Sunday, July 20, 2014

Zak & Beth’s Testimony

Our blog has been sadly neglected for the better part of this year, and we are working on updating it as we have opportunity! 

While so much has gone on in the last seven months, of course the most monumental for our family has been Zak and Elizabeth Bale getting together, seeking the Lord's will for their lives, and eventually uniting in marriage. We are amazed and thankful as we look over what the Lord has done for the two of them thus far, and we can't wait to see what He does with these two young people as they seek to follow Him every step of the way.

We are working on getting together the pictures from their wedding day and will hopefully be posting those soon, but first we wanted to share the testimony that Zak and Beth gave at their wedding in Rhinelander, Wisconsin, on July 12. 

Zak: Thank you all so much for being here today. Some of you know that Rhinelander is the town where Elizabeth and I first met, in the winter of 2006. This area and this church are very special to both of us, and we are grateful to the Lord and our friends here for the opportunity to share this time with you all in this place.

Over the past few weeks a number of folks have asked Beth or myself just how we got together. For context, the Bale family has been serving as missionaries for the past several years in Romania, while the Klein family has resided in St. Louis for about the same period of time. Considering that these two locations are separated by 5,207 miles, including the Atlantic ocean, it's probably reasonable to wonder how we ended up in front here.

As I mentioned earlier, Beth and I first met back in 2006, when our families both attended a series of meetings here in Rhinelander. Over the next four years or so, our families saw each other for brief visits while we lived in central Wisconsin, and the Bales in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and our two families became friends. However, while I had taken note that Beth seemed to be a godly young lady, neither of us felt any interest in each other during this time. Our families had many similar priorities and experiences, but God still had much more to teach Beth and I before either of us were ready for this.

Summer of 2007 in Rhinelander, WI at a series of meetings

Klein and Bale kids playing a game
December 2009, in Portage WI

A visit from the Bales in April 2010, 
a few weeks before their family left for Romania

Beth: When we first met the Klein family, I was blessed to see their many kids, and see their heart for the Lord. Our families did see each other and get to be friends, but only for a couple of days a year, and usually in a large group setting. What I did see of Zak made me think he was a nice guy, but I had no idea that the Lord would work this out.

My family and I moved to Romania in 2010, where we lived for the next four years. Before we moved, some people had expressed concerns as to whether I would ever be able to find a husband if I moved to Romania. While we appreciated their concern, I truly felt it was God's leading, and if it was His will, He could bring me and my future husband together, in His time and in His place. And I actually felt that Romania was part of it all, and I've seen it to be so, as God worked in my life and taught me many lessons while I lived and worked with my family, and the things He had us deal with.

Elizabeth with Viorica, a single mother whom the Bales took in,
and her daughter Estera

In late January of 2014, the Lord worked it out for my mom, my youngest sister and her husband, my two youngest brothers and I to come back for our first visit to the States, to be there for my Grandma Wright's 90th birthday, and to visit a whole lot of dear folks. Coming over from Romania, we landed in Chicago, stayed with a dear Romanian family, then headed West to California - the first stop being the Klein family.

Zak: When I first heard that some of the Bales would be visiting our home, I remember being rather nonchalant about the idea. By this time I had come to appreciate the family's ministry in Romania, and knew it would be good to see them again and be of whatever service we could. I figured it would be a nice visit, and then the Bales would be off to their next destination, and life would go on as usual.

Kleins, Bales and Bîlcs - February 2014

It turned out God had other plans.

The Bales left our home in St. Louis on February 3rd, heading out towards California for their next stop. Again, I remember being very casual about the situation, but I also distinctly recall feeling as though I had “missed” something during those few days with the Bale family. But I dismissed the feeling without much thought - after all, there was surely nothing to be missed here.

Later that afternoon, we received a phone call from the Bales. Their van had broken down in Emporia, Kansas, about four hours away from our home. The family got a hotel room and tried to find either a shop to fix the van, or an alternative vehicle. Nothing seemed to work out, so later that night, my brother Solomon and I boarded my truck and headed out to Emporia, just ahead of a massive blizzard.

Between adventures in getting the Bale's van repaired and waiting out the storm, Solomon and I ended up spending the better part of two days stranded at the hotel with the Bales. Us boys stayed in a second room while details were worked out. During this time, the Lord opened my eyes to something I had never bothered to see before. We all know that trials tend to bring out a person's true character. As I worked alongside the Bales in trying to resolve the problem, God allowed me to see Elizabeth in a new light. Her attitude and demeanor in the face of difficult personal situations resonated with me, and I found myself reminded of a passage in 1 Peter 3.

“Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or the putting on of apparel; but let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.”

When my brother and I finally parted company with the Bales and headed home on February 5th, I knew I wasn't going back to life as usual.

After some prayer and consternation, I talked to my parents about my newfound feelings. Dad and Mom were both very supportive, and faithfully prayed with me and for me during the following days and weeks. Dad gave me his blessing, and counseled me to talk with Elizabeth's father before too long.

The Bales stopped by our home again on March 5, on their way back up to their house in Ironwood, Michigan. They stayed for several days, and while I certainly took the opportunity to observe Beth and get to know the family better, I didn't share any of my feelings. But this second visit went a long way towards settling my thoughts on the matter. The day after the Bales left our house again, I called Mr. Bale and asked him if he would consider me as a husband for Elizabeth.

Tim agreed to pray about my request, and told me he would get back to me in “a few days.” Those few days were very long ones, for sure. However, the Lord used the time to prepare me for what was to come later. I remember repeatedly praying that, if this was not the Lord's will for Beth and I, the door would be closed.

Five days later, Tim called me back, and gave me his and Terri's blessing. Then he told me that I needed to talk to Elizabeth.

It took just over another month before I finally spoke with Beth about this. During the interim time, the Lord worked things out that myself and one of my sisters were able to travel with Terri, Elizabeth, and her two youngest brothers, David and Nate, for a two week trip across the Eastern United States. I went along as a driver, and during the trip I had many chances to get to know Beth better, as well as many opportunities to interact with family and friends that we visited along the way.

With Beth's brother Josh and his family in New York
Late night theological discussions with friends in upstate NY

God was using this time to stretch me in many ways - spiritually, theologically, and physically. And all the while Beth and I shared many lengthy conversations in the car about a broad range of subjects, developing a friendship and learning more about each other every day.

Beth: On my side, in the brief times we'd seen each other since coming back to the States, I was very blessed and impressed with all the Lord had done in Zak's life since I had last saw him. Of course he was just one of many young men I knew who love the Lord, and I appreciated that, but I did my best to stay neutral, being kind, but not seeking attention. Over time, I began to wonder at times whether Zak was thinking something more, but I really couldn't tell because he did such a good job of just being a good Christian brother.

Song time at Beth's aunt's house in Ohio

With long-time friends of the Bales in Michigan

On the trip out East, these wonderings grew, and I prayed a lot, but mostly it was a very peaceful time getting to visit folks, and really getting to know who Zak was in a neutral way, because I hadn't really known him personally at all up to that point.

The place where Zak and Beth had their first talk - 
the home of long-time friends of the Bales in Kentucky

The last night of our trip, Zak asked me to talk, and told me that he had talked to my dad, and that he had given his blessing for us to seek the Lord's will in the matter. On the one hand, the Lord had shown me a lot of things that gave me peace about the matter, but I also had some concerns. So we got to talk some, and it was a very blessed time. One really neat thing was, that we both agreed that God's will is best, and if this was not God's will, then we didn't want it to happen. But if it was - we totally did want it to happen. We agreed to pray about it, and to talk some more. Then we prayed together, and it was all a very special time.

The Northeast trip group picture, 
before Beth and her family headed back home to Ironwood, MI

The next day we all drove back to St Louis. After a few days at the Kleins', me and my family drove back up to Ironwood. Zak and I continued to talk over the phone, and as the scheduled time came for our family to go back to Romania, the Lord led us to change our plans. Which then made it possible for me to come down and visit in St Louis, and get to know Zak even better. The Lord continued to guide and show me things in so many ways, through people, through sermons, through the Bible, and through Zak.

Zak: Over the next six weeks after Beth and I first talked, God continued to give us many indications of His leading. Patrick Clough and his family, dear friends in St Louis, graciously opened their home to Elizabeth, and she stayed in the area for just over one month. During this time we saw each other almost daily, and spent the majority of our time together in prayer and Bible study as we discussed various issues and possible differences between us.

One of many get togethers with the Cloughs

Beth and I both agreed that we wanted the Lord's will in this whole matter, and we also understood that when it came to matters of faith, family, or any area of life, God's word had to be our final authority, and not our own opinions or family practices.  Thankfully our parents on both sides had instilled a deep respect and trust of the Bible in their children, and we now found ourselves appreciating the Scripture more and more as our guide in discovering God's plan for our lives individually, as well as together.

As time went on and our discussions continued, Elizabeth and I both saw that the Lord was indeed working between us. And as we talked and shared more of our thoughts and memories with each other,  our friendship began to grow into something more.

On June 2nd, I asked Elizabeth if she would become my wife.

Beth: I said yes. (smile)

Zak and Beth in the Clough's basement,
just after becoming an engaged couple!

Zak: As we look back on the path God has led both of us over the past few months, one thing that stands out the most is that, while both Elizabeth and I were certainly interested in marriage, neither of us were led to search out a prospective spouse on our own. Jesus, quoting from the book of Genesis in Matthew 19:5, says “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh.” Up till this time, God had clearly given me a role within my family as a son and a brother to my (many) siblings. And He had given Elizabeth a place to serve with her family in Romania., more than 5000 miles away.

There were certainly many times in my adult life where I figured marriage wasn't going to be in my future. With our family's frequent moves and somewhat “unusual” lifestyle, I must confess that I was very doubtful at times that the Lord would ever bring me a spouse. After all, it's not like a godly missionary girl in a like-minded family from across an ocean would ever end up on our doorstep in St Louis, right?

Ephesians 3:19 says that God “is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.” For Elizabeth and I, He has certainly done that. While neither of us can claim to have done as well as we ought, both of us have come to understand the principle of Matthew 6:33: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.”

Our hope is that everyone here today would be encouraged to seek the Lord even more, and to trust Him to provide “all these things” that you need. We are grateful beyond words that He was weaved our lives together, and  we invite you to join with us in living out the promise of Psalm 37:5:

“Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.”