This article is the 21st 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.
GALVESTON, Texas—Shortly before his 25th birthday, Raju Samuel’s father told him it was time to get married. Raju, who came to America in 1972 on a student visa, wasn’t surprised by the command or his father’s plan to procure him a wife. But he didn’t like it. He wasn’t ready to settle down.
Like Raju, his future wife, Jain, expected her parents to pick the person she would marry, a common practice in their Christian community in Kerala, India. When his photo arrived in the mail, she spent hours staring at it, wondering what kind of man he was. She knew he came from a Christian family and hoped he would be as serious about his faith as she was. In the photo, Raju looked clean-cut and serious, the kind of man she’d dreamed of marrying.
But the man who met her at the Houston airport on Jan. 25, 1975, wore bell-bottoms, sideburns and long hair—external signs of the American culture he now embraced. Within a week, he looked like the man in the photo again. But a shave and a change of clothes couldn’t turn him into the man Jain wanted him to be, the man God called him to be. That took years.
Just 21 days after they met, Raju and Jain married.
“Then it was a journey for us,” Jain said. A very challenging journey, Raju added with a smile.
Jain’s life revolved around church, Bible study, and prayer. Raju focused on making money and getting ahead. He wasn’t interested in church. Jain eventually stopped asking him to go. They argued a lot, trying to work out their differences. Divorce was never an option, but each day brought friction. Jain refused to talk about their struggles with her brothers-in-law and their wives, the only family the couple had in America. Prayer was her only solace.
Jain knew she was supposed to take care of her husband, so she joined him in whatever he did. If he went to mow the grass, she pulled weeds from the flower bed. Eventually, they became friends. It took a lot of giving in and talking, and a whole lot of convincing, Jain recalled. After three years, they had a little girl, giving them something in common. Their son was born three years later.
Raju finally started going to church, but he didn’t take his spiritual condition seriously until his father, an evangelist, died. “My dad was my everything, my advisor and role model,” he said. “That really woke me up.”
Raju vowed to pick up his father’s spiritual mantle. When he returned to America after the funeral, he went home and immediately poured all the alcohol in the house down the drain—a visible symbol of his newfound conviction, the beginning of the couple’s spiritual union, and an answer to Jain’s years of prayer.
Looking back, neither could pinpoint when they fell in love. They married as strangers, became friends, and learned to love each other as they’d promised to do. Thirty-eight years later, the Samuels are inseparable.