Journey to Romania. Part 5: Love Story
When I originally moved to Romania, JeJe was then a part of the ministry team (and an Assistant Pastor). Monday through Friday he mentored a group of teen orphan boys, helping them to learn construction. Our ministry team met every Friday, but in the entire first nine months of my stay I think we said maybe a few words only a handful of times. He was very careful around American girls…he thought they were “too friendly,” hugging people all the time. He was also very careful around any girls so as not to wrongly encourage anyone.
In the Fall of that first year he had approached me about some construction work I needed done on the large house I had purchased as part of my plan to help the teen orphan girls. JeJe said he would oversee the work crew if I would be willing to trust him and the teen orphan boys to do the work. I needed help; people were cheating me left and right. Our communication became just a little more frequent for the next month, but it was always “just business.”
When I returned to Romania after my grandmother’s death I slowly got back into the swing of ministry, and in late April I attended the wedding of some friends in the church. I, personally, had been asking God to remove my desire for a husband and family if that wasn’t His will for me (I was now 31.) The whole church was at this wedding and, at the reception, I somehow ended up standing next to JeJe. As the music played, I pointed out a good friend (Romanian) to him and mentioned what a nice girl she was. He replied, “I am sure she would say you are a nice friend, too…Anyway, I am already praying about someone.” I smiled and said, “Oh, that’s great. I will be praying for God’s will for you with that.” I went home that night and asked for God to bless JeJe with that girl he was praying for, if that was His will for him. Little did I know….
A few days later it was time for mid-week Bible study. I was NEVER late because the Pastor had asked us missionaries to always be on time and be good examples to the nationals. BUT, the Doctor at the baby orphanage invited me for coffee and it was by her good graces that we were allowed in to spend time with the babies, so I went. I walked into church just as worship was finishing and slid into a chair in the back row. JeJe was sitting in front of me. He had been telling the LORD that if He wanted him to talk with me (as he thought the LORD was telling him to do), then He needed to bring me to the study. If I didn’t come to the study, then he wasn’t going to talk to me.
When I came in and sat down, He knew it was me without even turning around.
After the Bible study, I was talking with a friend about moving to another town four hours away. Some American friends had asked me to pray about moving there since I had good relations with the teen girls at the very large orphanage. JeJe overheard this conversation and turned completely around to leave until God told Him, “Go tell her.” He came back and asked to talk with me. It was very strange to me. “JeJe talk with me?”
He said, “I have been praying about you for many months and watching your life. I know God told me to come and tell you now. I don’t want you to be my girlfriend…I want you to be my wife. Take as much time as you need to seek God in this and let me know when He gives you an answer. If you feel you need to go to Valcea (the other city), I will wait.” Mouth wide open, chin dropped to the ground, the world was spinning. “Um, what did you just say?”
As if it wasn’t hard enough for the poor guy the first time. I was completely stunned and caught off guard. He started to walk me home and explained that he began praying about me seven or eight months earlier. He was standing at his window and praying one afternoon, asking God for a wife, when I came walking down the street. No one else was around. That’s when he first took notice of me. I had come to get his help back when he was working on the house. He continued to pray and, while I was back in the States, he knew that, if it was God’s will, I would be back. He explained he had been watching my life and how I responded to different situations, especially when I agreed to sell the house to be used as the church building.
I went home that night, prayed and fasted a few days. I poured out my heart to the LORD. This guy was such a humble servant, really loved God, was cute and I was attracted to his proposal. BUT…marrying a Romanian was not on my radar, at all!!! Lets just say that they are waaaayyyy culturally different for this Valley Girl, and I just didn’t see me and a Romanian guy “meshing.” Most importantly, I asked God what was His will for me…for Him to make it known, because I did not want another broken heart.
God gently said to me, “Coleen, he loves ME, more than he will ever love you.” That was exactly what I needed to hear! So, we began a courtship, with boundaries from the start. We were never alone in private. We always met in public, we chose not to want to kiss (and we didn’t) until our wedding day, and we did not hold hands until we were officially engaged (after 30 days of courtship). We continued those boundaries, including keeping curfews with the teens we were examples to. We were married four months later here in Romania.
No, my family didn’t come to my wedding. I received letters from them telling me how they did not support my marriage to him and they did not want to come and meet him (he couldn’t get a Visa at that time so we could visit them). But, everyone on our ministry team approved, and one of my dear friends (like a mom to me) wrote a letter to my aunt telling her what a great man of God JeJe was and that, if she had a daughter, she would love it if she married JeJe. God eventually worked in my aunt’s heart and she called me a couple of days before the wedding to tell me she wished me the best.
Our wedding day was amazing. It was filled with the presence of God and even non-believers commented on how much they felt/saw God’s presence. God was glorified, that’s what we wanted. He even provided an American woman, who came to serve in the ministry for five weeks that summer, as a seamstress to make my wedding dress. (The only dresses available locally were “poofy”…think “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”).