An African Love Story


Happy Valentine’s Day! We all have childhood memories of exchanging cards that expressed some sort of affection to our friends and classmates in elementary school.

Usually, they were sort of silly with short, catchy poems and cartoon characters asking if somebody would be our “Valentine.. We weren’t certain what that meant, but it seemed to be affirmation that we were liked by a few other kids, anyway.

Too often, it was sort of a popularity contest. The most attractive kids usually hit the jackpot with scores of cards and candy favors. The shy or obnoxious kids were usually left with an empty feeling that they were not very appreciated.

As we grew into young adulthood the holiday became far more complicated. Cards and gifts had to be carefully directed toward that special object of our affection. It was tricky business, especially for the guys. One faux pas and we could be dropped like a bad habit.

Even after years of marriage the pressure is on to take the initiative in creating a very special Valentine’s event that reflects the love and affection we hold for our wife.

I am very fortunate in that my ultimate sweetheart has known me since she was twelve years old and I was fifteen. We started dating three years later and married immediately after I graduated from university and commissioned in the United States Navy.

There were never any unpleasant surprises. We were always friends as well as lovers. Almost six decades later we still are. Falling in love with a friend usually produces a much happier outcome than a mutual romantic obsession. Giving our lives to the Lord together very early in our marriage secured our love and commitment to each other forever.

While living in Kenya some thirty years ago I heard perhaps the most beautiful love story ever told this side of Heaven. It was born out of a situation that transcended all culture and demonstrates something much better than mere romance, a deeper kind of love that is rare and epic in biblical proportions.

It’s about a young girl named Faith living in a small town in the western part of the country who was seriously burned at age twelve when a kerosene lamp exploded in her face. She suffered third degree burns on half her face, leaving her horribly disfigured for life.

Her father, losing any hope of a decent dowry for her, basically rejected her as a useless financial burden to him. Faith was no longer physically pretty, but she was, nevertheless, still intelligent and confident. She worked hard on her chores and did well in school.

An Indian shopkeeper took a liking to her, gave her a part time job as an accountant, and paid her school fees while she finished high school, which was a notable accomplishment for a girl in Western Kenya at that time.

Faith’s academic achievements were sufficient to get her into a University in Nairobi. Her generous employer decided to invest in her future and pay her expenses if she would agree to return and work for him. She consented and life changed in ways that only God can direct.

The young lady, before finishing her degree with honors, met a young Christian man from a wealthy family and a different province of Kenya. Harrison was from another tribe, with a totally diverse background but, nevertheless, they found themselves regularly enjoying each other’s company over chai (tea) every morning before classes.

It was highly unusual at the time for members of the opposite sex to have that sort of relationship. But somehow, they had become good friends, in spite of all odds. It wasn’t about physical attraction. There were no romantic enhancements whatsoever.

He was rich, but certainly not particularly handsome. She…. well, she was damaged, but still attractive in a unique sort of way. Faith was always positive and encouraging, and Harrison could always make her laugh.

As graduation day neared, the couple gradually realized that they couldn’t even think of not seeing each other daily and, so, the young man proposed marriage. Faith eagerly agreed. All that remained for him was to settle the dowry with her father. What happened next was extraordinary.

The young man went out to Faith’s village to meet her father and to negotiate the bride price, usually counted in cows, goats, camels, or their monetary equivalent.

The father had reduced expectations. Aside from the fact that Faith was receiving a college degree, she was still damaged goods. He was ready to settle for a seriously discounted dowry. It is so sad that he never got to know his beautiful daughter and realize what a prize she really was.

Harrison, however, clearly saw her value. He never said it out loud, but he truly loved her. He immediately rejected the old man’s initial dowry price. The old man, misunderstanding the situation, quickly back peddled and reduced the price by almost half. But the young man would not take “yes” for an answer. Harrison, without hesitation, insisted on paying five times the original price.

It was the old man’s lucky day! It was an unexpected windfall, and he immediately set out to boast all over town about what a good deal he had made for his damaged daughter. Some people never get it! The women of the town certainly did.

What magic did this “ugly” woman have to make a man want her that badly? Suddenly, Faith became a celebrity among her peers. All the girls in town wanted to know her secret and began to treat her with the utmost respect.

The last I heard the couple was living “happily ever after” in her hometown, owning several shops and raising a beautiful Christian family. Faith had become one of the town’s leading ladies, finally appreciated for who she was, in spite of her disfigurement. Beauty, after all, is deeper than skin and love is more powerful than romance.

To be truly valued, seen to have significant worth, is far more desirable than a thousand declarations of love. A wise man who saw beyond the obvious found a good thing. I am certain that he is rewarded regularly by a wife who is securely loved and valued.

As it is written: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.

In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church (Eph 5:25-29). Amen!

God bless you.


[LeRoy Curtis is a graduate of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Asbury Theological Seminary. He served four years as a U.S. Naval Officer after which he became a pastor, Bible professor, educator, author, and missionary living in E. Africa for eight years where he and his wife developed a curriculum of biblical studies for untrained pastors in rural Kenya. His passion for training young church leaders takes him to various parts of the U.S., Latin America, and Africa. He and Judy are currently residing in Carrollton, Georgia.]