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FOR GOD SO LOVED...!   >>

“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 Georgia.”

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 being slow!

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…”!


August 25, 1957 — Paul and Jan on their wedding day.



Still Valentines after all these years!



(Paul and Jan pictured at Channel 52 in Orlando, FL). Yes, TBN is God's great Valentine to the world with 61 satellite footprints now reaching over 15,000 TV stations and cable systems around the globe with the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ!



(From 1981: Paul and Jan pictured with two “Valentines” from yesteryear, Paul and Jenny Billheimer). “Mom” and “Papa” Billheimer were great Bible teachers and early TBN programmers. The Billheimers are now with Jesus, but left a wealth of teaching materials, including our love gift to you this month, Destined to Overcome—a classic book on how to live a victorious Christian life.