I was working at an orphanage in Namibia, Africa when our story began. Ron Ward, the director of Camp Berea was looking for a food service manager, he was given my name by a previous employer, and he emailed offering me a job. I didn’t want to work in a kitchen again but I needed the money and the Camp was on a beautiful Lake. My first day at Berea I was given a tour by Luke Ward, and I took note of the fact that he was the boss’s son and not bad looking either! Luke was no longer working at Berea so it was a few months before we connected again when he came back to work.
I was the kitchen manager and he was hired as my assistant, but having grown up working at Berea every time I turned around he was telling me a better way to do something. It was both infuriating and admirable. We worked together all day and had fallen into spending most of our free time together too. One day as a practical joke on Luke’s Dad we devised a plan to pretend that we had eloped. It was payback for when Ron let me believe that I would be stuck running the Berea kitchen alone after my assistant left, purposely not telling me he had hired Luke.
Luke says, “I still remember the exact scene: you were cleaning out the tilt skillet and I was running through scenarios, you were all quiet. I knew we couldn’t really persuade my Dad that we had eloped; I had to convince you to date me first to give credibility to our story. I knew if I could get you to date me, I could convince you to marry me. And I did”.
When Luke asked me to date him I said yes and then I cried. I knew I had found a man that was godly, and good, one who would love me deeply; but that loving him back would take my life in a very different direction than I had dreamed of. I remained torn right up until the day we got married between my desire to go back to Africa and work with horses and kids, versus my growing love for Luke. In the midst of my indecision, I knew absolutely that we would always be friends if we got married, no matter where we went in life, or how little we had in common. I was uncertain about almost every aspect of our future together but I knew we could always be friends.
Luke says, “There were two definitive points during our time working together in Berea, when I knew I wanted to marry you, the first was when I heard about your work at the orphanage in Africa, I knew you’d be a really good mom. The second was while we were working together, before you went back to Africa, I remember you laughing at one of my stupid jokes, and I knew I wanted to marry you. I had written a list of the qualities I wanted in a woman and you pretty much summed it up. I didn’t want someone who was just a Christian; I wanted someone who was actively in a relationship with God. I was looking for a woman who was kind, generous, beautiful, adventuresome and funny. I remember when I wrote my list I was trying to list qualities that are important, not just important to me but important.”
Once we were dating Luke’s mom, a wonderful and godly woman, tried to persuade me not to marry him on numerous occasions, and my mom said the same things to us. “He doesn’t know what he wants to do in life yet, you two are very different, what about your plans to go to Africa again…..” We knew they were right, and we spent hours talking about ways to blend our interests and never got anywhere. We decided to take it slow and after working together at Berea for 6 months I went back to Namibia for the winter. We emailed back and forth sharing our everyday stories and discussing a future together. We talked once on the phone, I sat on the banks of the Zambezi River watching the sun go down, while Luke was frying 1,000 pancakes watching the sun come up over Newfound Lake. My heart sang to hear his voice, and broke at the thought of leaving this place.
When my work visa was up in April I came home, and by October we were sitting together in a hammock by the Lake talking about eloping. Luke asked me to marry him on top of Cardigan Mountain and we eloped the next day standing on a ledge on Newfound Lake.
We didn’t tell anyone we were married for 6 months, I moved to NH and no one even knew we lived together. When our families found out they were angry at being deceived, and heartbroken over missing our wedding. Luke and I honestly thought no one would really care, we are still wondering how we could have been so stupid! We were eventually forgiven and had a casual reception, thank God for loving families!
Over the years God has given me more purpose and joy raising a family with Luke, than I ever had pursuing my dreams alone. Luke has been a tangible illustration of my Heavenly Father’s love for me in a way I never imagined. Marriage has been the hardest, most incredible thing I have ever poured my heart into. I set aside my dream of returning to Africa and wasn’t even sure I still wanted to go, then one day not long ago Luke said, “I have held on to your dreams for you, even when you gave up on them. Let’s go to Africa.” And one day we will, together.