This is the story of two Third Culture Kids (TCKs) and childhood friends who met in fifth grade and how they got married 15 years later,
All information in the following is from a non-rehearsed retelling of our story, kindly transcribed by dear friend and master typer, Megan Greeley. We did this before our wedding, for the Knot (which we found is an incredibly helpful wedding planning tool). Photos are for (y)our reminiscing pleasure. Many more can be found in the depths of Facebook. We chose this mode of communicating our story because our story is so complex and long, involving many friends and family and we didn’t trust ourselves individually.
Wendy: I met Luke when I was ten. My family was living in Prague Czech Republic at the time and a new associate pastor and their children had moved into town. I was a little less excited because I thought I was going to get a best friend out if this, but the kid who was closest to my age was a boy, and everyone knows that when you’re ten, you can’t be best friends with a boy.
Luke: That’s true.
Wendy: So Luke’s family (the Yurkovich family) moved into town and the first thing I remember saying to Luke was in the car on the way to lunch with his family after church. I was feeling kind of awkward because it was quiet and the Yurkoviches are quiet. So I said to Luke, “your name means onion in Russian,” to which he responded, “I know…it means garlic in Macedonian.” (They had moved from Macedonia.) We went to 5th grade together and that was that. But after that year I switched schools to a tiny Christian international school.
Luke: I stayed in that one school (Riverside). It was ok but then eventually I had the choice to go to Wendy’s school. That was also the school where my best friends were. I remember telling Wendy and she was happy about that.
Wendy: I remembered missing certain people when I switched schools and Luke was one of them.
Luke: But yeah the first few months of freshman year at CISP were pretty awesome for me.
Wendy: For me too. Did you like me in 9th grade?
Luke: No, not really. But that’s when I started to be comfortable with you and began to have memories associated with you, and they were all positive.
Wendy: Yeah we’d draw stick figures on each other’s folders and exchange music. It was nice. Ever since I realized I missed Luke before he joined me at the high school I went to, it took me a long time to put a name to it but I knew I liked him. And there was no one else who ever measured up in my mind.
By the time we were in 11th grade, it was hard to be around Luke and it felt like there was an elephant in the room. Though I didn’t feel like I was in a good place to date anyone, I decided to tell him how I felt. It was after one homeless outreach, as we were eating fries at McDonald’s, in a moment of harried emotion, I asked if I could talk to him and told him that I liked him and that I simply wanted him to know.
Luke: I wasn’t expecting it and it kind of took me by surprise, but it was nice to have that to talk about.
Wendy: I’m glad it was nice for you. He was very kind, said I was a very good friend, but that he did not feel the same way. But when we parted ways that night although I was sad I was also extremely relieved. I felt like the wall between us was finally gone.
Luke: After that moment I felt closer to you, part of that probably being that the wall was gone.
Wendy: It was a lot more comfortable to be around you and we remained friends. I’d also check in on you and ask you how you were doing.
Luke: You were so open with asking me how I was doing, you meant it and that affected how I thought of you. By the end of 12th grade, my heart and mind were quite taken by you in an unexpected way, but very late in the game (meaning two weeks before we graduated). But I didn’t know what to do. So I didn’t tell her because it felt like the timing wasn’t right and I didn’t know how it would turn out. I never really let go of those feelings but just went on in life.
Wendy: We both went separate ways for college. He went to Indiana and I went to California and I didn’t expect to interact with him ever again. However, I did realize my brother Johnny and him had become very close friends and because of this he might never be completely out of my life….which was quite frustrating, I thought. Our next interaction was my sophomore year of college when Luke took a gap year to make music with friends in Tennessee. And I was taking a psychology class in which the professor decided to give extra credit to anyone who asked someone on a date. (Yes, it was weird. It gets weirder every time I say it.) But me being me, I really wanted that extra credit and racked my brain for any person I could possibly ask on a date, but to no avail. My mind kept going back to Luke but I was unsure what to do about that. Eventually I decided I had nothing to lose and I would ask Luke on a Skype date. In so asking, I confessed the entire truth of what I was doing (extra credit for a class) and made it very casual…
Luke: …Just to make sure I didn’t think it was an actual date. When you asked me, I thought that was fun and interesting. I missed Wendy and it would be fun to talk to her again, so why not?
Wendy: We Skyped for over two hours.
Luke: It was very surprising to me how much we could talk and how much there was to catch up on and how comfortably we interacted.
Wendy: And I left that conversation frustrated at how much I still liked him, but glad we talked very genuinely and freely, for the first time it seemed. I ended up visiting the guys in Tennessee over spring that year. Luke and I bonded there too, recorded a song, and walked through a graveyard talking about existential matters…
Luke: I didn’t know why but I didn’t expect to feel things again for Wendy. I thought it was gone, but it wasn’t. In my mind, there was no way to make something work since her life was in California and mine was not. I didn’t see a chance for us to be together but I still cared for her and wanted her to know, at the very least, that she was important to me. I don’t know how well I did that, but I enjoyed being with you.
Wendy: I left Tennessee as I left the Skype call, plagued with frustration but without any hope that anything would actually happen. We went about our lives for years after that, barely talking. I’d closed the door on the option of being with Luke. He was a set ideal in my head but feelings for him and thoughts of us being together were six feet under.
Luke: I was in a similar spot, but with less intentional suppression. I didn’t think I could be with Wendy. I tried my best to become assimilated into the environment around me. I think I thought it was important to become as American as possible–
Wendy: –which I saw, and that was one of the reasons I used to convince myself that we would never work out.
Luke: But after a few years, God took a hold of me and made me see that I am more than what I thought I was and that I have desires that matter, and I hadn’t given myself the chance to seek those out. But after a while, God started doing some weird things in my life. Wendy ended up showing up a little bit here and there in ways I didn’t expect. For example, after a while, she messaged me out of the blue asking me if I wanted to record a cover with her.
Wendy: Solely a musical business matter.
Luke: I didn’t see it that way. I wanted to reconnect with Wendy. I saw it as a business move at first, but that wasn’t the main thing on my mind. I didn’t give it that much of a chance in terms of us being able to reconnect. However, my mother, as mothers do, wanted to talk about my love life. She asked if I was dating anyone. I said that I was content being single. And then she asked if I’d thought about Wendy and was shocked that she brought her up out of the blue. I didn’t know what to say, because I had, but didn’t consider it. After that I couldn’t shake the thought that we should reconnect. But stubborn as I am, it wasn’t enough to make me do anything. But Wendy and I ended up Skyping again to talk about music. It ended up being three hours of not talking about music things.
Wendy: It was great but I left the conversation as emotionally confused as others, confused that I still felt the same way. So I froze Luke out. I did no music things. I responded to no messages.
Luke: I took it as you were busy. I know you weren’t mad at me but didn’t know what to think and trusted that you were in a good place. During that time of not talking (6 months) her brother who I was very close with but hadn’t talked to for a long time, called me out of the blue, and said I should date Wendy. I was confused and surprised. I did not expect anything to happen with you. I’d been frozen out and didn’t know if it would go over well to try to reconnect. But everything in me knew that this is what I wanted. I just had to deal with the fact that my heart was already hers and I didn’t know what to do. After a while, I knew I had to say something. So after talking with my dad on a trip to Yellowstone about Wendy and my heart, I felt pretty certain that God was with me and guiding me towards something beautiful. I didn’t know whether I should be optimistic about what she’d want but knew I had to say something. So I messaged her and asked to talk, just to catch up.
Wendy: I was not expecting it. It was the first time Luke messaged me without any other intentions except to talk. It was so out of the blue but because I was so guarded, I dared not believe it meant anything. When we called, we talked for our usual over two hours.
Luke: I’d planned on telling her how I felt, but it didn’t happen.
Wendy: We had a great talk and I left just as confused as all the other times.
Luke: I was disappointed that I hadn’t told her how I felt, but thought we should talk again soon.
Wendy: Two weeks passed, we chatted throughout the two weeks. Our next Facebook video call was fraught with internet interruptions. Luke had to call me 14 times, all along I know l knew that it was my fault. It was a fun phone call but I was uncertain if we’d ever communicate again.
Luke: I ended up not saying anything about my feelings because I was afraid I would say something and she would hear only half of it. At this point I was getting a bit antsy.
Wendy: Another two weeks passed and by this point I was preparing a speech to express that I could no longer talk to him because it was too hard for my emotions. I didn’t want to get attached to him again and just being honest. If he wasn’t interested, I couldn’t do this anymore.
Luke: Little did she know I had my own speech prepared. I said my speech (finally). I didn’t say all the words I’d planned but ended up conveying my feelings.
Wendy: You did express that you didn’t know how it would work.
Luke: I had no idea what I was doing but knew I had to say something.
Wendy: I was in shock. It was everything I’d never dared to hope for and had guarded myself against anticipating, and it felt completely surreal to have Luke tell me that he liked me. So I asked for a week to think. We didn’t message. I just thought and prayed and wrote and processed. Wondering why now, how would this work, what does this mean, how serious was he… I came up with a list of questions for him, all of which I posed the next Saturday. A huge question was: when the heck would I see him? But the Monday after he told me, I got a message from an old friend from Prague (Andrew Gregory) saying that he was getting married in Hawaii and I was coming and all of his dearest friends were coming (which included Luke).
Luke: (I had similar thoughts when I heard this information.) On Saturday I was anxious but relieved to say what I’d wanted to say. I felt peace.
Wendy: So the next Saturday, I asked all my questions. Honestly, I don’t remember how he answered them, but his answers were exactly what I needed to hear. And so after a long conversation and without knowing much of what it would mean to date, we decided to date long distance.
Luke: I didn’t know how to feel. I didn’t not expect it, but I hadn’t processed that I could date Wendy Waldrop.
Wendy: And I had fought everything in my being that said I would ever date Luke Yurkovich.
Luke: But we were dating.
Wendy: We video chatted twice a week on Saturdays and Sundays for as long as we could, with a record of over seven hours. Every day we would write multiple paragraphs to each other.
Luke: My coworkers were amazed at how much I could write without running out of things to say. We had so much to talk about. We are very similar in the sense that we both enjoy getting deep into the important aspects of relationships and spirituality.
Wendy: It was easy to talk.
Luke: I had never talked so much in my life.
Wendy: I was honored to be the recipient of all Luke’s thoughts and feelings. November rolled around as slowly as you could possibly imagine. I was so scared to see Luke for the first time in real life in FOUR YEARS. As I stumbled off the plane in Kona, Hawaii after 30 hours of travel I said to myself, “If he loves me this way, I should just marry him.”
“…As I stumbled off the plane in Kona, Hawaii after 30 hours of travel I said to myself, “If he loves me this way, I should just marry him.”
Luke: I was terrified as well. I remember standing in front of the terminal waiting to see her again and the moment I saw her I couldn’t process my thoughts. I hugged her and suddenly everything was absolutely beautiful. She looked incredibly beautiful. I didn’t see anything that you were afraid of. It was just a blessing to have you there with me. The most joy I’d probably felt in my whole life.
Wendy: So Hawaii was where we had our first date.
Luke: It was good to realize that we were good together in person, all those fears we had were quickly crushed. Saying goodbye was so hard. We knew what we were going to miss.
Wendy: It had been frustratingly good. Parting was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We kept Skyping and Luke booked a roundtrip ticket to visit Istanbul in March for six days…only six days…
Luke: I thought it was the best option…
Wendy: So we eagerly anticipated our next in-person meeting and ever so slowly it approached.
Luke: As it approached it became apparent that if I was to have a life with Wendy, Istanbul would be the place to start. After talking a lot about plans desires and the future I decided to not return from Istanbul but bring all of my things and trust that God would provide.
Wendy: And he did. The second I saw Luke in Istanbul, it was 2 am and he was heavy laden with massive suitcases, a guitar, sweatshirt, coat — he was the cutest guy I’d ever seen in my life and that was the moment I said to myself “I’m going to marry you…” at least I hoped so. And that was the beginning of our Istanbul chapter.
Luke: I couldn’t believe the fact that I was in Istanbul. It was a constant point of discussion that this would happen in the future and suddenly it was real. The whole taxi ride back to Üskudar, Istanbul, I was overcome with a sense of excitement and wonder that I was able to live like this. That this was happening. That Wendy was in the same space I was and that I would be able to see her for much longer than just a few days.
Wendy: So he moved in with a good group of guys and began his life here in Istanbul. And I was astounded at our compatibility and his flexibility and kindness, cultural sensitivity and openness, and I was so thankful. Even now I can’t quite process how thankful I am for it all.
Luke: I was so eager to dive right into the life Wendy was living. It was everything I wanted from a new space, new people, and the woman I love. God was very intentional about bringing me here.
Wendy: This place seemed to fit him like a glove. As loud and crowded as it is, he embraced the mystical, layered, nuanced nature of it all.
Luke: It was quite the cultural contrast from Indiana.
Wendy: Oh my yes. In the next months he begun learning Turkish, pursuing freelance work, we went on holiday to Cappadocia and he met so many people and got involved in worship at church. It was all so deeply good.
How we got married
Luke: Then on July 1, 2019, I asked her to marry me…
Wendy: Yes. Luke proposed to me in Yildiz Park, which is a romantic, beautiful patch of green in the heart of Besiktas, Istanbul. He apparently planned to go to a nearby island, but it didn’t quite work out. There were no cameras, no other people, just us. We stopped in the middle of a bridge overlooking a stream, and he bent the knee and asked me to marry him. I immediately exclaimed with butterflies that had been fluttering within me for 15+ years, “OF COURSE!”
Luke: The ring was too small because I overcompensated the resizing process, so we skipped out on the island and got the ring resized, got ice cream, and then a fancy dinner.
Wendy: We sent this photo (below) to family and friends, so our dinner at the House Cafe in Ortakoy (brilliant romantic dinner location) wasn’t quite the sweet romantic evening but rather crying and laughing on the phone with dearest family and friends between bites of fish and sips of wine.
Luke: We got married four months later at our international church and had nearly 50 out-of-town guests from our collective past.
Wendy: It was one of the happiest days of my life.
Luke: I have no words to describe the thankfulness I have and how humbled I am by God’s goodness in my life.
Wendy: I’m of course overjoyed but even more so, very aware of how blessed I am because I never would have expected to be marrying the man of my dreams. God has been very good to us.