Branch & Naria Gaarder celebrated their one-year Blessing anniversary this month!
We asked them to share their Matching and Blessing story with us.
BFM: Let’s start with Naria. How did you and Branch first meet?
Naria: It started on a summer day in Kodiak, Alaska. I was helping with painting one of the Good-Go boats in preparation for one of the Ocean Challenge Programs. A brother, who would be a fellow captain in training with me, had just arrived and introduced himself as Branch Gaarder. My first thought was, “Branch, that’s an interesting name. I shouldn’t tease him about it…”
I went to the National Ocean Challenge Program in Kodiak to, in a way, find myself and the direction I should go in my life. I also thought that I might possibly meet a potential husband there.
BFM: Thank you, Naria. How did the Matching process begin?
Naria: Branch and I did not spend a lot of time together before and during the program since we were both assistant captains on different boats. But during the program I developed a respect and admiration for Branch, because of his integrity and respect for the 1st generation Unificationists and leaders.
I had received the Marriage Blessing before, but the relationship became very difficult and we both agreed that it wouldn’t work out. After my experience with my previous Blessing, I realized that having the same foundation in faith and belief was really important for a couple’s relationship, especially having a strong relationship with Heavenly Parent. So I had certain credentials for a husband. I knew that in order for someone to be a loving husband, caring father and have a deep love for True Parents and the world, that person would have to have a deep relationship and love with God.
Slowly, over time, I saw qualities in Branch that really stood out. And I noticed things about myself as well; that I felt very natural and unjudged around him. And he didn’t seem to mind that I was a strange, quirky goofball. I realized I was developing strong feelings for him, but didn’t think it was serious since there were many brothers that I really liked. With him though, it felt different. I felt compelled to confess my feelings to him and that it was important that I did. But I was also fearful. I didn’t know if telling him my feelings was ideal and what God wanted me to do. Three days before he had to leave, I felt it wasn’t right for me to not tell him. So on the day that he was leaving I finally mustered the courage to tell him. I wasn’t expecting anything; I just felt I had to get it out and was being held accountable. His reply to my confession confirmed even more for me on how aligned and God-centered he was when he said he wanted to involve our parents. I couldn’t believe my ears. I wanted to look to Heaven and thank God for letting me find someone like him when I heard that. From there, everything fell into place. Branch can tell you his side of the story…
BFM: Thank you for share so openly, Naria. So Branch, what’s your side of the story?
Branch: After Naria “confessed” her feelings for me, I thought to myself, “ what an awkward moment. What is she thinking?” I wanted to say that she was a silly girl and that she should go talk to an adult. I told her, however, that I respected her and that I liked certain things about her. I then told her that, growing up, I learned to go to my parents before engaging in any sort of relationship with a girl. Naria misunderstood my initial intentions and assumed I was talking about getting matched and engaged. By then I realized that I was trembling all over and was really nervous. I said that I will ask my parents to call hers and that I would call when I arrived to Oregon, where I would be taking a job on a fishing boat. I prayed a lot, asking God if I should go through with pursuing this sister, Naria, to be my wife. My prayers became very serious, as I could not eat for four or five days while on the boat.
It was then that I determined that I would accept this sister to be my wife, and reported to God and asked my parents for their blessing (permission). From then on, I had made up my mind.
By the time October came around, I decided to go visit my potential fiancée and her family in Marcellus, Michigan. Naria was still unsure she wanted to be matched, so we began to spend a lot of time getting to know each other and sharing our hopes and dreams for the future.
Naturally, we grew closer, as we saw that our dreams and goals and characters were very similar. It took Naria a while to decide, but eventually we decided to go to receive the Blessing. My parents then decided to visit us in Michigan, and we held our Commitment Ceremony on October 28th, 2013.
We heard about the upcoming “Start Smart” Blessing education workshop and decided to attend. During this workshop, Naria and I shared all about our past, our secrets and things that we did that we weren’t proud of. We didn’t want to hide anything from each other, knowing that open, honest communication is critical for a strong relationship. Rev Schanker shared that the Matching is the commitment, and that once you decide whom your spouse is, you should attend the next Blessing. So we finished our 7-Day fasting and bought tickets to Korea.
BFM: Thanks for that, Branch. And how was your experience in Korea for the Blessing Ceremony?
Branch: Traveling to Korea was a blast, the culture and food was amazing and so was being taken care of by the BFM team. We stayed at a resort in the mountains as we preparing for the Blessing Ceremony at the Cheonshim Peace World Center. We were one of three couples being interviewed and followed around by a news team. On the day of the Blessing Ceremony, True Mother led the Ceremony, followed by an incredibly long repertoire of entertainment, put on by many groups. We then, for the first time, kissed with a camera crew filming. I felt incredibly grateful to be part of this huge gathering, Blessing and celebration of God.
Afterwards, everyone was invited to eat an authentic Korean dinner. The next day, Naria and I traveled around Seoul, met up with friends and tried lots of foods.
BFM: So how has life been since receiving the Blessing?
Branch: Naria and I now live in Little Ferry, NJ, working full time and supporting Ocean Providence related programs. We are volunteer staff for the National Ocean Challenge Program each summer and enjoy new opportunities to learn and grow, granted neither one of us are perfect. Like any other couple, we go through ups and downs and difficulties with each other. Communication, listening, and honesty have been instrumental to our happy marriage. We are looking forward to sharing our lives together, and want to become an exemplary couple for our community, nation and True Parents.