Last September on this blog, I began telling the story of Sandy's and my life in ministry and our years with TWR. This past November, we celebrated 40 years of marriage, and I realized I have missed telling you a big part of our journey: the early years of marriage and God’s preparation for missions. I haven’t told you the story of our lives from post-conversion through to pre-missions. In this six-week series, we'll journey through God's preparation of Sandy and I before we became missionaries.Part 1: NewlywedsIn a blog back in 2014, I told the story of how I came to know Christ. You can read that here. And as you know, in recent weeks, I’ve shared stories of our 30 years and counting in ministry. Today I want to go back and begin telling you the story of how God worked in our lives to prepare us for the adventure of being missionaries!
This past November we took a trip to Hawaii to celebrate our 40th anniversary. Forty years is a long time, and in our case, it is also a lot of adventure! In fact, our daughter, Erin, coined the phrase that our family is "incapable of doing anything normal.”
When I reflect on her observation, there is a lot of truth to the words. Sandy and I met and were married in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. We met in July when we were both serving in the military; we were engaged in September and married in December. The day of our wedding there was such a bad blizzard that Sandy had to be carried into the church by her father. I got laryngitis, so Sandy had to do all the talking at the reception. Our honeymoon was one night in Regina, and we had to drive through a blizzard to get there. This was the beginning our 40-year adventure. And yes, it’s been quite an adventure!
The reason for our short honeymoon was that we were being transferred by the Canadian Armed Forces from Moose Jaw to Barrington Passage, Nova Scotia. I had it all figured out. If I did things right, we could have a delayed honeymoon and, for the most part, I could get the government to assist in paying for it. So it was a one-night honeymoon initially. Then, 34 days after we got married, we were on our way to Nova Scotia. On the way, we honeymooned at Jay’s Peak in Vermont. We both loved skiing, and this was an excellent place to do that.
When we arrived in Nova Scotia, we felt like we were in a different world. We rented a house in Upper Port La Tour, which had a population somewhere between 80 and 100. It was a sleepy fishing village with no store; actually, it had nothing. The closest community was about 30 km away. After being there for a few days, our next door neighbour came over with a gun. That was unusual, but his request was even more so! He asked us to keep it in our basement and whatever we did not to give it to his wife. Strange indeed. A few months later we heard the story behind this unique request. Apparently, the story was that his wife had killed her first husband and the couple wasn’t getting along too well at this time. I guess he feared that if things got really bad, his wife could end the second marriage the same way she ended the first one.
Those early days in Nova Scotia were very lonely, but it wasn’t long before we found a local church in Barrington Passage that welcomed us into their community. With that welcome came responsibility. Sandy and I led the youth ministry, and I taught the adult Sunday School class. Keep in mind I had been a Christian for less than a year. I wasn’t humanly qualified to lead youth or teach Sunday School, but we had willing hearts. This was the beginning of me learning to trust that if God was calling me to do a task, he would give me the ability to carry out the task. God was beginning to teach me lessons that have helped me through my entire missionary career.
We arrived in Nova Scotia in February, and I was scheduled to go to BC in July to be trained as an electrical generating system technician. In the middle of all of this, we discovered that Sandy was pregnant. This would definitely complicate things, but we were overjoyed by the news and trusted that God would work out the details.
We were now faced with a decision: did I travel to BC by myself or would Sandy go with me? The decision was made that Sandy would come with me, and she would have her own adventure. She would live with my mom and dad for those six months, and I would come home on weekends.
Sandy has said that we’ve been married 40 years but only together for 21 years. I guess this is where that all started. I was gone for six months of our first year of marriage. My father took Sandy to her doctor’s appointments, took her golfing and basically filled in for me while I was in school. That first year passed by very quickly and for the most part was uneventful. My mom and dad did a great job of looking after Sandy. My father, who was already retired at that time, jokingly told everyone that she was his young wife.
Our first year started with adventure. But it was also a time of spiritual growth for me as a new Christian. There was much to learn, and God was faithful. As a young man with a wife, and soon with a child, I had to learn what it meant to be a godly husband, a father and a spiritual leader in my home. I learned about trusting God, about sacrifice, and about loving my wife the way the Lord commanded. Did I get it all right? Not even close, but God was patient and so was Sandy. He had my heart, and I was willing to learn and grow into who he wanted me to be.
Tune in next week when I’ll tell you about my daughter’s entrance into the world and moving from BC to Nova Scotia only a few days later.