I was fairly new in the Lord, heading to Adrian, MI to the only Christian bookstore I knew of to pick up my NASB open Bible. It cost almost $30, black with genuine leather, concordance, and dictionary. I came in and was talking to Emmet and Betty Oaks, owners of the book store. They had become good friends and wonderful encouragers to my life. I felt like I had always known them. I went back to look at the 33 1/3 albums, and there she was. A stunning, cute, blonde. I passed her and said “excuse me.” I looked back and noticed her gourgeous blue eyes, and radiant face. I returned to the counter to be introduced to Wendy and her mom Carol. I left that day hoping I would see that cute blonde again. I visited Bethany one night, and she was there, unknown to me. It was God’s voice and I began to attend there, and pursue Wendy. Almost 5 years later we were there again, to become a family.
I remember the day very well. The night before we had a flawless and fun rehersal at Bethany Assembly of God in Adrian. I was surrounded with family and friends as we met for after rehersal meal in the basement of the church. I said goodbye to my fiance, who I would not see again until Randy walked her to me 25 years ago. Todd Winkler and I stayed at Grandma Ford’s house in Morenci, as did Greg and Joel. Grandma’s soft feather bed was super uncomfortable and we just rolled together all night. We had a good laugh over that. The January day was beautiful. The sun was shining and the temps rose to 50 degrees! The wedding was amazing. Steve and Darlene sang, Wendy sang to me, the Bethany handbell played as the bridesmaids walked down the aisle. My nephew John was the ring bearer, followed by my neices the flower girls, Holly and Heidi. My brother Steve was my best man (and still is). My friends Todd, Greg, Kurt, and Eric Bleich all stood by my side. Wendy’s court was her cousin Jennifer, Lori burrows, my sister Pam Arquette, my cousin Melinda Elarton. I do remember during the ceremony the sound system popping so loud everyone jumped. Rick and Steve Flood were crawling under the pews in the balcony and snagged a cord! Pastor Rick was 11 years old then. Who knew we would minister together for 15 years now!
Pastor Leach, Pastor “O”, and Pastor Skoog all took part in the cermony. The reception was right in the gym of the church with a huge cake and great food. It was one of the happiest days in my life. We honeymooned 3 days at PTL in the towers in South Carolina, that was a gift from Dick and Shirley Treat. We were so thankful, as we had no money.
We returned for a day or two to the farm in Hudson. I married into an incredible family. I am thankful for Randy and Carol Bleich. They have loved me unconditionally, prayed for me patiently, and supported us in so many ways with their love and encouragement. After our visit we packed up the red Reliant K car, and drove 12 hours back to North Central Bible College in Minneapolis to move into our apartment, start jobs, and jump into both of us being full-time students. Our wedding had provided just enough money for our deposit, first month’s rent, our books and that was it. I remember having less than $20 bucks for food that month, but we were so happy and excited to start life together.
Twenty-five years later, here we are in Temperance, MI. We have lived in Alpena, Linton, and Metro Detroit, youth pastoring at great churches. We launched out in faith in 1996 to plant Compelled Church (then BCC). We moved when Abby was one to the house we still live in. I painted and was bi-vocational for 3 years until the church grew. Wendy by my side all the time. She was ministering, doing kids church, kids clubs, helping in anyway she could. During this we have Gabe, and Levi. Life was full, tiring, exciting, and challenging. So many times Wendy was my encouragement and her zeal for the church and the Lord carried me. Here we have raised our kids, had our boys, and seen so many incredible things that God has done. I am in awe and amazed. I am aware of His grace in my life.
Marriage is a blessing beyond words. Being married to Wendy is more than I deserve. I married so far over my head. I am humbled by God’s grace and Wendy’s love. We have had lots of good times, some sad times, challenging times, and joyful times, and through it all our love remains, deeper, denser, purer, and everlasting. I thank Christ today, for without him, she would not be in my life, I would not have Abby, Gabe, and Levi, and most likely would have never made it through college or as a pastor. God has used her greatly to be a blessing to my life and so many others. My heart is filled with gratitude. We are looking forward to another 25 years.