Barnabas Mentor Coordinator
Aside from admiring his dodgeball prowess, Carly Erisman did not consider Juan Grazette as anything more than a friend during their first few years in the 4.12 Leadership Training Program together.
“We knew each other and knew of each other,” Juan says. “We had mutual close friends. Nothing blossomed, though, until one of those close friends advised me that I should consider thinking about Carly as more than a friend.” That conversation with a friend happened during summer staff debriefing, and this was all it took for Juan to make that mindset shift.
Carly and Juan began talking to each other regularly outside of camp and then continued getting to know each other when they served on senior staff after graduating from high school. They also picked up a good habit during this time: writing notes to each other.
“At camp people are always writing little notes of encouragement to each other and such,” Juan explained. “In the long run, this turned out to be really helpful for us.”
It was helpful because Juan left the area to attend Liberty University. Shortly after that, he asked Carly to be his girlfriend and so began their long-distance relationship, which required letter-writing and creative communication to sustain.
The following summer at camp, Juan and Carly served as head counselors together. “We worked together really closely and needed to problem-solve, dealing with the good and the bad together,” Carly says.
“That was really good for us,” Juan affirmed.
The next big step was Juan changing schools and enlisting in the US Army. “Then he was off to Basic Training and we were long distance yet again,” Carly explains. “Communication was very strict. We wrote letters and there was a very rare phone call, which I always seemed to miss.”
“This is when our camp days of leaving notes for each other in our mailboxes particularly paid off,” Juan says. “Writing letters was a good means of communication for us. It still is!”
The next year, Juan asked Carly to marry him. She agreed, so they became engaged, only to have Juan deployed to the Middle East.
“We were back to letter-writing, using communication apps and whatever else we could do to keep in touch,” Carly says.
Finally, Juan and Carly were married in November 2019. Carly now works in marketing at PRworks and Juan works for the Department of the Army. Juan has a lengthy commute each day, so the couple continues to be very careful to make time for each other.
“After all the times we were apart, we have learned to really enjoy the small things,” Carly says. “We prioritize our time together.”
The Grazettes are thankful for God’s guidance and encouragement along the entire journey of their relationship.
“From four years of college, to Basic Training, to deployment, there were these long periods of separation,” Carly explains. “We kept asking each other and ourselves, should we keep going? This is so hard! But we stuck with it and can see how God had prepared us and how He was guiding us.”
“We were friends first, which is a good plan,” Juan says. “Each separation was quite a test, but the times apart made us stronger in the end.”
“Looking back, we can really see how God was guiding us all along,” Carly celebrates. “We met at camp, which is a godly space where we were both growing spiritually. And each separation prepared us for the next, more significant one. We didn’t know what steps were ahead, but we can see that God was preparing us for each one.”
People often comment that camp is a good place to meet a spouse for many reasons, including those mentioned by Juan and Carly. Leave a comment if you and your spouse met at Joy El or another camp.
- 12 Leadership Training Program Interest meetings
- Summer Day Camps
- Summer Wilderness Camps
- Summer Overnight Camps
- Mother Daughter Retreat (October 8-10)
- Father Son Retreat (November 12-14)
- Bring your own group to Joy El