When I was 13, I went on a mission trip to Mexico for the first time. I fell in love nearly instantly. I loved the warm, inviting nature of the culture, I loved the beautiful sound of the language and I really was touched by the bond we shared with the Mexican church members as we worked along side of them to serve the Mexican people. By the time I got home I knew that the course of my life had changed, even though I couldn’t comprehend exactly how much.
I went back the next year, and started studying Spanish. I decided that I wanted to become a doctor and would move down to Central America and work there as a missionary. I immersed myself in all things Spanish and dreamed about traveling to find the place I would settle down and begin my life.
At 16 I met a total punk at church camp. He was a 21 year old Naval Academy Midshipman, a counselor, and a total goof. I remember two things about specifically about that week at camp. The first was that every chance he got, this counselor would pick on me. One afternoon he waited for me to wake up from a nap with a super soaker squirt gun, then he drenched me. One day he shook my hand, stepped on my foot and pushed me off balance so I couldn’t help but fall backwards (he did make sure I didn’t land too hard, but still). I also remember that one of my good friends who had grown up with me (and was on the Mexico trip as well) said, “I like this Mark Stearns guy. He’s a keeper. Someone in our group has to marry him to keep him in the family.”
Two summers later this Mark Stearns and I started dating.
Mark and I in the summer of 2002, on Lake Roesiger. We had been dating for about a month at this point.