Go ahead! Call me a big baby. I can handle it. I was feeling sorry for myself…crying on my twenty-sixth birthday. It was April 24, 1991. I was twenty-six and terribly lonely, even surrounded by friends and a great job and exciting future. I was a single lady on my way to join a mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (then Zaire). I had spent most of the last year attempting to raise support, but apparently churches investing in a single lady missionary was considered a poor investment: one that wouldn’t give a good return of souls saved for dollars spent. The only two churches supporting me were my two home churches in Jacksonville, Florida and Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
I was weary of the support search, and I truly desired to go to Congo as a married missionary, not a single one. At the time I was on deputation, there were several single men also headed to Congo. Sadly, they were merely dorks and nerds. Not really what I was hoping for. So, I cried. It was my birthday. I could cry if I wanted. And prayed. I prayed that the right man would some how meet up with me.
I finished my day with a good pep talk and woke with a better outlook. I was a high school English teacher in a small Christian school in Gastonia, North Carolina. I loved my students and, they loved me. It was my fourth year of teaching and definitely my best. I had made multiple trips on weekends throughout the school year to raise support in other states. One meeting that I had attended in the fall was in Downingtown, Pennsylvania. I remembered the meeting well because I had gone on a date with one of those dorky missionaries. One who seemed surprised that a girl enjoyed reading Louis L’Amour. But I managed to miss someone while there. A fourth-year Bible college student who had already done four years in the Air Force.
One day, this young man, who was himself interested in Congo as a ministry, expressed his wishes for a wife out loud to his church secretary. She reminded him of my being there during the church’s missions conference in the fall. But he couldn’t remember me. On a second occasion, the topic of searching for a wife came up to an older Jewish believer who also was attending the small Bible college. His name was Sam Abraham.
“Wait!” Sam responded. “Are you interested in going to Congo as a missionary?”
“Yes,” Gale Dawson responded.
“I know someone! A young lady from my home church is on deputation, raising funds to go to Congo. Let me get you her number. What’s your number? I’ll call you with her contact information.”
Sam was excited about playing matchmaker, and Gale was excited about a potential prospect for a wife. A few days later, Sam got back to Gale with MY number.
I distinctly remember the night I received that call. I was finished school for the day; finished grading papers and doing lesson plans, when the phone rang. My roommate answered it.
“There’s a guy on the phone who says he wants to talk to you; says he’s headed to Congo for a survey trip soon,” Lisbet explained.
Of course, being a drama queen, and assuming that it was one of the nerdy missionaries to the Congo, I was NOT eager to take that phone call! I acted the whole scenario out by dragging myself across the floor to the phone, moaning about this irritation to my evening. Lisbet was nearly rolling on the floor laughing. I picked up the phone.
“Hello? Who’s this?”
“Hello, my name is Gale Dawson. You don’t know me, but I got your number from Sam Abraham. I told him I was interested in going to the Congo as a missionary. I am planning a survey trip in June and wondered if you needed any items for your display table?”
“Umm, sure.” I paused to giggle from sheer relief that it wasn’t one of those nerdy missionaries. “Where are you calling from? How long have you been considering the Congo?”
The conversation that I dreaded lasted twenty minutes. I was very bubbly and giddy at my surprise of finding a normal guy on the other end of the phone.
In the next eight weeks before he traveled to Congo, Gale Dawson and I had several phone conversations, both of us liking what we were learning about each other. We learned that somehow, we had managed to be in the same conference at the same time, even sharing a meal with other missionaries without noticing each other. After returning from his trip, Gale felt confident that God wanted him to work in Congo. Four weeks later, we met at a mission board in North Carolina. I cannot say that I thought that it was love at first sight (his arms were too muscular compared to his small hands). But in the months to come, we grew to respect and love each other.
On a trip to Cape Cod in September for Gale to visit my dad and stepmom, Gale proposed out on a rock jetty on Martha’s Vineyard. I was expecting the question, but not expecting a ring. “Of course, I’ll marry you I said.” We were both delighted.
Due to the political situation in the Congo, we decided to move our wedding date up to December 14, 1991. We were married amid Christmas trees and colored lights, surrounded by family, friends, church members, and fellow missionaries. That was more than twenty-seven years ago. God has blessed our marriage, our three beautiful children, and the Congo ministry which we still oversee. (Check out www.risecongo.org )