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So How’d You Two Meet?

Okay, I've had many, many requests for a "how did you meet" post…so here it is.

In 1993 at the age 17 I spent my summer in Tanzania, East Africa with Teen Missions International. We made a film about AIDS to be shown around the country. It was the most amazing, life changing experience (and just as a side note- my two future-children Keziah and Ezra were a year old in West Africa). 

The next year, 1994, I decided to return to Teen Missions, but this time was headed to Brazil to help dig fish raising ponds at a Bible School there. All Teen Mission teams start out with two weeks of Boot Camp in Merritt Island, Florida. It was there that I met the four leaders for our summer team: Jerry and Paula, a married couple who were missionaries in Brazil, Chris, a young lady in her early twenties and twenty-two year old Chuck. I had no particular interest in any of the leaders, except for Chris, who was also from Alaska…I think you have to be raised in rural Alaska to understand someone else from rural Alaska…so we got along just fine. As for Chuck, he was male leader and I saw very little of him, beyond him passing out orders for work, or punishment as the situation called for. 

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Chuck, age 23

All of that changed very late in the summer as we sat hanging out in the hot Brazilian jungle, waiting for evening devotions. By then I knew a little of Chuck…he was a soft spoken, cute Canadian with an adorable accent…even if he did say things like pAsta and a- boot. On this particular night, he sat across the room chatting with a group of people. I was on KP and happened to hear him say, "I want to have ten children". Now that caught my ear…I had known for years I wanted a large family…and I wanted a husband who desired the same…not a husband who I could talk into having a large family. So I said, "Hey, Chuck, do you really want ten children?" and he smiled sheepishly and said, "Yeah, I do". 

That was a defining moment for me. I remember thinking that night, how many 22 year old guys do you meet who want a large family? This guy is a Christian, has a passion for Jesus and wants a large family too??? After than night I started watching Chuck from afar….

Then I got sick. Really sick. With malaria. And it just so happened that Chuck was the team nurse. That pretty much just meant that he took blood samples and distributed medicine, but I was now quarantined, and he came several times a day to deliver quinine to me and the others struck with malaria….We had never even had a conversation before I got sick, but now we saw each other several times a day and naturally began to chat as I began to recover… 

Teen Missions has a very strict policy about no "pairing off". Not even just boyfriend-girlfriend stuff, but no hanging out one on one w/ members of the opposite sex ever. This was strictly enforced both years I was on a team, and there really were no relationships built between the sexes…it was very much a brother-sister type experience. 

So the summer ended and we both headed home, just days after Chuck's 23rd birthday. Him to British Columbia and me to the frozen north. And we began to write. Letters were sent several times a week and we got to know each other better. Chuck came to visit…and he proposed to me. As we sat on the beach. In Alaska. In January. On an iceberg.

Really.

And I said, "I don't know". 

What I really meant was, "oh my goodness, Chuck is some crazy obsessed stalker who just came to visit and now wants to marry me". 

In my defense, we weren't even boyfriend and girlfriend. Never in our letters back and forth had we discussed the two of us having a relationship.

In his defense, he'd been planning the proposal for months.

In the end, I said yes, on the condition that Chuck go to Hawaii with me. I was already registered to transfer to the University of Hawaii, Hilo in the fall. I'm sure in Alaska, in January, sitting on an iceberg that sounded like a great idea to him.

I flew to British Columbia, Canada in March to meet Chuck's family (who say things like "pencil crayon" instead of colored pencil and "felt" instead of marker) and we continued to write letters and plan our wedding long distance.  

In April I had a reoccurance of malaria. I went to three different doctors who prescribed three different kinds of antibiotics. I continued to go to school and work, despite nightly fevers spiking at 104 and 105 degrees…they usually dropped down to 101 by morning. I was so sick and miserable for weeks but couldn't get any of the three doctors to test me for malaria…Finally, finally I went to the emergency room one night when my fever got up to 106.7…a simple blood test revealed malaria and I began treatment that night.

The malaria left me very weak. So weak my mom had to pick out our wedding cake and napkins. I missed the last week or so of school, but managed to return to take (and pass) my finals.

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We were married May 20, 1995 in Anchorage, Alaska. We spent a week in a condo in Alyeska, then two weeks in Israel (the latter compliments of Chuck's parents- thanks!)

In Israel I got sick. Really sick. I was dizzy and nauseous and vomiting. And I felt weak. Reallyy weak. I told Chuck I either had a  relapse of malaria or was pregnant. I think you can probably figure out which one was the case. 

And that, my friends, is how we met.

24 Comments

  1. Delia

    How many Americans have to wonder if they are experiencing a relapse of malaria or are pregnant? Even the beginning of your family is tinged with humor in this way…

  2. jo

    That is such a beautiful story! And to me, Tilly looks a lot like Chuck. She looked like him to me already, but seeing a picture of him at 23 is closer to her now. It is very obvious that God wanted you guys to raise a houseful of kids together for sure!

  3. Lara

    Wonderful story! Not coming from a religious background my future husband and I spent a year visiting and letter writing as well and I am so glad we did, I believe it creates a strong foundation, not getting too attached too quickly.
    Missed your blog the last couple of days, I love it!!!

  4. Tracy

    Renee, as an American who married a Canadian I had to laugh about your language differences. Another few, a “garage” is a gas station, “wool” is any type of yarn. And, what about the spelling? As a secretary that about drove me crazy for the first year or so. (They use the British spelling of things such as honour, centre etc.) Now that I live back in the US I still find myself going back and forth, sometimes in the same document, on my spelling!

  5. Renee

    Wool! Yes, that drives me crazy. Wool is wool….YARN is the generic term. Chuck lost his Canadian accent entirely w/in five years…I used to get asked where he came from a lot (due to his accent). Its gone now. I miss it 🙂

  6. Esme

    What a sweet husband you have! It takes a special kind of 23-year-old boy to care for a girl with malaria, realize he loves her, plan to pop the question (for months!), fly to Alaska, and then ask her on an iceburg in January. It’s a crazy but adorable love story the two of you have. I *do* have a few questions, though 🙂 For how long did you guys write to each other? Did your families think you were crazy?! I think Erica’s question was a great one. Did your story inspire any of the kids to want to pursue missions work?

  7. Christy

    What a cool story– although I’m sure the Malaria part was awful.
    I’m intrigued now too. Have either of you done any more missions work since then? Do you think any of your children will take trips?
    Christy the curious missionary

  8. Roxana

    Hi Renee, I’m not sure if you know, but there is not so nice ad that comes up when I was reading your blog post. Not sure if it’s just my computor or if it’s part of the blog. Just wanted to let you know just in case this was happening to others as well. I have a pop- blocker so I don’t know why it’s not catching it….
    Any ways I enjoy reading your posts!

  9. kari

    Hi renee,
    I haven’t seen you for a while, but wanted to let you know that I met Keziah today at the paint store and she is so wonderful – sweet, outgoing, chatty…I could have stayed and chatted with her all day. What a lovely daughter you have. : )

  10. Renee

    Thank you so much for letting me know this! You are the second reader to bring this to my attention. I had no idea it was there. I have contacted the company and had it removed. I have chosen not to publish this comment for obvious reasons, but please feel free to let me know if anything like this happens in the future!

  11. serena

    Hi, I loved hearing your story. Ironic that you were raised in AK and now are in WA. I was raised in WA and am now in Anchorage!

  12. Linda Up North

    Gosh… pretty sure you have several little boys that are growing up lookin’ a LOT like their daddy 🙂
    What a great God Directed story! Thanks for sharing.

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