Love Story: Chapter 14

I reflect on the emails Julz and I sent to one another throughout the latter half of 2013, and I’m blown away by how we sought the best for one another, always pointing each other towards Jesus. We both knew we needed something greater than ourselves to get us through our current seasons. Fortunately, we serve a God that was (and is) able to move mountains in order for us to be together.

I love how we shared our thoughts and passions freely, and over time, moved into more vulnerable territory—places in my heart I hadn’t shown to anyone else, places I never really knew existed. The freedom and acceptance Julie brought to our conversations allowed me to be the man I’d always dreamt of being. She gave me the platform to be the man and leader. Although sometimes a hard thing to do, she continuously expressed her desire to be led.

Mozambique was a challenging month. I experienced the power of prayer by placing all my trust in God for Julie’s safety. So often, we picture the African mission field as green rolling plains with mud huts and cute babies to play with. But 99% of the time, that’s not the case. I liken the mission field to the battlefield—where people set out to do good and live in contrast to the ways of the world. That kind of lifestyle is bound to attract opposition. It’s in those moments of opposition that the peace of God transcends, and He visibly fights our battles.

Julie and I decided to fast communication with each other for the month of August. We wanted to take time to sit with the Lord and ask for direction in regard to our budding relationship. During her time in Swaziland, Julie would work alongside 21 other women. “Feministry month,” they call it. She wanted to focus on pursuing friendship with them, and I didn’t want to distract her from the work the Lord was doing in the lives of those women. We planned on beginning the fast after her debrief in Manzini—just before she hit the ground running with ministry in Nsoko.

In the last chapter, Julie mentioned we had our first bout of conflict around this time. This is true, and I’ll go ahead and accept almost all responsibility for the incident. Alright, I’ll accept full responsibility.

I’d been planning on going deep sea fishing for a month. (I think you know where this is going.) Every time we attempted to head out to sea, we were denied our adventure due to poor weather conditions. I was frustrated, and the excitement was building for the perfect day to finally come.

The day came! Oh boy, the day came alright... on the day Julie and I planned to Skype before cutting all forms of communication for an entire month. It was literally the last chance we had to talk.

I was at a crossroad: the fishing trip I’d long awaited or Skyping “my babes” (which was not her nickname at the time) before a month of zero talking. I weighed my options and did what any man in his right mind would do... I chose both. I enjoy having my cake and eating it too, if you know what I mean.

I sent Julie an email late that night stating the opportunity I was given. “I’ll probably be home later in the afternoon to Skype,” I explained.

Gentlemen, let me stop here and make a very important statement: Take an arrow out of my quiver and do not do what I did.

As soon as I left for the fishing trip, I felt like someone had tied a hangman’s noose in my stomach. I wish I asked the driver to stop the car so I could get out and walk home. I realized it was one of my poorer decisions of late, and to top it off, the ocean picked up about five miles into sea, forcing us to stay in the bay and catch small reef fish instead of the 160-pound yellow fin tuna I was hoping for. And to really, really top it off, my phone died while we were on the boat, and the others weren’t picking up any signal.

I didn’t know if Julie had responded to my email and distinctly remember exercising a bit of faith by assuring myself, “She’ll understand. She wants me to have a great time. I know she’ll be fine with it. Oh, she’ll definitely understand.”

Well, needless to say, I returned home later that afternoon (earlier than expected) and got the answer I’d be anxiously awaiting. Contrary to what I’d been telling myself, Julie was highly unimpressed. I mean, completely not ok.

I logged onto Skype, clicked the green button and remember sheepishly greeting her. I was welcomed by a wall of silence.

All of the encouraging conversations, the powerful emails, and the love that was in the air seemed like they’d all been sucked into a vacuum-packed zip-lock bag. We’d officially entered unknown territory. We had a new obstacle in front of us, and it was crunch time. Julie had to be back at her hostel (where there was no internet) very, very soon. The following morning, she was driving two hours east.

Like going on a hike with the wrong shoes and no socks, it was going to be a tough mountain to climb.

Despite the spotty African wifi, we talked, I explained, and Julie cried... not necessarily in that order. The conversation was a tough one, indeed. After an hour or so, we worked our way through the hurt, the pain and the much-needed apologies.

Still, Julie and I had a long way to go—nearly 30 days of no talking and four more months until we’d see each other again. So I’m thankful we were able to continue the climb on good terms... with healthy resolution, good-fitting shoes and nice, soft socks.

To read our full story, please visit our Love Story page.

 Tony on his infamous fishing trip, with Buds in the background. Photo by Yvonne Luden.

Tony on his infamous fishing trip, with Buds in the background. Photo by Yvonne Luden.