Our Love Story

It all started around November of 2014, I was working as a chef at a fine dining restaurant. I was LOVING every moment of it, but then business got slow in the winter and there wasn’t as much hours. For a while I contemplated my next move-I was young, single, and asking God what He wanted me to do.

Really out of no where, I thought it would be amazing to travel and volunteer while I could. I had friends who were doctors and visited Kenya every year, so I thought “why not?”. I fund raised and just a few months later I was on a plane to Kenya.

From March until May of 2015 I found myself loving the rugged dirt roads, the cheerful children, the environment, the food, and the culture of Kenya. There were scary moments (almost getting arrested, Typhoid fever, not knowing what I was doing), but alongside me was Fred. Fred worked with the organization I was volunteering with. He had been there for a few years and helped the Americans get around, translated, and organized projects.

We became close friends while spending every day together. We stirred porridge (breakfast for school children in a slum) for what seemed like hours, just chatting and telling each other about our lives. After a while, I realized how tender hearted and kind he was, and how everyone laughed in his presence.

One day that really stands out to me was when we were in Kibera which is one of the largest slums in Africa and can be dangerous. A drunk man came up to me and was getting a little too close. Fred stepped in between us, put his hands on the man’s shoulders, and firmly talked to him, all with a smile on his face. After the man staggered away, I asked Fred what he said. Fred said “oh I just politely asked him to leave the nice lady alone”. I felt protected and cared for, and later found myself sharing with my parents all about my good friend Fred who had my back.

Fast forward to the last few weeks of my trip. At this point I was more sad to leave than to go home. Fred and I were texting late into the night, I was telling my friends I had a tiny crush, and so on. One day I thought “enough is enough. either he likes me or he doesn’t and I’m not about to get my heart led on”. So I asked Fred to go out to coffee. Before this, we were mostly in group settings and I think he was a little surprised and shy! haha

We went to the coffee shop after church, and after chatting a while with bricks in my stomach, I got the courage to straight up ask him.

“Fred-do you like me as more than a friend or not? Because I feel like I might get my heart broken.”

He said (and I quote) “Well, I don’t hate you!”

I was shook. I tried not to cry and thought about standing up and walking away. After a bit he chuckled nervously and said “What I mean is, I SEE you”. He later explained this was our version of “I like-like you”. We both kind of sat there grinning, he shyly took my hand, and told me he has never felt like this about anyone. He told me I had a loving heart, a heart after God, and one he wanted to love and pursue. He let me know that he wanted to date me, but that he wanted to date me with the purpose of someday marrying me….

Mind you, I was pretty nervous being Fred was my first official boyfriend. We started off our courtship by me getting typhoid fever. There was also a terrorist attack a few hours away at the same time, and my friends at home were definitely concerned. But I wasn’t leaving for anything. For the time I was sick Fred watched all three “Taken” movies with me. He would visit and stay late. The thing is-dating between staff and volunteers was strictly prohibited so we had to be a little sneaky about our “friendship”.

Our first date was at a baby elephant orphanage (SWOON), and we held hands for the first time. Once we were home and watching a movie, Fred looked over at me and said “I love you”.

I was instantly FREAKED OUT and said “…I know”. He said it twice more and each time I said (lamely) “I know”. What a dweeb! I just wasn’t quite ready since I thought it was crazy we were only together for about two weeks at this point. But as I gave it up to the Lord, my fears were erased. The next day he brought me chocolate, which was hard to come by in Kenya, and I brought him my heart.

We frequently visited a baby orphanage where we had to put on these lovely floral aprons. Seeing Fred, in an apron, cooing at the babies, I was a goner. Pretty sure that was the day I told my mom and aunt “I’m definitely marrying this guy”.

It was time to leave, and I don’t think either of us cried quite so much. I left the end of May and we dated long distance for a few months. He would wake up at 4 AM to talk to me before work, and I would stay up until midnight to say good night. Through the distance Fred was still so amazing at protecting my heart. He encouraged me, prayed with me, and pursued me.

We started talking about forever. A lot of people thought we were crazy, some said I was too young, or that we didn’t know that we wanted to be together forever. But we did!

By November I was flying back to Kenya for just a few weeks. I left with a ring on my hand. We started the wedding planning process, but more than that we started the pain staking process of obtaining Fred’s visa. It was lots of paperwork, and fees, and stress, and more proof that we were legitimately in love.

We were waiting for the visa to be approved, and the plan was to have Fred come in April of 2016 and get married in June (just 15 months after we met). I bought the ticket for Fred to come to the U.S. and we waited. And waited. And waited.

Two days before his flight was supposed to leave and I was PANICKING. I made a dumb choice and I was about to loose money on a plane ticket. All of our families were praying on our knees. 24 hours later-I found out his visa was approved. Just in time for him to go home, pack up, get to the airport, and to say good-bye to his family and friends. For real?! So cool.

Some ask me how I knew he wasn’t just in it for a green card. Many reasons, but one is early on in our friendship Fred told me he had no desire to go to America and he meant it. Even his boss said (once we were dating) “Fred never looks at the missionary girls when they come, even though they all threw themselves at him. But he looks at you. You’re the only one that has grabbed his eye”. How could someone who loves his family, friends, and country this much, leave to America for a plastic card?

As one of my friends said “that’s true freaking love, man”. And it is.

Fred’s flight arrived in America, we got his first burger and made out in the parking lot at 1 AM until someone pulled up beside us lol. It was great to have him at my home, and everything new experience was so fun. First time at the movie theater! First funnel cake, first time pumping gas, first road trip, first car, first time camping, first smore. The list goes on.

Our wedding was small with 72 in attendance. His good friends flew in from Colorado and from Hershey to be on his side that day. It was the most perfect day, but I’ll share the details for another post.

We tried to prepare for the marriage more than the wedding day. I was so excited to marry Fred, but I knew it was going to be more hard work than one day in a pretty dress. It was a day to unite our souls, a day where we became one, a day where God planned to put us together. And it was a tough first year, folks. We found out we didn’t really know each other that well (how could you after only a few months dating long distance haha). And we had to learn how to make God the center. We had to push our selfishness down.

Plus there was the cultural differences. Fred hates mac n cheese because they don’t eat a lot of dairy in Kenya. I live on a dairy farm so basically every time I made had dairy in it. Fred was home sick, and I wanted him to stop being homesick. Selfish, I know. I wanted to do newlywed things and go on adventures! Fred wanted to learn his surroundings. It was a learning experience for sure.

But I can happily report we are better than ever. We are more in love than we were in on day one. Fred is amazing-he makes me strive to be my best. He is the most hard working man I know. He pushed me to start a business that is my passion. He still prays with me every night, and holds my hand. Oh, and we still visit Kenya every single year. We are running a ministry together, we’re working on being the best versions of ourselves together, and we’re enjoying every minute of it.

Thanks for following along <3

Carly Okoth1 Comment