Bishop Melvin Brooks and Pastor Yvonne Brooks are a ministry-orientated couple, who have a passion to strengthen and support marriages and relationships.
The couple have been married for over 34 years; are parents to three adult children, and co-pastor New Jerusalem church, a thriving ministry based in Aston, Birmingham.
Their overwhelming desire to help couples build strong marriages inspired them to present a well-received programme on Revelation TV in 2012 called Marriage Matters. They have also spoken about the subject at seminars and conferences throughout the world, and co-authored a pre-marital counselling manual entitled “Prepared for the Future“.
In this revealing interview with Keep The Faith, the couple reveal how they became ‘marriage gurus’; how they met; the role faith plays in their lives and relationship, and share tips on things couples can do to strengthen their marriages and build an unbreakable bond.
Keep The Faith (KTF): You recently presented Marriage Matters, a TV series about marriage on Revelation TV. What inspired you to do so?
Pastor Yvonne Brooks (PYB): From early in our marriage, our peers have turned to us and asked for counsel, advice and support. It was natural for us to share what we knew. Then, as we moved into pasturing, we offered pre-marital counselling to our members, and it just grew from there. When we were given the opportunity, by Howard and Leslie Condor, to present this show on Revelation TV, we were very happy to take up the offer.
KTF: What kind of responses did you get to your series?
PYB: The feedback that we got blessed us a great deal, and made us realise the importance of discussing issues around marriage and relationships. Many marriages are failing due to lack of knowledge. It made us realise that people want information; they want to succeed, and that there are huge gaps in our learning and experience as people.
KTF: What are the main marital problems that you both deal with, and how do you help couples overcome them?
PYB: The main problem that couples are experiencing is a failure of communication. This impacts on every other area of their lives: sex, money and the ability to build lasting and satisfying relationships. Over the last five years, we have seen pornography becoming an issue in marriages, where it’s mainly the husbands seeking satisfaction online. There are also issues with abuse, and mental and emotional cruelty. We deal with most of these issues through counselling and prayer. We also refer couples on to other counsellors, who have areas of specialism. We encourage couples to attend marriage encounters that help to deepen their levels of satisfaction within their relationships.
KTF: Divorce is on the increase amongst Christians. Why do you think this is, and what can churches do to help couples build strong marriages?
PYB: When couples grow lukewarm in their faith, they start to believe the world’s propaganda that they deserve to be happy, and that it is their spouse’s responsibility. This, in some cases, causes individuals to become disappointed, leading to unfaithfulness. Failure to develop ourselves spiritually; starting a family; unemployment, or undue pressure of any kind – these can all cause problems. Some couples also have unresolved issues in their past. The church should ensure that couples are prepared for each life transition, by providing ongoing teaching and training programmes on marriage and parenting.
KTF: How have you overcome challenges/difficulties you’ve experienced as a couple, and remained married so long?
PYB: Well, for me, there is no one I would rather spend my life with. I have a husband who has integrity. He is human, so he has many faults, but who hasn’t? If he were perfect, he wouldn’t want me, would he? As a backdrop to my marriage, I made a commitment that I would stay and work out whatever needed to be worked out. I also have the understanding that whoever I was married to, there would be challenges. I also think about the effect my failure would have on those who look to me to be an example. What would be the legacy for my children and grandchildren? Most of all, it would turn the message that I preach into a lie, and would not bring glory to God, whom I love with all my heart. This spurs me on, and keeps me creative and resourceful.
KTF: How did you both meet?
Bishop Melvin Brooks (BMB): I first saw Yvonne singing on the National Choir of the organisation of which I was a part. Following that, we met at youth meetings and church services that were held all over the country. We became pen pals.
KTF: How did you know/decide that Yvonne was the woman for you?
BMB: Somehow, from the moment I saw Yvonne, I believed she was the one. It wasn’t plain sailing, but she became that special one, and after 34½ years, she is still the special and only one.
KTF: Pastor Yvonne, how did you decide Bishop Melvin was the man for you?
PYB: Among my peers he stood out: he was manly, he was a worshipper, and he worked hard.
He really cares about people. He was somebody whom I could respect and look up to for leadership. I felt he would look after and protect me, and never abuse me in any way. I felt he would be a good father to our children, and I believed that I loved him.
KTF: How long have you been married, and what do you like most about being married?
PYB: We have been married for over 34½ years. The thing I enjoy most about being married is having someone who truly cares about me, and who is there in good times and bad. He is my personal cheerleader and encourager.
BMB: I love my wife, our children, our life together, our relationship. Yvonne is a motivator, one who listens to my ideas, and of course interjects and supports. Yvonne has a fantastic sense of humour, absolutely brilliant. She’s great fun, creative and insightful. At home, we call her “green fingers”; whatever she touches becomes fruitful. Yvonne is constant; she was there when I was seriously ill, taking care of me and making sure the ministry stayed focused. She invested time with my family and friends.
KTF: Can you tell me a bit about your upbringing?
PYB: I spent the first eight years of my life in Jamaica. I had very strict parents, and they were already in church many years before I was born. At the age I am now, looking back and taking everything into account, I can honestly say my parents did the best they could, and tried to push us as far forward as they could. They gave me Jesus.
BMB: I was brought up by my grandmother, as my parents left Jamaica when I was 1½ years old. Apparently, my gran told my mother when she was about to leave for England that she couldn’t take me with her, as she was not sure if my mother would return, and so my mother obeyed her mother (LOL). My upbringing was brilliant, because I received love and care unconditionally from my grandmother (Miss Eliza Smith), and although I grew up not knowing my parents, I never felt parentless. However, being a boy and living in the country, many of my family used me to do all kinds of work for them, but I never felt in any way unwanted. I went to school, went to church, and eventually came to England in 1971.
KTF: How has your faith impacted your life?
PYB: I don’t want to sound sanctimonious, but my faith over the years has become my life; I live by faith.
BMB: My faith has impacted my life, by empowering me to do all I was told I could not do. I have travelled to many countries, preaching, teaching and mentoring. I have been used by God to influence changes around the globe. I have met key leaders. My life, my family, my friends, my whole life is because Jesus saved me, and is using me to impact the lives of individuals, families, communities and nations.
KTF: What events/initiatives have you got planned for 2013 to support marriages?
PYB: We have an on-going programme in our church to prepare couples for marriage. We
believe that failure to prepare is preparation for failure. Some couples need reality orientation as to the purpose of marriage. We will also be hosting some events.
KTF: What message would you like to share with couples wanting to build strong marriages and keep their love alive in 2013?
PYB: You have to treat your marriage like a garden, giving it regular attention. A garden doesn’t become overgrown suddenly, but due to neglect and lack of attention. We must weed out negatives, and spread the fertiliser of kindness and tenderness. We must water it with prayer, love and compassion, and take time to sit in the garden and enjoy what has been planted. You will have to renew some of the plants periodically. Increase your knowledge and skill levels by taking refresher courses. Couples must make real time for each other, and pray with each other. Husbands need to take their wives out as often as possible, and do things that show appreciation. Wives need to make time for their husbands; learn his love language, and make him feel like the man he dreams of being.
Bishop Melvin Brooks and Pastor Yvonne Brooks will be hosting a retreat for married couples from 22-23 February, 2013. Visitwww.rebeccapresents.co.uk for more details.