Long before he became the leader of a 30,000-person mega-church, a counsel to the last three presidents, an orator whose televised messages reach millions or a best-selling author, Bishop T.D. Jakes was a 23-year-old visiting preacher at a church in West Virginia.
That's where he met his future wife, Serita, whom he married in 1981. Thirty-four years and five children later, the two are still together -- traveling the country, sharing the Gospel and serving communities through various humanitarian projects.
Their union is a strong one, but as Bishop Jakes tells Oprah in the video above, they faced extreme hardship very early on. Just six months into their marriage, Bishop Jakes and Serita survived a horrific car crash that left Serita with severe leg and foot injuries. Doctors weren't sure she would ever walk again. Throughout her recovery, Bishop Jakes was by her side, and now views the experience with a nuanced perspective.
"I think it enriched our marriage in a lot of ways," he says. "But it was very difficult to go through."
Bishop Jakes focused his energy and attention on her immediate care. "I prayed for her, I took care of her, I cooked for her, I washed her hair, I taught her how to walk -- literally. [I] stood in front of her and said, 'You can do this,' and taught her to walk again," he says.
Eventually, Serita made a full recovery. It wasn't easy for either of them, but both believe it only made them closer.
"It brought us together," Bishop Jakes says. "We have an unexplainable connection... I guess, at the core, we're friends."
Even with this strong foundation of friendship and lasting love, however, Bishop Jakes and Serita agree that marriage itself is a difficult process -- car accident or not.
"You have to work at marriage," Serita says. "It's an assignment."