Our Romance

"Dave and I met at my boyfriend's house."

Yes...that's my favorite opening line when people ask how we got together! Dave was interning at my home church, but I was away at university, so we didn't run into each other often. I heard about him, a student from Multnomah School of the Bible, and he heard about me, a student at Eastern Washington University. But the first time we actually talked was across the table from each other during a lunch at my boyfriend's parent's house.

Fast forward a couple of years. I graduated from EWU and was in my first teaching job - a full time "sub" for a teacher who got sick in January and couldn't finish out the school year. I'd just been to KC '83 (a Campus Crusade event for college students) in December and had been challenged to missions while there.

My dear friend, Michelle, had made a point of finding Dave while we were at KC '83 to ask if there were any summer openings with Malachi, the singing evangelism team that he led in Germany ministering to American military dependents (through the mission organization OCSC, today called Cadence International).

When he said auditions were finished, she wouldn't take no for an answer and persuaded him to let me do an audition. Good thing he let himself be persuaded! :)

After auditioning (with Dave Schroeder, the man who would later marry Dave's sister and end up being my brother-in-law!), I got a call from Dave P. in February 1984, offering me a place on the team that summer. I said yes, and that put into motion some life changes for me.

I spent that summer sharing Christ with young people on military bases in Germany and Spain, but was probably more impacted myself than they were. There is nothing like a summer mission's trip on a small team of four (with Dave as my leader) to purify and change you. The Lord did a lot of work on me, which was both hard and good.

While we were in Spain for a week at the naval base in Rota, the OCSC missionary couple there asked if I would be interested in coming to spend a year teaching their seven year old son. I remember Bill, the husband, asking me, "Do you have any good reason why you WOULDN'T come and do this?" That gave me pause for thought. I really didn't have one.

I called home and talked to my parents, talked with my Malachi teammates, and spent time in prayer that week asking the Lord if this was something He had for me. At the end of the week, I said yes to Him...and yes to teaching!

A month later, after finishing my time with Malachi Singers, I flew home (on my 23rd birthday!) for two weeks to pack things for a year, and headed back to Spain to start a new chapter of life.

It ended up that there were three kids in my "school" that year. Morgan, a first grader, Jeffrey in 2nd grade, and Kristen in 6th. Their parents rented a summer cottage at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Rota Bay, and we opened the school year in September.

That was a blessed year...and one of the most difficult of my life. I was teaching full time in a foreign country, living alone, there were not many women on the naval base thus I had few friends, and I broke up with my boyfriend in November. On top of that, the Christmas package that my mom and dad sent never arrived for Christmas...it came on Valentine's Day, complete with a little Christmas tree in the package! But it meant a very lonely first Christmas away from home.

In January, the annual Bible conference for OCSC missionaries was happening in Beatenberg, Switzerland. I flew to Germany to meet up with some of the Malachi workers and drove down to the Bibelheim for conference.

It was a happy reunion with friends that I'd grown close to over the summer, and I was more than happy to pour my heart out and share with them all that God was doing in me while in Spain.


The first night of the conference, Dave asked if I'd like to meet after the evening program so we could catch up. I have to admit...I had some feelings for him, but I didn't think he had any for me so freely shared as a sister would with a brother!

After the evening program the very next night, Dave came to me asking if I wanted to talk again. But this time there was a difference in how he asked me...it wasn't the brother asking, I could tell (that woman's intuition kicking in, I guess!).

We met in the tea room at the Bibelheim, and it was SO awkward! For months we'd been talking freely and yet now, we could both hardly get a word out. It was so funny...in hindsight, but not at the time!

He finally told me he was interested in "getting to know me better"...famous last words that we've quoted for years now! But it was the beginning of our romance, and there were never any sweeter words at the time!

Our first date was on a 10 km sled run...on the same sled! When he asked if I wanted to go, I assumed we'd be on separate sleds. But no! Not so! When we told our middle son, Caleb, this story recently he said, "That was a great idea for a first date, dad! I think I'll use it!" And it WAS a great first date, sitting close together on the sled, letting him lead us down the long and winding sled run. I learned a lot that very first afternoon...it's better to trust and let him lead than stick my feet out and try to help!

Over the next two years, we dated - mostly long distance. That first date was in Switzerland, our next two were in Spain, another one in Denver, the next in Portland, Oregon and finally regular dates in Heidelberg, Germany. And that covers 18 month's time!

I went to the grad program at Multnomah School of the Bible in '85-86, while Dave was in Germany leading Malachi Ministries. We had bumps along the way (I broke up with him by cassette tape...some days he threatens to get that tape out again for us to listen to...OUCH!) but we grew in our admiration, appreciation and love for each other as the year went by, and in September 1986, I moved to Germany as a full time missionary with OCSC.

Originally the plan was to place me in a military community where I'd be working with youth. But there was a need for a soprano to fill a spot on the Malachi singing team for the fall so Dave deferred my placement in a community, and I spent the fall doing discipleship groups, concerts, seminars and week-end retreats...and dating Dave on Monday nights, our one common day off a week!

By that fall I was sure I wanted to marry him. Well...actually...I was sure I wanted to marry him back in Beatenberg, to tell you the truth! But by this time, nearly two years later, I was POSITIVE I wanted to marry him.

Dave, on the other hand, was not saying a word about marriage. To my dismay.

As December approached, I began to think, "AHHH...he'll propose at Christmas! That's why he's not saying anything! Of course! Perfect timing!"

Jerri, my roommate and Malachi singer teammate at the time, and I had a code word for the ring...we called it a "sweater".

"What color 'sweater' do you think you'll be getting" or "I sure can't wait to get that 'sweater'" were common phrases around our apartment. I was convinced that he'd be proposing Christmas Day, at his parents house, in front of the whole Malachi staff!

Christmas Day arrived...I dressed nicely...I sat through all the gifts...waiting for one from Dave...when finally...he handed me the box...a beautifully wrapped Benetton box...with lots of tissue paper...and...a...beautiful...pink...sweater...inside.

DISAPPOINTMENT!!!

I know he saw the disappointment on my face. How could I hide it? If he didn't propose at Christmas...when would he???

A month went by. A long, discouraging, sad, disappointing month.

By this time I was done with my Malachi Singer's commitment. Dave asked if I'd help him out in Karlsruhe where he was working with the youth group. He said it was temporary...until he secured my own community to work in. I began to wonder if he'd ever propose, even though we were still going out on dates and growing in our relationship.

The kids in the youth group tried to help us out...they were totally on my side and wondering what was going on with their fearless youth leader who wasn't proposing to this girl he'd brought into youth group! They even set up an evening with all the necessary props to make a proposal happen!

But it didn't. And I began to wonder how much longer I could keep going like this.

Towards the middle of January it was time for the annual Bible conference in Beatenberg again. First there was a week of conference with military people, then a week for the OCSC staff. I joined the conference in time for that week and sat through days of meetings with my head and heart somewhere else. Dave seemed preoccupied and busy at the conference, and we didn't spend much time together.

On the last day of the conference, during one of the sessions, a remark was made that I'll never forget. I have no idea what the context was...it probably had something to do with Dave leading Malachi and plans for the future. But what I remember was the comment, "And poor Connie...it seems she is romancing the stone".

That reference to the 1984 movie of the same name, was the last straw for me!

I excused myself from the meeting and rushed out of the room, hurrying down the stairs with tears in my eyes.

Dave was close behind me, and at the bottom of the stairs, as we were both rushing for the door, one of the dear older missionary women coming in the door remarked, "Aren't you two the cutest lovebirds!"

I wanted to yell, "WE ARE NOT LOVEBIRDS ANYMORE!!!" Honestly...I was done. I couldn't hold on any longer and just wanted to go bury myself in the feather comforters that the Bibelheim was (and maybe still is!) famous for.

Making it to my door before Dave did, I closed and locked the door behind me, just before he made it and stood there knocking and asking if he could come in.

"No. I don't want to talk to you. I just want to be alone."

"Could we go have lunch together...maybe talk a little...just get away by ourselves?"

"NO. I really don't want to talk anymore."

"Please??? Come out and just walk with me down to the little restaurant where we had hot chocolate the other day. No one else will be there...everyone will be here having lunch. Please?"

Long pause as I stood on the other side of the door.

"Okay. But not for very long. I really don't want to talk."

With that I opened the door, and we headed for the restaurant before anyone else could see us as I couldn't endure any more comments about the two of us.

I remember so clearly, sitting in that sweet Swiss restaurant, across the table from the man I wanted to marry. Yet thinking that it was never going to happen. Before I lost my courage I blurted out, "Dave, I can't take this any longer. I want to break up."

Silence. Then his hands reached across the table to hold mine and he said, "You know, this is probably not a good time to make that kind of a decision. We're in a bit of a fishbowl here so life just isn't normal. Why don't you hold off on that and let's just go out for dinner tomorrow night with no one else around. We'll just relax and we don't have to talk about anything hard...just have a nice time together. I know I haven't been very present here and I'm sorry about that. I'll give you all my attention tomorrow night if you'll go with me."

Sigh. "Okay. If you say so. Yes, we can go out for dinner. And I really don't want to talk about anything hard, okay?"

The rest of that day and the next are just blurs in terms of activity. I only remember my swirling emotions.

"I love this man...but I can't take this indefinite period of waiting anymore. What if he wants to wait two more years before he asks me to marry him? Can I wait that long? NO!!! I don't think I can do this any longer."

By the time he came to pick me up from my hotel room in the Bibelheim, I'd determined that I'd be nice to him and put no pressure on him that evening and the rest of the time we were at the conference. But after that! When we got home...we were going to talk!!!

We drove across the valley, through Interlaken (one of the cutest cities in Switzerland...along with Beatenberg as the cutest village!) and over to Lauterbrunnen. After parking the car, we took the cog train up to Murren, a village perched on the side of the Jungrau mountain. In this quaint, snowy village, a horse drawn sleigh met us as we came out of the train station (there are no motorized vehicles in the village). Dave motioned for me to wait while he approached the driver and asked if we could have a ride around town.

The driver said yes, and we climbed into the sleigh, wrapping warmed blankets around us as the horse softly whinnied and took off at a slow trot through town.

Magical. Breathtaking. Serene. Peaceful. Finally, it was the perfect chance to let down and relax after the tensions of the past week...okay, the past months! I snuggled into Dave and thought, "Okay...he's not such a bad guy after all!"

We pulled up in front of the beautiful Hotel Alpenruh as Dave asked, "Would this be an okay place to have dinner?"

It was enchanting and the perfect place to have our peaceful dinner.

When we walked in, the waitress showed us to our table immediately, which surprised me since the restaurant was full. But when we arrived at our table, I had an even bigger surprise. "Patty" was written on a placard. They'd been waiting for us!

With a little grin, Dave explained that he'd called ahead and made a reservation - and in fact, he'd arranged for the horse drawn sleigh too. That definitely put some points in the bank for him at that point!

We had a truly delightful dinner after that. We talked, but not about us...just about life, the Lord, ministry, our friends. I actually relaxed and enjoyed it.

After a wonderful Swiss meal, the waitress brought the menu for dessert.

"Oh no...I won't be having any tonight, thank you," I said as I handed her back the menu.

I remember Dave actually took it out of the bewildered waitresses hands and put it in mine and said, "Well, why don't you just LOOK to see if there is anything you'd like."

It was honestly, at that moment that I realized something was happening.

Dave actually opened the menu for me and inside were sheaths of delicate blue paper, with the words, "To My Sweetheart - January 23, 1987" written on the front cover.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

My breath caught and I was speechless. I remember just looking at him wide-eyed as he asked, "Can I read it to you?"

I handed it over to him with trembling hands and then listened as he read pages of a poem he'd written (that he'd been hard at work, writing and re-writing during the week of the conference!).

He finished with the words, "Will you marry me?" just as the waitress brought a silver domed tray over and opened it to display a spray of roses with a sparkling diamond ring perfectly centered among them.

I don't know how long I sat there with my mouth open...with nothing to say! I was completely and utterly surprised by this!

Dave says he asked me the question a couple times before I finally answered a faint, but happy "YES", still stunned by what had just taken place!

The restaurant full of people erupted in applause (I wasn't even aware there was one single soul in the restaurant while this was going on) and the waitress brought dessert over for us to celebrate. It was one of the greatest moments in my life!

For the next several hours we talked...and talked...and talked. About all the things that we'd previously NOT talked about! "When do you want to get married? What kind of wedding do you want? How many kids do you want to have? What do you want to do the rest of our lives?!" 

After deciding that we wanted to get married within two months (why wait??!!) a funny moment occurred when he asked me how hard it would be to find a wedding dress in that short of time.

"Um...well...I have a little confession to make," I said biting my lip as I talked.

"You remember when I lived in Spain? Well...um...one day I was walking in Cadiz and I saw a dress in a window. It was...well...everything I always wanted in a dress. And it was a really good price! I talked it all over with Jeannette (the OCSC missionary) and she said if I was willing to wear it for anyone, and not just for you, that it'd be okay if I bought it, even though I wasn't engaged. But I always hoped that I'd get to wear it for you! Do you mind that I already have my dress????"

That's always been one of our favorite parts of the story! He laughed and nodded yes, that he was glad I was going to wear it for him and then said in astonishment, "You were really thinking about marrying me all the way back then???"

"Yes...I'm a VERY patient woman!!!"

We did indeed plan a wedding within two months time, despite me going to full time German language school, and Dave coming down with Hepatitis. We even wrote almost all the music for our wedding!

On March 28th, 1987, in the beautiful Protestant cathedral in Speyer, Germany, we were married, with all of our family and friends there to celebrate with us.


To Dave's credit, he'd been planning our engagement for months. He wanted it to be something memorable, that I would never forget...and that would forever remind me of how much he loved me.

He'd bought the ring nearly three months earlier, but exercised great patience in waiting until we were in Switzerland to propose! That afternoon in the restaurant when I told him I wanted to break up, was one of the hardest moments for him, as you can imagine. He said in that split second before he responded, he weighed the possibility of proposing right there. But then chose to wait for the very next night, when everything was already planned, so that I'd know the lengths he'd gone to as an expression of his love.

I have told our story literally hundreds of times, and every time I do, it is with a fresh appreciation for his extreme thoughtfulness in planning such a romantic and perfect proposal. I am so glad that HE is a patient man!

As of today, we've been happily married for 30 years and I can honestly say...it was worth the wait!!


He is the love of my life!

8 comments:

  1. This makes me happy. Perfect in every way. :)

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  2. Connie - what a wonderful story. I never knew the details, just that all of us knew that you two were meant to be together. Thank you for sharing!

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  3. Connie, this is truly a romantic story ... one of the sweetest ones I've ever heard in my life ... and the story goes on ...thanks for sharing!!!

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  4. Connie,

    Erica Davis just passed on this blog as I was telling her about how I am having such a hard time waiting for my boyfriend to propose. Thank you so much for taking time to write this out. It definitely made me cry because I could relate so much to how you were feeling when you told him you wanted to break up. I am feeling that way now. However I am so encouraged to keep waiting a bit longer and then perhaps having a bigger talk. It makes me happy to see that Dave had really been planing for months as well. I love you and Dave and tho you may not remember me I've served several time with Josiah Venture in Czech and my time there has forever changed my life. I know that Dave often thinks through and plans things out with great thoughtfulness and my boyfriend is the same in that respect. So anyway thanks again for sharing this story. It was exactly what I needed to read tonight. I will let you know how my story turns out as well.

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  5. What a beautiful story Connie, and the picture of the two of you seals it, so lovely!

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  6. Connie, I was spellbound as I read your love story! So beautiful!

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  8. Dear Connie & Dave,
    Today is June 9, 2014. Carol and I just finished reading together, for the first time, the lovely story of your romance leading to your marriage in 1987. The Lord has truly blessed your lives and ministry as He led you, in His own way, through all those nail-biting adventures. We have followed the Patty family's faithful ministries beginning with Dick and Margaret, OCSC, Heidelberg, Malachi, and now Josiah Venture. We feel very privileged to have had a small part in it and a box seat from which to observe God at work through the Patty family. We love to remember our visits to Czech when we visited two of the homes you've lived in and even to attend one of your English camps and experience Malenovice shortly after renovation. Carol and I loved reading your story of romance today since it reminded us of our own trek to the fulfilling marriage God gave us 62 years ago. God is so wonderfully gracious and an amazing Savior!! We love Him and we love you. God bless you and your beautiful family.
    Dave and Carol Darmstadt

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