June Bride Part 1

It's coming up.  My wedding anniversary.  

I've been married nearly 34 years. I declare I am just not old enough to have been married so long.

When I think about my husband,  I am often reminded of the reasons I married him.

Like most young women, I had a mental list of what I wanted in a husband . . .

On my list for husband were things like this: he would be taller than I was, he would be rugged, and he would definitely be handsome. He would love to laugh and I, of course, would be the center of his world. He would look into my eyes and tell me that I was the most beautiful thing in the world. He would work hard to provide a living for our family of at least six children. He must love children. And he would definitely be southern.

Growing up in the South, I never thought I would marry a boy from anywhere else.  For me, however, it wasn’t just a southern thing – it was a Carolina thing. North Carolina – where I came of age or South Carolina - where I was born.

Well, I remember the first time I saw the boy who would become my husband.  I was a student at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. It was my junior year. I was very involved in the ministry of Cru (though then it was called Campus Crusade for Christ) and some of my friends and I went over to a sorority house one Sunday evening for College Life. College Life was a meeting filled with singing, skits, a testimony or two and a message to share the gospel with the students who came. On this particular night, a tall, lanky, dark-haired boy dressed in very non-preppy clothes got up to share his testimony. He opened his mouth and spoke in what sounded like a foreign language to me and to most of my friends. He said in a distinct New England accent something like, “My name is Carl Broggi and I grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts.”

Everyone laughed, including me. Who was this guy? Worcester? How do you pronounce that? (Just so you know, it’s pronounced “Wista.”) Please understand, we weren’t laughing at the content of what he said – just the way he said it. He didn’t say y’all and hey.

Sometime later, I heard that he was the new staff guy on campus who had raised his support very fast. I also heard that he shared the gospel constantly and students were praying to receive Christ with him all the time. I heard him teach a few times at our Crusade meetings and learned so much. That’s about all I remember about him that year.

At the time, I was not remotely interested in him - mainly because of, well, a lot of reasons. My senior year, however, I found myself back at Carolina ready to share my faith with students, lead a Bible study on my hall, finish my studies, get my degree, and prepare for the mission field.

I dated some but I was focused.  And I was ready for God to use me with no strings attached. I thought I was ready before but I was really ready now. It was at the first Campus Crusade leadership meeting where I had a conversation with the new staff guy – Carl Broggi. He asked me about my summer and my previous relationship. I told him about both. I also told him about my plans for missions.

Not long after that, after another Crusade meeting, I headed over to the local ice cream shop with a group of friends. Carl was one of the guys with us. Standing in line, he asked me if I would like to go to dinner with him on Friday evening.

I was a bit surprised but after thinking for just a moment, I agreed. I was not interested in him the least little bit – after all, he was not a southerner, not a Carolina boy, didn't dress very well in my opinion, not a student, and he drove a Volkswagen bug. Not exactly a cool car. But he loved the Lord and I thought I could learn a lot from him.  And to be perfectly frank, I had no idea that he was really interested in me. He might have been thinking, “She’s not a northerner, she is too fashion-conscious, she’s a student, and she drives her daddy's Buick.” Well, anyway – at the time, he seemed too godly to be seeing a girl as anything but a sister in Christ.  I had a lot to learn.

But just to make sure he wouldn’t think this was a “real date” or anything, I offered to pay for myself that night. I don’t do that anymore.

When it became evident to me that he was interested in me as more than just a sister in Christ, I’m not sure. But at some point, I knew. And I was very uncomfortable with it. So uncomfortable that I told my friend Cathy I didn’t like it.

I thought she would empathize but instead she quipped, “Well, what’s wrong with Carl?”

Nothing was wrong with him. In fact, there was so much right with him. But I still didn’t like his interest in me. Really – I just wasn't and I told her all the reasons he was not for me.   As I spoke those reasons outloud, everything I said seemed stupid. And I knew those reasons were stupid. Especially since I thought I was maturing as a believer.

Not too long after this, I was making a trip to my parents' new home.  They had moved the previous summer while I was away on a missions project and I had never made the drive from Chapel Hill.  I asked a couple of different friends to come with me but they couldn't so I thought about Carl.  Would he like to come?  He did.  

My mother really liked him though she did ask, "Audrey, who is this man you've brought with you?"  I still think it's funny when I think of her question.

Yes, Carl was a nice person. Yes, I liked him as a nice person. But that was it.

As time passed, I grew to really like Carl. He was funny, yet he was serious. He was tall. He loved the Lord. It was difficult not to be impressed with his knowledge of the Bible and his love for God’s Word. He was 23 years old and had only been a believer five years but he had a zeal for the Lord unlike any I had ever seen in a young man. His heart seemed to beat to share the gospel with people - any person. It was like he was in debt – and the only way to be released of the debt was to deliver the gospel. He had fervor, still does, to make Christ known to anyone who would listen. He possessed a boldness to keep right on teaching and preaching Jesus no matter what.

I didn’t have this boldness even though I had been a Christian since childhood.

I had so much respect for this Carl Broggi. I was impressed but I was not in love. It wouldn't be long, however, before I learned respect is the foundation for real love.

I could tell Carl loved me. And by Thanksgiving, heasked me to marry him. I said yes. I’m not even sure why I said yes other than somehow I knew he was God’s choice for me. We began planning a June wedding – to take place after I finished my classes and internship and before staff training in Colorado.

He talked to my dad. I met his family. He kept working at his job as I was finishing my degree.

Sometime in the spring, I was walking across campus back to my dorm after my last class. I had to go through what we called the “Pit” – it was an outdoor brick courtyard between the Student Union and the Bookstore.

As I was approaching the Pit – I could tell a crowd had gathered, as it often did – and I could hear someone preaching. I could also hear jeers and hecklers.

As I got closer I could tell that it was a traveling campus preacher – one who had been at Carolina before and one whom so many students hated. Then I heard a voice change – almost as if someone was handing off a baton. And this voice was familiar. In fact, too familiar. I soon realized that Carl had stepped in to help the preacher and he was preaching Christ with the boldness and compassion that I had only read about in the book of Acts. As the issue of Christ took center stage, the jeers and the heckling increased. It didn’t seem to bother Carl.

I stayed back, near the wall – embarrassed – I just wanted to slither into the bookstore unnoticed. Then some girl I barely knew said to me, “Isn’t that your fiancé?”

“Um . . . well...” and I ducked away. Inside the bookstore, someone else I barely knew came up to me and said something like, “Why aren’t you out there? Isn’t he your fiancé?”

I am so ashamed to say it – but I just wanted to get away. Though I had been bought with the blood of the One they were preaching – I didn’t want to be identified with them. So, instead of standing there praying for the preacher, for Carl, and for the students who so desperately needed Jesus Christ, I slithered my way back to my dorm and all I could think of was how Peter denied Jesus.

Carl and I never discussed it.

Then, a few months later on June 28, 1980 Carl and I walked the aisle and said our vows before God and man. I became Mrs. Carl Broggi.

Well, it’s been nearly thirty-four years, five children, two daughters-in-law, one son-in-law, and nine and a half grandchildren since then. I am still impressed by this man and I know what real love is. It’s not the stuff that Hollywood offers and it’s different from what I thought love was in my pre-Carl days. It’s deep. It’s not about being northern or southern, dressing preppy, or driving a cool car.

A few years ago, I was reminded of all the reasons I was impressed by and grew to love this man. We were in Vienna, Austria on our way home from one of our Ukraine mission trips. We had a day in the city and wanted to see as much as we could. Our hotel was near an open market area where we found ourselves taking in the cathedrals, parks, and even an Austrian public school. There were all sorts of ‘artisans’ in the square, including two mimes. One was dressed as an angel, standing on a pedestal. The other was dressed like the grim reaper. Seizing the opportunity, my husband stood beside the angel and using them as props began preaching the gospel.

It was like he was part of their act. Or, I should say they were part of his act. At first, I thought, what is he doing? Then my mind flashed to Carolina’s pit and Carl’s preaching. For half a second, I thought about ducking into a nearby bookstore. But I didn’t - I knew God was giving me a fresh opportunity to stand my man and be identified with him.

See, years before in Carolina’s pit, I had slithered away. Well, in Austria’s pit, I was not going to slither away. In fact, I got out my camera and took some pictures. I felt like saying, “That’s my husband! Listen to him – he’s got a message for you that you don’t want to miss.” I told our children, “Be proud of your dad – pray for him – and pray for those who listen.”

A crowd gathered – some laughing, some standing, and some pausing before they turned away. But some were listening. Out of the some who were listening emerged four teenage boys. When Carl finished preaching, these boys approached him and began asking all kinds of questions about the gospel.

I was in awe of this man – who was tired from preaching and teaching non-stop in Ukraine. This man who had been sick with a stomach virus the entire time kept giving out the gospel and answering people’s questions. He was amazing.

Still is. And let me tell you, this wasn’t an isolated incident. This is how he lives his life. Always ready to share the message of salvation. This man I married bleeds the gospel of Christ. He lives to share the gospel with anyone, and I mean anyone who will listen.  In all these years, he’s never wavered.

Other reasons I love and respect this man? He is faithful. He is gracious. He is business-like. He doesn't return evil for evil. When slandered, he perseveres. And I, who know him better than anyone, who has lived with him for nearly thirty-four years, who knows all his flaws - I am still impressed and I am more in love today than I was when God opened up my heart to him. The world can’t touch the love that God gives, deepens, and grows.

I’ve been to lots of weddings over the years. I am always reminded that the ceremony is just a doorway into a lifelong marriage. I am reminded that the real beauty is not the wedding itself – as important as that is – the real beauty is the covenant kept. A wedding is a sacred trust and a picture of Christ and His bride. A marriage is really about God. Our wedding invitation so long ago declared, “God has called the two of us to be one flesh, united in Him, to reflect the image of His Son.” That’s what it’s all about. Reflecting Him.

Now - about that mental list of a future husband? Well, Carl is taller than I am (lots), he's definitely rugged (you should see him under the hood of a car or working in the yard) and handsome. He loves to laugh - loudly. From time to time (though he’s not given to overdoing it), He looks into my eyes and tells me that I am the most beautiful thing in the world. He works hard and we are content. He makes a living that has always provided for our five children and me. He does love our children and I guess now, after all these years in the South, he is definitely southern. But . . . I am not the center of his world. That place belongs to God and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

I am thankful today that God, in His sovereignty, brought Carl to North Carolina all those years ago. Who, but God, would have ever placed a Boston College graduate from Massachusetts on a Carolina campus? Hey, I guess I really did marry a Carolina boy after all.

Part 2 coming soon ... all these years later ....

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