If your mom ever old you that church is a great place to meet your spouse, she might have been right. With Gateway as large as it is and with its many opportunities for groups and connections, there are bound to be some Gateway love stories. So this Valentine’s Day, let’s celebrate some couples whose romances originated within the halls of Gateway Church. 


Married on November 20, 2015

JACOB: I first saw Neeli at a worship team evaluation in February 2013. I was there working as an audio tech. We did not meet that day, but I heard her sing. I thought, Oh. My. Gosh. and I made sure to remember her name: Neeli. 

NEELI: I never saw him on that day in February, but in August that same year, I was a part of Gateway’s summer musical, The Show. Jacob was working with Tech Arts backstage. During a run-through of the production, I was sitting on the floor in the hallway, just waiting for my part, and all of a sudden, I heard someone say, “Hey, Neeli.” I looked up and thought, Who is this guy? How does he know my name? This Tech Arts guy said, “Here’s a chair. You don’t have to sit on the floor.” It was so sweet. Of course that gesture led to many hallway conversations during rehearsals and performances. Now during productions, there’s a sign in the hall that says, “Loiter Not,” and I always make the joke that it’s preventing people from meeting their future spouses! 

JACOB: Even with all the hallway talking, I still hadn’t told her my name.

NEELI: I never asked because I thought, What if we met before? Then I’m going to feel ridiculous! It was probably a month before I actually figured out what his name was. Until then, he was known around my house as “The TA Guy” [laughter]. When the production ended and it was time for the cast party, I prayed, “Lord, please let him be there.” And he was! As I walked in, I saw him staring at me from the other side of the room, and I thought, Oh my gosh, he’s about to walk over here, and sure enough, he did. I was blushing. I didn’t know if he could tell. 

JACOB: I couldn’t tell. I just knew I had to cross that crowded room to talk to her that night. 

NEELI: After that night, we started running into each other at church on the weekends. Sometimes he would work upstairs, but he would always conveniently make it downstairs. Then I started conveniently making it upstairs! 

JACOB: I knew I wanted a relationship with Neeli, and I prayed about calling her dad first for his blessing. When I finally called him, he didn’t recognize my name. I thought, This can’t be good [laughter]. But her dad said he would talk to Neeli. The next day he called me back, and gave me his blessing along with Neeli’s phone number. That was May 13, 2014, the same day our relationship started, because I couldn’t wait to call her. We got engaged six months later but had a long engagement. 

NEELI: 360 days long! 

JACOB: Both of Neeli’s sisters got married during that time also, so we had to wait our turn. I’ve been at Gateway since 2000—when it started. So it’s pretty special that we met right here, behind the scenes, and that the Lord would orchestrate it to lead to our marriage. 


Married on January 8, 2016 

MONICA: I started attending the Grand Prairie Campus in the spring of 2014. And I would always see Joel there because he was a deacon, but I assumed he was married! Then at the Christmas candlelight service, he came up to my parents and me after the service and introduced himself, but it was kind of awkward. 

JOEL: [laughter] It took so much courage. I thought, Just go say “hi.” So I did, but I didn’t know what to say after that. Then her mom said, “Merry Christmas!” So I said, “Merry Christmas!” and then I walked off. I asked the Lord to give me an opportunity to ask her out. Then the First Conference came around at the Southlake Campus, but I couldn’t pay attention to the service because she was sitting three rows in front of me. When the service ended, I walked up the aisle toward her. She was talking to someone, so I waited for her to finish talking, and finally she looked at me and said, “I’m sorry. Did you want to talk to me?” And I said, “Yeah.” 

MONICA: So I said, “I know you from Grand Prairie, right?” He introduced himself, and I said, “I’m Monica. Nice to meet you!” not remembering that we had met a few weeks before. Then I said, “You’re married to … who’s your wife?” And he said, “I don’t have a wife.” It was pretty embarrassing for me, but we just laughed. We talked for a few minutes, and then he asked me if I wanted to have coffee sometime. 

JOEL: She said yes and gave me her number. And as she was walking away, she turned around and asked me what my last name was. So I told her, “Maldonado.” She left, and I just thought, I’m about to get looked up on Facebook. 

MONICA: Of course, as soon as I got in my car, I looked him up on Facebook [laughter]. I also texted my brothers, Daniel and Jesse, and said, “Joel Maldonado just asked me out. What’s his story?” Daniel texted me back and said, “He’s a great guy.” So that Saturday, we went and had coffee. Joel was so intentional from the very beginning. Toward the end of the date, he said, “Okay, I want to take you out to dinner next week.” 

JOEL: She agreed, and so every weekend after that—literally every weekend—we saw each other. 

MONICA: And we got married two days before the one-year anniversary of that first coffee date! 


If you and your spouse met at Gateway, we’d love to hear your story! Share your story and a picture on social media and use #gatewaytolove.