This article is the 10th in a series profiling couples who have been married for at least 35 years. As sociologist Mark Regnerus writes, “Young adults want to know that it’s possible for two fellow believers to stay happy together for a lifetime, and they need to hear how the generations preceding them did it.” It is also important to see that marriages are not always happy all the time, but commitment is crucial.
BAT CAVE, N.C.—Love, they say, is blind. For Ken and Louise Rape, even 37 years of marriage haven’t been much of an eye opener.
Not for Ken, born legally blind and living in total darkness since age 14. And not for Louise, who has walked by faith and not by sight through their turbulent life together. In hindsight, they know God had a plan even when they were not willing to follow it.
“I was a rough character. I didn’t care one way or another,” Ken said. When he was 6, his mother sent him to a resident school for the blind in North Carolina. As an 18-year-old, he wore his hair in what he calls a “big white man’s ’fro,” and had two missing teeth—“one and a half, dear,” Louise interjected.
That was Ken in October 1974, when they met.
“I didn’t like her, and she didn’t like me, either,” Ken said. They met at a boarding house for the blind in Raleigh, N.C., where Louise worked. But by February, they were married.
Blind in love, blind in life, running blindly into anything he wanted to do, especially anything someone told him he could not––that was typical of the man Louise married so quickly her friends never cautioned her about what her future with a blind man could hold. “The hardest thing she had to put up with was my drinking and drug use. I did like to party,” Ken said.
“I’m not an impulsive person, or never thought of myself as one,” Louise said. “I wanted to wait until June, but he thought, no, if we know it’s what we want and we pray about it, we need to do it right away.” They came to faith in Christ as children, but neither was “walking the walk,” she said. “I wanted what I saw in my mother, to be a good Christian wife and a good mom.”
When Louise had surgery for uterine cancer, she traded her hope of children for a career in early childhood education. She then offered to release Ken from their marriage so he could find someone to give him the children they both longed for. “I told her I might find somebody to have kids, but is she going to love me?” Ken recalled. “I love her more for that option she gave me.”
Louise began attending First Baptist Church in Pageland, S.C., but Ken refused to go. The whole church prayed for him. God finally got his attention, Ken said, but it was years after going his own way.
In 2001, Ken “felt a call” to become a pastor and he went on to graduate from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Now, with the help of Louise, a Bible, and sermon notes in Braille, and a keen ear for people in his congregation, he pastors Bald Mountain Baptist Church near Bat Cave, N.C.