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‘I Was Grateful [She] Came Into My Life … I Got on One Knee and Proposed’

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BY JE’DON HOLLOWAY-TALLEY | Special to the Birmingham Times

MAURICE AND SALISIA VALENTINE

Live: Pelham

Married: June 3, 2006

Met: Fall 2001 at Jacksonville State University at a Gospel party hosted on their college campus. However, the two reconnected and became better acquainted in early 2004 at the New Life Apostolic Center in Anniston. Salisia said they were set up by their Apostle, Andra Cunningham.

“Maurice was getting his resume together to apply for the Boys and Girls Club and he had Apostle Andra looking over it when [Apostle Andra] said ‘Hey, you need to ask CiCi to take a look at this’… I was in my art room and fixing to go home when Maurice came in and said, ‘Apostle told me to come and have you take a look at my resume.’ I was [annoyed]  because I was tired and ready to go home, but I did say I’d take a look at it,” Salisa recalled.

Maurice was not met with warmth, “I went up there and she was mean,” he laughed, “but [after we sat down together] her whole countenance changed. I love working with youth, I was a youth pastor at the church at the time as well, and the conversation shifted,” Maurice said.

“He pulled out his little raggedy CD collection that didn’t have a front or back cover [on the album] and proceeded to talk to me about Gospel rap,” Salisia laughed.

Over the following months, Salisa said began to admire Maurice as they worked together on projects at church and became friends.

First date: Spring 2004, at a mutual friend’s apartment in Anniston. Maurice was renovating his new home but wanted to cook for Salisia, so their friend allowed them to use her apartment for their first date.

“It was awesome, we had a great time. I didn’t know how to cook for real so I went and got a box of Alfredo pasta and hooked it up,” Maurice laughed. “And that was the first time we sat down and had a true conversation and it felt like I was talking to my best friend.”

“My contribution to the dinner was a red velvet cake, so I baked one. I do remember being so nervous I don’t even think I ate, and Maurice read me like a book. He said, ‘I know you’ve been hurt before, but all I want you to do is let me earn your trust.’ And that was different because I had never had anyone tell me that before,” Salisia recalled.

The turn:  Fall 2004. “We started dating but I didn’t want anyone from the church to know and be in our business, and [despite that boundary] one night after service, Maurice made a point to walk out of the church and yell my name. He said ‘CiCi! You not gonna give me a hug and say bye to me?’ and I was so embarrassed I ran to my car… [soon after] he told me I was going to be his wife and scared me to death, but after that we progressively [got closer],” Salisia laughed.

“About six months in I told her ‘You’re going to be my wife’, and she looked me dead in the eye and told me we had to establish a friendship first so that was my focus. But I knew in the back of my mind she was already mine,” Maurice said.

The proposal: At New Life Apostolic Center in Anniston on New Year’s Eve 2004, at watch night service. Maurice served on the praise and worship team, and Salisia on the dance ministry, and with permission from their pastor, he proposed during a song he was leading.

“Everyone was in on it except for her, the whole church, her parents, everyone,” Maurice said. “The dance team came out, and I took the lead on the song [Blessed, by Fred Hammond so that I could work my plan], and at a point, I stopped singing and told [the pianist] ‘Hold up, hold up’ and that was his cue to play softer music and I started walking down the stage towards Salisia, and I just started talking directly to her. I told her how grateful I was for her to come into my life and I got on one knee and I proposed to her.”

“I was in such shock, I don’t even think I hugged him. He put the ring on my finger and I went back to my seat. I was the girl who didn’t think she would ever get married and was in a relationship with this man of God who loved me enough to think of me as his wife; I was literally in shock. I think I shook my head ‘yes’,” Salisia said.

The wedding: At Friendship Baptist Church in Anniston, officiated by their pastor, Apostle Andra Cunningham of New Life Apostolic Center, in Anniston. Their colors were burnt orange and yellow.

Most memorable for the bride was a moment of reflection as she walked down the aisle. “Even though I didn’t want to get married, during my prayer time the desire was initiated and two of the things I prayed for was that my husband would be tall and that he could sing, and Maurice sang me down the aisle. [He sang ‘Still in Love’, by Brian McKnight] and I realized as I was walking down the aisle that the Lord had answered my prayer,” Salisia said. “Also, when I think about our wedding day I think of how much love and support we had. Everybody was so excited about our coming together…”

Most memorable for the groom was serenading his bride. “Having the opportunity to sing to my wife and seeing her walk down the aisle, it honestly did feel like we were the only two people in the room and it was such a special moment to me,” Maurice said.

They honeymooned in Gatlinburg, Tenn. “We just enjoyed the time together and setting up the foundation of the future,” Maurice said.

Words of wisdom: “Marriage is a sacred covenant, not merely a contract. My advice is that whatever reason brought you together and to the altar, that should be the reason that supports you beyond it,” said Salisia. “We went through a lot together, sickness, finances, and regardless of the ups and downs that you encounter with your spouse, you have to continuously see your spouse as your partner despite the circumstances you face. Keep the vows.”

“It sounds very cliche, but it’s true, ‘keep God first and never stop dating.’ Develop the ability to not only communicate with your mouth but communicate with your ear by having an ear to hear,” Maurice said.

Happily ever after: Maurice pastors Life Changing Christian Center in Pelham, and Salisia serves as the First Lady and stewards the prophetic ministry. The Valentines don’t have any biological children but have been long-time stand-in parents for a young man they consider a son, Isaiah Chapple, 23.

Salisia, 43, is an Anniston native, and Saks High School [Anniston] grad. She attended Jacksonville State University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and the University of Alabama at Birmingham where she obtained a master’s degree in nursing and a certification as a family nurse practitioner. Salisia is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc. and currently pursuing a doctorate and psych mental health certification from Samford University and works as the vice president of provider services at American Family Care, where she also operates as a nurse practitioner.

Maurice, 42, is a Montevallo native, and Montevallo High School grad. He attended Jacksonville State University where he took general courses before transferring to North Carolina Bible Institute where he earned a master’s degree and a doctorate in Biblical Studies.  He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and is currently enrolled at World of Life Counseling Center [Wichita KS, online] in pursuit of a certification in Pastoral Faith Therapy Counseling. Maurice is a full-time pastor and youth coordinator for the City of Montevallo.

“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 bwright@birminghamtimes.com. Include the couple’s name, contact number(s) and what makes their love story unique.

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