Hunter and Joey met in the fall of 2013, the fall of Hunter’s sophomore year and Joey’s freshman year of college. Hunter spent most of the 2013-2014 school year praying for the opportunity to get to know her better, but it wasn’t until the fall of 2014 in a World Religion class at Charleston Southern University that they discovered each other’s passion for the nations and the desire to enter the mission field. Late in the semester, Joey convinced Hunter to add Swaziland to his mission trip resume. The spring semester of 2015, they shared two statistics classes, and spent the first few weeks studying together. One January day after class, Hunter went out on a limb and jokingly asked Joey out to dinner…and she said yes. They held hands for the first time in the back of a friend’s car on the way home from a Super Bowl party; over coffee two days later, Hunter asked Joey about Swaziland, and fell in love with the way her eyes lit up when she talked about ‘her babies’ and the fire she had inside her. That night, three hours later, they had to be informed that the Starbucks was closing and they needed to leave. The first “official” date was the Friday, February 7, and things did not go as planned. He picked her up outside her dormitory, and even opened the car door for her…or at least, he tried. It took two attempts (the car had been locked the first time), but he did it. The parking lot of the first restaurant they went to was completely packed–not a single open space. They ended up at the worst table in an O’Charley’s; both Hunter and Joey jumped every time the kitchen door swung open and banged into the back of the booth. Joey fell in love with Hunter’s quiet strength, his heart for the Lord, and the desire he has to follow God’s plan. Hunter waited a whole month to say, “I love you,” for the first time, after watching her interact with his younger brother…but by then, Joey already knew he was The One. He supported her in every way imaginable; more than once, she caught him reading up on her medical conditions before doctors’ appointments, all of which he attended and continues to attend. For the first time in any dating relationship, she felt as though he could (and would) lead her spiritually. He fit the godly image of love, as described in 1 Corinthians 13. He was definitely The One.
Fast forward three more months: Hunter and Joey get on an Africa-bound plane. Hunter’s heart was wrecked after encountering the overwhelming need in Swaziland, and felt the Lord calling him to Africa as his forever home. He had never seen Joey happier than when he saw her loving on orphans and singing songs in an unfamiliar language. Joey watched Hunter interact with kids and saw how naturally the Swazi culture came to him. She knew before he did that this was their forever home. After returning to the US, they began talking about marriage and intentionally moving in that direction.