I know that most people do a big celebration for their 25th and for their 50th while their 30th anniversary is just kind of another anniversary. Our kids did a surprise 25th party for us in 2011, just before we returned to Niger after two years in the US. And who knows where we'll be for our 50th??
We have been involved in one way or another with the International Church here in Niamey for about 29 years. Even when we were in the village, whenever we came to Niamey, that was the church we attended. And when we left our ministry there, the International Church took on partnering with the church we had started in another little village. So we thought it was only fitting that we celebrate our 30th anniversary with our church here, even though it's a year that isn't usually a big celebration.
John and I gave the church a sum of money and the ladies planned the party. :) John did ask a missionary lady to make a special cake and John made a cake to bring as well. But that's all we had to do. And I didn't even do anything!
At the end of the service we all went outside for the baptism of a girl who had been in our Bible study last year (the baptism pool is outside). Then when we came back in and when the service was over, the pastor asked everybody to stay longer. He asked how many people had been married more than 40 years? No hands. 35 years? No hands. More than 30? Only the pastor and his wife at I think they decided 33 years. Wow! Only one couple in the entire church married longer than us!!! No, we aren't fossils, we just have a really young church. The pastor who spoke today said he estimates that 80% of the church is young and not married and probably under 30 years old.
He told everybody how we met without revealing who we were, although everybody had pretty much figured it out by then (seeing how we are the only old people in the church and all!). Then we got called up to the front. The youngest married couple were called up to pray for us (apparently there's an even more recently married couple, but they weren't there).
They had a gift for us (a vase and silk flowers) and then we cut the cake. The ladies had done sandwiches, drinks, and a variety of cakes.
Afterwards we were in lots of pictures as the choir members were also taking pictures of the girl who was baptized as she had been in the choir. The Bible study group were also taking pictures since she'd been in the Bible study. So we all ended up being in the same pictures.
Later that evening, three young people from the church came to visit us. The two guys and John jammed with the guitar and piano and we had a good time. Then one of the guys left and we found out that the other guy and the girl are engaged. They started asking us some really good questions about the secret to staying married so long. We had a great evening together and it was a fun way to end the day.
Our anniversary actually wasn't last Sunday. It was on Tuesday, August 16.
Our favorite restaurant is closed on Tuesday, so we went out for dinner on Monday the 15th. This is a garden restaurant, though you can eat inside, too. I had a chicken dish served with a mushroom sauce and noodles and John had a stew with mashed potatoes. Both were perfect.
So, you may ask, what is our secret to staying married 30 years? Here's what we told our young friends:
1. Communication is key. Talk about everything.
2. Be fully committed. Never mention divorce, not even as a joke. Don't keep divorce open as an option if you're going through a rough patch. Work through the problems you're having. Get help if you need to.
3. Be quick to ask forgiveness and be quick to forgive.
4. Assume the best of the other. If they hurt you, assume they didn't do it on purpose. If they did do it on purpose, work it out immediately.
5. Don't expect your spouse to meet all your needs. Only Jesus can do that.
No, we don't have a perfect marriage. As one friend said, "Did we ever consider divorce? Never! Murder? Yes." Just kidding!!! Marriage is more hard work than romance and lovey-dovey feelings, and from day one we committed to do the hard work. Praise God, He has kept us from unfaithfulness to each other, from an abusive relationship, or from coldness in our hearts towards each other. It's only by His grace that two imperfect people can live together in a relationship of love and respect.