October 7, 2016

Yesterday’s Dates

We asked several couples about their memories of dating and courtship. These are their responses.


George and Carla

In my college days socializing on campus was rare. The closest thing to it was at the cafeteria. Male and female students were randomly assigned to tables on a quarterly basis. I was delighted when a stunningly beautiful young woman from Suriname was assigned to my table. For some inexplicable reason we were assigned to the same table for two consecutive quarters. Our daily cafeteria encounter soon blossomed into friendship.

Moonlight hikes and Saturday night social programs were eagerly anticipated under the watchful eyes of faculty members. Dating was restricted to supervised parlor visits, a privilege extended only to seniors. During one of these parlor visits I proposed marriage. I was then a senior ministerial student. We were married on campus December 23, 1952. And yes, we are still happily married until death do us part!

George W. Brown is a former president of the Inter-American Division.

Kari and Jan

You’re becoming friendly with Jan Paulsen,” the principal’s wife said. “He’s not the one for you.”

I wasn’t remotely interested in that kind of relationship. Jan and I just liked to talk. Then I learned that walking with him broke a school rule that said “Students should not associate with the opposite sex in an obvious manner.”

We didn’t mean to be rebels, but after a while we realized that neither of us wanted the talking to end. We got married on July 1, 1955, in Jan’s hometown of Narvik, inside the Arctic Circle. Sixty-one years later I still say, “Boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance” (Ps. 16:6).

Kari Paulsen is married to Jan, a retired General Conference president.

Shirley and Roy

You are so proud. You feel you’re better than others, so you don’t talk to people!” It was a seemingly rude and unorthodox attention-getter.

“And what have I done to be accused like this?” Shirley asked Roy.

“Can we talk a little?” begged Roy. Thus went their first conversation, one rainy evening in Buxton, Guyana, May 1955.

Four hours stretched into 61 years. They’re still talking.

Shirley and Roy McGarrell, retired educators and administrators

John and Mary

Did that lunch invitation originate out of pity for the pastor who still remained single? Perish the thought and enjoy the lunch.

So I showed up at the mission leader’s home. His wife welcomed me in. Soon she gave her command to someone in the kitchen: “Mary, serve that drink, please.” As I reached out to accept Mary’s glass of cool lemonade my hand accidentally touched her thumb. That touch seemed to release 440 volts of electricity into my nervous system.

Lunch over, my host heaved a sigh of relief: mission accomplished—for her. Three months later, with everything decided by family and friends, we were married.

Fifty-four years later Mary and I continue to wonder at the audacity of that arrangement, and the power of such union only because of those words of long ago, “bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”

John Fowler is a retired associate director of the General Conference Education Department.

Leo and Lucila

I started attending Brazil College in 1949. The next year Lucila, daughter of R. M. Rabello, Voice of Prophecy (VOP) speaker for Brazil, came to finish her high school. She was walking to the dorm when I had a first glance at the lovely girl and fell in love. Her parents were in the United States recording programs for the VOP in Portuguese. They didn’t approve of “teen dating,” so it took us awhile—six years. But on February 20, 1956, we got married. Lucila means “light,” and she has been the light of my life for more than 60 years.

Leo Ranzolin is a retired General Conference vice president

Julieta and Humberto

We met in Montevideo, Uruguay, in the summer of 1955. Humberto was visiting his parents, and a friend introduced us at an Adventist Youth meeting. Since Humberto was also studying humanities at a university, we had a lot to talk about. Our friendship grew during youth camp, and before returning to Argentina, he said, “Let’s formalize our relationship.” I happily agreed! Letters flew back and forth across the border, and the next summer we were together nearly every day. One evening Humberto asked, “Will you be my wife?” Again I said yes, and our parents agreed. With children and grandchildren we’ll soon celebrate our sixtieth wedding anniversary. God is good!

Julieta Rasi, wife of Humberto, retired General Conference Education Department director

Gloria and Alvin

When I was a teenager, my prayer was “God, give me a husband who loves You first and me next.” After graduating from Oakwood College and coming to Washington, D.C., I met that man at a party given by an Oakwood classmate. We became friends and attended several church activities together. People noted that he treated his mother like a princess. We were married on July 23, 1967.

Gloria Jackson Singleton is a retired high school principal.

Artur and Emma

Artur noticed a shy blond girl with cute freckles at the Adventist church he visited that day. She sang in the choir and played the mandolin. He found out her name was Emma. She had lost her father at a young age, and her mother during her teen years. Her atheist brother cared for her until he learned of her plans to become an Adventist. He threw her out into the street, along with her belongings, the day she was baptized. Artur Sr. realized he had met an exceptional person. Right away he approached her. In response she said she needed first to seek advice from the Lord. Prayers and seeking the will of God not only brought them together but also marked their pastoral ministry and all 57 years of their marriage.

Galina Stele, Artur and Emma’s daughter-in-law, is a researcher at the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research of the General Conference.

Imogene and George

It was Washington Missionary College in those days—1947, and the spring of George’s senior year. He had recently broken up with his girlfriend and learned that I, also, was no longer dating the fellow I had dated for some time.

He phoned to ask if I would accompany him to an outdoor Navy Band concert downtown. I politely declined because I was planning to attend a wedding that night.

George—never one to be shy—asked if it would be OK if he went with me to the wedding!

Since it was a large church wedding of someone he also knew, I agreed. We dated casually until he graduated in August and left for his first job in Arkansas. My family lived in Takoma Park, Maryland, so many of our activities were spent there: meals, walks along Sligo Creek, programs at the college or one of the area churches.

The next summer—1948—George thought it was a great idea for us to marry so he wouldn’t have to be a single dean of boys another year. But I was determined to finish my last year of college. Our lively discussions continued until he was reconciled to waiting another year for marriage.

Then I decided to make it a matter of prayer, asking God for a Gideon-type sign. What I thought was impossible happened. So in just three weeks I planned a small church wedding, with all my family and friends working feverishly.

On August 31, 1948, Imogene Allen became Mrs. George Akers.

After a career in Adventist education, Imogene and George Akers are retired, living in Tennessee.

John and Medina

Ibecame a Seventh-day Adventist when I was 18 years old. At the time I worked in a printing house in Geneva.

After my conversion I became a student at the seminary. In the school magazine were pictures of a beautiful and special girl, Medina, my cousin’s best friend, from New Caledonia, near Australia. It took two years for us to become close friends. Then she was called to teach at our school in Rwanda, and I was called to military service and began my university studies.

We got married when she returned, August 4, 1968. Besides my conversion, it was the best thing I have ever done, and every day I thank God for it.

Before his retirement, John Graz was director of Public Affairs and Religious Liberty for the General Conference.

Elizabeth and Matthew

One day after church in August, 1966, my friend Opoku Boateng introduced me to Matthew, a ministerial student who was selling Adventist books in Kumasi, Ghana. Two weeks later, at a farewell party for the Owen Troy missionary family, Matthew sat at the head table where I served, and claims that I gave him presidential treatment.

I invited him and Opoku for lunch. Opoku stayed away. After that Matthew kept visiting my workplace until he had to return to school in Nigeria. When I mentioned that my prayer group was praying for people who were not married, Matthew responded, “You have your answer.”

Back in school, he wrote to thank me for wonderful hospitality, got no reply, and got on a plane to Ghana. Our number one agenda item became visiting parents, relatives, and friends. Finally, he asked, “Would you like to be a pastor’s wife?”

Without hesitation I answered, “Yes.”

Before their retirement, Elizabeth Bediako, and her husband, Matthew, served at the General Conference.