September 20, 2017

“I Met My Life Partner While Volunteering”

Sometimes mission service comes with a bonus. That is certainly the case for Linda-Rose, from the United States, who, until recently, was on Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS), and now her new British husband Jake Jackson, also a recent volunteer at a separate project in Cornwall, England.

The two met almost by accident. Rosemary Lethbridge, leader of the Watering Hole church plant in Totton, on the south coast of England, tells the story.

“Linda-Rose nearly did not come to help us at our church plant. Although a strong candidate we gave the position to someone else because Linda, for various reasons, couldn’t start when we needed her. Right at the last minute, the other volunteer was offered a permanent job and so was no longer available. So we went back to Linda-Rose and asked her if she was still willing to come and help us. She did, and we enjoyed 18 months of working together to bless our community.”

But Linda and Jake, while both volunteers, lived 190 miles (300km) apart serving on two different projects. However, the two plants do occasionally spend time together, particularly at the Adventist campsite in Chapel Porth, Cornwall. On one of those trips they met and the rest, as they say, is history.

History, however, repeats itself. Linda and Jake’s wedding this summer in the romantic setting of Sylvia’s Garden at Newbold College of Higher Education is simply the latest in a whole series of mission romances dating back to at least the early 1900’s. These, in themselves, helped promote mission.

In 1911 Oscar Dorland, a young student from Wisconsin, United States, was asked to go to the newly established Stanborough Missionary College in England. His aim was eventually to head to Africa as a missionary, but that did not happen due to the outbreak of World War I. Instead he started as a minister in London where he held Bible studies with his landlady and her daughter, eventually marrying the daughter Mary. That missionary romance produced five children, all of whom worked for the church, three in mission service.

Two generations later, their grandson, Victor Hulbert, went on AVS to Lisbon, Portugal. That year not only gave him a passion for media ministry as he volunteered with Adventist World Radio but, like Jake, he also found a bride, Luisa. It is their son, Steven, who is the leader of the LIVE St. Austell church plant where Jake was a volunteer.

Steven first met Jake when he was studying at Falmouth University in Cornwall. Jake was thinking of leaving the church, but thanks to the love and persistence of local church members and the LIVE St. Austell church plant, he began to attend every weekend. His faith grew.

“It was after he went back home from university that I invited Jake to come and serve in St. Austell as a volunteer and he jumped at the opportunity,” said Steven. “Shortly after, Jake came to the decision to be baptized on Chapel Porth beach. It’s amazing how God can work through the lives of people as so many things could have prevented Jake and Linda-Rose from ever meeting, but faith made it happen.”

That story is repeated countless times across the Trans-European Division and elsewhere. Dan and Heidi Weber both met while volunteering at the Adventist boarding school in Iceland in the 1980’s. He is now Communication director for the Adventist Church in North America. They cannot speak highly enough of the AVS program.

Diana and Daniel Sabatier, Beatrice and Peter Cooper, Charlotte and Mathew Marshall all met in volunteer mission at Stanborough Park church, England.

There are more. Chris Baker (Scotland) and Karen Hawkins (USA), Gordon Smith (Scotland) and Flor Alvarez (Costa Rica) met in Costa Rica, Michelle Simpson (UK) and Milan Gugleta (Serbia), Kari Wright (USA) and Paul Bellamy (Canada), Daniel Hopa (Poland) and Liubov Milis (Moldova), Aila Heck (Germany) and Nebosja Živanov (Serbia) who also married this summer.

Karen Plaatjes (England) met her South African husband Philip in Korea. Until recently Karen enthusiastically oversaw the AVS program for the Trans-European Division.

Andrew Layland (UK) met his Korean wife Soonim Lee while teaching English in South Korea. He has now returned to South Korea in mission service.

It must be clear that none of these individuals went on mission service looking for romance, nor should that be seen as a priority. “Yet,” said Audrey Andersson TED Executive Secretary and current AVS Co-ordinator, “when you meet likeminded people committed to the mission, such things can happen.”

It is what Luisa Hulbert strongly believes. “I know that God put Victor in Portugal for a reason. It certainly gave him an impetus for his life work in ministry and communication, but it also brought us together in a wonderful way. AVS changed both our lives.”

Lethbridge said God is always ready to make our dreams come true.

“God knows the plans that He has for us and that when we submit our plans and ideas to Him, He works things for our good,” she said.