Director’s note: Mark and Imy Johnson’s wedding marks the 100th known marriage in which Disciples Today’s online matching services have played a part. We are astonished at how God has worked in the years since DTSpace.net and later DTHeartAndSoul.com went live: Forty-seven of those 100 marriages are international, and the average distance between a married couple at the time they first connected on DTHS is 3,415 miles! The all-time DTHS membership represents 416 churches in 105 countries; the 100 married couples represent 108 churches in 30 countries.
As I read Mark and Imy’s story I am further in awe of our God, realizing that their engagement and marriage happened in the midst of the pandemic, and in spite of the 6,900 miles between Abu Dhabi and Toronto! Happy Valentine’s Day!
My name is Imy. I am 34 years old and have been a disciple of Christ for almost 10 years. I am originally from the Philippines. When I signed up for DT Heart & Soul (DTHS), I had been living in Dubai, United Arab Emirates for nine years.
Before I became a member of DTHS, I was not open to an international dating relationship. I didn’t have confidence that someone would go for someone like me. I had a lot of insecurities!
However, three of my close girlfriends in church had met disciples on DTHS, and they encouraged me to sign up. I prayed that God would open my heart to have the courage not just to sign up to DTHS, but to give me confidence that only God can give, a heart that could encourage anyone that I met on the website, to build a godly friendship with the brothers and let God’s will be done. Through prayer and fasting, God opened my heart, and I was excited when I joined DTHS in February 2017 for a 3-month subscription. I met and built friendships with the brothers I met there and had a great experience. I was sharing with some of the sisters and encouraged them to sign up not because I met my future husband, but because of the pure relationships they would have the chance to build. After three months, my subscription expired and I did not renew. In June 2017 there was a one-month free subscription and that was when I met Mark. He messaged me and added me as a friend on June 25, 2017.
After messaging for just a week, we decided to share our Facebook and personal number with each other and started chatting on WhatsApp. I was joking with him to tell me about himself, because his profile on the DTHS website was empty. One thing I noticed is that our personalities are opposite from each other, but we have lots of common interests as well. We learned to embrace our differences and always had something to share and talk about. The ability to connect so easily with him made it easy for us to become best friends.
We chatted almost everyday, sharing our Quiet Times and our written prayers to each other. After three weeks of chatting, we decided to have our first Skype. I got to know him more through his written prayers that he was sharing with me, his passions and dreams, love for God and his family.
We became remarkably close and built a strong friendship even though we did not physically see each other. We shared our happy and not so happy moments, our pains, our past rejections, how Jesus changed our life and saved us. After three months of consistent communication, I had a 40-day holiday vacation coming and decided to visit a family (they are disciples) who is like my second family in Cleveland, Ohio. Mark wanted to see me in person and agreed to visit me in Cleveland. I agreed to also visit Toronto in Ontario, Canada to meet his family and the church, and on September 23, he drove all the way from Toronto to Cleveland to meet me in person. After that, I travelled to Toronto and on October 5, 2017 before I returned to Dubai, he asked me to be his girlfriend.
It was not easy to make a long-distance relationship work. With the nine-hour time difference, technology is your best friend. It takes faith, commitment, love, courage, trust, patience and perseverance and most importantly, surrender to God and having him as the center of our relationship.
We had lots of Skype dates with couples in Abu Dhabi and in Toronto.One of my favorites was when we had a group date with one couple and eight single disciples at the park in Abu Dhabi, where everybody was physically present except Mark. It was fun and encouraging, especially his effort to wake early in the morning to join us for the Skype date! After eight months of dating, Mark came and visited me in Abu Dhabi for two weeks in May 2018, met the church family, and we spent time getting to know each other more. All the while, we were creating beautiful memories together.
On our third anniversary as a dating couple, on October 5, 2020, Mark asked me to be his wife. And I said “YES!” We got married on January 2, 2021 in Toronto.
Our story is special because for us, God made our love story. Who would have thought two people from the opposite ends of the world would meet like we did? Indeed it is because of him alone. He sustains us! Our three-year relationship is not a bed of roses; we faced a lot of challenges and struggles but we knew and we continue to know and believe God’s plan will always prevail .
“ And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose .” – Romans 8:28.
I’ve been a disciple since 2012. A few years into being a disciple I heard about DTHS, but was not interested in trying it since I had already come up with the notion that it was not going to work for me. I am introverted and reserved, so dating and having a relationship was something I knew nothing about.
In 2017, I was invited yet again to try out DTHS, but this time it was free to try for a month, so reluctantly, I joined. I made a few friends, tried connecting with a few people, but nothing really went the way I was expecting it to. Of course, I also did not fully complete my profile in hopes that the sisters would directly ask me to tell my story (bad idea; make sure to complete your profile!)
After seeing Imy’s profile several times, I decided to message her. I found that with Imy the conversation kept going and flowing naturally.
We had so many miles between us, so we did our best to navigate the long distance relationship. It wasn’t easy, but we navigated as best as we could and kept encouraging each other through the times where we struggled mainly because of the distance.
Fast forward to 2020, and things weren’t going the way we had planned because of the pandemic, but for us it was truly a blessing in disguise. Imy was here in Canada and was supposed to go home in April 2020, but the pandemic forced us to apply for an extension on her tourist visa. With guidance, prayer, and lots more prayer, I decided that now would be the best time for me to ask her to marry me, and on October 5th, 2020, I asked Imy to marry me and she said yes!
On January 2nd, 2021 we were married, in front of a crowd of only 10 people due to restrictions. But more than 150 people – family and friends in the kingdom – joined us for the special day online, from all over the world. Not everything will go the way we plan it in our heads, but we realize that it really is God’s plan that will prevail, and his plan is always better than our plans. We may not understand it in the moment, but later on we can look back and say that we are here in this moment now because of God. Now we are happily married and together in the same city, same household, with no delays, because God allowed it to happen for us.
Advice for new members:
Mark : If you are looking and desiring for your future, do not set unrealistic expectations for people that you meet. Do not give up, do not be discouraged, keep on building relationships and be open to the relationship God has put in front of you. Things may not always be the way you want it to look, but do not let it stop you from building what is in front of you.
Imy : I always encourage the singles to sign up to DTHS not just for the sake of signing up, but to pray that God gives them an open heart to build a godly friendship. Be ready and surrender to what God’s best prepared for them. I know that each one of us has a standard on what we want in terms of finding a lifetime partner, but be reminded God’s standard and plans for you is the best. Do not hesitate to reach out to the brothers. I enjoyed the friendship that I built with them because it is different from the world.
Mark and Imy: We both learned not to be afraid to be open, to be vulnerable and to be real, accepting each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that when you seek a partner, you not only want someone who you connect well with, but you also want someone who will partner with you on your journey with God. We each are responsible for our own walks with him, but it is great knowing that you have a partner who will always guide you back to the truth of God’s Word and will place him first above everything else in this relationship.
We would like to acknowledge appreciation of all the staff and organizers of DTHS for allowing you all to be used by our God for giving your heart and soul to make this online dating possible to help and be a channel of blessings to the single disciples who are looking and praying for their future spouse and specially those who met their spouse here like us. We are grateful to God for using you for us to meet online, connect and now get married.
Thank you to those people who continue to love us, pray for us, support us and give their time for our relationship to grow. God really blessed us with these people. They are really a great blessing to our life. Thank you and we are forever grateful to our Lord for you. You know who you really are.
We love to share this with you not for our own, but for God’s glory. We know that we just started a new chapter of our lives together. We will continue to be faithful, glorifying his name, serving him by helping each other every day, and our very goal is to be in heaven someday. Join us in praying for our marriage to be strong and to be always rooted in Christ. To him be the glory and honor.