Our unlikely love story
By: Laura Strebeck
Throughout my college years I went on and led several hurricane relief teams to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. The summer right after graduation (2009), I led a team of seven plus myself on a five week trip. As mandated by Azusa Pacific's Office of World Missions, the last three days were to be spent debriefing. I wanted this time of prayer, rest, and fun to be out of the New Orleans region, but within easy driving distance. In February, four months before our debrief would take place, I googled "cabins in Southern Mississippi." Seminary Canoe Rental popped up first. I called, booked it, and didn't give it much more thought until we were on our way there.
Seminary happened to be the town where Wes worked. On our first full day there, we shopped for groceries at the Piggly Wiggly where Wes worked as a meat cutter. While we didn't have any interaction, Wes took notice of our group in the store.
The next day, our team took an eight mile canoe trip down the Okatoma. At one point in our journey down the river, we stopped to play around in a swimming hole. There were several other groups hanging out around the area. We asked one guy to take a picture of our group with our waterproof disposable camera. I learned later that Wes was in the same group that day as the guy who took our photo. Wes took special notice of our group. He recognized us as the group he had seen in the Piggly Wiggly the day before. He also took notice of the bond our group shared and the love we showed to one another. Furthermore, he noticed that our girls wore board shorts and tank tops, as apposed to most of the scantily clad girls on the river. He really wanted to talk to us, but chickened out in the end. He took particular notice of me in my bright green sunglasses. As we walked back to our cabin after the canoe trip I told my team, "I know I'll be back here someday, I just don't know why."
On our last day in town, we ventured to Collins, the neighboring town. Collins is Wes' home town. We walked around the main street and decided to grab a snowball (a really good snow cone) before heading back to our cabin. We saw two neighboring snowball stands. One looked a little shady (I later learned that they also sold meth there) and one had Philippians 4:13 on it. We picked the latter. Amedie, the lady at the snowball stand, realized immediately that we were from out of town. She asked us why we were there. When we described what we had been doing on our trip, she asked us to pray for her two friends who had been in a near-fatal car accident the night before. One of them was not supposed to even make it off the scene, but had just made it through the night. She asked us to pray for these women. While I wanted to get Amedie's information to follow-up, I thought that might be a little creepy, so we prayed and went back to our cabin.
After work that day, Amedie's husband Johnny and Wes went to visit Amedie at the snowball stand. She told them about us and they decided they needed to meet us. Amedie had seen the van we were driving and had a general idea of where we were staying. The guys stopped for some Chinese food to discuss their strategy to find us. Wes told Johnny, "We have to find them, that girl in the green sunglasses might be my future wife."
They set out towards Seminary Canoe Rental. After driving around for a while they were unable to find us. They stopped to pray and decided to try for a few more minutes. Around the next bend, they saw our van. They nervously approached our door and knocked. My whole team was in the living room playing board games except for me. I was taking a nap. Johnny and Wes came in, introduced themselves, and invited our group to a prayer night for the women who were in the accident. Beth and Caleb came to wake me up. I told them we already had plans for the evening and rolled over to back to sleep. As soon as Beth and Caleb left the room, I realized I needed to get up. Shortly after I walked out into the living room of our cabin, Wes asked which one of us was wearing green sunglasses on the river the day before. I sleepily raised my hand. We chatted for a few more minutes, exchanged information, and told them we would let them know if we were going to go to the prayer service. Johnny and Wes left thinking they would never see us again.
Right after the guys left it became very clear to us that we needed to go to the service. We cancelled our plans for the night, took twenty minutes to get ready, and headed to the Dwelling Place Church. Johnny and Wes were so surprised to see us. For the next four hours, we prayed, worshipped, visited, and ate Sonic. Our team developed a strong bond with a few people from Dwelling Place Church in a very short amount of time. Before we left, Wes passed around a sheet of paper to get our contact information. Around 10:00pm that night, we went back to our cabin, packed, got a couple hours of sleep, and then headed towards the airport in Jackson to catch a red eye.
When we landed in Atlanta for a layover, I turned my phone on and already had a text message from Wes. We texted regularly for a few days. I thought he seemed very nice, but didn't want to give him the wrong impression. I wasn't about to have a boyfriend in Southern Mississippi! That all changed after our first phone call. Wes called while my friends Sarah and Katie were over visiting. I only talked to Wes for long enough to ask if I could call him back, but his thick Southern accent took my breath away. I got warm and flushed and my friends had to take me outside to get some fresh air.
From that point forward, we talked regularly on the phone for at least half an hour a day. We had some serious conversations early on because I did not want to invest in this relationship unless I knew it was headed somewhere. We met on June 16 and by July 1 I knew Wes Strebeck would be my future husband. We continued to talk and Wes made plans to come out and visit me for five days in October.
Wes arrived late on a Wednesday and by Thursday evening we both knew that matrimony was in our future. It amuses me now to think that was the same night I let him call me his girlfriend for the first time. I had been telling him since that beginning that he had to take me on a date before we could be "official."
My parents, grandparents, and small group leaders all approved of Wes immediately. My small group leaders even invited Wes to live with them so he could move to Denver and look for a job. Wes headed back to Mississippi to tie up loose ends. We saw each other again in November when I took another team to New Orleans. The first week of January I flew out to Mississippi to meet Wes' family. After a wonderful four days there, we packed up Wes' truck and started the drive to Colorado.
We arrived in Colorado on January 12, 2010, after a 22 hour road trip. Three days later, Wes already had a job working as a meat cutter at Safeway. My dad asked Wes not to ask for his permission to marry me for 60 days. He wanted to make sure that he got to know Wes before he gave away his little girl. My dad ended up giving Wes his blessing early without Wes evening asking. On March 8, 2010, Wes proposed to me in a Young Life skit (if you'd like to see to see it, type "Pass the Popcorn Proposal" on YouTube).
We tied the know on August 7, 2010. We have now been married a year and a half and I still don't get tired of telling our story. It is a story not only of our romance, but of God's sovereignty.