The following is a story, maybe one of my favourite stories, so far. Grab a cup of coffee or tea, get comfy and get ready for a crazy (and probably long) story of how awesome Jesus is.
Without giving away too much of the ending, this story in it’s fullness somehow starts in November of 2013. I remember sitting under the stars in the Eastern province of Rwanda and hearing God speak. He said some crazy awesome stuff that seemed to good to be true. This is a story of how it all came/is coming to pass. I didn’t believe He was actually speaking at the time, I thought I was making it up. And, I forgot much of it until almost a year later.
Earlier in 2013, my DTS team of 14 crazy, international and amazing people got on a bus headed to South Sudan. But first, we would stop in Kampala, Uganda. When we reached to Kampala at like 5am, a man came up to me as I was getting off the bus. He asked if he could take my bag and then proceeded to take my bag. Although, I didn’t know who this guy was, so I told him no. But still, he’s taking my bag. And just before I was about to punch this random guy in the face, I learn that this “stranger” is in fact our contact person and host for our time in South Sudan. Oops.
The next day, we continue on our journey. The stranger/host is traveling with us and I try to avoid him, hoping to keep myself from further embarrassment. As we travel, I open my Bible attempting to read. And while it was open for maybe an hour, I only read like one sentence. But, stranger/host see’s my open Bible and then calls me a Bishop and carries on about my holiness for like an hour. I remember thinking something like “I don’t know who this dude is, but he is insane”.
Over the next weeks in South Sudan, I begin to see who stranger/host really is. I see he is Rwandese but left Kigali to serve in the bush bush. I see he is devoted to this village and passionate about these people knowing Jesus. I saw him serve us in every possible way. Including somehow finding coffee for us. I saw that he was crazy, funny and loved people. I learned he was a morning person and enjoyed greeting the morning through song (at like 5am every morning…ew).
But even seeing all these good things, I kept my distance. I didn’t take time to know him super well and doubted I would ever have real contact with him again.
After leaving South Sudan, I occasionally saw stranger/host. We talked a tiny bit here and there and became friends, but distant ones at that. However, I felt like I knew him so well because he is well known and loved among YWAM Rwanda. He was often talked about, prayed for (for his ministry, of course. However, it was always accompanied with a prayer for a wife…every time). I stayed in touch with him through our few short conversations and through mutual friends.
Fast forward to October of 2014. After serving in South Sudan and Uganda for about 8 years, God called him back home to Kigali to be studying at a theology school. After his arrival, we had more conversations, but still my friendship with stranger/host was distant. In November of the same year, we decided to catch up over dinner. That dinner blew me away.
I’ve always this sort of fear of guys. When I was left to talk with a guy (alone), i would feel nervous and never felt like myself. However, with him, I was totally comfy and 100% myself. We caught up over Chinese food and really had a great time reconnecting. But what happened next, I never, ever, saw coming.
That night, as I was arriving home, one of my friends was also arriving. (We live on a compound, nothing sketchy here…don’t worry). When he found out were I was, the jokes began. “You and him would be such a great couple!”, “Jojo, think about it! Why not?”. I quickly defended myself with answers of “He’s a great guy, but no. I just don’t feel that way about him”. But that night, as I was walking in my room, there was a voice that said “It’s him. That’s the one you’ll marry”. This left me standing in front of my door and jaw on the ground. All I could do was mumble a “Whhhaaaaa?????”.
In the following days, the stranger/host began talking to me more. I found myself excited for his messages, or phone call. About a week later, he asked if we could meet again. In that short time, I found myself thinking of him often. In like 6 days, I had gone from no feelings at all to the beginning of stages of feelings. I prayed and felt peace like never before. I was excited, giddy, confused and amazed all at the same time.
When we went to dinner that time, confessions of feelings were made. First from him, then from me. The things I wanted to say, he said first. We talked about visions, plans and hopes for our lives (separately) - but they matched. And really, his name is Eric and in this short time time, he was becoming on my favourite people on the planet.
A few days later, we went out again. And this dinner was the first confirmation. He asked me what my favourite movie was. I began with my usual disclaimer: “Ok, I know it’s really stupid and many people don’t like it, but I love it and find it hilarious. Ok, so there’s this friar who cooks for orphans in Mexico but wants to be a luchador…” And then, Eric interrupts… “Is it Nacho Libre?” My jaw drops. He not only has seen it, but he begins talking about the characters, by name. My jaw is now on the floor. So he’s seen it, he knows it, and…he likes it! Then, we had a conversation about the deeper themes of Nacho Libre.
And I know to most sane people, this would be just a random conversation. But for me, it was a confirmation that this guy would be in my life, for good.
So now, maybe you’re wondering why the long story of the stranger named Eric who turned to be a fav? Well let me tell you…
That man is now my fiancé. Thats, right, I am marrying the the man I thought was crazy and almost punched in the face! Good story huh?
Over the past seven months, I have had the privilege of getting to know this man. I’ve gotten to see him worship and serve our Saviour. I’ve gotten to see his sense of humour, his kind heart, his love for people and Jesus. And…his love for Nacho Libre (scoring major Joanna points there!) In the last seven months, I have developed a love for this man that I never thought could be possible. Our relationship was not normal by Rwandese or American standards. It was faster than many but slower than some. It was kept quiet for a long time (because thats the Rwandese way) but since the beginning, I’ve wanted to scream it to everyone I met. Through those seven months, I have seen promises of God being fulfilled.
On June 5 2015 (also, my mom’s birthday), he got on one knee and asked me to be his wife. And through fits of laughter and giggles , I agreed (even though I don’t remember giving and audible answer). I knew this question was coming, I knew he would someday be my husband but when it actually happened, I was shocked, giggly and speechless. And it’s still setting in…I get to marry a man who is madly in love with me and our Saviour. I get to spend my life with him, do ministry beside him and watch Nacho Libre with him for the rest of my life. I am over the moon and cannot stop smiling!
Our story blows me away when I think about it. We had both been broken before. We both doubted if we would ever find someone to love. I had experiences that seemed to say it would never happen. But in all of those things God spoke, He had a plan. And now, we see what He was doing in those experiences and less then perfect seasons. And after going through those things, waiting for our “One’s”, praying and still having no one, God brought us together in a way that only He can.
So, dear ones, be encouraged. Maybe you’ve never had a relationship, maybe you’ve had many. Maybe you’ve had those less than perfect seasons, or been hurt and used or just disappointed in how that area of your life is…keep seeking Jesus, pay attention when he speaks. When He says something amazing, believe Him and remember it. He has plans, way beyond what we can imagine. And in the end, once you catch a glimpse of His plan, you wouldn't want it any other way.