(ROCKWALL, HEATH, TX – Feb. 11, 2017) I’m still surprised I chose to attend the University of Arkansas. My parents didn’t like my far-away plan, especially when good schools were closer to home—smaller colleges, which seemed a better fit for me. My mother, who’d heard wild stories, had one stipulation: request a non-freshman dorm.
I wasn’t alone in my new surroundings. My older sister lived near campus with her husband, a senior engineering student. They had already arranged a date for me on the night of my arrival since the dorm cafeteria served no Sunday evening meal.
I also had a long-time friend, Carol, for a roommate. In less than 20 minutes on move-in day, we unpacked our metal trunks and created a hip atmosphere with matching bedspreads in bold-print Indian madras. Then we headed out to the hallway to join the conversation of a group of returning students—mostly sophomores and juniors.
Jim Richter, circa 1974
“Is Jan, the girl from St. Louis, coming back?” one girl asked. “I haven’t seen her,” another replied, “but I wonder if she still dates Jim Richter.” She said this name with a dreamy sigh.
A ringing wall phone interrupted the chatter. The phone in our room!
An engineering classmate of my brother-in-law had called to say he would meet me at the dorm entrance at five o’clock. I barely had time to freshen up before leaving Carol to fend for herself. My blind date, Mike, and I walked several blocks to a Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant to meet his roommate and a girl from my dorm, “both from St. Louis.” That city again.
I took in the couple’s contrasting appearance: she was slender with perfect blonde hair; his arms bulged with muscles, and his long, wavy hair matched his golden-brown skin. Then, Mike introduced me to Jim Richter and his girlfriend, Jan. Those names again!
Within a couple of weeks, Jim came by our room in search of Jan, who’d become friends with Carol. Noticing the Living New Testament on my shelf, he asked me a direct question: “Have you read your Bible?”
I’d read only a bit of the modern translation I purchased on impulse nine months earlier while Christmas shopping. During that holiday break, I marveled over the first few chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, until my last semester of high school disrupted the work of God’s Word in my heart.
Jim, who’d made a profession of faith in Christ a year earlier, invited me to visit an off-campus Bible study that he and Jan decided to attend. The backseat of his brown Ford Galaxy 500 had ample room for Carol and me to go along.
In late October, surrounded by my new fellowship group of students and adult sponsors, I stood in a cold swimming pool, confessed myself a sinner, and asked Jesus to be my Savior. This new relationship would become the greatest love story of my life. However, the Lord had a companion plan for me as well!
The next semester brought changes when neither Jan nor Carol could return to school. This required my awkward transition to the front passenger seat of Jim’s Galaxy for our weekly study. He and I gradually grew comfortable enough to stop for coffee and conversation afterward.
As time passed, Jim and I became sure that coffee and conversation together for the rest of our lives would be a great plan—God’s plan for us.
By Blue Ribbon News faith columnist Patti Richter of Heath.
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