Our Fairy Tale Proposal
I first met Andrea in 1995 when we were placed on the same mission team in a small town in
Ukraine.  To pass the time while we rode trains across this former Soviet country, we would read
to each other from an old book I had found containing local fairy tales. It became a special thing
between us, and over the next two years we grew to be very close friends.  

In 1997, soon after returning to the United States, I invited Andrea to my hometown of
Pensacola, Florida to meet my family.   That weekend I also wanted to show her one of my
favorite places, so I took her to a beautiful, secluded spot on Pensacola Beach.  As we sat on the
beach watching the sun near the horizon, and thanked God for His blessings, we were
approached by an old vagabond who was meandering down the beach putting trash in a large
bag.  He struck up a conversation with us and told us about love lost in his own life, and
challenged me to hold on to Andrea, “no matter what!”  He then said that he had something for
us and, much to our surprise, began digging through his sack.  
As he rummaged through his bag, Andrea nervously scooted a little
closer to me and put her arm in mine.  He finally retrieved his
treasure, a flat package wrapped in brown wrapping paper.   He slowly
handed it to Andrea and then turned and walked away, while we
wondered what to do with this strange gift.  Andrea was a bit nervous,
but I told her I thought it would be okay to open it, and when I did we
were shocked to find a beautiful handmade wooden book with leather
binding and parchment pages.  As Andrea watched the old man walk
away, she asked me, “Do you think it’s an old family album?”  “I don’t
know”, I told her, “let’s open it and see.”   We opened it to find an old
fairy tale with charming hand-drawn illustrations and a large ornate
letter beginning each page.  
I began to read the story aloud and we learned that it was about a beautiful young girl named
Odette.  As we read on, Andrea commented that the drawing of Odette as a little girl looked just
like she did when she was 8 years old, and that the story sounded very “familiar.”  It eventually
dawned on her that this was not mere coincidence – this was a set-up.  As she saw me begin to
smile, she realized that it was me who had made the book (the old vagabond was really an old
friend of mine’s father who eagerly played the part!)  

The fairy tale told of Odette’s life growing up, her travel to a faraway land, and how she built a
relationship with a young man named Jonathan (who looked amazingly like me!)  The tale also
told of how Jonathan had traveled to ask Odette’s father for his daughter’s hand in marriage
(something I had done a month earlier without Andrea’s knowledge.)  

The story progressed to a moment when Odette and Jonathan sat together on a serene beach
watching the sunset, when all of a sudden an old vagabond approached them.  Mirroring the
moment that had just happened, the drifter in the story talked of love as he gave them a special
book and inspired Jonathan to kneel upon the sand and ask Odette for her hand in marriage.  
“The beautiful maiden looked into his eyes, and with heart overflowing, said. . .” From there on
the page was blank because everything up to this point had happened to Andrea, but this was
I closed the book, knelt on the sand, and asked Andrea if
she would be my wife.  She tearfully replied yes and
kissed me – while in the background my “vagabond”
friend and his family began cheering and clapping (they
also secretly took lots of pictures of our special
After a lot of hugs and a closer look at the book, Andrea also
realized that each of the ornate letters at the beginning of each
page spelled out “MARRY ME ANDREA”.   Six months later we
were married, and we’ve been very happily married for many
years -- in September, 2007 it will be 10 years since I proposed.  
We also continue to live and work in Ukraine, but our family is
bigger now with three daughters – the first named Abigail Odette.
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