The Old-Fashioned Way

By Marcela Valdes
Sunday, September 3, 2006

Before Edgar Gonzalez could propose to Allison Gutierrez, his girlfriend of two years, he needed to know that God approved. And He did. There were two signs.

The first came through Juana Castillo, a Nicaraguan woman who rented Edgar a room in Mount Rainier and had known him since he'd emigrated from Guatemala five years before. One night in the spring of 2002, while Juana was deep in prayer, God sent her a passage for Edgar, Hosea 1:1-9. In it, the Lord orders Hosea, "Go take for yourself a wife." The page is now marked with a blue prayer card in Edgar's Bible.

Still, Edgar had some doubts. When you believe, as he does, that marriage is a holy sacrament, irreversible by divorce, doubts are naturally persistent. So on June 1, 2004, God sent Edgar a stronger sign. That night, he and Allison left his place for dinner. When Allison halted the car for a stop sign, a man walking in the road leaned through her open window. Did she have a cigarette? he asked.

"No," she said. "I don't smoke."

"Okay," the man said. "Then give me all your money."

The car was at a T-stop. There were houses lined up in front. Allison couldn't speed away, so she tried to stall.

"We don't have any money," she said.

The man displayed a penny-colored gun. "If you don't give me your money," he said, "I'm going to shoot." He waved the gun between Allison and Edgar and fired.

From the passenger seat, Edgar handed over his wallet. In it was his rent money -- some $500 in cash -- which he'd planned to deliver that night. "Oh, God," the man said seeing the bills, and he took off. It was only then that Allison noticed the blood seeping from her black pants onto the car seat.

"Edgar," she cried, "I've been shot!"

As the ambulance took Allison to the hospital, Edgar had a moment of crisis. He heard a voice ask him: What if Allison is paralyzed? Will you still want her then? Yes, Edgar answered, I will marry Allison even if she is crippled . At that moment, all his doubts disappeared.

ALLISON AND EDGAR'S BRIDAL SHOWER CUM BACHELOR-BACHELORETTE PARTY was held the Sunday night before their July wedding, in the basement of St. James Catholic Church, five minutes from both Allison and Edgar's homes. (He lives two blocks from her.) The party was set to start at 7; the couple arrived at 8:22. By 9:30, the event was in full swing. Little kids ran around on a platform stage, laughing and batting pastel balloons. Men talked in clusters in the back. Women let themselves be recruited for silly games involving toilet paper and bananas and mild forms of humiliation. After the blessing, Ginny Heredia, who led the evangelical youth group where Allison and Edgar first met, helped dish out homemade taquitos, cabbage salad and baked Dominican chicken.

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