The summer of 1991 was very special time -- one last summer before my senior year of college. I was sure that the summer of 1992 would filled with resumes, cover letters and job interviews. So I signed up for a 10-week summer missions opportunity in Los Angeles. I would spend my summer serving others.
Before the California Southern Baptist Convention turned this country boy loose in the big city, they sent me to a week-long orientation with about a bunch of other summer missionaries at a camp called Jenness Park. Over the course of the week I met many of the other missionaries. But one stood out in my mind – Kimberly Oglesbee from Mississippi State University. I had met several other MSU folks at dinner one evening and as we crossed the covered bridge on our way to our cabins, they introduced me to Kimberly. For obvious reasons we have a ceramic covered bridge in our bedroom to commemorate that wonderful moment.
Over the next few days we had a few opportunities to talk and we were in the same small group for at least one activity. Kimberly intrigued me, but I doubted that I would ever see her again. She would be serving in Northern California and I would be 500 miles away in L.A. Just before we left Jenness Park I gave her a small friendly hug and said “good-bye.” I gave out lot’s of hugs that day, but I confess that this one meant more.
Many of the missionaries kept in touch over the summer through letters – no email back then. At first I wrote her with no romantic expectations. I knew this couldn’t work back in the real world – Oklahoma for me, Mississippi for her. We shared very freely about ourselves in our letters and developed a strong friendship. I started to hope that maybe I could see her again. Eventually we began trading phone calls. All the time I stayed away from any hint that I wanted to date her.
One of my favorite memories of those days happened at a Panda Express Restaurant in Glendale. My mission partner Tony and I often ate lunch there. We spent the whole meal talking about the Kimberly issue (Would she go out with me when we got home? How would that work?). It was a common topic when Tony and I had a little down time. After this long discussion, I received the best fortune cookie message ever. It read: “Romance and Travel Go Together Now.” Tony and I had a great laugh about that one.
As the weeks zipped by I hatched a plan straight out of the 1990s. I decided to sent Kimberly a cassette tape on which I expressed my feelings for her. So I recorded my message in an office at Central Baptist Church in Burbank (I believe it is now called Fellowship Church) and sent the cassette early so it would be waiting on Kimberly when she got home. It was equal parts romantic, corny and desperate.
To make a long story short, the desperate/romantic/corny/desperate cassette confession worked. I called her shortly after she got home and asked her if we could give dating a try. Despite the miles between Southeastern Oklahoma State University and Mississippi State University, we started our dating adventure in September 1991. Romance and travel did go together. Romance and letter writing also went together.
Twenty years later, the adventure continues and I am more in love with Kimberly than ever. And I cannot help but smile when I think back to that wonderful summer. I know ours was not a chance meeting, I am convinced that it was God’s plan to bring us together.