as promised, here is our love story. we happen to think that it’s absolutely ridiculous how evident God’s hand is the whole way through, and it is our prayer that you gain a deeper understanding of God’s faithfulness, sovereignty and love more than anything from our story.
rewind the clock two years. it’s the spring of 2008. ben and megan were both signed up to be on summer staff at the Wade Center. Megan, already employed at Wade, was eager to meet and encourage her future summer staff mates, so she began to add staff as friends on facebook, sending each person a generic “hey! i’m so excited about this summer! can’t wait to see what God does!” message. Ben received one of those messages, and thought the girl in the picture was the most breathtaking woman he’d ever seen in his life. She was only made more beautiful by writing that she was “super pumped” about the summer. He liked a girl with some enthusiasm for life.
“I shouldn’t be thinking like this! I’m engaged!” Ben thought to himself, as he fought to stifle the attraction stirring in his heart.
Spring passed and summer soon came. Megan was excited about all the summer would hold. The previous school year had been tough on her spiritual life, and it would be wonderful to be working in a “spiritual greenhouse” of sorts with no distractions. She had never been big on dating, and thought that summer love – though romantic – was incredibly ridiculous.
“you can’t fall in love in a summer”, she thought.
She hadn’t even thought twice about the guys on staff. Then she met Ben face to face, and it hit her.
“He’s not going to marry the woman he’s engaged to” God whispered to her heart.
“What!?” Megan shook her head to herself, “this is crazy. why did I even think that!?” and she dismissed the thought as momentary insanity.
Summer passed gloriously – though not without its fair share of trials, frustrations and stress. Wade was every bit of the spiritual greenhouse Megan had hoped it would be. Ben grew a lot too as he began to understand his call to work with hurting and broken people as never before.
But Ben was struggling too.
Unbeknownst to Megan, Ben deeply attracted to her. He already knew she was beautiful before he even got to Wade, but as they worked and ministered together Ben noticed Megan’s passion for God, her love for the kids at Wade and her deep desire to serve and love anyone who crossed her path.
But this was wrong, Ben thought.
So he began avoiding Megan at all costs. Dismissing his attraction as a test or temptation He began to cut Megan out of his life as much as possible. During day camp hours this was easy, Megan taught first grade, and he taught fourth and fifth; they’re paths rarely crossed. But during the evening hours and downtime on the weekend…complete avoidance was a little tougher. He still made every effort of avoidance though. Megan would walk in to a room, and he would walk out.
“I remember thinking that he must hate me!” Megan recalls.
Far from it though. For despite his most stringent efforts to avoid her, Ben was falling more and more for Megan every day.
Camp ended in August, Ben wondered as he drove off if Megan cried when he left. She did.
“I didn’t understand why I was crying. I felt so stupid. We were just friends! I kept telling myself that I was crying on behalf of the kids. Ben was so good with them, and I knew he wouldn’t be back, so I told myself I was crying for the kids.”
But Megan was wrong, and Ben did come back.
In October, Ben brought a group of students from his college up to Wade to go on a Poverty Simulation (a sort of weekend retreat – every christian should go on one!) Megan was also signed up for the Poverty Simulation.
“Before the group from Montreat got here I had MAJOR butterflies,” Megan recalls, “I remember thinking that was really weird, and I couldn’t have told you why I was so excited. I just…was!”
Weeks came and went, and Ben and Megan kept in touch more than either of them would have ever imagined. A facebook post here and there, Poverty Simulation, and then a few trips to Montreat on Megan’s part to visit several summer staff members, conveniently ben went to school there too.
“Both times I went to Montreat I had very good reasons. For one, Montreat is just beautiful. When my friend Amanda and I went in November, we went to visit the whole group of people who had worked at Wade that summer. We also just wanted to explore our hippie sides and hang out in Ashville. Then the trip in January was to recruit summer staff for Wade.”
The January trip is when things started to change for Megan though.
“Ben cleared his whole day to hang out with us,” Megan remembers fondly.
“Well, sorta,” Ben replies, “I wanted to hang out with Amanda too…and I was trying to fix her up with one of my buddies, so I was playing the wingman.”
Regardless of the motivation though, that weekend was enough to cause Megan to start to wonder.
“I wouldn’t have admitted to anyone that I was really interested in Ben. That just wasn’t kosher. I think I did end up telling Amanda, but only in a half-joking sense.”
Things stayed the same for another month, Ben frequented Bluefield once more to visit his friend Adam who had recently gone on staff with Wade. Then in March, things started to blow up.
“The week after Ben came to visit in February, I had an awful day. I was super stressed about school, work, Wade and the mission trip I was working toward for the summer. Ben caught me on facebook at just the right time. I spilled my guts for about ten minutes. He told me to stop stressing, go have time with Jesus and a cup of coffee and just remember that I was ‘loving God and loving people, the rest is just details’. I burst into tears right there in the school library, and I ended up crying in the bathroom with my best friend for over and hour because I realized that when Ben got married in May, I would be losing one of the best friends I’d ever had.”
“I had no idea she thought of me as one of her best friends,” Ben interjects, “I certainly wouldn’t have considered her one of my best friends, at least at that point.”
A week or so after “the bathroom incident”, Ben started to dream…
“I had these three really weird dreams. In one I was working at Camp Peniel, in the next I was working at Wade and in the last one I was working in some sort of school or children’s home in Africa. And in two of those dreams I was married to Megan.”
Amply freaked out, Ben called close friend and mentor Vicki Mahood.
Vicki, who is also a close friend of Megan’s, assured Ben that he was not in love with Megan, that she was not in love with him, and that these dreams certainly didn’t mean that the two of them were meant to marry.
“I was relieved,” Ben admits.
Vicki did tell Ben though that these dreams probably did point to his love for a heart like Megan’s: a heart for reaching the lost, hurting and broken. A heart to tangibly reach the least of these. A heart wholly devoted to ministry in dark places.
Ben began to pray about coming back to the Wade Center for another season of summer camp, and soon he and his at the time fiancée decided that this would be a good idea. They postponed their wedding and Ben made plans to return to Wade.
“When I heard through the Wade grapevine that Ben had postponed his wedding and was coming back to work another summer, I freaked out,” Megan recalls, “but I didn’t even know the half of it yet!”
Megan texted Ben the day she found out he was coming back asking to hear about what God was doing in his life that prompted such a decision.
“I knew it had to be something big, and I wanted to know what it was!”
Ben put off calling Megan for a couple of weeks, and understandably so.
“I was freaking out!” Megan remembers, “I knew something big was brewing, I could feel it in my soul. And God was starting to whisper things to my heart too…things I couldn’t shake but wasn’t ready to admit to anyone. I was in Vicki’s office at Wade almost everyday just antsy as all get out. One day she told me to just lay it all down at Jesus’ feet and wait, and when I went home after work that night I spent some time alone with God and did just that. I wasn’t even sure what I was laying down, or why I was so anxious about all this, but I was. I fell asleep on the couch with my Bible and awoke to a text around 11pm that said ‘so are you finally ready to hear about the cool stuff Jesus is doing in my life?’ from Ben. We talked for three hours that night…”
“Which, looking back, was a mistake at the time,” Ben interjects.
“Ben told me about everything, the dreams, all of it. I was beside myself. I wasn’t sure how to respond. Remember, I hadn’t even admitted to myself yet that I was interested in him. I wouldn’t let myself feel that.”
“Telling her about the dreams was also a mistake,” Ben adds.
“It all worked out though,” Megan surmises.
After that fateful three-hour conversation, Ben and Megan cut contact completely.
“Shortly after that night I admitted to Vicki that I was deeply attracted to Ben, and moreover felt as though God were telling me to marry him. I sat the couch in her living room with my mouth agape, I couldn’t make the words come out, she had to force me to say that I loved him and felt as though we were supposed to get married,” Megan recalls, laughing, “Vicki kept urging, ‘just say it! it’s okay! just say it!’
“Those days were some of the most challenging, difficult and spiritually abundant days of my life so far,” Megan continues, “I was literally on my face before God every single day, sometimes for hours at a time, because I just didn’t know what else to do! I prayed like I’ve never prayed before, asking God to give Ben wisdom and guidance, and an undivided heart to follow His will. I never asked God to break Ben and his fiancée up, I only asked the Lord that He accomplish His will. I also prayed and told God that if it was in His will for something to happen between Ben and I, that his fiancée would have to be the one to break things off, because I would never want people to think that I was a home wrecker or that Ben had cheated or anything like that. I would die single first.”
Meanwhile, Ben too was struggling, “I had to shut down my emotions almost completely,” Ben remembers, “I was super involved in my school too, so college stuff was killing me. I was burning myself out big time.”
Spring passed, and Megan got ready to leave for her summer missions project to California at about the same time Ben was preparing to return to Bluefield.
“I left for California with the thought that maybe I would meet some awesome man of God out there and forget all about Ben. That certainly would’ve been convenient,” Megan smiles.
But that wasn’t part of God’s fantastically sovereign plan. At the end of Megan’s first week on project she missed a call from Ben. It was around 9pm in Santa Cruz, which meant he was calling at midnight his time. “It was so weird,” Megan recalls, “I almost didn’t call him back, I figured he was just sitting on his phone or something. I hadn’t heard from him in months. But I took a deep breath and called him back, dreading the awkwardness if he had in fact only been sitting on his phone.”
The call had been intentional though.
Ben had called to tell Megan that his fiancée had broken off the engagement that day. He was heartbroken. Megan was floored. The two spent several hours on the phone that night, Megan listened a lot, and consoled a little.
“I was dancing around the parking lot the whole time, all while trying to sound remorseful on the phone,” Megan chuckles, “I was so beside myself with just, utter shock and joy! I had been praying for so long without answers, and then got the response I never expected at a time I never would have expected it!”
After that, Ben and Megan continued to keep in touch over the summer. Texts throughout most days, a phone call once a week or so, and lots and lots of praying on both parts. Then as summer began to wind down, and Megan prepared to return to Bluefield, God began to stir in her heart again.
“I remember packing my duffel bag, and it hit me, this daydream-like vision of the following summer. I was introducing myself to the staff at Wade as ‘Megan Westra’. I just kind of shook my head. The thought was ridiculous. God wouldn’t say something like that. The man just got out of a serious relationship, there was no way we would be married by the next summer. I wasn’t even sure if I was ready for that! But as much as I tried to forget it, to shake the thought, I couldn’t.”
Megan and Ben grabbed a cup of coffee the day after she returned from California.
“We just went to the Omelet Spot – the West Virginia equivalent to a Waffle House – so that it was clear that this wasn’t a date. I’d never take a girl on a date to the Omelet Spot.” Ben says.
The two spent time in groups of friends for two weeks, just enjoying being friends, catching up on life, savoring the last few days of summer.
“Ben talked to me one night after we’d been hanging out at Vicki’s. It was like 5:30 in the morning!” Megan laughs, “He explained that he was interested in me, and he knew that I was interested too, because God had told him so, but that he also wasn’t ready to pursue another relationship just yet, and he asked me to wait for him. I couldn’t breathe! I think I managed to nod my head though!”
God kept moving though, and the impression that she and Ben would be married by the summer of 2010 pressed more firmly in on Megan’s heart.
“I finally went and talked to Vicki, prefacing my statement with ‘this is going to sound crazy, but…'” Megan remembers, “I told her what I was feeling, how I was pretty sure God was telling me that Ben and I were going to get married by May or June of 2010. I was scared out of my mind at Vicki’s response. She didn’t tell me I was crazy, or that God wouldn’t say such a thing. She just smiled, and with tears shining in her eyes she said ‘I know.'”
Later that same week, Megan was providing childcare for a revival at a local church. The pastor of the church, also one of Megan’s professors at Bluefield College, came over to her on the first night of the revival and asked to pray over her.
“I just told him to pray for school stuff. I was about to start my senior year of college and was a little nervous…and I didn’t want to take the time to explain all the Ben stuff!”
Dr. Scott Bryan prayed something different though.
“He started praying over me and he kept repeating the Psalm ‘delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.’ I just laughed. There was no way Dr. Bryan knew what he was praying.”
Then, on Wednesday of that week, Megan was going back to the revival to babysit, and Ben had gone out of town for the day. Again, Dr. Bryan pulled Megan out during the service; this time to have the missionary speaking at the revival to pray for her.
“Marty took my hands and asked the Lord what she should pray for me. Then she began to pray in tongues. After a minute or two, she leaned very close to my ear and whispered ‘God is saying ‘Daughter, my daughter, just say yes. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Just say yes!” When she finished praying, I was bawling my eyes out. Marty’s eyes were wide, as she breathed ‘whoa, God is really doing something here.’ I just nodded and went to dry my eyes before returning to the kids.
I texted Ben and asked him if he ever felt like the weight of God’s glory was going to crush him. He said he knew the feeling.”
The next day, Ben called Megan in the morning and asked to speak with her that day
“I was going to explode if I didn’t say something!” says Ben, “Once I know God is telling me to do something, I move fast.”
Megan stopped by Ben’s office after going to the gym.
“I was all sweaty, in basketball shorts and a messy ponytail!” Megan laughs, “I didn’t think it would be as big a deal as it was. I pulled up at Wade and Ben was in a button down and nice shorts!”
Ben took Megan to the park, sat her down at a picnic table and asked to hold her hand. It was the very first time their hands had touched. Over the course of the next hour, Ben recounted to Megan his side of the whole story. How he had found himself attracted to her from the first facebook message; how he struggled all summer, and that’s why he avoided her; the entire year from his perspective revealed. When he had finished with the past, Ben looked Megan in the eye and told her that he loved her, that he had loved her for a long time, and that they were going to get married.
“That wasn’t the actual proposal though!” Ben defends.
Megan just smiled, with tears falling down her cheeks and said,
“I know, God told me.”
We kind of fell in love backwards, at least, by world’s standards. Ben and I professed our understanding of God’s plan for our lives and relationship before there was much of a relationship to even understand! While the moments are vivid and powerful, the emotions came later. It was a few months before we went from saying “I love you” to “I am in love with you”. The dynamic is odd, and we by no means endorse our story as a “model” for Christian relationships. What we do hope that you gather from this is an enormous glimpse of God’s glory and sovereignty. The relational “lesson” is not so much “pray and keep your mouth shut and God will send you the man of your dreams” as it is “trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice on everything you do, everywhere you go; He’s the one who will keep you on track.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, the Message)
may your eyes be ever fixed on the Creator and Sustainer of all,