Lifestyle

Love Beyond the Pews

In restaurants, nightclubs and houses of faith across the area, love will be preached, talked about and manifested through dinners, newlywed games and Valentine’s Day affairs filled with flowers, chocolates and romantic gestures.

But some marriage veterans from Maryland to Florida have found a love that extends far beyond a few days in February. Their bonds are not restricted to boxes of chocolate, flowers in glass or even precious moments of intimacy:

Willie and Sybil Williams
Accokeek, Maryland

He is 80. She is 70. He was married for 51 years. She was married 42 years.

He is a retired division clerk of the Washington Metro Area Transportation Authority. She is the bishop of the Faith Outreach Center of Hope in Brentwood, Maryland.

They both were widowed by faith who found love by chance and are living love ever after in Accokeek.

“God is the God of second chances,” Sybil said. “I didn’t want to grow by myself. I prayed and I asked God for a companion.”

Sybil and Willie had their first date at the Blue Dolphin restaurant in Gambrills last February. By August, they were married.

“I do like my privacy, but there are times when I want to be around people,” Willie said. “With my wife, I have a companion, I have a soul mate.”

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Henry and Weptanomah Davis
First Baptist Church of Highland Park, Landover, Maryland

His father was a preacher. Her father was a preacher. They still fell in love.

Every Sunday, he is in the pulpit, every service she is seated down front.

On Thursday night, Davis hosted a “Love Revival,” primarily for couples.

“Every year, the couples share their testimony,” said Davis, who has been married to his wife for 26 years. “In marriage, you deal with challenges. All year long, our couples in the couples ministry come together to strengthen one of another.”

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Mike and Mika Bennet
Bowie, Maryland

He is a musician. She is a dancer.

While Valentine’s Day is Feb. 14. Mike said he shows love to Mika every day.

“As Christians, when you get married, it is based on God’s definition of love,” he said. “It is based on how Christ loved the church. He was willing to die for the church. It is OK to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but we try do it every day.”

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Jesse and Cassandra Jackson
Tallahassee, Florida

He works as the superintendent of a charter school system in Lake Whales, Florida. She is a lawyer for the city of Tallahassee.

They were both from Jacksonville and met in a men’s clothing store, where she was a clerk and he was looking for a pair of shorts.

And on a summer day in the 1980s, Jesse Jackson and Cassandra Kellum fell in love. They would be married on July 13, 1985.

And 31 years later, it doesn’t matter that they currently live five hours and 400 miles apart — Jesse is on the Florida Turnpike almost every weekend.

Asked why does he drive so much, he said “It’s not a choice, I have to go.”

And for Valentine’s Day, the Jacksons will fly to Chicago for several days of shows, shopping and carriage rides — all in the name of love.

“You have to keep some romance and spice in a relationship,” Jackson said. “Valentine’s is big event for us. We were engaged on Valentine’s Day, but when I travel I try to bring my wife.”

“In all honesty, our annual Valentine’s Day trip is emblematic of the consistency of our commitment to each other,” Cassandra said. “Most folks when they marry are often committing to a ‘wedding.’ Jesse and I took vows to commit to a marriage. This requires a decision and a prayer daily to forsake all others and to cleave to each other.”

“It is a commitment to not sweat the small stuff and to hold firmly and prioritize the important: God, us, our children, family and friends,” she said. “Our [Valentine’s] trip is the prioritization of us.”

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Hamil R. Harris

Hamil Harris is an award-winning journalist who worked at the Washington Post from 1992 to 2016. During his tenure he wrote hundreds of stories about the people, government and faith communities in the Greater Washington Area. Hamil has chronicled the Million Man March, the Clinton White House, the September 11 attack, the sniper attacks, Hurricane Katrina, the campaign of President Barack Obama and many other people and events. Hamil is currently a multi-platform reporter on the Local Desk of the Washington Post where he writes a range of stories, shoots photos and produces videos for the print and online editions of the Post. In addition, he is often called upon to report on crime, natural disasters and other breaking issues. In 2006 Harris was part of a team of reporters that published the series “Being a Black Man.” He was also the reporter on the video project that accompanied the series that won two Emmy Awards, the Casey Medal and the Peabody Award. Hamil has lectured at Georgetown University, George Washington University, Howard University, the American University, the University of Maryland and the University of the District of Columbia. He also lectures several times a year to interns during their semester in the District as part of their matriculation at the Consortium of Christian Colleges and Universities.

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