedicated some of his writings – “to my dear wife, Yewande.” Accordidng to Archbishop Stephen, “I must have met her in the early 70s in Lagos/Ikorodu where I began my ministerial career … She carried on almost in the shadow of her husband. She was a fantastic person who loved her husband in a dedicated manner and managed to fenced-off what could have become severe challenges for the husband.’

Mama Idowu’s life captures well the tenor of her gracious and servant spirit. As the wife of the Patriarch, she had little definite instruction regarding her role as the wife of a pioneer Patriarch, Methodist Church Nigeria. With no one to tell her how to cope with the new assignment, Mama Idowu’s own Christian experiences sustaining, surviving and supporting roles to her husband for over the sixteen years years especially during the Methodist crisis speaks volumes even today to minister’s wife. Mama Idowu transition reminds us of bishop’s wife role in connection with Methodist episcopacy that is corporate, relational and not controlling as in monarchical episcopacy. Mama Idowu’s exemplary lifestyle points minister’s wife to their supportive and focused attention on their husband’s needs and welfare. Mama Idowu as a model of a woman of respect calls us to learn not only flexibility with our home and personal schedules, but also the humility to learn to do things for which we feel entirely unsuited. Mama Idowu was an example of a supportive ministry to minister’s abilities, and not to compete with them. Mama Idowu’s marriage to a teacher and a bishop and a husband and a father all at once points to the importance of marriage than church calling.

Mama Idowu’s sense of duty to make sure that her husband’s clothes were ready to wear and that his appearance reflected the dignity of a servant of the Lord remains a model for us today. Mama Idowu’s lifestyle calls us to learn that a leader’s wife may be called on as a last-minute speaker replacement, hence the need to keep a talk prepared and tucked inside scriptures. Controlling tongue at times is a lesson in self-discipline. Mama Idowu allowed her husband to grow and led through the influence of the Lord and his colleagues thereby resisted the temptation to control or dictate to the Patriarch.

Mama Idowu reminds us of ministry image that reflect high standards of cleanliness, modesty, simplicity, and appropriateness. Mama was friendly and gracious especially with other bishop wives. Mama Idowu’s legacy points to the responsibility for getting the family to worship, participating, maintaining order, and keeping the Sabbath holy as bishop’s wife. Mama Idowu’s children can testify that Mama’s home organisational rules including restricted television. Mama was committed to kindness especially when people were hurt and dealing with many struggles. Mama was an example of how to walk in love and kindness thereby using bishops’ wives position to bless struggling people with encouragement and mentoring. Mama Idowu reminds us that, being a bishop’s wife means more eyes on them, listening to problems, praying and talking to people, and greeting them with courtesy and genuine hug and lots of love.

Mama Idowu lives on as a testimony that nothing about Christianity is easy and very little about being a bishop’s wife is easy either. When people criticised the Patriarch, Mama did not throw a punch or kept malice. She understood that everyone had an opinion without retaliating with a worldly response. She understood that her fight was not with the people or their flesh and blood, instead, she found strength of the Holy Spirit to respond and pray.

Today, on Ikorodu soil, always refer to as “Ikorodu, the metropolis” by her husband on which Mama breathed her last, she will lay beside her husband, at the Patriarch Bolaji Idowu Methodist Cathedral in Ikorodu. As I say farewell to our Grand Matriarch and ministry inspiration, I must quote Charles Wesley, co-founder of the Methodist faith that we shared: “Finish, then, thy new creation; true and spotless let us be … Changed from glory into glory, till in heav’n we take our place, till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.”