When 19-year-old Christian Prieto told his mom, Christina, he wanted to propose to his girlfriend, his mom knew just the place—the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“I just love it there,” said Christina. “To me, it was just the perfect place to start. … I felt that it would be a great foundation.”
Christian agreed. The young airman was flying home from Texas to visit after being gone five months for basic training and aircraft maintenance school in the Air Force.
He wanted to surprise his girlfriend, 18-year-old Danika Tennant, who thought he was returning a week later. The two had met as students at Cox Mill High School in Concord, North Carolina.
Before he proposed, he asked Danika’s parents for their blessing. After that, Christian’s mom arranged for herself, Danika and Danika’s mother to visit the Library on Wednesday, Oct. 4. The three of them went through the Journey of Faith tour, which follows the ministry of Billy Graham and highlights how God has used him to reach millions around the world.
Meanwhile Christian arrived from the airport and waited outside the barn-shaped Library, patterned after Billy Graham’s childhood on a North Carolina dairy farm.
After the tour, the women milled about the Library grounds. Suddenly Danika gasped as Christian strolled out from behind a silo. She ran up and gave him a long hug and then watched in shock as he pulled a ring box out of his pocket. He dropped to one knee and asked Danika to marry him. She accepted his proposal.
Earlier, when Christian talked to his mom about proposing, Christina approved but advised him, “You have to have God as your foundation.”
Christina knows that with Christian’s military career, the couple could be moving frequently or even be separated for long periods of time after they’re married.
“With the military it’s a whole new life. They’re both young. Just to have that foundation of God, they’re going to need it.”
Later this month, Christian will head to Dover, Delaware, to begin work in aircraft hydraulics maintenance. Meanwhile, Danika plans to enroll in online classes next semester.
Christina attended Christian’s graduation from basic training in Texas and was thrilled to see how his faith had grown. She remembers him being excited, saying, “Mom, I get to take you to church with me.”
“It’s what a mom prays for her kids,” explained Christina. “To find God, and God especially opening all their hearts. It makes me happy.”
Danika’s mom, Teresa Tennant, agreed it’s important to begin married life on a firm foundation.
“Faith plays such a huge role in a marriage, she said. “You rely on your faith to realize that it’s not always going to be easy.
“That at the first sign of trouble you don’t just throw it away. You use your faith to know that you’re stronger together than you are apart.”
Before they left the Library, Christian, Danika and their mothers prayed with a Library staff member for the couple’s future plans. The pair also received a copy of God’s Ambassador, a book about the life and ministry of Billy Graham, to remember their special day.
“I think it’s really important to keep God in your life,” said Danika, who spent a lot of her young life attending church and youth retreats.
Reflecting on Christian’s proposal at the Library, she said, “It was the perfect place for me.”