Stephanie Disbro had no idea she was in for the surprise of her life when her mother suggested swinging by the Billy Graham Library to kill some time before dinner.
The 22-year-old Liberty University senior was home in the Charlotte, N.C., area on spring break last Thursday and thought she was about to go out to dinner with her parents.
Stephanie and her mother were running ahead of schedule and stopped for a few minutes to enjoy the warm, breezy afternoon.
Little did Stephanie know, her boyfriend, Taylor Terzek, had other plans for her evening.
Taylor had spent months working to convince Stephanie that he wouldn’t be proposing any time soon.
“She was thinking it was not going to happen until graduation,” said Taylor.
The couple has been dating for almost two years, but the relationship goes all the way back to third grade. Taylor and Stephanie went to the same elementary school where they were good friends before parting ways to go to different high schools. For several years, the two lost contact with each other.
The young couple reunited on the campus of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., as sophomores and started dating the following year.
With graduation day approaching, Taylor wanted to surprise his girlfriend by proposing earlier than she expected. He decided the Billy Graham Library would be the perfect place to pull off his mission. He had visited several times, and one image had always stuck with him.
“I just firmly remembered that doorway with the cross, and I had imagined the amazing symbol that would be of the covenant that me and Steph were about to enter into,” he said. “I thought it would be an amazing thing to get engaged at the foot of the cross.”
The 21-year-old biblical studies major is also an admirer of Billy Graham. Taylor says he has his grandfather to thank for that.
“My mom’s dad was an evangelist around the Tennessee area, and he has probably read every book by Billy Graham. That’s his favorite minister, one he’s always talked about,” said Taylor, who shares his grandfather’s admiration for the 94-year-old evangelist.
“He’s a man who’s dedicated his whole life to doing the Lord’s work, and that’s just the best thing you could ever do with your life,” said Taylor.
After settling on the Billy Graham Library as the perfect place to pop the question, Taylor enlisted some help from Library staff to make sure the moment would be just right.
“They were really supportive and told me to come in and that they’d be there and ready to help,” said Taylor.
After getting Stephanie’s family on board, he showed up on the appointed day, and nerves began to take over. Taylor says the Library staff did their best to calm his anxious heart.
“I was overwhelmed with how much the employees of Billy Graham Library supported and encouraged me,” he said. “I think the thing I was most impressed with was they took me in and prayed over me and my family. That was probably the biggest stress reliever for me, just knowing I was surrounded by Christ-centered people.”
As the big moment drew closer, Taylor and his family took their places.
“First, we stationed my sister in the bushes,” Taylor laughed. Armed with a camera, she patiently waited to capture the moment without giving away the surprise.
When Stephanie arrived, the Library staff helped stall her by the giant cross while Taylor snuck up behind her and got down on one knee.
“I called out Steph’s name, and she turned around,” said Taylor. “I had somewhat of a plan of what I was going to say, and as soon as she turned around she immediately started crying.
“She was so surprised. And everything I had planned to say immediately left my mind.”
He quickly regained his composure and tried to formulate the question.
“I just told her that I loved her, I wanted to marry her, and I think I said I was very nervous,” said Taylor.
“His hands were shaking,” said Stephanie. “And I was shocked. I was happy. I was excited. I couldn’t believe it was really happening.”
Through tears of joy, she said “yes.” Through his shaking hands, Taylor slipped the ring onto her finger.
The next few minutes are remembered as a whirlwind. Taylor and Stephanie recall family, staff, and smiling onlookers bursting into applause. Now that the couple is back on the Liberty campus, the congratulations continue.
“We’re still in that celebration mood,” said Taylor.
The couple plans to wed in April 2014. In the meantime, college exams, graduation parties, and wedding plans will soon turn their lives into a flurry of activity. In the midst of the chaos, Taylor and Stephanie know the most important thing is keeping Christ at the center of their relationship.
It looks like they’re off to a pretty good start, beginning an exciting new season at an incredibly meaningful place – the foot of the cross.