Danielle Sanchez went back to Honduras this summer on a mission trip to work at Orphanage Emmanuel in Guaimaca, a familiar endeavor. It would be so good to see the people and the little kids she had grown to love. But this trip, her fourth, was different. • "The boy who has stolen my heart," as the St. Petersburg Collegiate senior told tb-two* before she left for the summer, would be ready to ask permission of Papi, the man running the orphanage, to court Danielle. • Or would he be ready? Danielle, thrilled to be back with Selvin, the teenage orphan she knew "was the one" when she met him two trips before, tried to be patient. • "Every day I'm waiting, and I see Papi drive by and I wondered: 'Is he going to come talk to me?' If they're going to say yes or no, I need to know!"
It is a rule at the orphanage that dating, or courting as it is called there, may only take place with the permission of the missionary in charge. With less than a week left before Danielle returned home, she approached Selvin. "Are you going to ask Papi or not?"
Finally, Selvin talked to Papi.
Before Selvin could give her the news, Danielle ran into Mami, Papi's wife, who excitedly told her Papi had said yes, and that it was time to arrange their first date!
By now, everyone knew Danielle and Selvin had feelings for one another, especially Mami.
Even before the talk with Papi, Mami had said, "If you want to live here (in Honduras) you can pick a hill. Where do you and Selvin want to live? Just pick a hill."
When Mami explained how no one wanted to live on a one hill because it was close to the pigs, Danielle said she didn't mind, as she grew up on a farm.
Everyone was excited for Danielle and Selvin to go on their first date, which was hardly a typical Florida teenage outing, like dinner and a movie, or bowling, or a beach walk at sunset.
"We sat and talked," Danielle said, in a little store where anyone could observe or interrupt. "Everyone knew we were on a date," she said. "Everyone passing by was waving." Her sister peered through the window taking "stalker pictures."
Courting in Honduras means there can be no physical contact. "I have never hugged him," she said. "No touching of the hands, no kissing.
"He's trying to be all romantic and everything, but it was against the rules to hold hands," Danielle said. But for a few minutes, Selvin ignored the rules. "I gave him my hand and he said 'I have to ask you something.' "
Courting also means the boy has to ask the girl permission to be her boyfriend.
She answered: "I know you do, but you still have to ask me!"
"Do you want me to be your boyfriend," Selvin asked.
"I knew that that was the question," Danielle said.
"I knew that that was your answer," Selvin replied.
Before Danielle went home, she wrote Selvin a note and, because she wasn't permitted in the boy's side of the orphanage, she had her sister deliver it.
On Oct. 2, Danielle and Selvin will celebrate their two-month anniversary, and they already have received a gift. Recently the orphanage contacted Danielle with exciting news: Selvin and she now have permission to call each other every Saturday.
Danielle smiled at the thought of being able to hear her boyfriend's voice. There is much to talk about, including his life, and what hardships he may have faced before moving to the orphanage. She won't rush things, as she said earlier this year. "I would like to know when he is ready to tell me."
They've talked about other things, including their future. "He plans on coming to the States for college, and we want to go to school together," Danielle said. "But we haven't had a complete in-depth conversation about that.
"I want to move there and he wants to move here. It all depends on where God leads us," she said, "and if this relationship is not just what God wants now, but what God wants for the rest of our lives."
Hanging from her wrist is the bracelet she found by chance last spring, a sample made to display custom engraving. "D <3 S" it reads. With it Danielle wears another bracelet, a leather band that reads "Honduras."
Together they tell a heartfelt, long-distance story.