A breakfast. Some errands. Hot cocoa. The library. A book. A question.

Love takes many different forms, but the love story we’re celebrating today has an interesting twist with Mennonite Central Committee right in the center of it.

Derrick Charles had just returned from Bolivia, having served with the Serving And Learning Together (SALT) program. Looking for a friend with cross-cultural experiences, he found Rebekah Good whose family worked for Eastern Mennonite Missions (EMM) in Kenya. Friendship quickly turned into a dating relationship.

Rebekah and Derrick early in their relationship.Photo courtesy of Derrick and Rebekah Charles (2005)

On December 7, 2005, Derrick decided to pop the question. After an early morning breakfast with Rebekah’s parents, Clair and Beth Good, where Derrick asked for their blessing, he called Rebekah and asked if she wanted to run some errands with him.

After helping Rebekah finish her Christmas shopping the couple decided to head to Square One Coffee for hot chocolate, what Derrick calls his first “spontaneous” idea, but was all part of the plan. As they sipped their hot chocolate, Derrick revealed his second “spontaneous” idea.

Next door to Square One Coffee is the Lancaster Public Library where the couple enjoyed one of their favorite pastimes—reading children’s stories. Derrick says, “It’s refreshing to find ideas in 15-minute story and picture books that theologians and philosophers struggle to pin down in volumes.” Rebekah chose a book about a dog who found a friend in a flea. Derrick chose one of their favorite stories, The Three Questions, a children’s book based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy. Rebekah didn’t know that the children’s librarian was keeping an eye on this book for Derrick tucked away on the shelf.

A story they had first read before they were dating, Nikolai, a young boy in the book, poses three questions to his wise turtle friend, Leo. “When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?” Nikolai realizes with Leo’s encouragement that he already knows the answers to his questions. The best time is now, since it is the only time we have, the most important one is the one at our side, and the right thing to do is to do good to that person.

As Derrick and Rebekah began reading the book, journal entries Derrick had written about their love story began to fall out with the last page recounting the first day of their dating relationship.

Derrick closed the book and said, “Rebekah, I only have one question.”

Rebekah responded, “But you already know the answer.” Not catching the book connection, he asked to hear her answer in which she responded, “Yes.”

While the couple had decided earlier that they didn’t want engagement rings, Derrick wanted to give Rebekah a gift that connected with their personal experiences and values. He chose a necklace from Ten Thousand Villages made in Peru, connecting with his SALT experience in South America. He also made a donation towards HIV and AIDS testing kits for MCC supported clinics in Tanzania, connecting with Rebekah’s childhood in Africa and her interest in health care.

Derrick and Rebekah, wearing her engagement necklace, during their 2006 engagement photos.Photo courtesy of Derrick and Rebekah Charles

Derrick and Rebekah were married August 5, 2006 at Bossler Mennonite Church in Elizabethtown, PA, with a reception in the gymnasium at the Kraybill Campus of Lancaster Mennonite School in Mount Joy and a reception catered by the Tea Room, once a part of Ten Thousand Villages in Ephrata. The rest is history.

Derrick and Rebekah on their wedding day, August 5, 2006.Photo courtesy of Derrick and Rebekah Charles

Today, on their 10th Anniversary, Derrick and Rebekah are spending the day with their children as MCC Nicaragua and Costa Rica representatives having lived previously in Harrisonburg, VA. Rebekah notes, “Since those early conversations, Derrick has pursued education and teaching and I’ve pursued public health nursing. The opportunity to connect some of our interests and to serve the church and be a part of cross-cultural learning together with our children is important to us.”

“We've thought about it and believe that our love is best shown through our living it.  There are exciting moments, but most of how we grow in our relationship is through the everyday ways we can be there for each other and learn to work together and support each other. This has had new meaning as we parent and also now as we share a role together in MCC.”

- Derrick and Rebekah Charles,
reflecting back on their 10 years of marriage

Happy 10th Anniversary, Derrick and Rebekah Charles!

Derrick and Rebekah Charles with their children Lia and Silas.Photo courtesy of Derrick and Rebekah Charles