Romance isn’t what Pathfinders youth ministry is famous for. But an unlikely and delightful love story spanning two continents would not have blossomed were it not for a shared experience in Pathfinder leadership.
Meet Collins and Jilian Maranga of United Central Adventist Church in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota (of the Central States Conference). Born in Kenya, Collins became a Pathfinder at age 8, and the experience shaped his life. It also broadened his view of the world around him, giving him opportunity to travel across his nation.
In 1999 he emigrated to America and put down roots in a new land. One Sabbath, another Kenyan immigrant visited his church. Jilian had a unique prayer request that day: that God would give her a husband who knew how to sing. When she walked into the sanctuary, there was Collins on the platform, singing. “He’s the one!” she exclaimed to herself. “That’s the man I’m going to marry!”
And she did! But not so quickly.
Jilian soon learned that if she wanted to get to know Collins, she had better get involved with him in Pathfinder leadership. So they fell in love while ministering together to the kids. They were surprised to discover that they already had a shared history across the ocean on their distant native continent.
Back during Jilian’s school days in Kenya, a band came to play from the boy’s high school. Her favorite player was whoever was performing on the bass trumpet. She couldn’t even see his face because he was in the back row and the instrument was so large, and she never got to meet him afterward because she had to rush off to class.
Fast forward a decade later to the other side of the world. Two Minnesota Pathfinder leaders, while sharing their life stories with each other, were shocked to realize that Collins had been in the boy’s band that day at Jilian’s school. And he had been playing the bass trumpet.
And there’s more to this incredible musical romance that spans two continents. Jilian says, “When we finally decided to get married, it was our duty to inform our parents to seek their blessing. To our shock we discovered that both sets of parents were already friends with each other—and our dads even had worked together.
And yet the couple to be married had never even met each other before that shared Sabbath in Minnesota.
Jilian is a nurse and Collins is graduating into that profession this year. So they share the same profession, the same age (32), the same ministry to Pathfinders, and and now two precious daughters: Grace and Abby, both of whom are Adventurers.
God continues to lead them, but life isn’t always easy. For example, when Collins and Jilian arrived with their daughters in Custer, South Dakota for the Mid-America Union Pathfinder Camporee last summer, they discovered that the rest of their group had been delayed. And they had all the food for the group. Now little Grace and Abby were saying that they were hungry.
The family had plenty of food—except that it was hundreds of miles away. Jilian began to quietly worry.
God provided, through the love of other Pathfinder clubs who noticed that the kids were hungry and invited the family over for lunch. Then room on the bus for the family was made available on the afternoon field trip to Flag Mountain. Someone from the Bolivar (Missouri) Club spread the word around that this family could use some food—and every one of the Pathfinders contributed something from their own supper to the family.
Jilian says, “The love was wonderful. We had nothing yesterday. Abby and Grace had more than enough. A girl named Faith even gave us her backpack with all it contained. That’s called God’s love.”
It was the same providential love that united the hearts and lives of two African immigrants through an amazing romance rooted in Pathfinder ministry.
By Martin Weber, Mid-America Union communication director
Photo caption: The Maranga family at the Mid-America Union Pathfinder Camporee: (clockwise) Collins holding Abby, Jilian and Grace