The following post is the second installment in a series of articles we are publishing about how God brought us together as a couple. If you haven’t already done so, be sure to read Part 1 first.
On March 18, 2001, I left the United States bound for L’viv, Ukraine, and the beginning of my work as a full-time missionary overseas. I was 21. At the time, marriage was not even on the radar for me. I had already purposed that I would first establish my work on the field – especially mastery of the language – before I even considered taking a wife. Within a year of my arrival on the field, I was preaching in Ukrainian, and ministering regularly with a local church in L’viv. While I was content to serve the Lord in singleness during that time, my days often seemed quite lonely. Having grown up in a large family, I was unaccustomed to being alone in a quiet apartment with no one to talk to. I did have a roommate, but it wasn’t the same. I was beginning to feel a bit like Adam in the garden of Eden: my job was established, my needs were provided, but only half of me was there to enjoy it.
From time to time, I would correspond with my mom, who has always been my number one liaison in the States. “Well, Mom,” I would write, “seen any possibilities lately? Any girls that are looking to marry a missionary?” Not really. Or at least, not that we knew of. Besides, even if I did know of someone who fit the criteria, how was I supposed to meet her? I couldn’t very well just come off the field for a year to go “girl-hunting.”
By late 2003, I had come to the conclusion that God likely did not want me to get married any time in the near future. Having spent two and a half years on the opposite side of the globe from where I figured my future wife was located, I was really starting to worry that I might never find her!
Earlier that same year, Michael Pearl had called me in Ukraine to ask if I would help oversee a new missions training program for young men that he was starting in Thailand. I prayed about it, and decided to go. In August of 2003, I relocated to Bangkok and began a new ministry, this time working with prospective missionaries from the States. The idea was to involve young men in hands-on mission work overseas in order to give them what the classroom could not: real foreign-ministry experience on the front lines. Somehow, I felt that my work in Ukraine was not over, but for the time being I committed myself to this new and sometimes very difficult task to which the Lord had called me.
I was in Thailand for a total of seven months, and the things that happened there would fill a book on their own. Maybe some day I’ll write them down. But the most significant event that occurred during my time in Southeast Asia could have just as easily occurred anywhere else on the globe: I received an e-mail from my sister, Jennifer. She wrote saying that she had recently roomed with a certain girl at a COMMIT conference, and she felt that we might be a good match. The girl’s name was Kelsie Powell. She was cheerful, godly, beautiful, and on went the list. Oh, and guess what? She wanted to marry a missionary! Now that last point really caught my attention. I had known lots of girls from the “cheerful, godly, beautiful” crowd, and looking back I’m sure some of them had aspirations for overseas missions. But at that point in my life and I had never met a girl who openly stated that she was praying to marry a missionary.
I realize that for many Christians in the States, the life of a missionary may seem to have a certain glint to it. Living in a far-off land, learning a foreign language, and bringing the message of Christ to the heathen – what an adventure. And who better to share it with than the love of your life? Well, by the time I got to Thailand, mission work in my mind had lost most of the glint it ever had. I knew by then that I wasn’t doing this out of any desire for exciting adventures abroad. I was doing this in obedience to a call. I was a soldier sent on a mission, and it was my job to stay and fight as long as my Commander wanted me to. As a single man, this was relatively easy for me to do. “But how would a wife fit into this picture?” I thought to myself. I mean really, all glinting aside, what girl in her right mind would want to leave her comfortable life in America and join me in some former Soviet republic full of gray buildings, gray faces, and pretty much gray everything else? Furthermore, in case there were any such girls out there, what father would consider giving his daughter away to guy like me? Thus, when Jennifer wrote to me about a girl who said she was praying for a missionary-husband, a flicker of hope came on again.
As it turns out, my mom and sisters had first met Kelsie several years earlier at a conference. Jennifer had now roomed with her on a couple of occasions, but that was really the only contact between our two families. I wrote back and forth with my parents a few times, and we agreed that the lights were definitely green. Now came the hard part: how to approach Kelsie’s father.
Before I recount my initial contact with Danny, I’d like to explain briefly why I went to him first, and not directly to Kelsie. The Bible teaches that the head of the man is Christ, and that the head of the woman (not just the wife) is the man. (See I Cor. 11:3) In other words, every woman should be under the authority, guidance and protection of a man in her life. If she’s married, that man is obviously her husband. However, unmarried women have a “head” as well: their fathers. The concept of a young man requesting permission to marry another man’s daughter is not just tradition; it is God’s design. To begin romantic overtures towards a man’s daughter without first obtaining his consent is to disregard God’s authority structure. In so doing, one not only dishonors the father, but also exposes his daughter to the potential for unnecessary emotional hurt. God did not give fathers “ownership” of their daughters; He gave them the sacred responsibility of protecting their daughters. Young men who do not acknowledge the legitimacy of the father’s headship are a big part of the reason that such protection is necessary. For her part, a wise young lady will see and appreciate her own vital need for this protection.
Back to our story. At the time, the Powells were living in Bartlesville, Oklahoma – not exactly across the street from Bangkok. I decided the best move would be to call Danny on the phone and introduce myself. Unfortunately, the only phone I had access to in Thailand was a pre-paid cell phone. Because there was no practical way to call the US from this phone, I decided to ask my father if he would call Danny for me, and see if this whole idea was even a remote possibility. The plan was that if Danny was interested in talking to me, I would write him some type of introductory e-mail, and we’d go from there.
You can imagine my apprehension as I tried to envision how this phone call would go. In my mind, this was really a long shot. After all, my family barely knew the Powells at all, and the fathers had never met a single time. What was my dad supposed to say to Danny? “Hi there, Danny Powell? … Yes, this is Mike Steele. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you. I have a son, whom you also don’t know, and he thinks he might like to court your daughter, whom he doesn’t know. … Well, my son is a missionary in Ukraine. …. Yes that’s close to Russia. … Well, actually he’s in Thailand right now, but he thinks he’ll be going back to Ukraine soon.” Uh-huh, sure. But with God, all things are possible.
I don’t know exactly what all was said between my father and Danny during that phone call, but it wasn’t long until Dad called me back in Thailand to let me know the outcome.
To be continued…