Steve and Terry Pettit’s BJU Love Story

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This transcript has been modified from the original for readability.

Steve Pettit: The first time we met was in church. It was the summer of 1977? ’77.

Terry Pettit: ‘77? ’78?

Steve: It was ’77.

Terry: Right. That’s right.

Steve: And our family had moved to Colorado. We were out there for the summer, and you were in Sunday school.

Terry: That’s right. I had worked in a Christian camp in Michigan and came home for a wedding for just a week. And I had a girlfriend who was my counselor partner, and she was dating Steve.

Steve: Sort of.

Terry: She was dating Steve. She had a letter, and she said, Are you gonna go to this church? I said, Yes, I am. And she says, Well, my boyfriend is there. His name is Steve Pettit. Would you give him this letter for me? I said, Oh, sure. So, when I went to Colorado for the wedding, I went on Sunday morning. And my boyfriend was the college and career teacher. And so, I asked him—

Steve: Who was a good friend of mine.

Terry: Who was a good friend of Steve’s, and I said, I need to meet a Steve Pettit. I have a letter.

Steve: And y’all had dated three years.

Terry: OK, that’s right. I had dated a long time, this other gentleman—young man—and so I said, I need to meet a Steve Pettit. So, after Sunday school he introduced me to Steve.

Steve: So, in Sunday school the Sunday school teacher, who was a friend of mine and dating Terry, introduced Terry. She got up and sang, and I was mesmerized. I went, Who is this girl? She’s stunningly beautiful, and she sings like an angel, and I’m really interested in angels. So, I’m just like, wow! And then she comes up to me in the lobby of the church after Sunday school, and there’s a lot of people there. And she walks right up to me, and she says, Are you Steve Pettit? And I thought, This is too good to be true. And so, she hands me the note. My first thought is, I think I like you better.

Terry: So, I went back to camp, told the girl he was dating, Boy, he’s a really good guy. I am really happy for you. Not thinking of anything past that because I was still in a relationship with another person.

Steve: I saw her a little bit that summer, dating my friend and on a couple of church activities. And I just was very impressed with her godliness and her demeanor and her deportment and just how she was. And I never forgot it. I really, really was impressed with her.

So, we go through a year. I finished my senior year at the Citadel, and she traveled on a revival team as a singer. The next summer I go back out to my home church and actually work there as an intern, and Terry works all summer as the head cook in a camp up in Michigan. At the end of the summer, she comes back home, and I’m finishing up my ministry there. We’re in church together, and I noticed something. The boy she’d been dating is sitting on one side of the auditorium, and she’s sitting on the other side. So, I’m sitting there, and I ask him, Are you still dating Terry? He said, No, we just broke up. My first thought was, Aw, too bad! So, soon as service is over with, I go to the other side of the auditorium, and she’s standing there. I walk up to her, and I go, Hi. And she goes, Hi. Do you remember that?

Terry: Yes, and we had seen each other on breaks, at Christmas. We had had some contact, but nothing beyond a friendship for sure.

Steve: So, when I saw her, I asked her, So, what are you doing?” She’s been in this ministry. She says, Well, I’m actually gonna go to college.” I said, Where you going? She said, “To Bob Jones University. I went, Really?” I said, So am I. I’m going there for grad school this year.

Terry: So, I was 21 when I came to Bob Jones. I wasn’t just out of high school because I had done some other things first.

Steve: So, I’m standing there thinking, Yes!

Terry: So, we both went the same year, a little bit older than the normal student.

Steve: I’m assuming the first time I saw you was after that chapel? Remember that chapel that you came walking in?

Terry: Well, what happened was I had classes in the Alumni, and he just kept being there after I got out of the building. And we’d walk to chapel together. And I’d be like, Oh, hello.” We just kept seeing each other, and he kept walking me to chapel every day. And I was a little uncomfortable because he was such good friends with my old boyfriend. So, he asked me out in October, and our first date was to a soccer game. There’s more of a story than that, but go ahead.

Steve: So, I don’t remember being that quite persevering, but that’s sort of my spiritual gift.

Terry: I felt like he was persevering.

Steve: I remember really clearly after chapel one day, I was standing outside talking to her former boyfriend. We were standing there, and she comes walking by, and she looks at us, and I looked at her, and I looked at her in a very particular way. And she knew that there was an interest there.

Terry: So, I walked past him, saw both of them together and thought, Oh, no.” Because I kind of picked up that signal and wasn’t sure what to do about that.

Steve: So, later on, I don’t know if it was that week or the following week, but I called her room—that was back in the day when we had phones on the wall—and I wanted to ask her out.

Terry: I got a message because I wasn’t in my room, and he wanted me to call him back. Well, I didn’t call boys. That was something you didn’t do. I did call him back, and I said, Look, I want you to know that I’m calling you back as a courtesy because you wanted me to call you. But I will never call you again, and if you went to talk to me, you’re gonna have to call me.

Steve: So, I said, Oh, yes!” So anyway, we did our first date, and it was at society soccer matches on campus, and they were two-hour games, and so it was about a three- or four-hour process. We sat in the stands the whole time. Probably the thing that drew us together was just our experience and background. I was 22, she was 21, and our own spiritual experiences were so similar. So immediately, I think, there was a spiritual connection that’s never really gone away. And our second date, we went up to The Wilds for a grad outing. And that was a very interesting day. A lot of interesting things happened.

Terry: It was a really horrible date.

Steve: For her, physically.

Terry: Actually, because The Wilds—if you’ve ever been there—has all the roads that go back and forth, and they weren’t paved at the time. And I was very motion sick. I won’t go into detail, but it was really a horrible day from the start. Poor Steve had to be with me the whole day, and it was not a real pleasant experience. I wanted to trail him 20 feet, you know, because of high humidity and—

Steve: She got sick.

Terry: Not good smells. But when I got sick, I felt bad for everybody, but I thought, this’ll tell me if he really likes me or not because at that point we were just getting started in our relationship. And he was very kind to continue.

Steve: So, we dated through the fall, and since we were living in the same place, we were going home at Christmas time. So, on the plane going out to Colorado, we were talking. We flew out together, and we were talking about meeting her parents, and she was very clear about a process that had to go through. And that process was meeting her dad.

Terry: My father was not a believer. I didn’t really grow up in a Christian home. So, I was very burdened for his soul and didn’t want him to have to climb over too many barriers or walls. And knowing that Steve was a Christian and I was a Christian and he was not, I didn’t want that to become a problem for his future salvation in any way. So, I told Steve on the way out, Look, if my father doesn’t like you we’re finished. We’re done.” Because that was important to me, even though he was not a believer. And so, he met my dad, and my dad did like him. He liked his military background. He liked, probably, the fact that Steve did not come from a Christian home either. So, it was kind of an odd dynamic in that way. But it was very good. And I have to say that later on after we were married and had our first child, my dad trusted Christ as his Savior. So, that was a lifelong prayer that had been answered.

Steve: So, that Christmas break was an important time to meet the dad. The dad gave approval, and then we definitely had a DTR. Define the Relationship. And there was—there was an interesting motivation behind it.

Terry: Well, since we weren’t engaged and we weren’t married, I thought, Well, I can still date whoever I want to.” So, a young man asked me out in Colorado to go skiing. And I was seeing Steve, but my brother came in because I didn’t have skis of my own, and he said, Oh, here’s your skis for tomorrow, Terry.” And I was just like, Oh, thanks!” And Steve goes, Are you going skiing?” I was like, Yeah, I’m going skiing.

Steve: Without me?

Terry: Who are you going with?” Um. And I said the young man’s name, and he was like, Oh.” So, I went skiing the next day. He was miserable the next day. And the next day after I got back, he said, You know, there comes a time in your relationship that you need to decide who you’re gonna date.” I was like, Oh. When is that time?” And he said, Now. Now is that time.

Steve: My spiritual gifts are perseverance and ultimatums.

Terry: Pretty much it was an ultimatum—either me or the highway sort of thing. So, I was like, OK. All along our attraction to each other really had a strong spiritual base. Not that there wasn’t other attraction there, but because of that we were asking the Lord the whole time, should we continue in this relationship? And so, I said yes at that point.

Steve: So, we dated through the year, and the following summer I traveled as an evangelist for Neighborhood Bible Time, and you went home, I believe that summer.

Terry: No, I actually went back to the camp that I had worked at before, and I think I was the head counselor that summer.

Steve: So, of course, we met again in the fall, and then in the fall things began to pick up. And I was being interviewed for an opportunity up in Michigan, and I think—did we fly up together?

Terry: We did.

Steve: Yeah, we flew up together.

Terry: They flew us up.

Steve: So, you know, the pastor asked me, Are you married?” Or, Are you planning on being married? I said, Well, I’m kind of moving in that direction.” He said, Well, why don’t you come up? We’ll interview you. And bring the girl.” So, you know, we went up and met. It sort of moved our relationship along, and at that time we had made some commitments.

It was just so different than it is today. You didn’t really talk about marriage, and you didn’t even say you love each other unless there was a real commitment. So, we had both made a commitment not to really talk about marriage or how much we loved each other until it was really clear that we were gonna go in a direction towards marriage. So, I was ready to tell her that I loved her. And I knew that when I told her that that an engagement wouldn’t come much further after that. So, I thought, is this like planned or is it spontaneous? Or how do you do this? And so, I decided to go for it and be spontaneous.

So, the first time I told her that I loved her was in the snack shop at Bob Jones University. So, Bob Jones holds a special place in our lives. And she looked at me, and she didn’t respond and say, I love you, too.” She just stared at me because she knew what that meant.

Terry: Because we’d had this discussion prior to him telling me.

Steve: So, I asked her to marry me—what, a couple weeks later?

Terry: Well, I thought he would wait till Christmas break. That was kind of the normal time, and instead it was October. So, I was truly surprised. I was so surprised, I wasn’t really quite ready to say yes because I wasn’t sure at that moment. But I did.

Steve: So, we got engaged in October.

Terry: Obviously I did!

Steve: And so, we went through the year and finished. She finished in May. I had to go through summer school in 1980 to finish my master’s degree. I finished towards the end of July and literally drove out to Denver. The next week I got ordained into the ministry. Then the next week we got married and did our honeymoon. And the next week we left and drove to Michigan to begin our ministry. So, it was pretty back to back, and it’s been pretty much back to back since 1980.

Terry: That’s true. I told him I didn’t want to ever be bored. He goes, Well, stick with me, and you’ll never be bored.” And that’s a true statement. So now I’m like, maybe I’d like to be bored. I don’t know. Maybe that would be good.

Steve: So, 38 years later, and four children and three grandchildren and another one on the way. The Lord has been merciful to us and allowed us to love each other. My pastor brought us into his office one day. We’d been in the ministry there about a year, and we had done those personality tests to see what you’re like. And the pastor said, Well, I’ve done the personality tests for you and your wife, and the people that are most likely to get a divorce are you.” I said, Thanks, pastor.” He said, Because you’re both firstborn, and you have certain personality types.” We’re definitely different. We grew up differently, but the Lord’s been merciful to us.

Terry: A Westerner married a Southerner, and I didn’t know what that meant at the time. But God has been very gracious, merciful. And, you know, I have had health difficulties throughout most of our marriage. Even when I was 28 when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis—and obviously I’m moving and walking—but there were lots of challenges along the way with the cancer diagnoses and everything. But Steve’s been very faithful and loving through our whole marriage. I appreciate that.

Steve: So, the key to it all is the Lord.

Terry: That’s right.

Steve: He has to be first.

Terry: That’s right. Our foundation has been Christ from the very beginning.

Steve: Kiss.

Read other stories of love at BJU HERE.