It's that time of year again when those loved up desperately look for last minute chocolates, flowers or cuddly toys for their partners, where new couples fret about the message a particular gift will send, and where couples with children try not to let their abundant lack of sleep get in the way – yes, it's Valentine's Day.
Here at The Salvation Army, where love is at the heart of what we do, be it caring for human trafficking victims or providing support to the unemployed, we're suckers for a good romance story. So today we're going to share with you three extraordinary love stories from across the UK and Ireland Territory of our Church and Charity.
Courtship International – Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams
Our first couple are none other than our Territorial Leaders, Commissioners Clive and Marianne Adams. Their story begins more than 24 years ago, when both of them were a long way from the office they hold now – not just in terms of time, but geography.
Commissioner Clive Adams was based in South Africa, and Commissioner Marianne was based in Norway. It began with a simple picture in a paper when he saw a picture of Marianne and decided, with some needling from a friend, to write to her.
"The first letter was more of a joke," says the now leader of The Salvation Army in the UK and Republic of Ireland. "It was a test to see whether she'd like my sense of humour, and luckily she did!"
One letter was replied to, and then, quickly, the two found they were corresponding with each other – in the days before email – across two continents, several times a day, writing at all times, in all frames of mind. But there was reluctance on the part of both of them to get involved romantically.
"I just didn't want to get married," says Commissioner Clive Adams. "Our work in The Salvation Army is all about people - I really valued my private time and didn't want to have to spend it dealing with someone else! I needed it for myself."
However, he was soon unable to fight the inevitable. "I found myself running on the beach in South Africa one day and it dawned on me that I was in love with this girl. When we'd written, we'd done so at all times – when we'd felt happy, sad, frustrated, and I realised that I was in love with Marianne. So I rang her up and told her so."
Commissioner Marianne nearly burst out laughing; "I said to him 'Don't be ridiculous, we've never even met, how can you love someone you've never met?'That's when he said to me, 'Don't you love God?"
Following this particular hurdle, the next obstacle that Commissioner Clive had to overcome was the rules of The Salvation Army at that time – the couple had to meet, figure out a way to serve the organisation whilst based on two different continents, and serve out a six month engagement notice period before getting married. They arranged an extended holiday, and Marianne flew to South Africa to meet Clive, with no idea what she was in for.
"I was standing in the airport, with a photograph of this girl, waiting to see if she would show up, when I felt a tap on my shoulder," says Commissioner Clive. "I turned around and it was a magical moment. We spent some glorious time driving through South Africa, and she got to see the country I had been writing about."
When the two met with Clive's leaders in the South African Territory, they were advised to seek out a neutral territory, and to serve the six month notice period before marrying. In this time they contacted the UK and Republic of Ireland Territory and prepared for their appointments hereIn the meantime, they continued to correspond to see out their engagement.
Commissioner Marianne recounts the impact this had on many things, including the proposal; "He had to post the ring, and then he rang me when he knew it was arriving so I could open it and he could ask me to marry him at the same time! It was very unusual, but we were used to it by then and it just seemed to work for us."
They married and moved to the UK six months later, and progressed to become the leaders of the UK and Ireland Territory of The Salvation Army. Twenty-four years and two children later, they are still clearly as in love as ever, and let us in on their secret.
"It's humour," says Commissioner Clive. "You need to be appreciative, say I love you, give each other space and all those things, but at the end of the day, if it isn't fun, what's the point? Life is hard. If you find a partner you not only love but can laugh with, you can face any of the challenges it throws your way."
The Long-Serving Couple – Majors Ernest and Lily Ablett
Major and Major Ernest and Lily Ablett have been married for 67 years. Both officers in The Salvation Army, Ernest, 96, has been preaching for 80 years and Lily, 95, still visits lonely members of their community.
Lily said: "I first saw Ernest when we were ploughing a field while I was out with a friend. I lived opposite a little chapel that I occasionally visited in Barnby, Suffolk, when I wasn't attending the church in Beccles with my parents and brother. My friend noticed that Ernest was due to preach in the chapel the next week so I went along especially to see him.
Both served in the Second World War - Ernest spent four years in the Royal Norfolk Regiment mainly stationed in India, and Lily spent three years in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, the woman's branch of the British Army. She was initially a switchboard operator but soon moved over to play in the Army (military) band which travelled around the UK and into war torn areas of France and Italy to raise morale of the troops there.
They married just after the war ended on 6th June 1946 and two years later signed up to train to be officers (ministers of religion) in The Salvation Army. They have served in Wales, North England, London and Essex, where they have now retired to.
Lily's advice for a long and happy marriage is to give and take, and that arguments are normal. Ernest says simple: "Always keep to your marriage vows!"
And their advice to Christians is: "Always trust in the Lord. If you are experiencing doubt, keep trying because the Lord will never let you down."
The Television Couple – Captains Jo and Stephen Moir
Stephen and Jo Moir are captains in the Cumbernauld Salvation Army and have been together for 16 years.
They met while working at Booth House in Whitechapel, London - Jo was a project worker while Stephen was the deputy manager.
The couple, who feature in a BBC Alba series called The Minister's Wife, had been friends for a number of years before going on their first date.
She explained: "It wasn't love at first sight, more like friendship at first sight. We went to the same Salvation Army (Regent Hall) together for years and worshipped together."
When asked who made the first move, she replied: "Steve of course! He asked me to dinner and we ended up going to a little Italian restaurant in Dulwich. It was lovely."
Three years later, in 2001, the young lovebirds tied the knot and now have two daughters, Grace (10) and Erin (7), with a baby due in the next few weeks.
Jo smiled: "It's been 13 years of married bliss. Seriously though, we get on really well. I think what makes us good together is that the same things are important to us.
"Plus Steve makes me laugh till my face hurts and is always telling me how beautiful I am."
Source: The Salvation Army