My introduction to Kelsie Powell was unlike anything I had previously imagined. When first I heard of her, we were about as far apart geographically as it is possible for any two people to be on this planet. In early 2004, she was living in Oklahoma with her parents while I was working on a short-term missions project in Thailand.
My sister’s email description of Kelsie was glowing. The highlights included such demonstratives as “Godly”, “virtuous”, “committed”, and one that caught my particular attention: “praying to marry a missionary.” This last point addressed a major question that I had pondered for some time: what type of girl would consent to marry a missionary, knowing that she would likely spend the rest of her life in some remote country overseas? Apparently, Kelsie was just such a girl.
Further inquiry revealed that not only was Kelsie praying to marry a missionary, she had been on many mission trips herself. She had served in Taiwan and Mexico, and she was fluent in Spanish.
Due to a long-standing personal conviction, I knew that my next step was to contact Kelsie’s father, Danny. To me, it was imperative that this be accomplished without Kelsie’s knowledge. In case things did not work out, I wanted to be able to make a quiet exit without damaging her emotionally.
But there was a practical problem: I did not have the ability to make outgoing calls on my phone from Thailand. As I discussed the matter with my parents via email, we determined that the best solution would be for my father to contact Kelsie’s father.
Although I do not have a transcript of that conversation, I do remember experiencing a measure of concern as I imagined it in advance. The major components which I foresaw went something like this:
My father picks up the receiver, dials the number for the Powell household. The phone rings, and a man answers.
“Yes, may I speak with Danny Powell please?”
“This is Danny.”
“Hi Danny, my name is Mike Steele. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but my daughter Jennifer has met your daughter Kelsie. Anyway, I’m actually calling on behalf of my son Joshua. You don’t know him either. He’s a missionary to Ukraine, but he’s currently working in Thailand. He’s interested in beginning a relationship with your daughter Kelsie, whom he also doesn’t know. He wanted to contact you about this without Kelsie knowing, but he can’t make calls out of Thailand. But he can email. He would like to know if he can send you an email about starting a relationship with Kelsie.”
Who was I kidding? What father in his right mind would even listen to such an absurd request? Despite my wavering faith, it turns out God was moving after all. Danny was very much in his right mind, and he was very willing to listen. After the two fathers got off the phone, I received the go-ahead to send my introductory email.
Scarcely able to believe that this was all happening, I composed a simple message in which I introduced myself, gave a very brief explanation of my work as a missionary, and expressed my desire to “get to know Kelsie in a courtship relationship with the goal of marriage in mind should the Lord so direct.” I stressed my respect for the fact that Kelsie was his daughter, that he was her God-ordained head, and that I was ready to proceed in whatever way and at whatever pace he desired. Then I hit send and waited.
A positive reply arrived soon thereafter, and Danny and I began our correspondence.