Barry & Julianna – Our Story

We’re engaged! I am so humbled and grateful to the Lord for bringing such a godly man into my life, and can’t wait walk through life together — with all its joys, trials, ministry opportunities, and adventure! Today on my blog, I wanted to share a little bit of our story.

I still remember vividly the communion Sunday, probably close to three years ago. I was sitting in the back row of church, and while they were passing out the elements, a man in the church had organized a little choir to sing the background to “Is He Worthy” (Andrew Peterson). And his soloist was none other than Barry, with his rich tenor voice. I love that song – but what particularly grabbed my heart was watching Barry’s heart for Christ and passion for worship while he sang. “I admire that guy,” I thought.

It was merely a passing thought — for a while. Until one Sunday my family was visiting my church with me and happened to sit right in front of Barry. Of course, you always know when Barry’s behind you, because he’s such a strong singer. 🙂 Immediately after the service, he engaged my parents in discussion and made them feel very welcome.

My dad asked him, “Have you met Julianna?”

I have, he thought. I’d like to talk to her more too …

We didn’t get to talk that day, but my mom commented to me afterwards. “I really like that Barry! He’s really mature and friendly. Kansas guys are good guys.”

Still, we didn’t have a serious interest in each other until right before COVID hit in 2020. I had organized a dramatic recitation of Romans with some friends, and we “performed” at my church a few days before everything shut down. Barry showed up that night, and the moment I saw him in the audience, I got really nervous. “Wow, I thought! I don’t want to mess up in front of him!” Well of course, I did mess up, because I was so nervous. But he says he doesn’t remember …

I didn’t see him again for months, since church was shut down. But during that time, the Lord did a lot of work in my heart as what I loved most (church and ministry) were taken away from me. Instead, I started to go on long prayer walks each day. I prayed through a lot of things, but slowly, the Lord started putting Barry on my heart. I prayed for him as a brother in Christ, knowing he was probably dealing with far more loneliness in the pandemic than I was. But I also prayed that God might do what I considered impossible — actually bring us together in marriage.

That summer, as things started to open up again, I felt led to start serving in the youth group as a means to get to build relationships with more teenage girls in my church. Barry had been faithfully serving there for years, and while we didn’t get to interact much since our focus was on relationships with the kids, it did give us an opportunity to watch each other in action. We talk sometimes about Tijuana, Mexico. He had been on a scouting trip with mutual friends who wanted to church plant there, and I was planning on going down with them when they moved to help out with their kids. I still couldn’t tell at all if he was interested, but I kept praying …

Later that year, I decided I should talk to the youth pastor’s wife (the youth pastor is one of Barry’s best friends). How can such an amazing man still be single? I was wondering (we have an age difference of 8 years).

I finally built up the courage to ask: “Does Barry feel called to singleness? Do know if he has any interest in anyone?” I told her I didn’t want him to know I had talked to her, and I didn’t want them to talk to him, but that it would help me move on in my prayers if she happened to know there was no interest.

She just laughed. “No, he wants to get married! He’s just careful to guard his sisters’ hearts.”

A week later, I received a text from her. “My husband was talking to him, and it looks very promising!!”

I was beyond ecstatic! He could actually be interested in me! I was humbled. Of course, I couldn’t wait for any event at church, in case he might talk to me. Then, I caught COVID, right before my planned trip to Tijuana. Barry had been thinking of asking me out when I suddenly disappeared. 🙂

The day I got out of quarantine, I went back to help with youth group. That night, though Barry wasn’t even necessarily planning it, we happened to walk out to our cars together. He stopped me in the church parking lot and said, in a gush of nervousness, something like: “I don’t normally express my feelings, but I’m been noticing you and wondered if you’d like to get coffee when you get back from Mexico.”

Well, we couldn’t wait that long, so we made time right before I left! That first date a Panera was pretty business-like. We talked about how God had called us to himself, our family backgrounds, ministry, our life goals. “Is it okay if I text you in Mexico?” he asked when we left.

That started what we joke about as our long-distance relationship (of two weeks!) Barry was such an encouragement during that time, and it really laid a foundation for prioritizing the Lord and ministry in our relationship.

God has done many things of the last year, as we’ve grown closer to each other and to the Lord. We’ve been through ups and downs, worked through conflict, encouraged each other through trials, faced challenges in ministry, and ultimately seen God continue to lead us together. I’ve seen how relationship can grow and stretch in you ways that never happen when you’re single! Through it all, Barry has prayed daily with me, shepherded me, tenderly loved me, and led me so consistently toward Christ.

Exactly a year from when Barry first stopped me in the parking lot to ask me to coffee, he took me to the base of the Colorado trail in Waterton Canyon. He pulled out a beautiful, leather-bound bible with ‘Julianna Duerksen’ engraved on it, got down on one knee, and tearfully asked me to be his wife.

Of course, I said “Yes!”

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