He could not have imagined that the young woman who co-taught his class and asked him to fill out an information card at the end of class was the woman he would propose to four months later.
“When I saw her, I was like, ‘OK, she’s probably married with kids, graduated from Lee University, so I’m not even trying,” Lewis said, but then “destiny unfolded.”
Lewis had already made a leap of faith in coming to Cleveland from his childhood home of West Palm Beach, Fla. As the former youth pastor of his father’s church, he wanted to continue his education in ministry. Since he had already completed a master of science in business leadership, he began searching for a seminary to attend.
After receiving a newsletter from the Pentecostal Theological Seminary and researching the school, Lewis did not waste any time in applying, especially when he discovered that the institution was the Church of God seminary. In August 2012, he moved to Cleveland and began taking classes in the master of divinity program.
“I packed all of my things; I felt like Abraham a little bit,” he said. “I thought, ‘I’ll come here, get my education, and head back home,’ but God saw differently.”
When Lewis arrived in Cleveland, he started looking as far south as Chattanooga for a church with which to get involved, and North Cleveland Church of God was toward the very bottom of that list. He decided to go to a Bible study at the church one Wednesday night and ended up accidentally showing up for a Fresh Fire revival service. The events of that service led Lewis to believe he was to stay at North Cleveland Church of God and get involved, so he started looking for a ministry in the church with which to volunteer.
“I felt like I was in a coffee house trying to find out what kind of cappuccino I want today,” he said about all the different choices of ministries available to him, but he finally chose to join Encounter, an evangelism ministry. It was that decision that led him to the classroom where Alisha Gaines was co-teaching a class one Wednesday night in September.
“They have so many ministries that they don’t let you know that one [class] is a prerequisite of the others,” Lewis said, explaining how he ended up in the wrong class that night. “It was a little bit of serendipity but really it was destiny unfolding.”
After class the two started talking about what brought Lewis to Cleveland and how he came to attend North Cleveland Church of God.
“We talked until the church closed. They had turned off the lights, closed all the doors,” Gaines said, “I had a feeling that ‘this is something.’”
That feeling prompted Gaines to invite Lewis to attend a dinner at the church the following night, and “we’ve been together ever since,” Gaines said.
Gaines had been co-teaching classes at North Cleveland Church of God for around two years before meeting Lewis. Born and raised in Charleston, she received her master’s degree in communication disorders from the University of Tennessee and has lived in Cleveland ever since that time. For the past six years she has worked as a speech language pathologist at Life Bridges Inc. in Cleveland. She joined North Cleveland Church of God in 2008 and started getting involved in ministries, including the Encounter ministry through which she co-teaches the class where she met Lewis.
“Plenty of people would tell me, because they knew I wanted to get married, ‘You need to move. You need to go to another city,” Gaines said. “But I knew God was able. I didn’t have to uproot and leave my family. I just had to wait.”
Their relationship formed in such a way that neither of them are sure when it really happened.
“We just started spending time together,” Gaines said, and the couple made it an official relationship in October.
Both Lewis and Gaines soon felt they had met the person with whom they would spend the rest of their lives, so for Thanksgiving, Gaines met Lewis’ family.
“It was love at first sight,” Lewis said, describing that first meeting.
Lewis’ family traveled to Cleveland a few days later to meet Gaines’ family for dinner, and Lewis asked Gaines’ stepfather for permission to marry her.
“It was somewhat magical. Our area became peaceful,” Lewis said. “Afterwards, I was thinking to myself, OK, the clock is now ticking. I have to get something on this finger and rather quickly.”
Lewis wanted to propose before Christmas, so he began prayerfully searching for the perfect ring. His search led him and his father, “the quintessential jeweler” of the family, to Kay Jewelry, where they found the perfect ring.
“I could create a trilogy, like Lord of the Rings, out of how this ring got on her finger,” Lewis said. “I didn’t think I would ever be able to get that ring for her.”
After having to take it off layaway twice and with the help of some Santa Certificates from eBay, Lewis finally went to get the ring on Dec. 21.
When he gave the picture of the purchased certificate to the sales representative at Kay, though, the photo was illegible. The entire store came together to try to decode it, and things were getting tense.
Lewis stepped out of the store to calm down and say a prayer. As soon as he walked back into the store, he received a message from the seller on eBay containing all the information typed out.
“It was like a miracle. Destiny was happening. The whole store went to rejoicing,” Lewis said.
Gaines had no idea what Lewis had been doing earlier that day when he met up with her to see “The Hobbit” and eat dinner later that evening. As they were finishing their meal at Chili’s, Lewis noticed that the restaurant was empty and he knew it was his moment.
“The picture of him on his knee, the waitress took it,” Gaines said, and Lewis added that the entire staff and the manager were soon at their table.
Gaines and Lewis are now planning to get married June 2013 at North Cleveland Church of God, the place where it all accidentally started.
“I was 605 miles away,” Lewis said, “and God saw fit that He would bring two complete strangers, so independent of each other, together. You hear these things and they sound so cheesy, but it was meant to be.”