Sept 26th ENGAGEMENT PARTY! Sara and I celebrated with about 40 of our closest friends at the sumptuous home of my friend Rick Mathis on Sunday night, on the hottest day of the year! It was 114 degrees when Sara and I arrived in Riverside at 4pm. Sara pulled up in the passenger seat of her sister’s car, smiling widely and excitedly, I dropped the flat of bottled water and 3 liter soda bottles in the trunk of my mom’s car, in order to run over and give my fiancée her welcome hug! Her sister teased us as we didn’t want to let go, but the scorching September heat-wave and lots of perishable food got us unloading both cars. As Sara and Lucy and I began to unload the car, my best friend Jim and his wife Lacy, pulled up and offered to help get our party ready any way they could, so I let them go get ice, which was the next thing on my list to do before the party started. They rushed over to Stater Bros. Grocery Store, as Sara and I got things ready with Colonel Rick, my mom, and Lucy. Once the party got going at five, I was energized to see four dear friends from my MentoneTones days walk through the door. William Churchill Faulkner the Third, the MentoneTones trumpet player came in with his “groupie” whom he married, Elizabeth, and she carried their baby: Caleb. Also with them was our friend and MentoneTone’s groupie, Tawny, who faithfully came to our shows with Elizabeth. I was excited to see them, and behind them came another surprise, MentoneTones Trombone Player, and Broadway Actor: Dustin Ceithammer! It had been too many months since I had seen Dustin, my fellow actor from LifeHouse Theatre and my old buddy from high school. It was so nice throwing a party, why didn’t we throw parties more often? I guess living in Spain and having no American home of my own limits how many parties I can throw! Before I could process how great it was for Sara to meet these people, in came more friends, and more friends. Sara’s friends Nancy and Bianca came in, super excited for Sara and our engagement. Then came their parents who I got to visit with a few weeks before: Kathy and Armando, and also Nancy’s brother and his family came too! Then came Harry and Caty Mozell through the door, from my shul: Shuvah Yisrael Messianic Jewish Congregation. I got to be Cantor in their wedding in 2009, and now it was my turn to get married! Then, from my other congregation, Fuente de Vida, came my pastor and his wife, Alfredo and Erendina Rodriguez, and their daughter “LaLa”, who are from Baja California, like my Sara is. Also from Fuente came Steve & Theresa. I had Pastor Alfredo pray for our food and the party, he prayed in Spanish and then English, which was a nice Hispanic touch. In came more friends, some I didn’t know, since they were Sara’s friends who I hadn’t met before. I was excited to see Jose Ramirez, who is my friend who got me substitute teaching for him at Jurupa Middle School. It’s now been 7 years since I first subbed for him, and only a year since my last time subbing for him. Also there were my youth pastor’s, Rick and Susie, so they all got to visit with Jim and Lacy and Jose, which was nice, seeing old friends get to visit. My Basque friend, Janice Ulibarri, came with her fiancé. She came to visit my mom and I in our work in Navarra in 2008. And Sara’s brother, Salomon and his girlfriend Kristen also came. I was so happy that the Colonel’s stately long dining room table filled up, and that after all the visiting with so many friends, I got to sit down by my Sara and enjoy the dinner with the love of my life. Jim and Lacy made a tremendous video of when I proposed to Sara on the Wrigley Tower towering over Avalon and overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Everyone clapped when they saw my proposal to Sara on Catalina Island. When the video portion was over, a slide show set to the music: “Santa Catalina: The Island of Romance” began, and I lifted Sara to start dancing. We enjoyed a first dance in front of all of our friends and they clapped for us when it was over! While we were slow dancing, Sara Jean was peeking interested eyes over my shoulder to see how she and I turned out in the slide show. Lacy and Jim captured fantastic photos of Sara, gleaming with her engagement ring freshly placed on her finger. Sara came out lovely, with the Ocean breeze in her hair, and her smile contagious, in the photos of us on various corners of “The Isle of Romance”, obviously “oozing love for each other” -as one person put it.
Sara and I finished our slow dance to applause and soon after we invited all to gather for the cutting of the Engagement Cake, which was very fun! Sara’s best friend Nancy made us a stunning cake, it was so pretty, that I was afraid to cut it with a knife. Sara and I had fun cutting the pieces of cake and handing them out, and our eyes would meet as we worked together, and we were very in love. How lovely Sara was at our party, tall and gorgeous in her black and white dress. We also enjoyed taking pictures with old friends, like our friends Johnny and Scarlet, and with Dustin from The MentoneTones, with Rick and Susie, and with Sara’s friends. My mother had fun too, visiting with old friends around the stately dining room. As the night petered out, I saw we still had tons of food. Our party people weren’t that hungry? Or we just had lots to go around. Sara and I had tons of drinks from Smart-N-Final, and dips, and coffee, and lemon cookies, and people brought like 5 cakes. We had hamburgers and hotdogs and the best BBQ Baked beans I have ever had. They are a master-piece by Rick. He puts in things like Molasses and brown sugar and BBQ sauce to make these stunning “dessert beans”. Boy, were they yummy! By the end of the party, guess who was still eating & protecting his plate from being thrown away, you guessed it: Sara’s Fiancé!
Only Three days later we left hot Southern California (It was 114 degrees on the 25th, a Los Angeles record!) for a conference in Utah with my TBM Board, then on flying back to San Diego, packed the car and rushed down to Mexico for the weekend.
September 28th I packed my bags for the Tentmakers Bible Mission Field Council, loaded the truck loaned to me by my friends the Richter’s, and drove to Sara’s house in San Diego. Once at Sara’s house we got ready for back-to-back trips. We were flying out to Salt Lake City that afternoon. Her brother, Salomon, drove us to nearby San Diego Int’l Airport. Sara and I hadn’t had lunch yet, so after we checked our bags and got through security and to our gate, we took time to sit down and eat. I got a French Dip and Sara got Deluxe Nachos. Sara and I agreed that the nachos made us a little sick. During our layover in Las Vegas we jokingly looked for a wedding chapel in the terminal, to see if Elvis could preside over a quick wedding and save us lots of wedding planning stress, which was already surfacing. We found no wedding chapel in the Vegas Airport, but we did spot a wonderful chocolate shop and we got samples plus bought a couple of chocolates. That made Sara almost as happy as getting married! We got picked up by the Executive Director of TBM and his wife, and they were very warm and welcoming. They took us to the Cracker Barrel Restaurant, where I feasted on American food for one of the last times in 2010. I had Okra and Steak and wonderful biscuits, some really good soup, maybe Chicken-Pot-Pie Soup, whatever it was, was good. We drove to The Thomsons Victorian Craftsman home, called Elim House in the mountains above Salt Lake. It had a tremendous wrap-around porch. Two corners of the porch have a “front door”, the old front door has been replaced, since Ron had to rip out the old stairwell and put in a new stairwell on the other side of the first floor. Along with the stairwell, they changed the front door to the side of the house with the driveway. I stayed in the basement guestroom and I had my own bathroom, by Ron’s “War room” complete with a map of cities in Utah with no Evangelical church, cities with only one church, and cities with multiple Evangelical Churches. It reminded me of a similar map that my TBM team has on the wall here in Sevilla, of all our surrounding towns and villages with no protestant entity.
Thursday morning I woke to some talking on the first floor, so I showered and came up to visit with Ron nad Wanda and to have breakfast with them. I had a nice time showing them my most recent pictures from our TBM church-plants in Spain, and they were glad to see pictures of my sister and her family, who many of you know, is fighting Stage 4 Cancer in the Hospital de Navarra in Spain. Ron and Wanda knew the places, since they came to visit us on the field in October 2008. By 9am my Sara had come down all dressed and we had coffee (again) and I took a peek and the Octagon Room upstairs and at the neat 19th Century closet doors that made Elim House unique. We took some pictures with Ron and Wanda in front of the Coppola of Elim House before heading back to SLC for brunch with our Missionary Care Coordinator, Dr. Tharp. He had been anxious to meet my fiancée, so this was our window of time for Sara to get to know the leadership of my mission before I flew back to Spain. We had a nice long brunch with them at Ruby Tuesdays before driving down the block to check-in to our hotel for the Conference.