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It was the Summer of 1971


It was the Summer of 1971 and I had just graduated High School in Livingston, Montana, when walking down the street I noticed a big red/silver bus with lettering COLLEGIATE CRUSADE FOR CHRIST from Hensely, Arkansas, and young people unloading in front of a church, preparing to perform concerts each evening for a week.


I walked over and started a conversation with some of them. Long story short, I ended up not only attending each evening, and auditioning, joining the group when one of the ladies noticed my singing along to the Gospel songs from the audience.


My first gig with them was at the Last Chance Stamped in Helena, Montana; we even visited the Capitol Rotunda in Helena and sang, 'How Great Thou Art'.


One morning before rehearsal, while writing 'thank-you' notes for graduation gifts, one of the young men came over and asked for one of my Senior photos. I simply signed it 'Julie' - no last name. He was a handsome 6'5" with a beautiful voice and was extremely shy., so much so, that he sat by me once before a performance, not saying a word. The drummer for the group happened by and took our picture.


In the Fall I flew back to my home in Montana. I married my college sweetheart and moved to northcentral Montana and began having babies, happy in my role as homemaker and mother. Tim McCartney passed when he was twenty-nine and I twenty-seven years of age, following an accident.


For thirty-nine years I was a single mother of three, and then five children, after a short marriage five years into widowhood and a short, second marriage.


I was very content being a mother, and was self-employed as a 'Jill of All Trades' which allowed me to be home when the children were.


In 2016 or so, I started having dreams about this young man who sat by me, and I knew he was smitten - but there is either chemistry or not; for me, there simply was not. Yet in these dreams I would occasionally have, I was so enraptured and in love with him. So much so, it would find me wide awake wondering where THAT dream came from!


My curiosity got the better of me, and having remembered his name, I decided to do a search on social media and sure enough -there he was: status - single. I wondered if he too, had known the pain of divorce or widowhood.


Meanwhile, after the crusades ended, he had gone on to become a Music teacher and Counselor in Brinkley and Cotton Plant, Arkansas, and was now retired.


The day before I logged on to the internet, he had attended an outdoor concert, folded up his chair - as everyone was in couples and families and he had never married - it made him depressed. Down through the years he would run in to one of the singers in the Crusade and would ask if they recalled my last name; no one knew.


The Monday of Labor Day weekend of 2009, W.L. Brantley logged on to the same social media site and saw a 'friend request' from someone named 'Julie', yet it did not dawn on him that it was me until he saw 'Montana' in my personal description. He later told me he commented outloud, "There's MY Julie!"


We wrote back and forth then began to converse on the phone for the next two weeks. He'd been in touch with the others in the Crusade who were now watching this romance unfold, knowing he had a major crush on me back in the day. One Sunday after church, I got a phone call from him during the daytime, whereas our phone calls were each night which often lasted all night long, he told me he had a very important question to ask me. I KNEW he was going to want to fly up to Montana to see me. Then he asked, "Julie, will you marry me?"


Two weeks after re-connecting after a thirty-eight year absence, he proposed. After our very first all-night-long conversation across one thousand, seven hundred seventy-seven miles - I fell so deeply in love with him, just like in those dreams. I flew down South and we got married in his little own home church that as a young boy he had watched his Papa and other men plane boards from off the Brantley land, in Crossett, Arkansas, and build.


As I walked down the aisle to become his bride, he sang Andre' Crouch's 'My Tribute' ... words that tell God, "How can I say thanks for all the things you have done for me..." I joined him on the chorus. There wasn't a dry eye in the church as W.L. Brantley was now sixty-one years old and marrying - for the first time - the love of his life he had searched thirty-eight years for.


That day was seared into our hearts and minds on several levels, as seven from the Group of twelve performers in 1971, and their spouses, surprised us and flew in from Atlanta, GA; Gainsville, FL, South Carolina and Arkansas to Crossett, to witness the hand of God in two completely different lives, of now sweethearts for life. One Crusader commented as she came through the reception line, that she cried as soon as I walked in to the church and started down the aisle, knowing how much W.L. had loved me since forever, and had prayed and looked for me and his miracle was happening right before her eyes.


At our wedding reception we all gathered, arm in arm, and sang the theme song from the Crusade, 'Win the Lost at Any Cost'. This moment in time was a testimony to the faithfulness of a loving God, and a man's faithful prayers.

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