Nov 14, 2013

Summer 1974: Engaged

I have a confession to make: during the summer after 8th grade at Washington Junior High, shortly after my boyfriend Dan and I decided to run away to Saudi Arabia together, I got engaged.  To a girl.

Manville, our Nazarene summer camp on the prairie, had church services every morning and evening, with altar calls, sports, and jump quiz practice in between.  In Tuesday morning's chapel, I happened to sit next to a short, rather husky girl who bore an extraordinary resemblance to Jimmy on H.R. Pufnstuf: rounded features, red lips, houlder-length black hair. During the altar call, she glanced over at my Bible and saw Psalm 2:8 marked with the initials S.A.: “Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession.”

“Who’s S.A.?” she whispered.

“Saudi Arabia,” I said.  I was framing our escape as a missionary endeavor. “God’s Will is for me to become a missionary to the Bedouins of the Empty Quarter."

“No, I don’t think so. God didn’t say anything about Arabia. He said you should go to West Germany."  Her voice was calm, matter of fact, as if she had said “No, the test is on Chapter Three, not Chapter Two.”

Germany was a bona fide Nazarene mission field, all Lutheran or Catholic.  Still, I was astonished.  “When did God tell you that?” I asked.

“In the service last night.  I at you, and God gave me a vision of you preaching in a big stadium in Munich.  You were leading an altar call, and hundreds of people were Praying Through."  She began to sing "Just as I Am," our altar call hymn, in German. “Oh, Gottes Lamm, Ich komme. . . .Ich komme.”

All Nazarene kids knew that God had a specific Will for us, usually a career for the boys and a marital partner for the girls.  He might reveal it through "a small still voice," or through "opening a door," or, most dramatically, through a Vision of Our Future.

"Why would God give you a vision of my future?"

“It was for both of us," she said.  "I was playing the organ, so obviously His Will is for you to become a missionary in Germany, and me to be your wife."

“No, I already heard His Will," I protested.  "It's to go to Saudi Arabia with my friend Dan.  Definitely with Dan."

"He told me Germany.  And who knows, this Dan guy might be there too, with his wife."

"That's crazy!  We're not going to have wives!  We're going to be missionaries together, like Paul and Barnabas."

The altar call was over, so I walked out with the others into the heat of mid July. The girl -- her name was Sarah -- followed me toward my Bible study class.

"You can't be a missionary without a wife!" she said.  "You have to go to the field as a team, like Adam and Eve."

I laughed.  "You're crazy!"

 But I found my cabin counselor, Brother Dino, who was my Sunday school teacher back home (the one whose sons became male strippers later).  He went to the office and dug up a list of requirements for the Nazarene ministry.  You had to be male, at least 21 years old, saved and sanctified, never divorced, never a Roman Catholic -- and married!

So, in order to escape to a "good place" with Dan, I would need a wife!  God said so!  Later I met Sarah in the snack bar and gave her my grim consent to our future wedding.

Manville Camp, with the woods on the right
We were engaged for part of Tuesday and all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.  We ate our meals together in the camp canteen, sat together in chapel and the evening service, and even walked through the woods behind the tabernacle where boys and girls went to kiss -- though we never kissed.  Sarah hated "that mushy stuff" as much as I did.

I enjoyed being engaged -- being seen with a girl got me endless triumphant shoulder-pats, thumbs up, cries of "Awright!," and approving grins.  It meant absolute, unwaivering acceptance, none of that awkward confusion or the deliberate refusal to see that happened when I was with a boy.  Not bad!

We were engaged for exactly three days. Then I had a Vision of My Future.

See also: The Sanderson Brothers Get Naked