Do you know anyone couples who were married on a Friday? I don’t, but I will soon! Here’s how a friend’s wedding date became a very awesome Ripe Banana!
Jen and I go back at least 12 years. We met while working at Mt. Gilead Bible Camp. Through the years I have been blessed again and again through the grace of this dear friend. Over the last five years, we have been praying for and with each other for God’s direction for our lives; specifically for my heart for Italy and Jen’s for Africa and the relationship that developed between her and Chris, a wonderful Ugandan pastor who is soon to be her bridegroom! We prayed through two, long, tedious and failed attempts for Chris to be approved for a visitor’s visa to come to the States. By the time it became apparent the visitor’s visa was a closed-door, they were engaged and had to trust Chris would be approved for a fiancée visa.
Even though they were still months away from knowing if Chris would be approved for the fiancée visa, they set a date to be married and began to tentatively make plans for their wedding. The date had to be the weekend of April 6th and 7th or they’d have to wait until summer. Jen’s mom and brother work in two different school districts in Southern California and they both happened to have the same Easter break this year. In order for them to come up to Northern California and have the time off to come early, it had to be that weekend or after school was out for the summer.
Back in the fall, Jen asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. At the time Jen asked me I was under the impression I wouldn’t be leaving for Italy until mid or late April so when she told me the date would be Saturday, April 6th, I thought, “Perfect! I’ll still be here to celebrate their big day with them since I won’t be leaving until later in the month!”
A couple of months later, around the end of November, Jen changed the date to Friday, April 5th. Here is Jen’s telling of why the date was moved:
Jen: One element of our wedding that was important to Chris was to plan a nice
dinner at the reception. In Uganda a wedding lasts an entire day: a three
hour church ceremony then a reception that includes dinner, music and
dancing that goes late into the evening. So, Chris’ opinion was that it
wouldn’t feel like a wedding if we didn’t serve dinner.
Well, we have spent a lot of money on travel and attorney fees during this
visa process so we didn’t have a lot of money to work with to pay for our
wedding and dinner reception. A friend from work suggested I look into the
Union Hotel in Occidental where her daughter had recently had her wedding
reception. Although I was pretty sure I couldn’t afford a reception there, I
decided to check it out anyway, just to see what could be worked out (our
church doesn’t allow for weddings to run later than 4pm on Saturdays, in
order for the church to be cleaned and ready for services on Sunday, so
serving a dinner at church wasn’t an option).
Barbara, the wedding coordinator for the Union Hotel was a gift from the
Lord. She instantly offered to significantly reduce the cost of the reception if
I changed the date from Saturday to Friday, and since we did not know at
that time whether Chris would even be granted a visa, she said we didn’t
even need a deposit, just a minimum of 100 guests and final head count the
week before the wedding.
At the end of December, I sent an e-mail to the director of the Bible school where I’ll be volunteering. I had a few questions for him so I could start working on getting my plane ticket. Questions like: What airport should I fly into? Will someone be able to pick me up? What is a good day or week to come?
He wrote back: “Please plan on arriving any time between the 5th to the 7th of April.” (The reason for this timing is the school has a class that starts the following Tuesday. Arriving by the 7th will give me a little time to get settled before the students arrive).
Jen: About a month later when we found out that Hillary needed to fly to Italy on
the 6th I was overwhelmed by the kindness of the Lord. As Hillary previously
mentioned, we have been praying together for years, and have had the
special privilege of watching the Lord guide and direct our individual paths,
as well as enjoy a deep friendship that comes from many, many hours of
prayer and a shared desire to serve the Lord in missions work. So it is
completely consistent with Lord’s kind character that on the same weekend I
am to marry and move forward in my long anticipated desire to serve in
Africa, Hillary will also be realizing her dream to live and serve the Lord in
Italy. I feel so blessed that the Lord would choose to honor what a special
friend Hillary has been to me and make it possible for her to be a bridesmaid
in my wedding the night before she heads off to Italy. Last year I didn’t
understand why it wasn’t the right time for Hillary to move to Italy, or why
Chris was denied a visa for the second time, but today I am thankful that the Lord had a better plan in mind.
In order to arrive in Italy by the 7th, I need to leave California on the 6th. (!!!!!!!!) But Jen had already changed the date to Friday, April 5th almost a month prior! I would still be able to be here for the wedding AND make it to Catania by the 7th! With such big factors so beyond my control: the timing of the Easter breaks in San Diego, the class schedule at the school in Sicily, the very lengthy visa process (Chris and Jen began the fiancée visa process back in June!)… I am left in awe of the grace of this gift- to be here to witness and celebrate the long-awaited marriage of Jen and Chris and hours later (literally!), board a plane and embark on a brand new chapter of this crazy adventure called: My Life!