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  • Edwin Shank

How do courting couples meet?

An example of Bible School youth who may be from many plain communities

So, how do courting couples meet?

Good morning friends,

This post is going to be fast and breezy by necessity. It's 4:25 Friday afternoon. Saturday morning is only a few hours away, we have a supper invitation tonight, and I have procrastinated all week long, so now I'm in a self-inflicted time crunch. There are no excuses, so I will not make any.

But I have known all week which questions I wanted to address. Maybe the reason why I did not put this on front burner was because they seemed to be relatively easy questions... Oops, see what I just did there? Sigh... Excuses creep up so sneaky-like if you don't watch out for them!

First, I want to thank the many of you who wrote to affirm the simplicity and beauty of God's design for a pure courtship. Your words of affirmation mean a lot.

I wrote back to a few of you with: "I'm not sure, at times, if I should share as many details and photos as I do of our lives lest others think we are glorying in our own wisdom or the historic wisdom of our plain churches. I hope I'm coming through clear enough so any beauty or attractiveness that is seen here is not from our people's own thinking or planning or wise decisions. Because it is not. It is simply trusting obedience to the 'assembly instructions' of the Maker of it all. He deserves all the credit... and we are happy to give it to Him!"

But you have reassured us that you get it and that you are definitely giving the honor to our Father in heaven and His principles in scripture. Thank you. If I ever feel otherwise, I'll be hesitant to share.

So here is one lady's follow-up email and questions to last week's post called Courtship Among us Plain Folk.

“This is beautiful... and I so enjoyed reading about the courtship of your daughter and her husband! To God be the glory!

I have one question, and maybe you can address it in a future post... how did the two of them meet, when Laverne lived in Chester County? Do plain folk meet up regularly with other plain folk from other regions or areas? Or did someone who happened to know the two of them think... hey... I'd love to introduce Laverne to Gwendolyn... I think they'd really make a good match? I guess a broader question would be... how do young people even become aware of potential courtship matches? I'm guessing all the ways we'd think... church, community gatherings, etc. But is there much "mixing" between plain folk communities?

Have a blessed day and thank you for sharing! – Amanda”

So, let's tackle this "one question."

You know, Amanda... this looks like a bit more than one question! :) More like four or five! But no worries, I know what you meant. It's one basic question.

I did take the liberty to rework Amanda's questions into four basic ones and rearrange them for clarity in answering below. I hope I did them justice. Some of these questions are close, so I’ll try not to overlap too much.

“How did the two of them meet, since Laverne lived in Chester County and Gwendolyn in Franklin County, a little over 2 hours away?”

Laverne and Gwendolyn met at a three-week term of Bible School for youth. I say they met because that is where Laverne first learned that there was a girl named Gwendolyn Shank and he was apparently favorably impressed. She did not know that he had his eye on her and the two of them did not really talk much at all during the term except maybe in a group. But he did not forget her. Around a year and a half later he called me to ask permission to court my daughter. And the rest now is history... happy history.

“Did someone who happened to know the two of them think…hey…I’d love to introduce Laverne to Gwendolyn…I think they’d really make a good match?”

No, with Laverne and Gwendolyn, there was no ‘help from friends’ to get introduced or connected. It was just a case of Laverne noticing her, praying about it and feeling like it was God’s will that he ask about her to see if possibly she would also have interest.

I think the bigger question here might be, "Is there sometimes match-making among the plain people?" Do friends of the two sometimes say “you know, you two would go well together, you’d make a good match... maybe you should think about this.”

The answer to this 'match-making question' is that sometimes there is a bit of that. Maybe especially if the two singles are getting on the older side of what is considered community norms for courtship. Let’s say a young man is into his mid to upper twenties and is not courting, there is a likelihood that he may get some suggestions from family and friends of who they may think would make a good match.

And maybe if the family and friends also know the young lady in question, they might ask her in an offhanded way sometime what she thinks of this young fellow. If they discover that she does already in fact think highly of this young man, they may relay that to him as a means of encouragement that if he were to ask her, he'd likely get a yes.

It's hard to say how much of this type of match making goes on in plain circles. It does of course happen to a degree, but I’d say that it’s not really that prominent. Most girls, I think, would like the assurance that the fellow asking after them was truly attracted to them, had sought the Lord’s will and had pursued them on his own initiative rather than being picked out by his friends.

Since the scripture does place a lot of emphasis on the Lord’s leading and being in the center of God’s will, it there is too much human help in getting the relationship started, either of the two could end up wondering if, in fact, they were led together by the Lord or if they were possibly running ahead of God’s leading with their own personal, natural human desire to find someone... anyone! Courtship and marriage are serious enough among us that if there are questions if this relationship is God’s will or just their will as a couple, it can cause some difficulty and doubt in the relationship.

For that reason, I’d say that ‘match making’ is not really very common among the plain folks. At least not the churches which we are most familiar with. The much-preferred method would be to let it up to the couple and the leading of the Lord through circumstances orchestrated by Him alone.

"Do plain folk meet up regularly with other plain folk from other regions or areas? Is there much “mixing” between plain folk communities? Or how do plain young people usually become aware of potential courtship matches?"

Yes, there is a lot of 'mixing' between plain communities and yes, plain folks regularly do meet up with plain folks from other areas. Our people do a lot of long distance traveling to community and church activities. Bible schools, weddings, family gatherings, workdays, singings, friends' gatherings, mission conferences, disaster relief trips, schoolteachers' meetings, church choruses and singing groups, school teaching in other church schools, youth voluntary service, church planting mission work in other countries... We do meet people from literally all over.

It is not unusual, for example, for the students at any one term of the Bible schools of which I had spoken earlier, to be from 20 or more different states and maybe four or five countries.

This intermingling of plain community young folks is likely why, of our first two sons married, Rodrick’s wife was from Guatemala and Winfred’s wife was from British Columbia, Canada. We used to joke with Wesley, as the third son, that since Rodrick went 3000 miles south and Winfred went 3000 miles north that he was going to have to go 3000 miles east or west for a wife. That could be like Ghana Africa or west coast USA. And yes, we do know plain people from both of those areas too.

Wesley thanked us, but also informed us politely that we could not help. :)

This is probably one of the most misunderstood factors of plain people.

Those who are not a part of our churches, looking on from a distance, often may think that we do not get around much nor know many people outside of our 'small, limited, narrow world.' And because most of our social circle is also plain people, we ourselves may not be aware how our rich circle of friends and acquaintances and family differs from those outside our faith.

One of my best friends, John Sempowski, grew up Catholic. Before he joined the Mennonite church a little over 25 years ago, he tells me that his impression always was that plain folks had a narrow, constricted social life. Now he says "Wow! You folks know people and have connections and a web of support and fellowship from all over the world!"

We just ponder and say, "Yes, I guess we do." Probably more than we even realize until someone like John points it out. The unity of the Spirit and the bond of peace and the oneness of the brotherhood of faith* is a rich blessing that we need to be reminded of lest we take it for granted.

Blessings to each of you this week!

Your Mennonite Christian friend,

Edwin Shank

* "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all." ~ Ephesians 4:2-6


Song of the Week Since Christian courtship is the foundation of the Christian home, I thought this impromptu-sounding family song is fitting. I especially like to hear the sweet childish voices.

NOTE: I'm sorry, folks. Because of my procrastination, I didn't have time left to post a new song. But I am going to let this one here since it still fits the subject very well for this week too. I'll try to do better next week! :)

Click on the title to hear the song:

Lord, give us Christian homes! Homes where the Bible is loved and taught, Homes where the Master's will is sought, Homes crowned with beauty thy love hath wrought; Lord, give us Christian homes; Lord, give us Christian homes! Lord, give us Christian homes! Homes where the father is true and strong, Homes that are free from the blight of wrong, Homes that are joyous with love and song; Lord, give us Christian homes; Lord, give us Christian homes! Lord, give us Christian homes! Homes where the mother, in queenly quest, Strives to show others Thy way is best, Homes where the Lord is an honored guest; Lord, give us Christian homes; Lord, give us Christian homes! Lord, give us Christian homes! Homes where the children are led to know, Christ in His beauty who loves them so, Homes where the altar fires burn and glow; Lord, give us Christian homes; Lord, give us Christian homes!

For maximum worship experience, read and contemplate on the lyrics while listening. Just let the message sink into your heart. Sing along if you wish. Remember... it's only the message of the words that feeds the soul!


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