When alumna Leigh Sumner (‘21) joined the Taylor Summer Programs as a personnel assistant, she had no idea the program would change her life.
And Samuel Morris Hall Director Josiah Peterson (‘19) had no idea he would be meeting his wife.
Sumner had graduated from Taylor in the spring of 2021 at the same time that Peterson was graduating from the Master’s of Arts in Higher Education (MAHE) program. They had been familiar with each other from around campus since Peterson had also completed his undergraduate degree at Taylor, but they had never connected.
Sumner and her fellow teammates, including Peterson, had spent several weeks at Taylor helping guide prospective students through activities, games, worship and prayer.
On July 3, as the program was coming to a close, Peterson was helping Sumner carry her things to her car as she prepared to go home to Akron, Ohio. The two had become good friends from working together and felt sad about parting ways.
To Sumner’s surprise, Peterson asked her on a date. She happily said yes.
Soon enough, they were eating lunch together at Casa Brava, strolling through a park in Gas City and getting to know each other on a deeper level.
Starstruck as ever by Sumner, Peterson was always impressed by her intentionality and love of learning. Sharing a passion for reading, the two loved to read and discuss books together.
“She was reading a book that we had to read in MAHE for class, and she was reading it for fun,” Peterson said. “And I think this struck me as like, oh my gosh, here's this interesting, kind person that is this deep learner too.”
They continued to date through the rest of the summer, despite living four hours away from each other. Peterson drove to Akron several times and even stopped to see Sumner on his way to and from seeing his parents in Maryland.
“The more I got to know her, the more we got to know each other, and the more intimate and vulnerable that you are when you date somebody, the more I was like, ‘I want to be with this person,’” Peterson said. “So the more you realize that the harder it is to say goodbye.”
Saying goodbye did not become any easier when Sumner moved to Dallas in early August to start working for Watermark Community Church.
Despite being so far away from each other, a future together was starting to become a strong hope and desire on both ends. Being apart did not halt their relationship by any means and Facetime became an important mode of communication between them.
“We just started to have these conversations more of the future,” Sumner said. “He was expressing, ‘I’m with you and I want this in the end. Whatever decisions you make, I’ll be right by your side.’”
Then, the day came.
It was late January and Sumner was at her apartment getting ready for the day. Peterson Facetimed her and they chatted casually for a little while. She was supposed to visit Upland the following week and assumed he might propose then.
She suddenly noticed that Peterson seemed to be right outside her door. She rushed to open it and, sure enough, there he was, standing on her doorstep, flowers in hand.
When he took her to the porch, Sumner realized what was happening.
That porch had always been their spot. They’d spend hours talking, sharing meals and praying together there. It only seemed right to mark such an important moment there.
Peterson then took out his journal and began reading all of the things that he loved about her. Getting down on one knee, he asked her first to be his best friend, and then to marry him.
“I wanted it to be just the two of us and I wanted to have some time alone and make it special in that way,” Peterson said. “But I think I needed the element of surprise to make it more special because she knew it was coming.”
A little while after the proposal, the couple cooked breakfast together, which is one of their favorite things to do.
“I felt very loved and cared for and so surprised,” Sumner said.
Now, Sumner and Peterson are balancing work and wedding planning. They plan to get married in June of this year.
Having both attended Taylor, the couple feels as though they’ve both been deeply impacted by Taylor in many ways.
“Our whole relationship involves Taylor,” Sumner said.
That said, Peterson stressed how marriage should by no means be the intention of coming to Taylor. He recognized that dating and finding a spouse can often feel pressured at a school like Taylor but encouraged students to not use this as a way to earn worth or value.
Neither Peterson nor Sumner thought this was the turn their lives would take. They believe that this relationship was a result of God’s perfect timing and providence.
“I’m so excited to marry this man, and it's all because of Jesus and his grace is so good,” Sumner said.
The couple is beyond excited to continue loving and serving one another and the world around them.
They often like to use the phrase, “We’re here for it.”
“I have belief in God that he says that he'll never leave us,” Peterson said. “So to the ups and downs of marriage, I have Christ, and then that's really all I have. And then I also met this person that has told me, ‘I'm here for it.’ We both are rooted in our faith, and so because of that we can say, ‘We’re here for it.’”