"September 19, 2002 was a fairly ordinary Thursday evening. I was 22, a college senior, working at the college bookstore. I had got off work, went home, ate a bite and was quickly preparing kool-aid and cookies for the people I knew we'd be having over later that evening. I wanted to be a good hostess and at least have some snacks ready for them so that they would have something to occupy themselves while they got settled in. Seven o'clock rolled around and my roommates and I made our way over to the room in which we meet for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship every Thursday at seven. Same few people were milling around with the exception of one new guy who was chatting with R., our staff worker. I was so excited to see a new face. It had been a tough year already for IV and we were only a month into the semester. We were struggling for people and so I was thrilled to have someone new in our midst. I thought of going over and introducing myself right away but he and R. seemed to be in a good discussion and I didn't want to interrupt. (I found out later that R. had tried to call me over to introduce me but I hadn't even noticed.) So the evening proceeded as normal, after IV everyone was invited over to the Faith House (my residence) to hang out and have cookies and kool-aid. As I was the hostess and felt in charge of the night I was just bubbling over with energy.
I am not a very social person by nature but I was feeling exceptionally social and chatty that particular evening. I had just recently finished my annual college collage and so I was showing it off to everyone. I was making my rounds in conversation trying to spend a little time chatting with each person. I still hadn't met the new guy who I was pleased to see had come over after IV and hadn't just left as I often expect new people who come all by themselves to do. He was talking to ***** and so I made way over. When there was a break in the conversations I was having and he was having I walked right up and introduced myself saying something along the lines of “Hi, I haven't met you yet. I'm Gina.” I found out his name was Russ and that he was from Chadron, was not a student, and was working construction in town. What followed our introduction could never be recreated because it was a barrage of sporadically rich conversation all having absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with anything. I just remember talking. I covered so much including Shakespeare, my opinion of the Education program, my Honors classes, God, evolution and who knows what else.
One of the more cool moments in it all (I believe for both of us) was when he asked me if I had ever heard of Kent Hovind. Of course I had, and told him that I even had several of his seminars on tape in that very room. He told me that he had recently been to one of his seminars in Rapid City and I couldn't believe it because I had been to that same event! I had been a resident of Rapid City at the time and had went to the evening portion to see Kent Hovind speak. What turned out to be so amazing about this to me later was that I remember sitting in that church in Rapid City during one of Hovind's breaks looking around at all the people (particularly the young men in the room) and thinking to myself how one of these guys could be my future husband—how someone in this room could be the man I marry. The fact that that statement turned out to be prophetic will always amaze me. Perhaps he was even one of the individuals that I noticed when I thought that! Only God knows. At any rate that night after Intervarsity I didn't know that—and that was really one of the furthest things from my mind. I was just excited about meeting someone new.
It surprised me a little when he stayed till the last of the evening when only R. and my roommates were left. The new person being the last to leave was really something that I'd never seen before. It led to more conversation through R.'s mediation. I was very much thrown for a loop when he asked me if I would ever want to play ping pong with him. I had set up the ping pong table in the garage and up to that point no one had bothered to use it. Russ had noticed it, asked about it and then offered to play with me sometime if I didn't mind his coming over. I was enthusiastic about the idea because I wanted to see the ping pong table put to good use and I thought it might be fun to play—however his asking me that made me kinda nervous. Why does this strange guy want to come over and play ping pong with me? What if he starts to like me and I can't get him to leave me alone? A lot of stuff ran through my mind as I cheerily said, “Yeah-that would be great! Do call me sometime and we'll play. I've really been wanting someone to play ping pong with me.”
I must say that my impression of him those first couple nights was not really a good representation of who he really was. But you know how impressions are—they are nothing but associations. I saw a guy with a full-on beard & mustache, who was twenty-five years old and not a student (never was a student), who worked construction (working with his hands), and had recently got back from a “high-tech” sounding job where he traveled a lot and worked out of Colorado (the place of “high-tech” jobs.) None of this is untrue but my impression of what this meant was completely off and looking back on it, completely ridiculous. But what did I know? I was a college student who had been a college student for all of my adult life and therefore knew and hung out with people who were hometown college students...... At any rate it didn't take long for these impressions to melt away as I got to really spend time with him and learn about him. He worked fast. The next evening he called me and asked if I wanted to play ping pong. I said “Okay.” So he came over.
He walked in that Friday and I didn't even give him the chance to say hello. I didn't say hi to him. The very first thing I said to him was , “Hey you're a guy! Would you do me a favor and change a light bulb?” I put him to work the second he walked in the door. I kind of thought that was rude of me when I thought about it later but that's only because I really didn't know him. If it had been another of my male friends I wouldn't have given it a second thought but it seemed like kind of a rude greeting for someone I just met. But he was a good sport and changed the light bulbs before we headed out to the garage for a match of ping pong. The nice thing about our nights of ping pong was that it gave us something to do to take away any potential awkwardness but it also allowed us the opportunity to talk and find out more about each other. One of the “ping pong conversations” that I remember most clearly was the one where I asked about his family. I remember him telling me about his parents and his grandma and his sister. The exchange about his sister is the most clear in my mind of any of it. One statement in particular stood out in my mind. He was telling me that she was married and had three children and I remember him saying something about how they “always thought that we'd be raising children together but it looks like I have some catching up to do.”
It wasn't long before Russ was no longer bound to play ping pong when he came over. One evening he came over to play and my friends and I were sitting around the table in conversation. I was nibbling on my sunflower seeds and was in no hurry to disrupt the mood of the group so when Russ arrived he just joined the conversation and ping pong was laid aside that evening. He, ***** and I ended up going to the basement to watch a Veggietales video. This sort of evening became the norm. One late night Russ took us out for pizza. Another day we'd just all sit around and laugh. Russ became one of our regular visitors. He made us dinner several times. He brought his DVD player in one night and a group of us watch Lord of the Rings. He was our friend."
(A photo of Russ before we started dating: Oct 2002)