I spent the morning flipping through old photo albums. There have been so many changes in the last 40 years and nothing makes those changes more evident than looking at the past. The snapshots I came across show a relatively happy family who have been on many adventures together.
This past Sunday, my parents celebrated their 40th Wedding Anniversary. I've been feeling a little guilty that we weren't all together to celebrate this milestone, but when your family is spread out it's not always possible to celebrate in person. But that doesn't mean that I am any less proud of them.
Forty years is hard to wrap my head around. Fifteen years ago my siblings and I threw our parents a 25th Anniversary party. It was our first such party and thankfully it was a success. Our family makes a big deal about the 25th, but really every year that people choose love and decide to stick it out is cause for celebration.
In their 40 years of marriage, my parents have lived in three countries, raised three children, and helped countless people during the course of their marriage, starting when they were missionaries. They have seen all of their children graduate from college and pursue careers in different fields, and have also been blessed with four grandchildren.
I want to take the time to share about my parents non-traditional engagement and wedding. If you know this story, feel free to skim or just look at these old photos.
Forty years ago my dad was a missionary in Africa. He was single and after three years working on his own, he was ready for a change. He made plans to return home to America, presumably in search of a wife. On his return trip he made plans to travel around the world, stopping in Papua New Guinea (PNG) to see his Aunt Rosabelle and Uncle Joe Cannon...
At this same time, my mother and her family were working as missionaries in Papua New Guinea. They had left Canada several years before to pursue working with the indigenous people of this large island. My mom had raised her own support and was working and serving the people alongside her parents, Ray and Elizabeth Lock.
When my dad arrived in PNG, my mom was just returning from a week-long trip in the bush (back country). The story is that she was flea bitten and dirty, having just traveled some distance. My parents met and immediately took to one another. During my dad's three months in PNG, he wrote a letter home to his mother saying that he met a girl. He wrote a second letter saying that he was getting married.
Basically, my parents met, got engaged and were married by the time my dad's visa ran out and he had to leave the country. My mom's family was working in PNG, so they were able to attend the wedding with my dad's uncle officiating the ceremony. My dad's mom (my grandma) received the "I'm getting married" letter first! She had no idea who my dad would be returning home with.
This whole scenario blows my mind a bit – the fast engagement, the difficulty with communications from the other side of the world. In this day and age, my Nana in Canada and my parents in Arkansas have a day-to-day glimpse of my life and their grandkids!
Back to the story...
So, in PNG the custom at the time (I don't know if or how much this has changed), but at the time, women were purchased for a bride price. The price would typically be livestock – pigs and chickens and maybe some money. After the price was negotiated, the two families would celebrate with a mu-mu (cooking a pig in the ground) and a big celebration.
For my parent's wedding, they did a mock ceremony where my dad came to purchase my mom. One of my uncle's acted as the family negotiator. As part of the ceremony, my parents said they would marry for love and not for a price. The PNG people thought this was very funny. After the antics, they celebrated with the traditional mu-mu.
Later, for their real Western wedding, most of the local people did not attend because they considered my parents to already be married! Also, the day of the wedding, someone decided that the open-air church building should have walls. So my parents were married in the tropics, in a building with no breeze, and no air conditioning!
So that is the gist of the story of how my folks met and got married. I have given several speeches about this event with lots of fun props and photos (in Jr High and also college).
It's a fun story to tell and really gives you a glimpse into my parent's life and my own roots. I like to say that adventure and spontaneity are in my genes!
Happy Anniversary, Mom and Dad! I love you and am so very proud of you! Thank you for choosing to stay married every day.