As it has been difficult to explain our story to the countless people at home who have been asking, my fiancée Lesley and I have decided to write it up. We apologize for the length despite all that we’ve left out. If you want to sleep well tonight…start reading 🙂
My account is written as normal text and Lesley’s account is written in italics.
I had been in Uganda for 9 days and my roommate, Billy, invited me to a game night with the mission organization he came through (Africa Inland Mission). I was opposed to this as there was supposed to be a game night with our leadership team for the ministry. However, this got cancelled and my roommate then coerced me into going…though I was quite reluctant.
It was Saturday and my friend and teammate, Martha, was hosting an AIM game night. I had ran errands all day and it was a particularly hot day…so needless to say, I was in dire need of a shower. It was time for the game night and as I opened up my door I saw 2 guys walk upstairs towards Martha’s apartment (I live on the first floor). I looked at myself in the mirror real quick and figured that there was no one to impress, so I went as is.
Shortly after arriving at the game night, a cute girl walked in and walked right past Billy and me and didn’t introduce herself…which I thought was a bit rude. However, I figured, I was the one imposing on their game night and didn’t think that much of it. But like I said…I thought she was really cute.
I realized that the 2 guys that walked upstairs ahead of me were Billy (who I knew) and this “other” guy who I’d never met and didn’t expect to be there. He was really cute, but I figured that he was someone who was in town for a short while…just another person to say hi and goodbye to…so why bother. He had an incredible smile so when he introduced himself I was distracted and didn’t catch his name. I spent the rest of the night trying to guess his name.
Like Lesley had thought, I was supposed to be leaving for Kabale (a town 2.5 hours away) to work at that house on the following Monday. On Sunday I went to two different church services, and in each service they prayed for those of us who were single that God would prepare us for and provide us with spouses. This was kinda weird as no one had ever prayed that for me and coming to Uganda was partially surrendering that area of my life and realizing it could screw that up completely.
I knew Carl was helping with worship night and when I walked in and saw him my stomach leapt. I did my best to walk right past him. I was here to be a full time missionary and this guy was going to mess that all up…or just distract me. I had surrendered that part of my life to God’s timing and I figured that this wasn’t it!
We had talked a little bit on Facebook before the worship night and usually when that’s the primary way I talk to someone before talking to them in person, it tends to be quite awkward…but this wasn’t. This caught me off-guard, in a good way, but I wasn’t about to be distracted from ministry…especially this early on. However, it came to Monday and we ended up having to stay at the house in Mbarara (where Lesley was) because there was no electricity at our house yet.
Carl wasn’t leaving…I was shocked at how excited I was when I found that out! We spent Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday talking via text during the day and Facebook chat in the evenings. I was so excited to meet someone that I truly “clicked” with as fast as we did…I also know that having men as friends isn’t smart…so I had an afternoon where I prayed to let this friendship go…as hard as that would be. I was having fun! 🙂
Thursday night Lesley had a few missionaries over for pizza and a movie. Billy and I jumped on this because we were missing pizza bad. Though…I had ulterior motives. This was another chance to see Lesley and I was really starting to think maybe there would be something there…though I was trying my best not to think that way. Later that night, Billy asked me if I liked Lesley (through Facebook), so I leaned over from the bottom bunk, looked and him and simply shook my head as to say “yes.” Then I decided…for some odd reason…to tell Lesley about the exchange through a text message.
After the movie night, Carl and I are back to texting…I couldn’t get over how sweet and amazing this guy was! He sent me a text explaining how Billy asked him if he liked me and that he did…and then continued to ramble about something. My response, “you like me :)”
To which I responded, “I do :)”
I very hesitantly typed, “I like you too :)” I knew when I admitted that to Carl and to myself that this friendship would become very different. Friday we had an AIM ice cream social which Carl also attended. I had a hard time looking him in the eyes…those eyes…(sigh).
Admittedly, the only reason I wanted to go to the ice cream social was to see Lesley. I didn’t care about ice cream or the games, I just wanted to spend more time with her before leaving for Kabale. This girl had a hold on me. As they say here…I was hooked.
Carl left for the ABIDE Kabale house that Saturday…not a happy day. I skyped with my sister later that day and she shared that on the previous Monday she felt the need to pray for my future husband. She has never felt the need to pray specifically for me to find a husband, but that day, she just knew that it was needed.
The ride down to Kabale was incredibly bittersweet. I was very excited to get to the house and begin the program there with the guys, but I was also really not looking forward to what this could have potentially meant for Lesley and me. I didn’t think this was going to be the end, but I knew this would get difficult pretty fast, especially for how early things were. But this is where God had us for a reason, and I found a bit of comfort in that…not much though.
Carl was gone. What did this mean? I had no idea. Was this someone that I was supposed to allow into my life…I had no idea. I knew that every decision made here, has a much bigger impact than on just myself. I had an AIM team who counted on me to be open and honest with them, a teaching ministry to stay focused on, and a life in Africa that I had only just begun (it was my 6th month anniversary the day I met Carl). I was terrified.
The distance, as much as I wouldn’t want to admit it at the time, made all the difference. Where most couples would struggle with not kissing too soon or getting physical, we had no choice but to simply talk through Skype. I learned to love Skype despite how terrible connections would be at times. I had a conversation with Matt, my director and friend, asking for advice. I expected the conversation to be difficult and challenging, but I felt affirmed in everything I had been feeling and thinking. The result of this conversation was a solidifying of my stance, I was “all in.”
It was incredible that no matter how scared or hesitant I was, Carl was not. He insisted that he would be patient with me and that no matter how long it took me to be ok with “us” he would wait. I couldn’t imagine anybody seeing me that way. Carl expressed viewing me in a way I wished I could see for myself. I had to tell Jill (my AIM mentor whose husband is our team leader). AIM has a “guideline” about missionaries not dating within their first full year in country…which I clearly hadn’t reached. We went for or usual walk on Thursday morning…and I told her flat out, “I like Carl and he likes me…what now?” That conversation led to a second one involving her husband a few days later where they both set up clear expectations and strict boundaries. I felt like a teenager all over again, but I knew that I needed to respect the authority over me and that this was just part of the process. Dating in Uganda was going to look very different. Carl came back into town for 24 hours and we finally got to go on a “date.” We went to the bank, grocery store, Indian restaurant, and coffee shop where we sat side by side, not able to make eye contact or even hold hands. In Uganda PDA means that you are in a very physical relationship and we both didn’t want to project that, knowing that it would not just reflect negatively on ourselves but on the ministries we represented as well.
Getting to go on a date in person was great, but it also marked having one month apart from one another due to conflicting schedules and Lesley traveling to Kenya. To cope, I wrote her four songs in one week. I’ve never done that before…especially with liking the songs! Besides one of them, I wrote each in a day and performed them over Skype for her that same evening. The third song is probably my own favorite of the four. I went to record a “sample” of it for her because there had been a series of crappy events going on and felt like it might help cheer her up a bit. I went to record the video inside but there wasn’t enough light, so I went outside. After noticing the sun was setting and I was on a mountain, I realized this was a great opportunity. I went up the mountain a bit and had my roommate hold the computer while I recorded the first half of this song for her and sent it via video message through Skype.
Sunday, February 10th. It had been a horrible weekend. A baby had passed away and Martha had just left Uganda for good. I skipped church and per Carl’s encouragement, spent the day praying and praising God for who he is and the promises he has given me and has promised to give all who love him. It was a very emotional day. I got a message from Carl telling me that there was a video message waiting for me on Skype. I logged on and waited, impatiently, for it to load…internet here is so frustrating! I watched as Carl sang me a song, on a mountain, at sunset. The words he sang went straight to my heart. He said, in so many words, how much he loved me…with out saying “I love you” out right. I realized that at this point I had a choice…allow this man to love me and love him back…or something else…that I just didn’t want to think about. I began to cry…pulled out a piece of paper..and wrote Carl a letter letting him know the moment that I fell in love with him.
Lesley sent me a text while I was in a nighttime fellowship saying there was something she needed to talk about. That’s never a good thing. So I was somewhat anxious to talk to her as soon as possible. It was late and we weren’t Skyping much at the time and were more using the chat feature and she essentially asked me to say, with words, how I felt. I didn’t know what to think and was opposed to the idea of writing it out for the first time I said it and was worried she wouldn’t say it back…but again, I was “all in.” I went on video and told her that I loved her and that I’ve tried to say it in every possible way I could without words (as I had stated in the third song) and explained what loving her meant to me. Then she read me a letter and I couldn’t help but cry. I’ve never felt the way that I felt when she told me that she loved me before in my life. It was…incredible.
Other than family, I had never told a man that I loved him. I nervously read my letter and didn’t look up at Carl until it was finished. I loved him and I was able to admit it aloud. I was “all in!”
Things changed pretty quickly. This was about three days into the month of seeing one another. Within the time of our schedules not lining up, we Skyped quite often and our conversation had changed from simply being curious to having purpose. From this point on, we knew that this was it. I was given one of my first opportunities since I went to Kabale to be alone on a short walk to a nearby hotel (a refuge of sorts for me when I have free time) and I spent time in conversation with God. I prayed to God and went to say “please don’t let me hurt her and please help me not do anything dumb” but I couldn’t. I felt such peace. Instead I simply asked God, “what do you want me to do?” and I felt the answer “Love her.” I asked my friend Dan, who would be visiting with Trinity International University, if I could order a “special package” for him to bring over for me. I ordered a ring.
It was crazy to talk about getting engaged, and by crazy, I mean it was like a fantasy. I felt like I was living a story and at any moment I would wake up and realize that this amazing dream doesn’t really happen in real life. I was at peace with the entire situation. I knew that this man would be my husband one day. The current problem was that I was on my way to Kenya to visit Rift Valley Academy to talk about my placement there as a dorm parent for the 2013-2014 school year. I was so scared that God would want me to stay in Africa another year and have my future with Carl wait. I wanted to allow God to ask me to follow him, no matter the cost…but I was not excited about the price of this decision. I left for Kenya not knowing where my future was going.
There was so much up in the air with details, but I wasn’t worried. God had it.
I had 3 separate meetings with different administrators at the school. I was ready for them to tell me how much I needed to come there and give God another year in Africa…like it was my duty since I was already on the continent…however, each conversation was essentially the same. They all basically said that marriage was also a gift from God and that if this was where God had me right now, I’d be foolish to think that I could fully devote my time to a group of girls who needed me, when part of my heart would always be with Carl. I spent a few days praying about my future in Africa. I was afraid that if I didn’t take advantage of being here, that I might never get this chance again. I eventually came to the same realization that I had over my singleness the previous year…my future was in God’s hands and I would rather have His plan than write one of my own. I could never have imagined meeting a man like Carl and in the same way, I was sure that my future would be one that I could never imagine…and it would be amazing, whatever it was to be. I decided to go home and begin a life with Carl…and I gave my time in Africa an end date.
Going into this month, I knew that God had it all and it would work out, but I was a bit worried about it working out where I had to go back to school and Lesley would be staying in Kenya. When Lesley told me that she would be going home, I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as soon as she told me it would be. She asked when she should go back to the states and I tried to be reasonable and say she could stick around here longer, but she told me there was no point if she was going home. So I looked up my flight number and told her August 1st. This is where we began doing some planning. I had a proposal planned already and simply needed the ring, to meet her parents, and to get her dad’s approval (which I had been told that we had his blessing, so I wasn’t worried).
Shortly after I returned from Kenya, Carl and I were able to spend a weekend in Kampala with the Trinity team as they wrapped up a short-term trip. It was great after a month apart to get to spend an entire weekend in the same place. When we returned to Mbarara, Carl was told that he didn’t have to leave until Wednesday…which meant we would get to finish out an entire week together!
I had been planning to propose for a while. However, this was contingent on my friend Dan arriving from Trinity, which had now happened. I also needed to get her dad’s permission, which I was able to Skype with him to do so before returning to Kabale. After arriving in Kabale, my plan went into action. I left Mbarara on Wednesday night with Lesley thinking I wouldn’t be back for close to two weeks…little did she know I would be back in four days to ask her to marry me.
After being apart for an entire month, 10 days was going to be easy…or so I thought. By day 3 I was done with the separation and I wanted him to come back. Saturday was especially difficult because he was on a mission project the entire day and out of cell phone range (or so I thought). Also, that night he was “too tired” to Skype with me…even though he was wide awake and texting me around midnight! He always Skyped with me in the past and was never too tired to talk to me, ever! I was not sure what was going on, but I started to think something was up!
I had actually gone on the mission, but I hadn’t stayed the entire time. Around 3pm on Saturday, I was driven back to the Kabale house and packed up my things so that I could head to town, have dinner, and then take the 8pm bus to Mbarara. I called Lesley during this time as we hadn’t “been able” to text much and I thought calling on the phone might help with not “being able” to talk for much of the rest of the night. After we talked on the phone, I got on the bus and waited a couple of hours before saying we hadn’t gotten back into range but said I was still in the car and unavailable to talk. That night was really difficult because she wasn’t feeling well and, like she had said, was done with the whole separation thing. I came across as a bit insensitive because I knew that I would be seeing her the next day.
The next morning I felt like I had the flu. I had been coughing for about a week now and my body was feeling the stress of it. I skipped church and was debating on whether or not I should go to worship practice that night. I had been asked the day before to help lead the worship for the monthly worship night at a local church. My throat felt like it was on fire and I wasn’t up for making it worse. Carl kept checking in on me, even though he was supposed to be “on a mission” that day, but when I told him that I was sick and not sure about going to worship night he wasn’t too thrilled with me…I got very irritated with him.
Little did Lesley know, she wasn’t going to be singing at the worship night…it was a setup. This was part of the plan because it was a space that had a small role in our story and she wouldn’t ever expect me to be there. I felt terrible lying the day before and I didn’t enjoy trying to convince her to go to a worship practice when she didn’t feel well…but again, I knew she wasn’t going to be singing. I spent the morning freaking out thinking that my whole plan was going to be ruined because she wouldn’t show up. I asked a ton of people to pray, had several others check up on her, paced a lot, prayed a lot, went on facebook a bit and played bejeweled (apparently a new coping mechanism of mine).
I got a phone call from Jill (fellow AIM missionary) who was wondering if I was feeling alright and going to the worship night. Crystal Kehn (the wife of Carl’s director) facebook messaged me (for the first time ever) asking me how I felt and if I was going to the worship night. Andrew (missionary who asked me to do worship) checked in and made sure I was still coming to the worship night…what was going on?!? Carl was pushing me to go and apparently all of Mbarara was wondering the same thing. I figured that Carl was in town and was going to propose. In an earlier conversation Carl mentioned that he was going to be speaking to Trinity University during one of their chapels and that by the time they speak he would be engaged…I had read in his blog that he was speaking to them this upcoming Wednesday…so him proposing was the only thing that made sense of all this “insanity.” I decided to get Carl to call me…I just had to talk to him and see if I was going crazy.
I was at a local high school, about five minutes away from Lesley, when I called her. I explained what had been going on there and was able to articulate much better as I wasn’t making up lies about my experience, I was just omitting the location of where it was all taking place. I almost slipped up and said “Matt said…” who was in Mbarara but stopped after “Matt…” and then said “called me…” and felt like I had saved it…though I ran over to Matt to tell him what had nearly happened. There was only about an hour left until I would ask her to marry me…that was hard to contain in talking to her over the phone and it was hard to express how much I missed her, knowing I would see her incredibly soon.
After talking to Carl, hearing about his day, I knew that I had lost it! Carl was in Kabale, I was in Mbarara, and we had 6 days left before we would see each other again. I got ready for worship practice and walked to the church. By the time I got there I was sweaty and tired and already feeling like this was a bad idea. I opened the door and saw someone dart behind a curtain. When I walked further into the room I saw a table with candles all over it and Carl standing with a guitar at the front of the room. I stopped walking once I reached the doorway.
I motioned for her to come to the front of the room, where I was, and said “I want to play a song for you.” As she walked up, she stopped to set her bag and travel mug down and I asked if it made more sense why I wanted her there so bad. When she got to the front and sat down I started playing a song for her called “Waiting Here to Know” which in the final stanza asks, “Lesley, will you marry me?” After playing the song through, I took off the guitar, picked up the ring, got down on one knee and asked “will you marry me?” to which I barely heard a “yes” before getting kissed.
I cried through most of the song. It took all that I had to focus on the words and pay attention to Carl and what was happening. Matt Kehn was taking pictures (the person who darted behind a curtain) and a ring was on the table next to me. When he got down on one knee, I couldn’t take it anymore. The man I loved was in the same room with me, asking me to marry him. I barely whispered, “yes” before kissing him! It wasn’t until after I had hugged him that I remembered I was holding a ring.
Once she realized she still had the box and took out the ring, I put it on her finger. The worship leader came in and congratulated us and asked if Lesley still wanted to sing, but I said we had other plans. Matt then drove us (our chauffeur) to Katete beach (a waterfall) where we had cheesecake that Matt and his wife made for us (something they have every anniversary) as a tradition to pass on…it also happens to be one of our favorite desserts. After a great time together of enjoying the scenery, smiling at each other a lot, praying together, taking some pictures, and reading through some scripture, we went to the worship night. Best day of my life yet.
Best day so far!