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  • Edwin Shank

The Only Daughter

Dawn and I have exciting news!

Our only daughter, Gwendolyn, is engaged to be married to a wonderful young man named Laverne Stoltzfus!

Laverne and Gwendolyn have been courting for over a year. When he recently asked the Big Question, Gwendolyn gave her delighted "yes!" Dawn and I and the rest of the family are delighted too. Laverne is a really nice Christian young man and we trust him completely. The wedding is planned for Saturday, November 5th. Gwendolyn tells me that is 14 long weeks away!

Here is the announcement that Laverne and Gwendolyn sent out to family and friends. Don't they look starry-eyed? :) Rodrick took the picture and our son, Wesley (15) designed the card.

Laverne grew up on their family farm in Chester County, PA. So, yes, he grew up on raw milk just like our children did. Not Jersey cow milk like Family Cow, but still raw milk. Maybe I can get him sold on Jerseys someday yet! :) Joke, joke...I think he's pretty set on his Holsteins...

Read on... for a behind-the-scenes peek into Gwendolyn and Laverne's past year of courtship.


Gwendolyn: nervous, excited... scared just a little... watching the lane for Laverne to arrive on the evening of their first date.

He's here! With an artful arrangement of roses and baby's breath for a first date gift.

Together on a relaxing family hike in the mountains a few weeks later.

Gwendolyn showing Laverne around our farm one Sunday evening.

Does he look nervous? It’s his first time at the ‘big Shank Christmas’ family gathering.

An impromptu singing with the rest of the cousins at Shank Christmas.

Surprise, Gwendolyn!

One morning, Laverne set out in the wee hours of the morning to drive the two hours to our farm to surprise Gwendolyn at 5:00 am! He called me a few days ahead and asked where Gwendolyn would be at that hour. I told him to just walk into the order packing area... she would be in there already hard at work with the rest of our family and team packing orders for pickup location customers.

So that's what he did. Everyone on the packing crew knew what he was up to except Gwendolyn. We all got a huge kick out of seeing her so surprised. :)

Gwendolyn says, "Ok, now that you're here...let me teach you how to pack orders." Laverne was like, "Hey, I don't know anything about this!"

But he soon learned... and he didn't make any mistakes either! It was actually Gwendolyn who missed 10 dozen of eggs in one mom's order that morning. We had to explain that Gwendolyn was somewhat distracted. :) Thankfully the lady was very understanding!

Reading the Bible on one of their many Sunday evenings together. Courting couples in our Mennonite faith study the Bible together and also sometimes use some other courtship and marriage study guides. It helps to give godly, character-exploring structure to their budding relationship. After all, finding a trustworthy life's companion is not a casual undertaking even though it is fun and enjoyable.

Gwendolyn and Laverne followed a book that Rodrick and Jeanette had also used and recommended. It's called "Keepsakes" and is designed to encourage courting couples to learn to know and explore the true heart of their partner. As a Christian courtship guide, Gwendolyn and Laverne highly recommend it.

One winter day, Gwendolyn went along with me on the food delivery route to Philly. This day it was her time to surprise Laverne.

After our last stop in Media, PA it was only a short 1 hour drive over to Laverne's family farm in Honey Brook, PA.

As we pulled in the farm driveway, Gwendolyn was a little nervous… And for good reason!

We weren't sure how we’d ever make it in their long farm lane with our big delivery bus without Laverne noticing. And if he would see us coming, it would spoil the surprise. Hopefully he’ll be in the back of the barn somewhere and not out front where the windows are…

Everything worked perfectly!

Laverne was in the back part of the barn doing chores getting ready for evening feeding. So, his mom (who was in on the surprise) led Gwendolyn quickly in through the front of the cow barn and around the corner right where he was working. I was not far behind with the camera!

When Gwendolyn popped around the corner, Laverne’s first words were a big, loud, surprised "HEY! Where did YOU come from!?" Gwendolyn was so tickled to get him back on the shock he gave her a few weeks prior!

What fun!

The cow closest to them has her ears cocked forward like she is saying, "What is all the noise and fuss about?" To add to the fun and surprise, I went along with Laverne's dad as he worked for the next several hours and left Gwendolyn and Laverne milk the cows together.

After they were finished with the milking, we got them to pose with one of the cows. They still both look like they are pretty delighted, don't you think? :)

Sharing the Joy!

Signing the marriage certificate as witnesses at the wedding of some of their best friends.

Playing Carrom together one family evening.

That’s it, Gwendolyn! The black is all yours!

A special memory making time for Laverne and Gwendolyn was a trip to Guatemala together. The highlight was visiting as couples with my sister's daughter, Marcela and her fiancé, Wilhelm Reinford who both live in Guatemala. Gwendolyn and Marcela have long been close friends as cousins so...add the fact that they are both dating and getting married in the same year...let's just say...they had lots and lots to talk about!

So anyway... you know how love goes! Laverne and Gwendolyn learned to know and admire each other, became best friends, and now have agreed they'd really, really like to spend the rest of their lives together! Dawn and I are so tickled for both of them... brings back lots of memories.

Dawn and I look forward to welcoming Laverne into our family. I asked Laverne if he's sure he is up to this? I told him he is going to have to do this right since he's the only son-in-law I'll ever have! He got back with a smart rejoinder that I have a lot on me too since I'll be his only dad-in-law! So I guess we are even on that one! :)

Laverne and Gwendolyn plan to live in Honey Brook, PA in a cute house just ¼ mile down the road from the Stoltzfus home farm. Laverne is looking forward to teaching Gwendolyn how to help milk his big black and white cows. And she, of course, is looking forward to learning even though they are a lot bigger and a little more scary than our little brown cows.

Which reminds me... I need to thank Laverne sometime. Ever since he started courting Gwendolyn, she has taken a very remarkable renewed interest in milking our cows too! I guess she wants to get in practice!

It's kinda nice how love works!

Blessings to all of you. Keep our family and especially Gwendolyn and Laverne in your prayers as they plan this serious step of lifelong commitment to each other.

Your Mennonite Farmer Friend,

Edwin for the Shank Family

Disclaimer: Dawn and I share this peek into our daughter’s courtship as a part of a larger post answering questions from our readers about Mennonite courtship. This photo journal of Gwendolyn and Laverne is only one example of one couple's courtship. We share this with you because their courtship is very typical of the practices and experiences of courting couples across the spectrum of plain churches. We want to make clear that, even though their courtship was naturally a special time for our family, and that comes through in the story, Dawn and I are not in any way implying that they are better or more noteworthy or more ideal than other couples. We only use their story and photos as a visual, typical real-life example of a Mennonite courtship. If there be any glory, direct it to our Father in Heaven. He wrote the operators manual with the principles outlined for Christian courtships and homes.

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