“FOR GOD SO LOVED THE WORLD, THAT HE GAVE HIS
ONLY BEGOTTEN SON, THAT WHOSOEVER BELIEVETH IN HIM
SHOULD NOT PERISH, BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE.” John 3:16
Ah, February — the LOVE month! Let’s begin
by remembering God’s great Valentine to
us: His only begotten Son, Jesus! The little love
greeting cards are soon forgotten and discarded —
but God’s Valentine is ours forever! For eternity we
will have and forever praise God’s Supreme
Valentine — praise the Lord!
I’m sure most of us could tell an exciting story
of falling in love with that special one … the
church, the flowers, the great organ booming out
the traditional “HERE COMES THE BRIDE” —
some joker added some lyrics “big, fat and wide.”
For that we do not thank him or her.
Just for fun, I thought many of our Partners,
especially new ones who have not read my latest
book, “HELLO WORLD,” would like to know
Jan’s and my story of love, courtship and marriage.
It all started at an old fashioned camp meeting
in Rapid City, South Dakota. Jan’s father, Edgar
Bethany, was one of the top officials of the
Assemblies of God and was often called upon to
preach at camp meeting services. Well, it just so
happened that I was spending the summer of 1956
with my sister Naomi and her husband, Pastor
Bernard Ridings, who pastored the local Assembly
of God church.
Ah, I shall never forget that hot summer night
in the old wooden tabernacle in Rapid City. The
smell of fresh sawdust sweetened the air, but it was
nothing compared to the sweetness that walked
down the aisle! Heads turned (especially the boys)
as a slight, beautiful angel seemed more to glide
than walk toward the front of the auditorium. Head
down — timid it seemed to me — yet the bright red
dress contrasted with the retiring, even shy,
demeanor of this stunning young lady!
“She can’t be from these parts, or I would have
surely seen her before. She can’t even be a South
Dakota girl.” My thoughts were racing, now!
“Could it be the camp meeting speaker’s
daughter? No way…she’s too…well, just too…that
red dress…but who?”
But as I watched, transfixed, she headed for the
left front of the tabernacle, up where the district
officials and dignitaries sat. I have to confess I did
not get too much out of the service that night. I’m
afraid I watched the dignitary section more than
I did the pulpit!
At the conclusion of the service, I moseyed
over to politely meet and welcome the esteemed
speaker’s wife, Sister Laurie Bethany. My real
purpose was wonderfully answered as Sister
Bethany not only thanked me for my warm
welcome, but HALLELUJAH — also introduced me to — sure enough — her stunning
daughter, Janice Wendell Bethany!
After a bit of small talk I learned, to my delight,
that she was coming that fall to my hometown of
Springfield, Missouri to attend Evangel College, the
Assemblies of God liberal arts school! BINGO! This
was it — my lucky year! But then the bad news: She
was going very steady with a young man in her hometown
of Columbus, Georgia! Oh well, maybe my
dream of going to Egypt would finally open up. My
depression deepened as I said goodnight and something
like, “Hope to see you in Springfield sometime.”
I did not know till later, but I had made a pretty
fair impression on sweet Miss Bethany that night
myself. I learned later, after telling my Egypt story,
that she had remarked to her mother, “What would you
think of my being a missionary to Egypt?”
Well, summer camp ended and it was back to
Springfield to my boring job of cleaning and sending
missions films for showing in churches. I dreamed
often of that haunting little red dress that belled out at
the bottom, gliding down the sawdust aisle, but did not
find the courage to even call the college to see if Miss
Bethany had actually made it to Springfield. After all,
she was going steady — rats!
The months passed and I caught a glimpse of Jan
from time to time. Oh, there were plenty of other girls — Ruthie the telephone switchboard operator had
a crush on me and I had a few other dates, but ah —
that dress — that red dress!
Finally, it happened. The switchboard gal rang me
one afternoon. Ruthie called me quite often for all
kinds of silly reasons, but this time I knew something
different was up! “You’ve got a call, Paul,” she said
rather caustically. “I think it’s that Jan Bethany from
I’ll always know she eavesdropped on the call,
but my heart was racing too fast for me to care!
“Hi Paul,” came the cheery voice.
“Is this the Jan Bethany?” I asked.
“Yes, and I’m calling to see if you might like to
attend our Campus Classics night this Friday — I’m,
well…” she faltered a little. “I’m singing, and
I thought you might like to join in the fun!”
Silence reigned for at least ten seconds. “Is she
asking me for a date?” My heart was really racing
now! “Well, uh, sure” I mumbled. “I can change my
plans for Friday,” I lied.
Well, folks, that was the first date of many.
I managed another the next night and the next and the
next! I don’t think we missed a single night for the
next thirty days or so. By May, at the end of the school
year, we were engaged and had even set the date:
August 25, 1957. Don’t ever accuse us Germans of
So, there you have one Valentine story that has lasted
49 years, and if you want the whole story get my book, “HELLO WORLD.” Believe me, there is much more
drama with no room in this short letter to tell it all.
I’m sure many of you could tell thousands of
Valentine stories from your life adventures. But let’s
not forget one more huge Valentine God has given
us all in the form of the largest Christian TV
network in the world — TBN! Praise the Lord
God most high! And this great worldwide Voice is
responsible for multitudes of “Valentine” stories we
will share in heaven forever! Don’t forget to send a
little extra this month as a Valentine for your TBN!
But never forget the greatest Valentine of all — our Jesus!
“For God so loved that he gave…”!