This is a love story.
A real one.
It’s about sacrificial, faith-filled and time-invested love.
It spans a few years, a few countries, a few setbacks and a lot of uncertainty.
It is a love story realized, yet happily unfinished.
This is the true story of Samuel and Fayelle.
Our love story begins back in 2000, with a college student named Fayelle.
Born and raised in Smyrna, Georgia, Fayelle was always interested in learning. She relied on her educational opportunities and life experiences to grow her as a person. She was an avid reader and an eager traveller.
In college she decided to take an unlikely class. It was on Francophone Culture. For those of you, like me who didn’t know, Francophone means, “French-speaking” This class focused on culture in French-speaking countries that were not France and included the study of many African countries. This was exciting to her because at the time, Fayelle was also very interested in learning as much as she could about Africa.
One other thing you should probably know about her is her love for writing letters.
You take those three very simple ingredients. A class. A passion. A pastime. These are the beginnings of a great love story. One that she never saw coming.
Not satisfied with just the class, Fayelle did something that was very hallmark to who she is. She looked for a life experience that she could use to gain more knowledge, and that is what led her to search for African pen pals with whom she could write. This would give her a chance to get to know these countries through the eyes of its people and that was a very exciting prospect.
It didn’t take long for her to find an agency that specialized in matching international pen pals, and she went to work filling out their extensive questionnaire. The agency wanted to know her interests, desires and background in order to match her with the perfect people with whom she could share letters.
Three weeks later, she received a list of ten names from the agency. Five women and five men were selected for her from countries like Angola, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania and Ghana. She hoped to correspond with these men and women about life in Africa and tell them about her life in the United States. She could hardly wait. So what was the first thing she did?
“I lost the list,” she admits, “I was going to contact the agency to get a copy of that list again when letters started coming in for me.”
Her name had been sent to other people’s lists and so she began excitedly reading and writing responses to these new acquaintances. Among her newfound African friends was a man from Ghana.
His name was Samuel.
At first, Samuel was just a name. A name at the end of a letter that was lumped in with the other people she was writing. There was no reason to think of him any differently. She was learning so much about these African nations and getting and sending pictures. “It was a fantastic experience,” she gushes.
By late 2002, she noticed the letters began to slow down. Some completely stopped. There was only one person she was still writing on a regular basis. That person was Samuel. They had become more than names on a letter to one another. They had forged a real bond…a friendship.
It was now the beginning of 2003 and things, unbeknownst to them, were about to change.
It began with the unexpected and sudden death of Samuel’s beloved mother.
This was obviously devastating to Samuel and he sought comfort from the one person he felt would really understand his grief. This time, though, a letter would not suffice. Samuel picked up the phone and for the first time he called his American friend, Fayelle. In the time they had been writing, their bond had grown. It had grown to the point that in a moment of inexplicable grief, she was the person he turned to for support.
They talked and prayed, leaning on their friendship and their common faith to carry them through a difficult time. “He was so sad,” she recalls.
After that, Fayelle and Samuel continued to communicate through mostly letters and now, the occasional phone call.
But in early 2004 they both began to struggle in different ways.
Samuel knew he was in love. He was in love with his friend from America. She was his confidant and the one he wanted to be with forever. But there was a complication. In the flurry of letters and photos that were sent back and forth, Samuel noticed Fayelle wore a ring on her left hand. Was he in love with a married woman? Was she engaged? Promised? There was only one way to clear up this question in his mind…but did he have the nerve?
Fayelle, on the other hand, had always focused on making Christ the center of her life. For a while now, she had worn a silver puzzle ring on her finger to signify that she was the bride of Christ. But now, she began seriously struggling with her future. For some reason, her future husband, whoever he was, sat heavy on her heart. She described it as inner turmoil. It invaded her thoughts, her dreams and she could not figure out why a girl with such a zest for life and a true spirit of adventure who committed herself to being the bride of Christ could be so worried about getting married. It was unlike her. She leaned on God, like she always did in times like these, and bravely carried on.
In May of 2004, Samuel worked up the nerve to ask Fayelle the question he had wondered for many, many months. He wanted to know the meaning of the ring she wore, so he asked.
Are you married?
Fayelle explained to him that it was a ring she wore as a reminder to herself and moved on. Any thoughts about anything other than a friendship with Samuel were overshadowed by the reality that he was a man she had never met, who lived in Ghana. So for her part, Fayelle did not spend a lot of time dwelling on his inquiry.
After that, the letters began to increase dramatically. “He was very good to talk to and we were similar in so many ways.” They no longer waited to receive each other’s letters before sending one, they just wrote whenever they had something to say.
Then in July 2004, Fayelle received a very long letter from Samuel that stopped her in her tracks.
He was in love with her.
That wasn’t all.
He wanted to marry her.
Their friendship was now at a giant crossroads. There was no going back. Things were going to change one way or another. She put the letter aside and for two weeks did nothing but struggle. It was very hard for her. Of course, she had to tell him, “no”. They had never met. He lived in Ghana. It was crazy. Just crazy!
Or was it?
Every time she sat down to write the letter that would reject Samuel’s proposal and every time she tried to write the words to explain why…she just couldn’t. Oh she tried. She literally couldn’t. She felt it in her soul. It was not right.
Telling him, ‘no’ was not right.
What was she going to do?
She went back to the thing that got her through everything else in her life…her faith. So she prayed. Boy, did she pray.
One afternoon, she was walking by a beautiful lake and she felt God telling her that it was okay. Not only was it okay, it was right. It was part of his plan.
It was right.
“And I went home and wrote the letter that said, ‘yes,’ and it was SO RIGHT,” she remembers.
As soon as she finished the letter, her heart was at peace. From there, she says, love for Samuel just filled her and began to grow exponentially. It was an inexplicable and insane turn of events, but as she puts it, “…I knew he was the one for me.”
The biggest confirmation for both Samuel and Fayelle came in the form of instant approval and excitement from their immediate families, something that most definitely had weighed on their hearts. Family meant everything to them. Once they received the blessing of their loved ones, they felt the freedom to plunge ahead with their plans to marry.
In March 2005, Samuel sent Fayelle an engagement ring and asked her over the phone to marry him.
It was official. The girl from Georgia was about to marry the man from Ghana.
There was nothing left to do except plan a wedding. It was simple really. Well, okay, it wasn’t at all going to be simple.
The original plan was to get married in Virginia in September of 2005.
Although Fayelle really wanted to go to Ghana before the wedding to meet Samuel in person and spend time with his family, there was some push back from his more traditional extended family. There was opposition to, Samuel, a Ghanaian marrying outside of the country, and had she gone there first, it would have been as if she were “taking” him away from his country.
So to avoid the possibility of insulting her new family, they decided to get married and go back to Ghana in a few years to meet and get to know everyone at that time.
The only thing standing between them and marriage in the US was the approval for a fiancé visa…and for that, there needed to be a very good reason why this couple had never met. In short, they had to explain the last several years of their growing love to a total stranger. Their future plans on hold until a decision was made.
Samuel and Fayelle both wrote lengthy letters, something they had obviously grown used to doing, explaining the past several years and how all roads had ultimately led to their falling in love and their desire to marry.
In a devastating blow, their reasons failed to convince and the visa was subsequently denied. As she sobbed into the phone, her husband-to-be comforted her. “You know, hearing you cry makes me love you more. It’s like you’re a flower – you’ve opened the depths of your heart to me and I love what I see and feel so privileged to see it.”
It is a statement she claims she will never forget.
Plans to marry in America were now replaced by plans to marry in Ghana.
It was not going to be easy. Samuel’s extended family, as I mentioned, deeply opposed such a union. He persevered though, always keeping his eye on his ultimate prize…marriage to Fayelle. It also helped to have close members of his family who unconditionally supported him. They had been hearing about Fayelle for years, seen his love grow and witnessed the changes in him.
Getting a visa for Ghana was a lot simpler and being an over the top excited traveller, Fayelle was ecstatic about getting married there. The one downside being the number of shot required, but this was a small price to pay for love.
On March 2, 2006 (Samuel’s birthday) Fayelle arrived in Ghana, giddy and not a bit nervous. Samuel was waiting with equal excitement. As the years of distance shrunk to only a few inches between them, he looked into her eyes and said, “You are SO beautiful.”
And she melted.
He then took her bags and her hand, and as they walked together to his car, it all came together. It all made sense. THIS was so right. It was as if they had known each other for years…and really they had. What had started as two people seeking friendship outside their own culture several years ago had grown into love.
They spent 16 days in Ghana prior to their wedding on March 18, 2006. Joined by her cousin and friends, Fayelle and Samuel took their vows and made their commitments to one another on that day. Years of writing and caring for one another had finally culminated into this beautiful and perfect day.
They spent another 16 days experiencing Ghana together as husband and wife before she had to return to America.
Samuel would not be returning with her. There was a visa still standing in between them and their fairy tale ending.
In the airport as they said their goodbyes, Fayelle began to cry. She cried at the airport, she cried all the way back to America and when she finally arrived at her mother’s house outside of Atlanta she cried even more.
She soon realized that she had contracted a mild case of malaria and that would put her in bed for three weeks. So she lay in bed, recuperating and also crying for her husband.
Most couples don’t have to endure the pain of this type of separation. We take for granted that nothing is standing in the way of our happily ever after except a wedding. There was so much more that needed to happen before they could be together, in one house. There is no other way to explain it other than to say it was hard. But it was worth it for them both.
They were willing to follow all the rules, go through all the paperwork and do everything that was required of them so they could be together again. They were willing to endure the pain of temporary separation to have a lifetime full of happiness and love.
Fayelle was told her husband’s visa would take 6-9 months and cost $450, and so she got to work immediately to make it happen. But when all would be said and done, it would take $1500 and more than two years before Samuel and Fayelle would be reunited.
To everyone’s immense happiness, in May 2008, Samuel left his home country of Ghana forever and arrived in America to begin his new life with his pen pal, dear friend and now wife, Fayelle.
Samuel and Fayelle’s love story was not simple. It was not full of instant connections, fast engagements and immediate gratification. It was a love that certainly caught them off guard. It was rooted in the soil of friendship, nourished by the magic of time and blossomed into a love that could overcome any obstacle.
In September of 2009, Fayelle and Samuel were thrilled to welcome a daughter, Naomi into their lives. They currently reside outside of Atlanta and will complete their amazing family this month with a second daughter who is expected to make her appearance any day. When asked to describe her life, Fayelle will quickly tell you, “My heart is full.”