There is wonderful news out of Sebring, Florida.
Former Sebring Grace Brethren Church pastor David Ogden, whose wife, Pam, died more than seven years ago, has let it be known that he and Chris Ryerson Brown, whose husband Denny died about two years ago, are planning to be married.
Here are some edited comments from an e-mail in which Dave was asked for more detail. Dave may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and Chris at email@example.com.
I guess the “Reader’s Digest version” is that Chris was ready to love again after nearly two years without Denny . . . and (to my GREAT surprise!) I was ready, too — after more than seven years without Pam.
I started my “transition” back to Sebring Grace Brethren Church (after nearly four years at Okeechobee) in mid-April and one of Pastor Randy Smith’s assignments for me was to spend the first few hours of each weekday at our Kid City child care ministry — to meet the families and begin to establish relationships with them.
Since Chris is the Director of the Day Care, that meant spending several hours each day in close proximity to her! We’d joke and reminisce and have a great time laughing–the most laughing I’ve done in years.
The part of the story that you may not know is that the four of us (Denny, Pam, Chris and I) have known each other fairly well since 1970, when we were all students at Grace College. Denny played soccer with my brother-in-law Dan Snively; Chris’s younger sister Jane (as distinguished from Greg’s wife, Jane) was one of Pam’s dearest friends, and a close friend of mine, also.
Over the years, the Brown/Ryerson families and the Ogden families have had a variety of contacts — keeping track of kids, moves, ministry changes. When I was invited to serve on the C.E.National board back in the Spring of 1997 (taking over for Paul Mutchler, when he switched to the Grace Schools Board), I was pastoring Sebring GBC at the time.
I invited Ed Lewis and the guys to have spring board meeting at “our place” in 1998. Denny Brown really liked Sebring and even spent some time with a realtor checking out homes that he and Chris could convert to day care facilities. At some point, Denny and Chris even visited Pam and me at our home in Sebring.
About two-and-a-half years after my Pam died, I “hit the wall” emotionally (probably clinical depression, though never diagnosed.) The first year-and-a-half had gone pretty well, actually . . . to my great surprise; the “delayed grief reaction” caught me off guard.
I finally persuaded our elders that I needed to step down from the pastorate, because of my ineffectiveness. By then, Randy and Dottie Smith (and family) had come home from nearly 10 years in Israel to live near Randy’s parents in Sebring! I suggested to the elders that Randy might be willing to do “pulpit supply” fairly regularly (he was still travelling extensively) and they could divide the other pastoral duties among themselves while they searched for a new pastor.
Well, all in God’s time and planning, Randy’s “fill-in” turned into one of the most successful pastorates in the FGBC. Randy is TERRIFIC–we all love him so much.
Randy hired Denny, who started the Kid City ministry and brought two of his adult sons (Jason from Frederick, MD; and Jacob from CA) to help out. It was such a gracious blessing from God that Jason and Jacob were near when the Lord called Denny home in November, 2005. (The Brown family even had a little “warning” a year earlier, when Denny suffered a severe attack of angina).
Denny’s passing has been tough on all the Browns — and especially tough on Chris, since there were nine kids under 18 in the household.
On Friday, Sept. 28 of this year, a bunch of us were working into the evening to get ready for a Kid City yard sale the next day to help out with “scholarships” for some of our struggling childcare families.
I was moving some sprinklers and Chris walked up to me. “Out of the blue” I said: “Chris, do you think there might be something more than friendship between us?” She burst into a HUGE smile (so sweet) and responded (essentially): “What’s taken you so long? I’ve been praying for this for six months.”
I said, “So you’d be willing to do some things together? Like, maybe go out to dinner once in awhile?” (I was very conscious of the fact that the second “anniversary” of Denny’s Promotion to Glory was still over a month away.)
The next evening we had dinner at the home of some friends (who didn’t even realize it was a “date”), went to a Christian music concert, had coffee at a Village Inn . . . we’ve been together virtually every evening since.
Our families have been very excited and Chris and I are very happy. We accept this relationship as a precious gift from a loving and merciful Heavenly Father. I never thought this would happen. So few — even Christians — get to enjoy a good marriage. Chris and I both HAD one, and now (God willing) we get to experience another one. Isn’t God faithful?!
Both sets of parents (Milt and Sue Ryerson, and Russ and Betty Ogden) have been so supportive. It’s not definite, yet, but we’re talking about a possible December 22nd wedding.
I’m travelling to Lanham, MD, next month for a celebration of the 30th year of ministry for Lanham Christian School, which Pam and I were actively involved in “launching” back in 1976-77. I’ll know for sure by then, whether the Dec. 22 date is firm or not.
Addendum: Late-breaking news is that a December wedding is now not likely. Much more likely to be in the spring, according to “sources.”