Shalom Brand:  I’m Shalom Brand and I was born in Tennessee. I was raised on a farm, as most of you probably already know. When I was 18, my mom and dad said it’s time for me to do something. When you get 18—you probably already know this—you start getting a little bit itchy feet, and what are you going to do with your life? Are you going to get married? Where are you going to go? Mom and Dad knew that I needed a little bit more maturity. They found a wonderful opportunity for me in Indianapolis, Indiana, and it was working at a Russian orphanage. I worked there for one school semester and it was the most life-changing experience.

I had two boys that I was responsible for. I was with them 24 hours a day and had to keep a close eye on them because they were Russians and they were raised in a really rough lifestyle. Anyway, I had to keep an eye on them, take care of them, and teach them school. I was their schoolteacher. They had Russian tutors to come in, and then I would take over from there.

It was a huge change for me. I am a very passive person and not very bold and don’t like to talk in front of crowds, and I had to learn to be tough. It put a little bit of spirit in me. I had to stand up to these boys and tell them “no,” and it has made me a better mother too.

Then I got home, and that summer, in the fall, my dad threw a men’s conference and there were 30–35 young guys that came, and I was their cook. Justin, my husband, was there and he spotted me and decided that he was going to marry me right then. He went home, I don’t remember him, there were a bunch of guys there and I wasn’t paying them any attention. [laughs]

He went home and he told his parents that he had found the woman that he was going to marry. He became friends with my brother—good thing to do—and ended up going to Thailand with T.J. Slayman and my brother and a bunch of other guys—guys that I respected, men that had been in my life, that were fathers.

They watched him and they knew what kind of character he had. My brother was there and he found out what kind of character my husband has, well, at that time. Anyway, Justin, after he came home, would come down for random reasons, to our house. He’d forget his screwdriver or his wrench (he’s a mechanic) or he’d want to borrow a puppet because he worked in a children’s ministry.

He would come down, and I was working full-time, taking care of four kids, 40 hours a week, every day I was gone. He would come down and be there when I got home at night. I was like tired and didn’t pay him any attention. He was just another one of those guys trying to pursue me that I wasn’t interested in and I’d go to my room, shut the door, and he got to know my family.

The next summer, it was one year later, I knew he was interested in me. He was not shy about it. He was very vocal giving me his resume . . . a lot.


Shalom:  “Do you know that I want to marry someone like my sister . . . that’s sweet . . . and you’re just like her.” [laughter]

Shalom:  Sorry babe. [laughter]

Shalom:  Anyway, so one year later, after I met him, he came down for another bash—my brother would throw bashes where a whole bunch of young people would come down. They camped out on the property. We played volleyball, we’d swim, we’d go canoeing, we’d all cook around the campfire, and several marriages came out of it.

So Justin, that bash, put it into his mission to win me over, and I avoided him, and he pursued me. I don’t know why I avoided him, just because, probably, because I didn’t . . . if I don’t know that it was right and that it was God’s will for me and that my parents were okay with it, I just stayed away. Didn’t try to . . . he already liked me so I wasn’t going to put it out there for him.

Anyway, at the end of the bash, he stayed and he told his parents he wasn’t coming home until he got a yes from me. It was the last day, and I was at my brother’s house and he showed up and he said, “I need to talk to you.” I was like, “Fine, I will let you talk.” He talked for an hour and I didn’t say anything, I just listened.

When he was done, I said, “You know what? I feel like this is . . . ” Sorry. “I feel like this is God’s will for my life and . . .” I cry every time I tell the story, and I said, “If my dad says yes, I will get to know you.” He’s like, “Okay,” and he stops right there and he’s like, “Let’s pray right now,” and that was the end of the conversation.

The next morning, he shows up at my dad’s house. My dad has turned down, he says 50 people; I don’t believe him—he has a bad memory. But anyway, Justin showed up at my house at 6:30 in the morning. Dad walks out and Justin’s like, I don’t know what he said, but he said something and my dad said something back. The conversation lasted about three minutes.

My sisters and I were working in the garden with my mom and Justin came flying down the hill screaming, “He said yes.” I’m like, what did I get myself into? He’d come down every weekend for the next two weeks, and the third week we knew each other, I went to meet his parents and he proposed. We got engaged. We got married about two months later.

Dad said that was not fast enough . . . but I had to make my wedding dress. We got married on September 14 and we’ve been married 10 years, as of this last September. We have four beautiful children, a four-month-old baby and my oldest is eight. We have had a wonderful, great time together, just experiencing life, and that’s my love story.




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