**this post is borrowed from my blog, Raya in Thailand I thought it would be great that you’d know our love story first, before you journey with me as a wife, lover and friend to Joey, the partner God has given me to spend the rest of my life with.**
RAYA: I first saw Joey in a church where my father was invited to testify about our family conversion. I was with my father and one of my younger sisters then. Joey sang a song with his pastor’s wife—I learned later that they were also visitors to that church’s thanksgiving celebration. My first impression was, “wow! I never thought somebody that young could play the guitar so well.” Being a Christian for just a couple of months, I did not see many young people so involved in the ministry back in our home Bible study.
In January of 1991 our whole family went to Butuan City to attend my older brother’s graduation from 3-month Bible training. During the graduation, I saw Joey again and I thought he looked familiar— Later I learned he also took the training with my brother. I only remembered him to be the “guitar guy” when we had to be reintroduced. That summer, he asked for my help as he wanted to enroll at a university where I was also to take my college degree at. To make a long story short, we both passed the entrance exams and were enrolled at the same college. For months we have become inseparable. I knew Joey to be a very conservative Christian. He never talked about wanting to have a relationship—in fact he never considered the idea of marriage at all, although I remembered hearing about his past girlfriend whom he broke up with. It was safe to be with Joey. He never acted sweet or anything like that. Ours was pure friendship. It has been that way with us for three years. One night in 1994 he told me he felt an attraction for me. I could hardly believe it, but he told me he is not demanding for a relationship. He just wanted to be honest, that’s all.
JOEY: When I first saw Raya I thought she was beautiful. But at that time, I just broke up with my High School girl friend. Jenny* and I went steady when she was still in her second year in High School and I was at my senior year. She became a Christian too and I thought our relationship was perfect. I did not take advantage of her, and we grew in the Lord together. When I graduated from High School, I enrolled as a nursing student in Liceo de Cagayan, Cagayan de Oro. It was where I sensed that God wanted me to give up my relationship with Jenny. The dealing was so real as God dealt with Abraham to give up his precious Isaac. Two weeks after that, I received a break-up letter from Jenny—for no reason. I took it as God’s way of intervening in the relationship. Although I gave in to the break up, I still wanted Jenny to be my wife… even if I had to wait for years. I quit schooling after that semester to enroll at a three-month Bible training in Butuan City where Ptr. Ching Alkuino, Raya’s older brother and I became classmates. In June of 1991, Raya and I enrolled at Central Mindanao University as freshmen. We had become very good friends, but for me, there would be no other girl but Jenny. Since there was no way we could get back to the relationship, I was also considering the idea of staying single for life. I became bothered when three years after my friendship with Raya, I would suddenly be attracted to her.
RAYA: Joey assured me that he would never court me unless it was clear that God wanted him to have a relationship. Although I knew that he was attracted to me, I still thought our friendship was not affected at all. I did not feel that I was extra-special. I thank God that Joey never broke my trust. He treated me like any other sister in the Lord—with so much purity and respect.
JOEY: Although everybody said Raya was beautiful, I could honestly say that she was not my exact type of a girl. I wanted somebody that’s a little bit chubby, one with long, straight hair and a fair complexion. Raya was skinny, she had curly hair and her complexion was not that fair. I cannot find any explanation why I was attracted to her—it was beyond the physical. It was something that was more of an inward attraction. Years came and went, and our friendship just remained the same. No special notes on special occasions, no sweet words to say, no special time together. It was just pure friendship.
We sang in weddings, had healthy friendships with other church friends. Our friendship was never exclusive to ourselves.
RAYA: Joey never said he courted me, and I felt there should be any reason why I should expect from him. I graduated from college in 1995, he in 1996. I did have suitors then, and it didn’t seem to affect him. I could not call our relationship an “M.U.” (Mutual Understanding) either, because we did not have expectations of each other. In July of 1997, he told me he wanted to get married after three years, and he wanted me to be his wife. It shocked me. Although I had nothing against Joey to be a husband, I thought it was too early… plus I had dreams for myself at 21. I was a young professional; I can do so many things as a single person. At that point, I feared commitment. Joey assured me he would formally court me as soon as he gets a job and as soon as he talks with our pastor and my family.
JOEY: After my college graduation in 1996, I committed to be a full-time worker in our church. For a year I devoted myself to almost anything: a guitarist in our Praise and worship team, encoded materials for Bible studies, conducted Bible studies in any place open. Soon I realized I was burnt out. I felt tired, and I cannot hear from the Lord. It lasted for 8 months. When I talked with Raya about my plans, I was actually doing my own thing. I just wanted to settle down, have a family and land in a good job. But my job search was quite difficult. I wanted to have a job right away so I can pursue my plans. But for two weeks I was going here and there—no job openings for me. Then one night I attended a youth cell group where Raya was also in. She shared about missions that night—about China and how the church is persecuted there. It was just a simple sharing, and she prayed a simple prayer after that. But in my heart I heard God say, “you are just destroying my plans for this woman.” The voice was so real I had to call her on the phone that night.
RAYA: I wanted so much to hear from the Lord about Joey and me. I fasted for two days to be sure Joey and I would be in the right track. I did not want to end up with a pre-mature relationship. Everything has to be in the timing of the Lord. After our cell group I got a call from Joey. “’ter,(shortcut for sister) I’m so sorry if I disturbed you these past few days.” His voice was shaking. “I need to obey God. I want you to forget about everything I have told you about my plans. I want to release you—God has other plans for you… He will use you.” I was speechless. “Okay brod,” I answered. That was an answer to my prayers. “That’s okay….” My voice faded. I had mixed emotions. I was getting thrilled about his plans, and now he’s dropping it. I was happy at the same time. At least God spoke to him. Joey and I never talked about anything romantic since then. We were back to where we were—friends. Nothing more, nothing less.
JOEY: It was hard to let Raya go—but I was happy God intervened. I was happy to be able to hear His voice once again. My desert experience for eight months was like forever.
RAYA: Life went on, until I had this friend in early of ’98 who soon became my boyfriend. I know it was stupid, because I never sought God’s will about it. He was neither a Bible study contact nor a member of the church. I knew I had a calling in life, and I simply cannot be involved in someone who hasn’t. I was just carried away with my emotions and I thought, “This guy is stable enough to marry me.” The relationship alarmed the church leadership and family. Surely I would not marry someone who is not in the ministry. Soon I found myself struggling so much—my relationship with the Lord dwindled, I had strained relationships with my churchmates and I was living in so much guilt. I had to get away with this, but I just did not know how. The guy already told his whole family he was marrying me, and I just can’t turn him down. I thought he was a nice guy and would become a fine Christian if I shared the gospel to him—it was just another brilliant idea… but definitely not God’s.
JOEY: When I learned that Raya had a relationship, I was quite hurt- but what right do I have to stop her? I talked to her as a friend. It was not right for her to be involved in such a relationship, but I just left the decision with her. At that time I was the Music director in the church and Raya was one of the worship leaders. I dealt with her as her leader. There was nothing personal about it, but I subjected her under disciplinary action. For the next two years I devoted myself to ministry, and I decided not to get married anymore. At 25, I wanted to serve God the best way I could. I wanted so much to be a missionary, and I can do so much as a single person.
RAYA: I decided to go to Davao, live with my brother Pastor Noel Alkuino. I wanted to be recharged, to be healed and restored to God and to His calling in my life. It was there that I realized I was burnt out, dried up, and very much in need of the Lord’s touch. I decided to cut off with my relationship with Dan*. After that, I felt so released—I was healed, free and I felt so much strength in me to go on. Marriage was definitely not a priority. For a year and a half I enjoyed working for the Lord—I was in the worship team and campus ministry. The thought of Joey being a husband would come to my mind once in a while, but I just brushed it off… but not for long. Month after month God would remind me to pray for Joey. I did, like what I always do for other co-workers in the church. In February of 2000 it became so clear—God wanted Joey to be my husband. I argued with God. “I don’t need a husband, Lord. I just want to make it up to you.” But God’s thoughts are always higher. I just kept this to myself. One time God led me to pray and fast. I just felt He was going to tell me something important. As I knelt before God in worship, I felt like I heard him say to me “Prepare yourself, I am going to do a work in you and Joey. I want you to say ‘yes’ to me now. I am courting you in behalf of Joey.” With tears in my eyes, I said yes.
JOEY: In December of 1998 I have decided to remain single all my life, wrote my name on a piece of paper and offered it on the offering basket in the National Missions Conference in Manila. I knew I did not have the gift to remain single, but I have made my choice. This was changed, however, when someone prayed for me and released a word from the Lord in 1999: “God is going to give you a wife”. What right do I have to question the Lord’s will and ways? Torn between two decisions, I submitted that area in my life to the Lord once again. I told the Lord to confirm it. That same year, I received three confirmations from three different people (two of whom I did not know, but just met at a Christian conference) that God was going to give me a wife. I took it as God’s plan—I was not going to be single forever, after all. Although I knew singleness is not the Lord’s plan for me, I kept on brushing off the thought of getting married for fear of making a mistake in that area of my life. In early 2000 I enrolled at the Asian Center for Missions. In our Spiritual Gifts class, our teacher released this word for me: “…do not worry about your wife.” Since that time I began to pray, “Lord, you court the woman for me. I don’t want to disobey you this time.” I learned later that it was during this time that Raya said “yes” to the Lord! It was strange at that time—I just knew inside of me that I was going to get married very, very soon. But the question is, with whom??
RAYA: For accountability sake, I opened up the matter with my brother Noel about what I received from the Lord. He just smiled. He knew it was going to be Joey and me a few years back! We prayed… so thrilled on how the Lord is going to work it out. To be honest, I was wondering, how on earth would Joey court me? Whenever I see him, I could not see the romantic side of him. He was nice to me… but he is that way to any other girl! There was no hint of romance anywhere… how, God? How?
JOEY: If given the chance to choose as to who my wife will be, I have to say it would be Raya. Not because of any other reason.. I mentioned earlier that she is not exactly my type of girl, or maybe she is overqualified to be one [LOL]. I cannot explain it, I think I have to put it this way: The attraction is beyond the physical. It was a deeper kind of attraction. Sort of like, we can talk about so many things and learn from each other. Yes, the right terminology would be a deep friendship—that is our foundation. I went home in June 2000 to raise funds for our international exposure in Thailand. Raya was also in Valencia that time. It was in June 3 that we had a chance to talk. We knew later that both of us had the sensing that morning that this was going to be the day! It really was! In the evening, in their house, I told her that I felt the Lord wants me to get married and I sensed that she was to be my wife. I told her to pray about it, and if I was wrong, we could just keep this matter to ourselves and not be offended about it.
I was defensive; I thought she was going to get angry. We had such a beautiful friendship and we never talked about us being together—not in the past three years.
RAYA: When Joey told me he wants to talk with me, my heart pounded. Would tonight be the unfolding of a beautiful chapter of my life? I did not want Joey to know I also felt the same way. I thought it was cheap to tell him right there and then. In short, I wanted to stay “pakipot”. But what was I waiting for? That was the night I had been waiting for over a year now. I told Joey the things I felt God was telling me right from the start. Then there was a long silence. Suddenly Joey said, “sorry I did not bring an engagement ring.” I was stunned. “Are we engaged now?” I blurted. “It’s so clear to me now. This has to be God,” he answered.
The rest was history. We told our parents, our church leaders, and they all blessed us. We decided that we will not go on with the relationship without the approval of each of our leaders. Our engagement was the first one to be announced in the church. We got married on December 21, 2000… six months after that wonderful night of June 3. Looking back at it now, I am amazed at how God has preserved our friendship—it has ended into something so beautiful. When we look at each other now, and when we see the smiles of our two little treasures, Ria and Jez, we can’t help but praise the Lord… indeed this has been worth waiting for!