BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY
Special to the Birmingham Times
“You Had Me at Hello’’ highlights married couples and the love that binds them. If you would like to be considered for a future “Hello’’ column, or know someone, please send nominations to Barnett Wright firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.
SONDREA AND DERRICK AMBROSE
Married: August 14, 1999
Met: Summer 1993, in Sondrea’s home church, Doers Of The Word Christian Outreach Ministries in North Birmingham, at their summer youth concert where Derrick had been invited by one of her church members. Sondrea was 17, and Derrick was 19, and she remembered Derrick making a bad first impression.
“He just had this air about himself, he was loud and kinda walked around like he thought he was better than everybody and I didn’t like that, it was just totally not my type,” Sondrea said.
Derrick remembers being 19 and fulfilling a promised to his coworker [Denina Parker, the person who invited him], that he’d come to church that Sunday, “and when I first got there I was out of it,” he said, “but by the end of the service I had been changed.”
Derrick joined the church a few Sundays later. Fast forward five years, in August 1998, Sondrea had ended a long relationship and noticed a void in the ministry for singles at their church and went to their pastor about a singles ministry. Surprisingly, so had Derrick, and the pastor told them to steward the ministry together.
The turn: In 1998, both Sondrea and Derrick began individual journeys with God, seeking direction through fasting and prayer.
During Sondrea’s season of consecration, God revealed that she would marry Derrick. “We were still young at that time, I was 22, and I was on a three-day fast when God showed me that I would marry Derrick. I dismissed it, he wasn’t my type… And then the third time God showed me I continued praying about it, and God kept showing me it was Derrick, and the last thing God said to me about it was ‘You’re judging him after the flesh, but I know his heart’. Once God said that, that was it for me,” Sondrea said.
She began planning a wedding without a proposal or a groom. “I never said anything to Derrick about it. I called my best friend and told her I was getting married and gave her the date… I called some of my other friends from college and asked them to be bridesmaids and honestly, not many people asked questions about the groom, everybody just immediately bought into my fairy tale,“ Sondrea said.”
Derrick, who was on a similar journey, had had his own series of revelations from God. “I realized that in order for me to be the best husband I could be, I had to first be the best wife I could be to Christ… And as I prayed and fasted, God gave me revelation on [the type of wife I should find], and God said ‘I will bless anything that I qualify’, so I started looking for a qualified mate, and it made me [prepare] to be a qualified mate myself because I wanted to be a man of God…, said Derrick.
“… I had gone through several journeys before my eyes went to Sondrea, and I was like, ‘wait a minute, she checks all the boxes.’ [Sondrea and I] weren’t dating, and at the time I didn’t even have a car, and I said, ‘how am I going to ask this woman to marry me when I don’t even have a vehicle?’ God said, ‘stop asking me about this when you already know what to do, and that I’m gonna bless it,’” Derrick said.
In October 1998, Sondrea and Derrick ended up on the church couples’ cruise. “Neither of us knew each other would be there, but we ended up spending so much time together on the boat,” Sondrea said.
Yet and still, they did not begin dating, nor share their revelations from God regarding each other.
The proposal: Jan. 26, 1999. Derrick was finally ready to jump out on faith.
“I went to her mother at her job to ask for her daughters’ hand in marriage. She worked at the downtown library and I asked her if she had a moment because I needed to ask for her daughter’s hand in marriage, and she looked at me strange. She said, ‘I didn’t even know y’all were talkin’,’ and I said, ‘no ma’am, we’re not, but I still want to ask for your daughter’s hand in marriage.’ And she said, ‘from what I see in you, I can’t say no. If she says, ‘yes,’ you have my permission’… I went home, and [prepared to propose when Sondrea picked me up for Bible class that evening]. I put Hershey Kisses on the floor, rose petals, and streamers leading to the bathroom, and hung a sign in the shower that said, ‘If I kiss the ground you walk on and shower you with roses, will you marry me?’, and [when Sondrea saw the display] she laughed,” Derrick said.
“I laughed like Sarah laughed when the angel told her she was going to have Isaac, it was disbelief,” Sondrea said. “I know I was planning the wedding but I thought I was going to have a traditional courtship, where he was going to take me out, and I would’ve become his girlfriend and then his fiance’, I had no idea he would bypass that.”
Eventually, “she said ‘yes’,” Derrick added.
“When the pastor made the announcement that we were getting married [that night at Bible class] the church started celebrating… and whatever was left to pay for the wedding that I had not already paid for, people at the church footed the bill…,” Sondrea said.
Two weeks later, Derrick bought Sondrea an “engagement car”.
“…I was in nursing school and was driving my mother’s car to go to school, and the guy that I thought was cheap, arrogant, and conceited had bought me my first brand new car,” Sondrea said, “and he bought me a ring a shortly after.”
First date: February 1999, at the Wildwood Movie Theater on Lakeshore Dr., they saw The Prince of Egypt. Despite already being engaged, this was Sondrea and Derrick’s first date and first time out alone.
“It didn’t feel awkward, despite the [non-traditional] series of events, it felt natural. That was the blessed part about it, when we came together in that way it felt like it was [meant] to be,” Sondrea said.
The wedding: At Doers Of The Word Christian Outreach Ministries, in North Birmingham, officiated by its pastor, Pastor John Thedford. Their colors were lavender, purple, and platinum.
Most memorable for the bride was “when they opened the door for me to walk down the aisle. There were people literally standing on the walls, and just seeing all of those people there to celebrate our love, it was like ‘oh my God’. And Derrick had this big grin on his face, he was smiling ear to ear like he was happy to see me, it was so sweet,” Sondrea said. “And we laughed and had fun at the altar…”
Most memorable for the groom was “when he finally announced us husband and wife and presented us, Mr. and Mrs. Derrick Ambrose. We exited out to T.D. Jake’s ‘Her Lady, Her lover, and Lord’, and it marked a moment of me starting the rest of my life, and being complete,” Derrick said.
They honeymooned after Sondrea graduated from nursing school, “but somebody donated a suite to us as our wedding gift, and we stayed [at a hotel in Homewood] for the night,” Sondrea said.
“We went there and consummated the marriage,” Derrick laughed.
Words of wisdom: “In a marriage, you’re going to have heated [disagreements], and one thing we agreed on during our marriage training and before we took our vows was that the word of God was going to settle every argument. If we have something that we have a disagreement over, we go and find it in the scriptures. And if we can’t find it in scripture, we have to really weigh whether it’s worth arguing about. We always tell people to let the word of God be the ultimate decision-maker in your home,” Derrick said. “The Holy Spirit and the Word of God should be the moderator in your home…”
“Love is a decision, it’s not a feeling. People make comments like ‘we fell in or out of love’, and feelings are fickle, they always change, but love is a decision you have to make every single day. It’s ‘I do’, every single day, it’s ‘I forgive’, every single day, it’s showing grace and mercy every day and loving each other through the different seasons of life. We’ve experienced quite a few, and if we allowed our emotions to be the driver of the bus we would’ve gone over the cliff a long time ago, so you have to make a daily decision to love and fight for your love and marriage,’ Sondrea said.
Happily ever after: The Ambose’s attend Doers Of The Word Christian Outreach Ministries in North Birmingham, where they serve as the directors of the couples ministry, and deacon and minister (respectively). They have four children, daughters, Dreona, 27, and Kaitlyn, 22, and sons, Derrick Jr., 21, and Cameron, 19.
Sondrea, 47, is a North Birmingham native, and Ramsay High School grad. She attended Bevill State Community College, where she earned an associate degree in nursing, is currently pursuing her master’s degree in nursing education at Capella University [online], and works as a nurse manager at Birmingham V.A. Medical Center in Birmingham.
Derrick, 50, is an Ensley native and Ensley High School grad. He attended the University of Alabama at Birmingham [UAB], where he studied accounting, Southeastern Bible College, where he completed the Adult Christian Studies Program, and works in the project and development department at Cadence Bank.