Southern Gospel Love Stories

February is the Month of Love and what better way to enjoy Valentines Day than reading some real-live Love Stories. We asked our friends in the Southern Gospel industry to tell us how they met their spouses. We hope you enjoy this quick look at some of the most romantic couples you may ever meet. Please read the February edition of SGN Scoops Digital Magazine for more Love Stories, including James and Laura Rainey and Michael and Marcie English.

 “I met Regina Benge on April, 28th 1994 at a Greater Vision concert in her hometown of Mt. Vernon, KY. Neither of us were looking for a relationship but God had other plans. Against her will, her pastor introduced us that night. After the concert, he came to me and said, ‘That girl I introduced you to tonight is the real deal.’ He was so right! We were engaged in July and married on December 17th of the same year. 1994 was a great year for me! We celebrated 16 years of marriage in 2010. We have two daughters, Reagan (13), and Riley (10). I am blessed!” – Rodney Griffin, Greater Vision.

“I am married to the love of my life!  I guess we act in such a manner with each other that most people on initially meeting us refer to her as ‘my girlfriend’ and vice versa. We always take that as a compliment! She is my best friend! I ‘get’ her and she ‘gets’ me. I know the saying is that opposites attract, however, we’re so similar in our personalities that we read each other’s minds, actions, moods, etc and we just know the next step or action to take. She believes in me and I believe in her. It’s so easy to go through life with her; she motivates me to get up and take on each day. No matter how good or bad the day is I’m always consoled knowing I’ll be able to see her, sit down with her and have time to catch up on it all. It’s our favorite part of each day! She is thoughtful, caring, considerate, smart, funny, beautiful and she loves me unconditionally!” – John Mathis Jr., songwriter and music publisher, Media Promotions & Publishing for Mansion Entertainment

“I started liking a girl in my youth department back when we were about thirteen. We had grown up together but it wasn’t till then that we started the little boyfriend and girlfriend thing, if that’s what you want to call it! Going through the normal things teen relationships go through,  we still liked each other. My birthday is on April 19th, 1990 and hers is on April 21, 1990, only two days apart. On January 16th, 2011 we were married one year and it has been great! Of coarse, there are the normal things of adjusting to one another but we are very happy. So I guess you could say I married my highschool sweeetheart. We are looking forward to what the Lord has in store for the future, even talking about kids!” – Dustin Bradshaw, State of Grace.

“Lindsay and I met in Gray, TN about six years ago, at the Appalachian Fairgrounds. We were singing there with the Singing Cookes and Tony McGhee & New Covenant. Lindsay later told me she almost didn’t come to hear us that night. Needless to say, I’m extremely grateful that she did. She is by far the greatest thing that has ever happened to me outside of my salvation. What an amazing young woman she is!” – Joseph Habedank, The Perrys. Joseph married Lindsay in June 2010.

“Until I saw her, I didn’t believe in the whole idea of ‘love at first sight’. I did believe in the whole idea of ‘she’s outta my league’, not to mention the whole idea of, ‘she lives in Georgia, 700 miles away from Texas’. But I fell in love at first sight in July of 2006, when Martha Blake walked into the McClurken Auditorium at the Stamps-Baxter School of Music in Nashville. It was my fourth year at the school and it was her first. I don’t remember introducing myself or what was said because, to tell the truth, I was scared witless. I tried to push her to the back of my mind after Stamps-Baxter, but couldn’t resist the urge to stay in contact with her. It took a few years, but we became the best of friends. In March of 2010, I summoned up enough gumption to admit my feelings for her, and asked her to be my girlfriend. Knowing her as I did, I wasn’t surprised when she asked for time to pray about it with me. When July rolled around and we returned to Stamps-Baxter, she agreed to be my girlfriend. After Stamps, we slyly began planning to surprise one another with trips to the other’s home. Martha surprised me first, when she arrived at my home on September 13. I surprised her second, when I proposed to her that evening. We were married December 19, 2010 in Jacksonville, Texas. Many find this part hard to believe, but we actually saved our first kiss for our wedding day, when my Dad, the officiate, said, ‘Martha, you may now kiss your Groom.’ As hard as it was to accomplish, we felt it was important to safeguard one another’s purity by saving that piece of intimacy for marriage. Needless to say, God has made me a firm believer in the whole idea of ‘love at first sight’, and an even firmer believer in the truth that ‘God is able to do immeasurably more than all I can ask or imagine.’ – Miles Pike, soloist.

“I met Him in my bedroom on a Sunday afternoon. I’d been to church that morning, as many other Sundays. The young lady gave her testimony as she was about to be baptized.  Her young life was hardly similar to mine at all with the trials and struggles I had been through, but God used it nonetheless! I was a few days short of 40 years old. Oh and there’s this other love of my life, Debbie. We met in a bar. Yes, we were both searching for something, obviously in the wrong place. I wasn’t drinking at the time, but still struggling with long time alcohol use and abuse. I was a divorced father of two and Debbie also had been married previously with two children. What a blessing came out of such a wrong way to start. Only with God’s intervention!” – Charles Ross, soloist. Editor’s Note: Charles and Debbie are married and have several grown children.

“We met via the internet. We both worked with young people and I saw her web site and she saw mine. I contacted her professionally and it was on!” – Keith O’Neil, soloist and trumpeter.

“My wife, Sheila, and I grew up in the same church in Lexington, Kentucky, where our parents were friends and we became high school sweethearts. She would tell you I was her first love. I graduated from high school two years before she did and went away to college. I broke up with her during my freshman yr and we went our separate ways. Over the next 30 years we saw one another only one time and that was when the quartet I was with held a revival at a church in the greater Cincinnati area where she was living. She came out to hear us. Then in 1990, I flew into Lexington to be with my parents. Dad had a heart attack and was in hospital. Sheila had moved back to Lexington a few years earlier. She learned about Dad’s condition from her mother and decided to visit him in the hospital. In the waiting room of the hospital, we met once again after all those years. I was living and working in southern California so I had to return there. We kept in casual touch for a few months after my return to west coast. Then there was a quiet period of no contact. During those nine months I had decided to move back to Lexington to help care for my aging parents. In early April 1991 I did so. This July we are planning to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary in Hawaii! It’s been the best 20 yrs of our life.” – David Waits, soloist.

“A couple of years before my husband, Steve, and I began dating, he had seen me in concert and had said to himself, ‘I wonder what it would be like to be married to her?’ A couple of years later, I became friends with his brother’s wife. She said, ‘I know someone that would love to ask you out.’ Steve ended up calling me and asking me out for pizza. Afterwards we went to the park and we walked and talked until 1:00am. Three months later, we married. We have been married over 21 years now. I became Mom to four little boys that Steve had been raising on his own. We have a total of six children including two we adopted. God is so good.” – Kathy Woodward, soloist and vocal coach.

“Most girls grow up dreaming of who they’ll marry.  When we’re little, he looks like Cinderella’s Prince Charming, and if he had a white horse that would just be icing on the cake!  When I moved to Nashville to attend Trevecca Nazarene University, I had my eyes peeled for the perfect mate.  I was traveling on one of the university’s public relations singing groups, and in my sophomore year, they placed Craig on our group as our sound engineer.  For two years, we spent every weekend and all summer on the road in a fifteen-passenger van.  You get to know folks pretty well that way, and I fell in love with his kindness, thoughtfulness, and easy-going nature.  I remember our sponsor commenting on how well we complimented each other.  He slowed me down and I sped him up!  He also drove a white Honda Accord – close enough to a white horse for me.  And he had Prince Charming’s dimples to boot! We were married April 8, 2006 and now make our home just outside of Nashville, TN.  Craig is my best friend, my partner in life, love, music and ministry.  Many times we have talked about how wonderful it is to share the same interests and passions.  We’ll celebrate our fifth anniversary soon, and I’m so glad God put us in each other’s lives and is using us as a team for His glory!” – Lindsay Huggins, soloist.

“I met John Leighton during a rough spot in my life and fell head over heals in love with him.  Together we began a career in Country Music and even had a fan club.  We recorded a DJ hit album called We Got Love in the early ‘70s after learning that John had Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS).  From 1971 to 1972, John gradually got worse until he was no longer able to work.  Fortunately, we had a sit down job at a club in El Monte, CA at The Nashville West.  Our fan club president, Marvin Joyner, was also our best friend and was there for us during a time that we really needed someone to lean on. Shortly before John was no longer able to speak, he called Marvin in and told him, ‘If anything happens to me, I want you to promise you’ll take care of ‘our’ redhead.’  It was about six months later when John went into the Long Beach Veteran’s Hospital and then another 11 months later, John went to be with the Lord. Marvin kept his promise to John, and on September 23, 1974, Marvin and I were married.  Our best man was John’s youngest son, Lewis, and our Maid of Honor was my daughter, Sharlee.” – Sharon Leighton Joyner, soloist and part of The JESUS Film Project

Our Lord and Savior has to be my first love, but my second love and first love on this earth is my husband, Jerry.  He is not only my husband but he is also he is my singing partner, my spiritual partner and my soul mate.  We have been married for a lot of years, raised a son together along with several cats and dogs, faced sickness, death and still we not only love each other, we like each other! Jerry still makes my heart jump when he walks in the room.  He gives me courage to step out and move forward and gives me spiritual anchor when my head spins with all that needs to be done.  He makes me proud – in the best of ways – when he’s on stage and you can feel the Holy Spirit breathe through as he sings and talks about the Lord. He is a rare gem and I wouldn’t trade him for anything.  Together we can walk this world, hopefully help others, and when it comes time to go Home, if we don’t go at the same time, one will be there in Heaven to welcome the other and we’ll fly through Heaven together for eternity!  Thank you Lord for giving me a mate on this earth with a Godly heart.  We are Heart to Heart but to me, Jerry Mays is the ‘Heart of my Heart.’” – Sharon Mays, Heart to Heart

“I was married to Walter Gartrell,  an Evangelist, for 32 years.  We had traveled all over the U. S. carrying the gospel in Word and song.   Our group was called Judah.  It consisted of my husband, son-in-law Rick MaHarrey, my daughter Deborah MaHarrey and myself.  In 2004, my husband died.  Having been in the ministry my entire life, as my father and mother were both ministers, singers as well, I was devastated. In 2009, Judah decided to go to the Branson Gospel Music Convention in Branson, MO to sing and meet new friends.  On July 14th of that year, I met Darrell Marshall.  He was there to sing at the convention also.  His wife, Gayla, had died in 2002. We talked, laughed, visited and then we parted.  Darrell lived in Nashville, TN and I in Murfreesboro, TN, a short distance away.  We started talking, having lunch, dinner and the rest is history.  One year and one day later on July 15, 2010 we were married in Gatlinburg, TN.  Both of us had suffered a great loss and never thought we would find such love again.  But we did!  We adore each other.  I love just seeing him walk into the room. I love just hearing his voice.  I love the quirky little things he does to make me laugh.  Life is good once again.  We will spend the rest of our lives together singing and traveling caring the gospel across the nation.  God is good, He’s never late, He’s always on time.” – Brenda K. Gartrell-Marshall, southern gospel artist

“I met Bobby at a local singing convention in 1989. I was an ‘old maid’, singing with my ‘old maid’ sisters, The Jenkins Sisters. He was cute and a little younger, singing with his family group, The Gospel Chimes. W sang at a couple of local concerts together in September and I traveled to NQC in Nashville with his family. He came out to see me  in Ft. Worth in mid-October. He kissed me. I cried! He asked me to marry him on Thanksgiving weekend and I said, “Yes”. When God is in it, and you know it, he becomes the ‘love of your life’. I even wrote a song for our wedding called, You’re the Love of My Life.” – Rhonda Jenkins Hendrix, The Hendrix Trio

“Wes and I met in high school. I was a freshman; he was a sophomore. We were friends, but not very close. We originally met because I was a good friend of Wes’s cousin.  Mid-way through my 9th grade year, I auditioned to be in the Annie play that the English department was going to put on that spring.  We joked a lot and had tons of fun with the whole cast. Once the day came to get in full costume and make up, my Mom came to the school to do everyone’s make up. She kept telling me, ‘That Wes boy has really pretty eyes. You should date him.’  That summer, at our city’s 4th of July celebration, we decided to start dating.  There, he bought me the first thing he ever bought me: half of a lemon. I’d love to say that the rest is history, however, we broke up two times after that when Wes went off to college.  It was very hard on us to maintain that long distance relationship.  After a few months of being apart, we started talking again in March of 2008.  We began dating yet again.  On September 21, 2008, Wes took me to his parent’s farm after church that morning. We went for a walk up the hill; he took me to the carving tree he and his siblings always carved their names in.  In it, it said ‘Marry Me Liz.’  When I turned around he was on one knee and asked me to marry him. Of course, I shouted, ‘Yes!’ And I jumped up and down.  We went back to my mom and dad’s house to tell them.  When we pulled up, the driveway was full of cars. They had planned a surprise engagement party for us that I didn’t know about. We married in Gallipolis, Ohio on August 15, 2009 in front of about 250 people. The next day, we honeymooned in Myrtle Beach, SC. On November 29, 2010, we found out that we are expecting our first child next August.  We’ve had an amazing relationship blessed by God and we can’t wait to see what the future holds for us and our family. Not only are we high school sweethearts, but it goes to show that Mom really does know best!” – Elizabeth Miller Clary, The Concords.

 “I have a disease called Alopecia Universalis.  Growing up, I constantly was told that no one would ever love me because I was bald.  Terry knew about my disease before we ever dated and he has never seen me as different.  His love is unconditional.  I am truly blessed that God has given me this man to share my life with.  Terry and I married on February 14, 1997.  This Valentine’s Day, we will celebrate our 14th Wedding Anniversary. Together, we have three children, something I was told could never happen.  You can read more of my story at www.useyourdifference.com.” – Laura Hudson, Hudson Media Concepts.

 Thanks again to all those who shared their love stories with us. Happy Valentines Day from SGM Radio!