If someone manages to attain the age of 94, the last thing you would expect to be on their minds is marriage.
Of course, the Rev Kevin Engel isn’t your average 94-year-old. A minister and missionary to Africa for 17 years – who passed the 70th anniversary of his ordination a couple of months ago – he is an honorary assistant minister at St Philip’s, Caringbah, still leads the early Communion service once a month and is also involved in seniors’ ministry.
Not only that, says Caringbah rector the Rev Eric Cheung, “He is probably one of the best preachers you’ll ever hear. Whenever I can get him to preach, he can blow the roof off. He is just so energetic and passionate for Jesus. Who wouldn’t love that?”
Amid all this, Mr Engel and his long-time friend Carol Firth realised, after many years since the deaths of their respective spouses, that they loved each other. But what, they wondered, should they do about that?
Mrs Firth – now Mrs Engel – says she came to faith, and St Philip’s, about 20 years ago.
“On my first Sunday there I met Kevin’s late wife, Dorothy,” she recalls. “She was my first Christian friend; she took me under her wing and we became best friends until her death 10 years later. During this time, I came to know their family as well. All were Christians and I revelled in their love and fellowship.”
Over subsequent years Mr Engel and Mrs Firth met often, at church or at home, for coffee and conversation. Both enjoyed reading and history, and even travelled to China together in 2019 as part of a guided tour – when Mr Engel was 91.
Says Mrs Engel: “The Great Wall remained on his bucket list... We both wanted to go, we knew we enjoyed each other’s company and we could probably stand it for a few weeks!”
Well beyond just putting up with each other, they began to realise about this time that they were more than friends. And, says Mr Engel, “We talked about marriage but I was getting on in years and what would people say? My family had become good friends with Carol and eventually they raised the question, ‘Why not, Dad? You’re not getting any younger and does it matter what other people think?’”
So, with the encouragement and blessing of his children Mr Engel proposed, the couple had a meeting with an enthusiastic Mr Cheung and a wedding date was set: September 24.
Says Mrs Engel: “It was supposed to be a secret until we told our families, but within an hour I was receiving congratulatory texts!... Somehow it all came together in time, with a full cast of families and friends. Dresses were borrowed, my son flew in from Far North Queensland to give me away, my daughter and her daughter were in the bridal party and all three of Kevin’s children were involved.”
Not only that, she says, “Our friends at St Philip’s took it awfully well. We were overwhelmed with expressions of love and congratulations.”
Mr Cheung observes that Mr and Mrs Engel’s marriage is an example of how all Christians should serve and trust God through each day he gives them. “What Kevin and Carol indicate by this is their firm trust and belief in the Lord and his provision, and the idea of living every moment to praise the Lord. Life is for living.”
“Trusting the good Lord has been a rich experience for both of us. He is certainly the God of the unexpected!” - Mr Engel