Seventeen years ago today I said, “I do!”
But that was seven years after seeing her picture during my junior year of high school in a missionary slide show and deciding to write her a letter! Soon we were pen pals and an overseas friendship began from Chicago to Manila long before the Internet would have made it much easier to write back and forth. Each letter took two weeks to be answered so we maintained at times up to ten separate conversations as letters crisscrossed the globe. Eventually, I developed a growing love for the, uh, Filipino people, (yeah, that’s it!) and asked her father if I could come to the Philippines and be, uh, mentored by him during the summer after I graduated high school. Perhaps suspecting my ulterior motive, he requested I get a year of Bible college first before I could come as part of his mission’s summer intern program.I figured that was better than working for him for seven years and being given her ugly sister in marriage, and since she didn’t have a sister, the year of Bible college requirement seemed safe. So off to Moody Bible Institute I went. (I was going anyway, just for the record. I didn’t go to Bible college for a girl!) I did date in college, but no girl could compare to my pen pal over the sea, so I wrote to her dad again requesting a summer internship and he relented and let me come. He kept me busy! I did over 80 evangelistic programs in the 60 days I was there, discipled young men and did teacher training, but managed to sneak in some dating time (and a first kiss!) all with her parent’s blessing. (O.K. maybe not the kiss!)
A year later Sara arrived at Moody and was shocked that everyone knew her name, even the President of Moody greeted her by name and said, “You must be Sara!” She was embarrassed by her welcome. Little did she know how well known she was before she arrived. I had even hosted a birthday party for her attended by hundreds of students while she was only a senior in high school! Her picture was on a table while every one ate cake provided by the famous Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s in downtown Chicago where I was the “House Magician” and everyone signed a birthday card which we then mailed to Sara. The largest birthday party of Sara’s life, she wasn’t even at!
We finally got to date like a “normal” couple, fell in love with downtown Chicago, walking for miles along the lake shore, “parking” at romantic spots, and eventually getting engaged at the top of the Prudential Tower where my parents had their wedding dinner (as did we), got married at Moody Church with a horse and buggy ride through downtown Chicago to the tower for dinner.
While marriage isn’t always bliss, it is always a blessing to have a partner and friend to share life with through thick and thin. I have been so blessed that my pen pal has been my life pal now for seventeen years, but truly twenty-four years since she wrote me back! The day I got that first letter, August 26, 1986, I was painting a shed at a side job and my dad drove the letter to me. I put baggies over my hands to open the letter and read it. He knew I wouldn’t want to wait until I got home to read the letter from this beautiful girl overseas. Little did I know, my life would never be the same. She would one day be my wife.
I’m not sure she knew what she was getting in to when she married me – I hope she’d do it again! But as for me, I’d sure marry her again. I’m not anyone else could be as patient with me. I’m not an easy guy to keep up with or put up with. A patient and gracious wife was custom ordered for me. The story of why and how that slide show was even being showed at the church my dad was pastoring is pretty amazing, and not worth the space to type out here – but it was a fluke. Most of Sara’s dad’s supporting churches were in the upper North West of the United States, except for one lone church in Chicago because of a chance encounter that led to one church supporting them, that led to me seeing that slide show.
I think it’s because when a five year old boy starting praying for a wife – heaven went into a panic, and had to start working in overdrive to find a woman who could handle this man, and then once they found her, across the globe, they had to rearrange circumstances so that they could miraculously meet. It was a challenge, but they pulled it off. Sure, they had to use a slide projector and pens and paper and five years of letters, but eventually they met.
And seventeen years ago today, they both said, “I DO!”