By late 2010, Yolanda Anderson had gone 14 years without so much as a casual date.
She was nearly 40 and deeply devoted to God, her church and her nonprofit career.
“Because I worked so hard on me, I didn’t want to settle for just anybody,” she says. “So I was just steadfast on what I needed to do for me.” If romance was meant to happen, she figured, God would find a way.
So when Daryl Brunson, the loud guy who worked on the security team at her church, Soul Factory in Forestville, asked her to help him set up a ministry to foster interaction between the congregation’s single men and women, she was sympathetic to the cause.
She never had the best impression of Brunson — “You would hear him first before you would see him,” she says — but agreed to help.
Brunson, a Metrobus operator, wasn’t Anderson’s biggest fan, either. “I thought she was kind of stiff and bossy. She kind of really got on my nerves,” Brunson says.
He was a recently divorced father of two teenage girls. As he waded back into the dating pool, he was determined to make wiser choices this time around. “I did enough wrong in my life,” he says. “I’m trying to do right now.”
They began to meet and talk regularly about the ministry, which was inspired by a six-week course they’d both taken on dating from a Christian perspective. It focused on putting God first, considering each other brothers and sisters and building off of friendships.
As the ministry got underway in the spring of 2011, Brunson began turning to Anderson as a sounding board for his dating quandaries. “But, oh man, it didn’t usually go good when I would do that,” he says. “She’s coming from a female perspective, and you don’t really want to hear that. But it was good therapy. It was good learning.”
As they worked together, she saw sides of him she hadn’t seen before. He was open, humble and generous with his time and energy. Still, she considered him just a friend. But he had started hoping for more. A lot of her values line up with my values, he remembers thinking. A lot of her ideals line up with my ideals. I wonder — could she be a potential?
On July 4, he was working overtime and forgot his lunch. At 9 a.m. he called Anderson and asked whether she would mind bringing him something to eat. She arrived with fresh grilled chicken, fruit, rice and broccoli. When he told an elder at the church about their lunch, Brunson was assured that Anderson would have done as much for any friend in need.
When they decided to go to the movies one day, Brunson decided to take a chance.
“What do you think about dating me?” he asked.
Anderson was stunned and began to stammer. Finally, she eked out a yes. But after the movie, she retracted the answer. She also wanted to be sure he was interested in courting — a series of steps meant to evaluate whether two people are right for marriage, not dating as it’s normally done.
Assured that was the case, she told him he’d have an answer in five days. She prayed, spoke to members of the church who knew Brunson and finally said yes. “I had had a whole list of things I wanted in a mate, and Daryl didn’t fit all those things,” she says. “But then I started to look at him as a person and look at his heart and not anything else. Because at the end of the day, to me that was what matters.”
They went on a first-date walk around the Tidal Basin. When he tried to hold her hand, she declined. But the conversation came easily and time flew by. The phone calls increased and became more personal. When he went on vacation for 12 days in August, he found himself missing her intensely. After dating for less than a month, he told her he loved her.
“That kind of magnified the actual relationship. It was already real, but it made it that much more sincere,” she says. “So I was like, ‘Okay, God, exactly where do we go from here?’ ”
Anderson began to let her guard down. “You want to shield yourself from all the things that could potentially go bad. But at the same time you can stop what could go good,” she says.
The next month, she told him she loved him, too. “He captured my heart,” she says.
The courtship accelerated, and even as they talked about marriage, they agreed not to kiss or have any intimate contact until they were wed.
In November, he invited her to take another walk around the Tidal Basin before going out to dinner. When they arrived, she heard a man singing their song, “Share My Life” by Kem. Then Anderson’s daughters stepped out of the shadows and invited her to become part of the family. The couple danced in the moonlight before Anderson dropped to one knee and proposed.
They spent six months in premarital counseling, covering topics such as finances and blended families. “Our foundation is built on communication. Because all we had was talking. . . . We couldn’t just hug and say, ‘Oh, it’ll be okay.’ ” says Brunson, 42. “We dealt with things most people don’t see until after they’re married.”
On Sept. 22, Brunson stood before a flowing waterfall in the back yard of a private home in Clinton. He looked up to the heavens as he waited for Anderson to appear. Soon she joined him to exchange vows before their friends and relatives.
“Surrender to love,” the minister instructed, “and God will see you through.”
Declared husband and wife, Brunson kissed his bride on the cheek. Guests cheered for more.
“The lips are for us in private,” Brunson announced with a smile before the two walked back down the aisle.