Partners on Mission: Jeff and Julie Garner, Part 2 of 3

Previously, Jeff shared with us about his dream of initially wanting to be a lawyer. Did you, Julie, have thoughts or desires on where your life was going to go?
Julie: I really enjoyed helping people. I had a heart for working with children. When I was little, I was sensitive to God, something happened to me through the angels or God touching me that made me feel special to Him and I sensed he wanted me to work for him.    I admired missionaries and wondered about whether God would take me there.

I owe so much to my mother.  We are best friends today. I thank God for her love and support. If I could be half the woman she is in her kindness, strength, and consistency ... every morning, she’d be in her room praying. I knew when her door was closed, it was her prayer time. She was always there for us. She had an amazing, and beautiful part in my life growing up.

You guys met at bible college...
When I graduated from high school, my brother was already at Christian Life College.  He really encouraged me to go and I also felt God was calling me there.  Because of some of my earlier experiences with God and some encounters with missionaries I had developed a heart for missions and going to Bible College seemed like the right place to go if I wanted to explore missions.

Julie's high school graduation (1990)

Julie's high school graduation (1990)

Had you experienced mission trips before then?
Julie: No, but when I was a kid I was really close to a missionary family from our church.   I was never really thinking I was going to be a pastor’s wife or even in ministry, but the mission field I was really intrigued with.

What intrigued you?
Julie: I think hearing their stories intrigued me.  Plus, I’ve always loved working with children. I had a heart for kids, even when I was a kid growing up, I often prayed for younger kids. Then, when I went to Bible College, I met a lot of missionaries and enjoyed getting to know them.

Jeff, you saw her first...
Jeff: I was sitting on the platform on a Sunday worship service at church. She was sitting in the balcony. I spied her across the way, and I said (in my heart), “Behold, the woman of my dreams.”

How about you, Julie?
Julie: I had seen him around, but I didn’t know who he was. I remember seeing him once in the foyer and saying, “Whoa!, he has really, really intense eyes. Really pretty, bright blue eyes. Then I started to hear from some of my friends that this guy was interested in me. They were like, “You don’t know who he is? He’s the youth pastor: Jeff Garner.” I was like, “Uh, I don’t know who that is.” I figured out who he was and saw him at certain places and dodged him because I didn’t know what was being said.

Then one day, I was with a friend and we were coming out of the library, and he’s standing outside his office with his close friend James Byrd. James is just one of those guys, he’s going to embarrass you if he can.

Jeff: We embarrassed each other often.

Julie: So James comes over—and I knew who James was—and he goes...what’d he say...say it...[looking at Jeff]

Jeff: I come walking outside the library and she’s standing outside. And James says, “Hey, Julie, would you like to go out with my friend, Jeff?”

Julie: And I said, “Sure, if he asks me.” I was a little sassy sometimes.

Jeff: So without me being able to say anything, James really quick said, “Well, Jeff, ask her.” I’m just stepping out of my office and this is all happening so quick. And he goes, “Julie, if he asks you right now will you go out with him?”

And she said “Yes.”

And James asked, “Julie, what are you doing tonight?”

Julie said, “Nothing,”

James pressed the humiliation further, “Jeff what are you doing tonight?”

“Nothing” So James set the whole thing up, like all the way through, “What time do you want to meet?”

Julie: And we’re not even next to each other, Jeff’s like a couple yards away and James is in between. And I’m like yelling, “Okay...”

Jeff: It was really awkward.

Julie: We went out that night with James and his date.  Jeff had this big family Bible and pulled it out and put it out on the table. [Laughs].

Jeff: I was the real deal, bro.

Julie: He was the real deal. We had a fun night.

"One of the dates we went out—which sounds really creepy—we went to my grandfather's cemetery..."

What’s the typical date with Jeff Garner?
Jeff: Since our church's entertainment rules were restrictive we had to get real creative.  Our first date we went up to the Sierra mountains, we walked around under the bright night sky and talked. It was in November so it was cold out.  When we got back down, to the valley, we got pizza.  A couple of the dates, we went out to the delta; we’d sit out there, as the breeze came in and watch the sun set. We went to Blackwater Cafe which had live music. One of the dates we went out—which sounds really creepy—we went to my grandfather’s cemetery, which was up in the hills, and I shared our family history and story.

Julie: My passion for the mission field seemed to be a big deal to Jeff and much of our conversations centered around that subject.  I came from a yuppie and preppy college town.  Jeff was not yuppie or preppy.  Jeff was cowboy hat, cowboy boots, Levis, moccasins. He had a little bit of that rugged mountain spirit in him. That’s him. 

Jeff: Just a point of clarification. I wasn’t into the cowboy scene. I loved the mountains. I had a cowboy hat but I didn’t wear it. I had a jeep. A Wolf-hybrid dog. Loved the outdoors. Rugged camping trips.

Julie: As far as his personality and uniqueness. It was nothing I had experienced before.  He was very intense. I was extremely impressed. His maturity...

Jeff: My love for God...


Julie: [Laughs]Then soon the cowboy boots went out the door...It seems like a lot of that didn’t matter to me. I was so impressed by him and his love for God. He was a unique individual and I never met a guy like that before. Non-materialistic.  He had a big Bible and he carried it everywhere. Pages were torn, it was stained, he took it everywhere. We basically went out every night after that for two weeks until Thanksgiving.

They have a big family dinner on his mother’s side and he invited me. I was really nervous. It was a big deal because it was Pastor Haney's home. Everybody was giving us a hard time.

Jeff: My uncle who was the pastor of the church, a wonderful, wonderful man, would sit at the head of the table and ask everyone to say what we were thankful for. 

How many people? 
Jeff: Probably 40-plus.

Julie: The guys are all pretty much jokesters and teasers. 

Jeff: All the men are pastors. It comes around to me and he says, “Well, Jeff, it looks like you have a lot to be thankful for this year. Julie..."

Julie: I got beet-red, of course.

Jeff:  He continued, "This is the first girl you’ve brought to our Thanksgiving dinner."

Julie: It was quite intimidating for me because I don’t come from a pastor’s home. But they are very welcoming, genuine, and down-to-earth. It was really nice. We basically dated until Christmas. We dated, but we didn’t officially say we were dating until Christmas, then we became boyfriend and girlfriend.

She describes you as being intense, how would you describe her at that time?
Jeff: I would use the word “mystique.” She was quiet, reserved. A lot of the other girls were chatty and up in everybody’s business. She wasn’t. I was drawn to that. She had large brown eyes and was quiet. I was pulled in by those features.

How did you propose?
Jeff: I flew up in the summer to where she lived. She didn’t know I was coming up there. I’ve never been there before. I kind of culled the information from her on our night chats. I pieced it all together. I got the flowers, I got the ring, rented a car, flew up there. Drove to her house, only to discover she lived in a gated area. I waited around for a while until somebody came and opened up the gate to get in. I knocked on her door and nobody answered. It was a Friday and I knew that on weekends she sometimes went to her family’s cabin at the lake. I walked around. I was trying to think about my options for about 20 minutes. I got up and started walking to the door with the flowers in my hand and turned a corner and, literally, physically, bumped into her. We bumped right into each other. I was so caught off guard that I just shoved the roses out and said, “Here, these are for you.” She was like, “What are you doing here?”

"I came up to see you and bring you flowers.”

The next night I took her out to dinner and got down on one knee in front of everybody and I asked her to marry me and she just started weeping and crying and got all hysterical and shouted to the top of her lungs, “I was the best thing that’s ever happened to her...” I’m joking. She didn’t do that. She calmly said “Yes, I will marry you.”

Julie: I have to say,  I just knew he was coming to see me I can’t explain it. He was preaching at a camp down south that summer so I wondered how he would be able to make it happen, but I sensed he would. And then, low and behold, he surprised me! I was so excited, remembering the butterflies in my stomach, seeing him standing there with the roses.  I still get them butterflies today, love those butterflies.  Jeff is definitely a romantic.

For the rest of the story, look for part 3 later this month! 

Missed Part 1 ?  Catch up on Jeff & Julie's full story here!