Ring by Spring
- April 4, 2016
“Papa, now that Grandma Margaret is with Jesus, are you going to get married?” Colbey blurted out at lunch, looking up at his grandpa innocently. Normally questions like this wouldn’t trouble Forrest Zander ’57, who in his late 70’s has passed through many different seasons of life as a former missionary pilot with Wycliffe Bible Translators and the father of 3 adult children. This time, however, Forrest found himself quite taken aback as he attempted to stammer through an answer that his 11 year old grandson could understand. Forrest had been spending time with his daughter’s family in Wisconsin all week to clear his head and escape the painful memories of his wife’s death, whose memorial service was held only one week prior.
In the days that followed, Forrest could not escape his grandson’s question. After much thought he decided that Colbey needed an adequate answer, so he sat Colbey down and told him that he would only remarry if he could find someone who loved The Lord with all her heart, shared a desire to partner in ministry, and was beautiful just like Margaret. Forrest then asked Colbey to pray for his grandpa to find someone just like that.
As Forrest pondered more and more about the possibility of remarriage and the qualities he desired in a wife, a name suddenly popped into his head: Wanda Jean Reid.
Wanda is also a Moody graduate from 1965, and had known Forrest for decades. Forrest and Margaret used to be a part of Village Bible Church in Park Forest, Illinois, where Wanda and her late husband Rich pastored. Wanda had been adjusting well to single life for about 2 years after losing Rich to a long bout with cancer. She kept herself busy with her own ministries, which mainly comprised of mentoring women at her church and teaching correspondence lessons with Crossroad Bible Institute’s prison ministry.
Forrest phoned Wanda and asked if he could take her out to dinner so they could be an encouragement to one another during this time of loss. Forrest insisted that it be a formal dinner at an upscale restaurant and that they dress up to make it a special occasion. Wanda, not quite sure why she had to dress up if they were just encouraging one another, accepted his invitation and after she hung up asked God to help her be an encouragement to Forrest during this time.
Sporting his suit and tie, Forrest arrived at Wanda’s doorstep a few days later with a corsage ready, excited for the evening ahead. After an enjoyable dinner full of laughter and conversation, Forrest drove Wanda through his hometown of Glenwood sharing old memories from his life on this beautiful summer night.
Forrest was planning to stay with his daughter’s family again later that week for a ministry trip, and asked if Wanda would join him. The next few days were spent doing nothing but walking and talking. More was covered in four days than most couples get through in six months. Both were astounded at how compatible they were with each other, and it became apparent to both that God was supernaturally knitting their hearts together. “At the end of these few days we decided to be in a committed relationship, or ‘going steady’ as they say today.” said Forrest.
Thursday night Forrest had an invitation from Appleton Alliance church in Wisconsin to speak with their youth. Wanda saw Forrest in his element as he shared pilot stories from South America and shared his passion for missions with the children by encouraging them to pray for unreached people groups and building their vision for how they could partner with God in his purposes. Wanda then helped gather the children together so Forrest could show them how to pop balloons with his jungle blow gun and roll out his 16-foot boa constrictor snake skin for them to touch.
Forrest and Wanda returned exhausted to their daughter’s home late that night and let themselves in. As they were sitting in the living room, quietly reminiscing about the day as everyone else in the house was asleep; Forrest, feeling inspired, suddenly knelt down on one knee, held Wanda’s hands, looked into her beautiful blue eyes, and asked her to be his wife. “Yes!” she immediately answered. They picked out their rings the next afternoon.
August 1st was Forrest’s initial phone call, the 6th was their first date, and they were engaged to be married on the 15th. “We definitely don’t recommend that time table for everybody!” said Wanda, holding back a laugh. Wanda had observed for years how well Forrest treated his first wife, Margaret, and by the time Forrest proposed she had no need for more time to test his integrity. “And at our age, you don’t have time to wait around!” she added.
Three months later in October they celebrated with a small wedding with 28 of the couples’ close family in attendance. The reception was held at the very same restaurant where they had their first date.
Forrest and Wanda are living testimony that God “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20) Both sets of families fell in love with each other as well; Forrest even gained the respect of Wanda’s parents who were both still living at the time in their late-nineties.
Even though Forrest is enjoying a season in his life marked by great peace and joy, he remembers the desperation he felt right after losing his first wife, Margaret. In the midst of his grief, Forrest reflected on his past history with God, and how every dark and tragic situation was always transformed into one of light and hope. Forrest knew in his heart that this was no exception and that God would prove himself faithful.
With Wanda’s help, Forrest just published his first book, His Faithfulness Reaches to the Skies, which recounts his life and ministry up until his second marriage. Wanda and Forrest, now 69 and 80 years old, respectively, plan to continue their different ministries as long as they are able.
“The Bible says nothing about retiring at 65,” Forrest is known to say, “as long as I have good health and a meaningful ministry, I won’t stop, for the Lord’s cause is too great.”
Social Media Coordinator