March 4, 2015

A Love Story Comes Full Circle

Last night I had the great honor of being part of a beautiful ceremony, one that marked new beginnings and testified of healing and the power of love.

photo by Fatima Garcia
A few years ago, I told you of my friend and fellow missionary, Julie Kurrle, who, along with her son, went to be with the Lord in a tragic car accident. Her husband and the sweet little toddler they were in the last stages of adopting survived, and many of you have asked me over the years how they're doing. I want to share some of their story with you now, with his permission.

When I first "met" Julie, it was through the internet, and we communicated back and forth about what I should expect when our family made the move to Paraguay. She was a source of inspiration and encouragement, and when our families finally met, it was quite a happy day. She became one of those go-to friends who just "got it" and was easy to talk to, a joy to listen to. A few years later, our ministry circumstances changed and we realized we'd be living just a few miles from the Kurrles, I was so excited about the possibilities of seeing them much more often. The fatal accident happened just before we moved, so that never became a reality.

Norberto and little Anahi suffered minor physical injuries and were able to focus more on recovering emotionally, as impossible as that seemed at the time. He was transparent about that recovery, sharing on Julie's blog and on facebook about the stages of grief he was working through, about how they were surviving, about what God was doing in his heart and in their lives through the months and years that followed. It was an honest, sometimes brutally painful process, and I'm sure that his willingness to share about it helped many people.

We saw them from time to time, and I was always humbled by how much Norberto was leaning into God. How much he focused on what this meant for the future and what God wanted from him now. Sure, he had questions and hurts and he didn't shy away from expressing those to God, but he always came back to "God is good, and I trust Him." 

About a year after the accident, I attended a ladies retreat with our local church. It was bittersweet in a way, because I couldn't help but remember that the last retreat I'd attended was with Julie, and how we'd stayed up in the night giggling and telling stories with a few of the other gals. This time, one of my roommates was a lady I'd seen around but not gotten to know yet. Her name was Nancy, and we hit it off right away.

Nancy was a sweet, kind, reserved sort of person, who laughed at my jokes and seemed to want to goof off, but there was a dark cloud over her. I finally got up my nerve to ask, and she shared how she was raising her two children alone after her husband was killed in a work-related accident not too long ago. I was shocked at how much strength poured out of this tiny, quiet lady. I knew her kids from church, how helpful and kind they were. Her little girl had played the harp beautifully at a recent event, and her early-teen son was a member of the praise team, active in the youth group with my girls. I knew she was one of those moms who's super-devoted to her kids, working hard so that they can be active in their interests and pursue their talents.

After the conversations turned from tears to smiles and then to laughter, I asked her if she thought she'd ever love again. She had a little spark in her eye when she told me she was beginning to feel like one day that might be possible.

I guess I don't have to tell you what happened next, for those of you who are acquainted with my big mouth. It went a little something like this: "Nancy, I have this friend... Well, it's still too early for him, but Nancy, he's the perfect family man. He's this and he's that and he's a gentleman and he's devoted and most importantly, he is a solid man of God." After a trillion details about his life, a lightbulb clicked on above her head, and she said, "I think the pastor has told me about the same man!"

It turns out that he had. Fast forward a few months, and the pastor invited them both to dinner, where they met each other and broke the ice. It wasn't time yet, but Cupid had strung up that arrow and there were sparks in the works.

A bit later, Norberto decided to take the trip he and Julie had planned for so long, and he traveled with Anahi around the world to meet relatives from afar and visit with their loved ones. It would seem that God worked some major healing in the heart of Norberto during this time, as He was also working in the heart of Nancy. 

When Norberto and Anahi returned, he went straight to Nancy's house and made it official. He was ready. They took things slowly, working hard to blend their families and making decisions about what would be best for all of them. Nancy's two children--this beautiful, smart little Nicole, and Marcos, who had stepped up to be the man of the house in his dad's absence--got to know Anahi and Norberto as they spent time together at family get-togethers, picnics, church events, and barbecues. 

And then they showed up at The Bridge all together. They were carrying a little note with a ribbon tied through it and I knew what it meant. My friends had set the date and were ready to become one big happy family. 

I have to tell you, when I saw Nancy walk up carrying Anahi in her arms, that baby girl clinging to her and then running off to dance on the sidewalk, I felt a twinge of "This is so not fair." I was so thrilled for both of them to find love again, and especially to find it with each other, but I remembered the messages back and forth with Julie, her frustration about how long the adoption process was taking, how she wanted to finally meet the baby they'd bring home, how she longed to hold her and prayed incessantly for her. And how she never knew that all her prayers were so that another woman would raise her. 

Then I remembered that GOD DID KNOW

He wasn't surprised by any of this. He didn't go into shock when the rest of us did. He didn't wonder how things would turn out or try to wrap His head around the why's. He knew. And all those prayers my friend prayed before she ever met Anahi were being answered even in that moment. I'm positive that if it were possible that Julie were looking down at that moment, she would have been overjoyed that Nancy was there, loving her baby, loving Norberto, making their home complete again and carrying on in the ministry. I'm positive. How could I not be overjoyed, too?

I learned that these two, apart from what they'd suffered and their love for God, have a lot in common. They grew up in two different towns, just a few miles apart. Those towns are basically colonies of immigrants from populations that are not native to Paraguay, with their own distinct personalities and cultures. Both Nancy and Norberto have a handful of brothers and sisters, and both sets of families get together to sing (which we witnessed last night). Both are pastors' kids, and the list goes on of how evident God's hand in their lives was, weaving their stories together into a perfect design.

So last night, I watched these beautiful people, full of the love of the Lord and love for each other, honor their pasts as they looked forward to the future, promising to be together the rest of their lives before God and their children and their friends and relatives. Norberto was escorted in by the two daughters who looked like princesses in their royal blue gowns. A few minutes later, Nancy's proud son walked her to Norberto's side. Siblings of the bride and groom sang. Norberto's brother directed the event and Nancy's pastor, who is also a childhood friend of Norberto's, spoke about God's view of love. A photo show detailed the story and the people who had led to that moment. The bride and groom recited their original vows then repeated after the pastor as they placed on each others' fingers the rings brought forward by Anahi. It was a beautiful time of healing for so many people on both sides of the equation, a night full of tears, but this time, those that were of sadness were quickly replaced by joy. Overwhelming joy.
photo by Rocio Ginard
Congratulations, Norberto and Nancy! May God continue to use you to shine His light all over the world, and may that light warm your hearts and home as you live happily ever after.


  1. Dear Christie once again you have aptly shared with us the rest of the story for those who know and love Norberto and Esther Anahi. Without knowing what the other was doing after the accident, Norberto and I had both turned to the book of Job. The time of rejoicing has come to this family once again! In the excruciatingly painful loss of wife, son and baby on the way, Norberto has been given a wife, son, and daughter. Nancy has a husband, and new daughter and a new Church body that will love her well. And great friends like you and Pastor and Mrs. Franz who can be supportive in their Ministry. The "suddenlies" of this life are but opportunities to submitt to the plan and purposes of what God has allowed or authored. I find peace and comfort and security in that God does not make mistakes, His timing is right. He knows what is best...and though it wasn't in any of our plans to experience the separation of death, I can say to God, even if you take my most treasured relationships, I still love you. Even, if I have to adjust my dreams and desires, you will always have a better plan. It is a blessing for all who know them to realize God has been faithful in His steadfast and unfailing love to reward them in the land this side of Heaven! Norberto was thoughtful to introduce me to sweet Nancy, and Nicole via Skype. Looking forward to the day when we can meet in person. Thank you again for letting the Holy Spirit write with your hand and your heart!

  2. Thank you for your precious words, Ms. Diane. I have thought of you many times the last few weeks and prayed that God wrap his arms around you. I hope to see you again someday. :)

  3. happy for this family. I dreamed of Julie and Timmy last night, then woke up to read this! (Nicely written)

    ( tried to correct my signature but no success yet)

  4. Oh wow. This story brings tears to my eyes--both kinds of tears, for the sadness and the happiness of how the Lord turned sadness into happiness! You told the story in such an inspiring way. We will be praying for the new family as they navigate their new life together.

  5. Christie. Thanks for sharing about this joyful time in my life. You described our story and wedding very well. Thanks again for sharing with friends. I am blessed.


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