our 16th wedding anniversary

Over the course of 16 years, my beautiful wife and I have covered much territory and I am blessed to have been all over the world together with her. We have lived in three continents (Europe / Asia / North America), five countries (Russia / Poland / Saudi Arabia / Qatar / USA), seven cities, and 15 apartments/houses.

Our candle-light wedding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Our candle-light wedding in Baton Rouge, Louisiana

I began praying for Iwona when I was seven. Even though I did not know her name, God knew who she was and where she was located. I would pray that wherever she was on earth, for God to encounter her, for her protection, for her purity, and that our paths would cross in His timing. I prayed this way for fourteen years until I was twenty-one.

Exchanging vows while washing each others feet

Exchanging vows while washing each others feet

In 1991, during an extended fast in Russia, God asked me about the list that I had pertaining to my requirements of a perfect wife.

He said, “Do you want what you think is best or what I think is best?”

I said, “Of course–whatever You think is best!”

He told me to throw away my list because it would be someone I would never suspect. One month later, Iwona arrived in Moscow to join our ministry staff. At that time, she spoke four languages. English was not one of them.

After a month, I was invited to her 26th birthday party. I observed at the party that Iwona was not eating, so I asked her roommate, Ania, who told me that Iwona was fasting. I asked Ania to interpret for me as I spoke with Iwona. I asked Iwona how long is she fasting and she said, “eighteen days”. I thought 18 days was an odd number and then asked, “Why eighteen days?” She said that there were 18 staff members on our missions team and that she was focusing each day on a different staff member. I was fascinated and intrigued!

I asked if she had prayed for me yet. She said she would be praying for me in three days. I asked her to tell me if God gave her anything for me. She kindly agreed. Three days later, there was a knock at my door. Ania handed me a three-page letter that she translated for me from Iwona. I closed my door, read it, and then cried for hours. It melted my heart. It was like a love letter from God and the post script to what He told me during my extended fast. I then asked God, “Who is this Polish Catholic girl?”

He said as clear as a bell, “This is the one you have been praying for since you were seven.” That was it! At that point, I knew. I would have never guessed a four-year-older, Polish, Catholic girl who didn’t speak English living in Moscow as a lay missionary would be my wife.

My Polish bride

My Polish bride

With a Polish/Russian/English dictionary, we began to share our dreams, goals, hearts’ desires, visions and plans with each other. I never met someone who thought so much like me in my life.

After spending 13 days with her, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, after sledding down a huge hill behind my apartment complex, she came right out and told me, “I did not come to Russia to waste my time in a relationship; I came here to help Russians, so tell me if this is going somewhere or I do not have time for you.” I gulped. I was not ready to say what God told me, but she threw the ball in my court and I had no choice but to tell her. I then said, “God told me that you are going to be my wife.” She said, “Good, God told me you were going to be my husband.” I said, “Well, so will you marry me?” She said, “Yes.”

Pastor Don's blessing after exchanging rings

Prayer of blessing after exchanging rings

We then decided from that moment we would fast again until we each received three confirmations from God that this is truly His will. Twelve days later, we broke the fast and shared with each other the three confirmations we each received.

I called my parents to tell them the good news. They were not thrilled; neither was my sending church. It’s a long story that I may share at a later date or in a book. Months later, I was basically given a proposition from the leadership of my sending church, Bethany World Prayer Center:

Leave Iwona and keep my youth group in Moscow or leave Russia and keep Iwona.

They gave me a few days to think about it. I told them I did not need a few days; I knew my answer.

I told them, “I am keeping Iwona because she’s my future.”

I was told to leave Russia that very week and that I could not meet with the youth group to explain the reasons why I was leaving.

I had to return to America and Iwona to Poland. I was told that I could not see her for one year to prove that this love was true. I did not see her 15 months, as the test I had to pass.

From that cold Russian New Year’s eve night in Moscow where I proposed to Iwona, it took two and a half years before all was said and done before we were able to get married.

As life has moved us closer together, we now have three beautiful kids, and she is still the woman of my dreams and always will be!

To be continued…

The waltz at reception

Dancing a waltz at the reception

8 thoughts on “our 16th wedding anniversary

  1. Rebecca Grisham says:

    That is a beautiful love story!!!!! Thanks for sharing it and I love to hear stories of how God brought people together. Best, Rebecca

  2. Catie says:

    Oh my goodness, this is such a beautiful story! What a blessing to begin your relationship on such beautiful, sacrificial grounds. I’m sure that has been an incredible guidepost for your entire marriage. God bless you two! I hope you’re enjoying your anniversary!!!

    Catie H

  3. Lena says:

    I never knew how it went for you two back in Moscow. It is a beautiful story, Keith. Really shows that you love your wife a lot. Its great when God speaks so clearly there are no doubts at all. Congratulations on 16 years together.

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