Luke and I met in the summer of 2011. I had recently returned from a big trip in the Philippines, a trip I felt I desperately needed after finishing my university degree. While some of my friends went on to pursue graduate education, I spent my first few months post-grad with my family back home in the Philippines and volunteering at a centre for families of children with Cerebral Palsy. Combine 5 years of university, quitting my restaurant job to focus on finishing school full-time (with a two-semester hiatus in the middle due to my mom’s illness), and a 4-month stint overseas, and you get a twenty-something-year-old girl with nothing but a very expensive piece of paper and a tattered backpack. Needless to say, I was very broke.
I needed to make some money and quickly learned that a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology and a minor in Humanities were not surefire ways to land a dream job (I didn’t even know what my dream job was). After a couple of months of trying to convince someone --anyone-- that I have ‘transferable skills’ and an ‘insatiable desire to learn new things’ (permission to roll your eyes granted), I’ve started to consider going back to restaurant jobs to tide me over. I didn’t want to keep relying on my dad leaving $20 bills on my desk every now and then so that I could continue to pretend being a grown up and join some of my friends on their student-loan/real employment funded escapades.
I happened upon an online posting for a 6-week temporary position for a call centre at a Christian missionary organization. Now, if you know anything about me, you would burst out laughing at the idea of me doing a call centre job. Phones make me anxious and conversations with strangers on the phone is some kind of a personal Everest. Yikes. Oh, and did I mention that the job required asking people for money? Double Yikes.
So I applied.
I walked into the beautiful atrium of this unassuming building in Langley (a new city for me, after having lived in Richmond for over a decade). It seemed as if the interview had gone well because a few days later, I was sitting in a cubicle no wider than my fridge at home with a headset attached to my head, a list of phone numbers on my screen, and a script in my hand. Basically my job was to help missionaries with their personal fundraising so that they could focus more intently on the call that God had placed in their lives. I am all for the Great Commission, and though call centres give me the heebie-jeebies, I felt proud to work alongside fellow Christian brothers and sisters and to participate in the important work of bringing the Good News to all corners of the world. The 6-week call campaign was part of a massive project spearheaded by the organization’s then-president, as well as its local Digital Ministry. A video team made up of a group of young guys drove an RV coast-to-coast, filming all 500+ staff three times as they shared about their respective ministries, to inform their current (and prospective) donors about the work that they’ve been doing recently. These 1,500 videos were filmed and edited on the go while the donor-donated RV whirred along Canada’s beautiful terrain. My call centre script concluded with an invitation to view this special video about the individual missionary whose donor list I had the privilege of calling those few weeks.
There were close to 20 of us in the call centre, sharing a miniscule space in a faraway corner of the Langley building. There were often awkward conversations on the phone (people tend to get pretty weird when money comes up), but all in all it was a fairly good experience for me. I especially bonded with the other headset-wearing folks of the third floor because… well, that’s what sharing tight quarters can do to you. One evening, a few of the call centre reps were asked to stay behind to attend an important Board Meeting. Apparently the big bosses wanted to know how the campaign was going and my manager decided the best way to do that was to play a video of one of the call centre reps (sigh, it was me.) on a live call. Then she invited some of us to the stage so that the Board could meet us. Wearing my yellow blouse from a Philippine market and poorly-fitted brown dress pants (I had started to earn money, but I wasn't making tons), I smiled and waved embarrassingly on the stage, staring at the small crowd in front of me. After our presentation, a guy from the video team was presenting a documentary of their 10-week cross-country RV trip. I was technically in the office overtime and wasn’t getting paid for it, so heck -- after my most business-like wave to seem professional in front of the President and the Board, my fellow headset-donning friends and I were ready to go home. I didn’t stick around for the presentation by Luke Schenk, the guy from the video team.
Fast forward a month or so. We were towards the end of the 6-week contract. I have been performing fairly well and have been able to raise a decent amount of money for the missionaries I had the privilege of representing. We were continuously receiving names and phone lists for new missionaries as the weeks went on. One name I received was for the video guy named Luke. He was around my age, so I was excited to meet him and chat with him before I started making phone calls. I emailed him the canned introductory message we were supposed to send to the staff, and told him a bit about myself. I immediately received a response and he asked if I wanted to meet and go over his list together. I wasn’t keen on in-person chats with my missionaries, so I politely said that I was unable to leave my desk because I was tethered to my phones (truth). He responded instantly and said it would be no problem for him to just head up to my desk from his second-floor office.
That was our first meeting. At least according to my memory. Apparently Luke said he had noticed me during the Board Meeting, mentioning that yellow shirt, but I honestly could not remember seeing him.
A few weeks later, my temporary position in the call centre became a semi-permanent full-time role, thank God. During one of our weekly chapel sessions, Luke was asked to come to the front to be prayed over before he left for a conference in Bangkok. After chapel, I came up to him and asked him about his trip, mentioning that I had been to Thailand when I was 10. He briefly muttered something about being excited to go, then chased after his friends for lunch. Since this conversation wasn’t related to his donors list or the call campaign, travel was the very first non-work conversation that Luke and I ever had.
A few days later he Facebook-messaged me to apologize for the quick exit and opened up the conversation to more travel-related chats. It started off with a little list of Asian countries we’ve visited, to the appreciation (or lack thereof) for Asian cuisine, then to a local Vietnamese restaurant that Luke frequented with those work friends, then to both of us being lonely in Langley because most of our friends were not from this side of town...
And so it began. By the fall, our first “hangout” was at that local Vietnamese restaurant because it seemed fitting to honour Asian travel as our friendship started to unfold. Around this time I had also applied for a position in the ministry that Luke worked with (I could only do call centres for so long). A random “hangout” soon turned into frequent evening walks along Langley’s beautiful trails. In between all this, I interviewed (Luke was the interviewer, oh boy) for the position in Luke’s ministry and landed the job. Lucky break, I guess. ;)
By the end of November, on the evening of my first day on the job of working with (ahem, *for*) Luke, I pulled the DTR card because I was sick of the vague status of our relationship.
The rest, as they say, is history.
p.s. Once we “went public” (a.k.a. Facebook official), I had to work with -- not *for* -- Luke and had to move my desk out of his office.