Both of us were born and raised in North Carolina. We actually grew up just a few hours away from one another, but for more than two decades our paths didn’t cross. We eventually found each other more than 3000 miles away from home in Central America. In December of 2009, in a rural northwestern village of Nicaragua just outside of Chichigalpa, we met for the first time.
I first met Hannah way back in 2009 when her team came from Boone, NC on a short term trip while I was living in Nicaragua working with New Song. We were both at different places in life and didn’t really connect in any real way other than putting a face with a name. I probably met a few hundred people over the course of my time living there, each on a different short term team.
In 2009, I went down to Nicaragua with a team of about 18 people to work with New Song. I met Evan and all the New Song staff there, though I spent little to no time around him, he seemed like a pretty cool guy along with the other New Song staff. I left Nicaragua knowing I would return one day.
It wasn’t until several years later in that same small village in Nicaragua that we would connect on a deeper level – the right place at the right time.
I traveled to Nicaragua in March 2014 to photograph the wedding of my great friends Jim Bob and Kenia. In the midst of all the wedding preparations and festivities, there was Hannah. She was there long-term this time, and helping coordinate the wedding. Because of that, we ended up spending a good bit of time together. She laughed with me, and I enjoyed her company more than I think I have with any other person I’ve ever met. It felt so mutually delightful. The connection was significantly unique.
In 2014, I was living with the New Song staff in Nicaragua for the year. Evan came down for a wedding for one of the staff-members – Jimbob to Kenia. Evan and I each were helping out with the wedding but were not in it so we were on the sidelines together a bit that week. I had no inclination of anything more than a friendship, but when Evan was leaving, he came to hug me goodbye, and I remember feeling so grateful for his being there. We had laughed so much together and I wished he could have stayed.
Our lives came together 5 years later, and we began a deep friendship.
Shortly after the wedding I had to return home. I thought a lot about how much I enjoyed my time with Hannah. Not long after getting back, I can vividly remember getting this incredible confirmation from the Lord that she was going to be my wife. I still have a text message saved from that same month where I told my mom, “I’m a little afraid to say this in writing, but you’re my mom and you should know. I think I met the person I will spend the rest of my life with when I was in Nicaragua.” Hannah told me that she had committed to the Lord that she wouldn’t pursue a relationship until she was 26, so I made the decision to continue to pursue her in faith without fully knowing her feelings toward me. We stayed in touch often through instant message and video chat. I always joke that our relationship is sponsored by Facebook and Skype. We continued to get to know each other and encourage each other spiritually. We shared our dreams, our fears, our interests, how we saw the world – much of which was incredibly similar. Our conversations and time together felt so effortless and enjoyable. Looking back, even though we probably would’ve done it differently if we had a choice, it really was a great way to start our relationship.
Evan left in March, but in April I was aware of his feelings for me. Beginning the previous July, I felt God had impressed on my heart to not seek out any romantic relationships and to kind of guard my heart from that until the next July. Although I really respected and admired the man that Evan is, but I told him that I felt I needed to continue what I felt God impressed on my heart. We did maintain a friendship. We joked about things, I cried about things. We learned about each other either through writing or occasional Skype calls. He gave me input on how to handle different situations I was encountering in the developing world from his previous experience. He was so encouraging and life-giving to me. (He still is.) He became such a real and true friend to me, which is one of the most important traits I asked God that I would find in my spouse before realizing he would be my spouse. We kept in contact through July where we decided we would hang out together when I visited the states. In one of our Facebook conversations, I mentioned to Evan that I wanted to visit Montreal some time because I had met a traveler in Nica who told me how great it was. Evan wanted to go when I visited in July, but we decided maybe we could do it at another time.
Hannah makes a short visit to the States, and a new season of our relationship begins.
In July 2014, Hannah came to the states for a short time to visit and we got to spend some time together. I made arrangements with her friend Sarah in D.C. to show up at the airport and surprise her with flowers and a quick visit, and the surprise was a great success! A week or so later we got to spend time together and meet each other’s friends and family. The year she had committed to was complete, and we enthusiastically decided to begin a dating relationship. Although, until she returned to the States for good in December it would continue to be long distance with her in Nicaragua and me still in North Carolina. Those were some difficult months, but as the saying goes, distance made our hearts grow fonder. When she returned for good in December it was a sweet reunion. Hannah decided to move to Charlotte, staying in a spare room at my grandparent’s home and starting classes at a local college for her second degree. Finally, we were able to enjoy each other from a much shorter distance than ever before.
When I got to D.C. to meet one of my best friends from college- Sarah, Evan surprised me with flowers at the airport. He ate with us and then stayed with a friend only to return to Charlotte the next morning. The next week, I finally let him know how I felt about him. We decided to pursue a relationship together. We spent the next week visiting friends and family, but then I had to leave. I bawled all the way back to Nicaragua, although I was so glad to return. I completed my last four months and made it home where I decided to move to Charlotte and live with Evan’s grandparents.
Finally reunited without the distance between us, we discovered what life together was like, up close. It was wonderful, and we decided to make it permanent.
When we were getting to know each other, Hannah mentioned to me that she’d really love to see Montreal, so we planned to go together during her spring break from classes. The time for the long awaited trip finally came, in March 2015. At this point we’d discussed getting engaged and I’d gotten her parent’s blessing. We’d even been looking at rings. Little did she know, I had the ring with me and planned to find the right time to propose on this special trip. On our second day, on our way to Niagara Falls just before the Canadian border, I decided it was the right time. It was a frigid and windy 27 degrees that day, and the falls were almost frozen over. I set up my camera on a tripod and set the timer to take our photo, down on one knee just in time for the shutter to click. I asked her, “Hannah, will you marry me?” and she said with her beautiful smile, “You bet I will!”
At last Evan and I were back together in person. It was so incredible because it was no longer a relationship of just keeping up with each other at the end of the day, but actually being able to live life together. We loved every bit of it, and were both convinced this would be for the rest of our lives. I started taking classes at the community college in Charlotte, and during my Spring Break, Evan and I took the trip we talked about taking months ago. We were headed for Montreal and stopping by Niagara Falls on the way. I had my suspicions about a proposal, but when we got to the top I was so cold, that I completely forgot. After the first picture, I had no idea why it was so important for him to get another one until he was down on one knee. He asked me if I’d marry him, to which I responded “you bet I will!”