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35 YEARS AND GOING STRONG

With all the promises the month of February brings, one such highlight is the event flowers, chocolates and Love poems. February 14th marks Valentine’s Day, a day globally held as a time to celebrate love and romance.

As much as it seems important to celebrate love between a couple, excusing those who are still searching, it is also important to maintain such love, to keep it going, years down the line. And where better to witness such love than between two people who had been married for quite a while now and had come up with a system to make it work for thirty-five years.

Meet Mr Paul Kipak and Mrs Jessie Behuka Kipak. Mr Kipak, or rather Chief Inspector Paul Kipak is 59 years old and hails from Wosera in the East Sepik Province, and is currently the Police Regional Training Officer for Southern Region/NCD. Mrs Kipak, 54 years old is from Koiari in the Central Province and is the Chief homemaker for the Kipaks.  

When joining the PNG Royal Constabulary in 1982, Mr Kipak held on to the advice by his superiors to not get married until five years into the force as a house will not be provided. He made up his mind in the beginning of 1987 to find someone to do life with because by then, he joked, he had gotten tired of doing his own laundry and having biscuits for dinner. 

Mr and Mrs Kipak’s first encounter was what their kids dubbed as love at first sight. It took place at Kila Police Barracks, Konedobu, Port Moresby. Mr Kipak, then a young Paul, was residing there for 3 months whilst taking a course. One day he was outside sitting on the stairs when the then young Jessie approached perspiring from the scourging heat of the sun. She was looking for an officer who was her brother-in-law. Mr Kipak offered to assist. After running through the whole barracks, Paul returned to Jessie saying her brother-in-law was not there. Accepting the response Jessie turned and took leave. Paul however, approached Jessie’s brother-in-law that same afternoon and expressed his interest for her. Within the 3 months Paul was in Moresby, he talked Jessie’s family into letting him marry her, and got married to Jessie at the Waigani Registry office with her parents as witnesses.

Funny thing is, Mrs Kipak still cannot believe that her husband was the guy she had asked to help look for her brother-in-law; she’s still convinced it was someone else.   

Practically no form of dating took place between the two, however when Jessie was asked about her feelings then to marrying almost a complete stranger, she said she was at peace with the idea the minute she met Paul because of her religious faith.

“I was a strong young Adventist and had always committed finding the right partner in prayer,” Jessie reflected.

 It was only her parents that worried over the matter saying Paul was “Simbu”, a stranger phrase used by her family for anyone having to travel into Port Moresby by plane. Looking back, Jessie didn’t even know why exactly they used “Simbu” for strangers.    

A challenge the couple faced in their earlier years of marriage was the differences in their religious denominations. Back then Mr Kipak was a Catholic and Mrs Kipak was an Adventist, for a time the contrast did not sitt well. It led to an incident sometime in 1988, in Kiunga of Western Province when Mr Kipak all drunk and disorderly threw a bottle into an Adventist church to make Mrs Kipak come out. The incident led to a massive brawl where Mrs Kipak was beaten black and blue. She has a cracked tooth from then to show now.  

Jessie reflected on that dreadful night. Everyone she knew had told her to leave her husband then, but she decided to stay and patiently wait for him to wake up sober from his drunken slumber. As soon as he woke up, she told him to look at what he had done. The swollen lips and eyes, one barely open, head bleeding, a wounded back and leg. Engulfed with sorrow her husband immediately regretted what he had done, he wept. He even offered then to send Jessie back to her parents saying he had broken his promise to her dad to treat her well, and thinking he didn’t deserve her anymore but she chose to stay instead. That was the first and last time her husband had laid a hand on her like that. Afterwards they resorted to talking about it, or Paul leaving the house to cool off whenever in rage. 35 years later and this is still the case.   

Another challenge to their marriage, though it was a bundle of joy, was brought on by the birth of their third child and first son for the Kipak’s in 2000, Immanuel, a child born with impairment. Seeing that by then they both were faithful Adventists, Jessie could not understand why this could have happened that one of their children had to suffer as such. It got to a point where she developed suspicion on her husband because by then he was Chief Sargent and often travels out on duty. They both later came to terms that their son is a gift from God and they have the responsibility to care for him the best they could.  With that, despite doctors saying his life expectancy may be short; Immanuel, or Manu, as affectionately known by all is now 23, happy and strong.   

When asked what was something memorable you appreciate your partner for? Mrs Kipak made mention of the 20th and 50th birthday parties her husband had done for her. She didn’t expect it but loved the thought of being appreciated in such a way.

Mr Kipak had another view however, he said his wife being a homemaker and keeping everything together was something he will always appreciate her for. He expressed how she was not working but they were always able to sustain their family of 7 plus contribute to both sides of the family because of how she supported him and managed the home.

“Because I didn’t have to worry about the house a lot, I was able to work hard and get to where I am today,” he said.

Mr and Mrs Kipak now reside at the Bomana Police College in Port Moresby. They were blessed with 5 children, 3 daughters and 2 sons, their eldest being 33, and youngest will be turning 16. While two of the youngest are still in school, two of their eldest daughters, one engaged with Exxon Mobil, another a Teacher, are happily wedded off and they now have a toddler grandson who keeps them active every time he visits. 

So how did they make it work between them is something one might ask. How did they keep the fire burning for 35 years now going 36?  To this they gave four pointers. Communication, Trust, Love and God.

First and foremost is Communication. Mr and Mrs Kipak made a promise to not disrespect each other. They talked to each other as soon as disagreements arise, and mainly do that away from the kids, in the privacy of their room.

The second is trust. Mr Kipak entrusts his wife with all of the family budget and supports her taking part in extra-curricular activities like sports, especially basketball when her knees could still take it and Mrs Kipak trusts Mr Kipak and supports him in his job and the decisions he makes for the family.

Another one of the pointers they discussed was love. Although it may seem it developed after their marriage, the thing the Kipaks want more than anything is to shower their children with it to the point where their children could reflect that love to others. 

The last but not the least pointer is God. Mr and Mrs Kipak are Seventh Day Adventist, with leadership positions in the church. To them God is always in the equation. Before meeting her husband, Jessie had prayed hard for a good partner. After that they both prayed hard for a good partner but for their children. Their belief and service to God became the pinnacle of their marriage and family.

The story of Mr and Mrs Kipak is one that took place during the time when pay phones were a thing and marrying someone from another province was uncommon but its encouragement rings on when retold.

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