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When a missionary living in Kenya began liking a female youth pastor’s photographs on Instagram to get her attention, there’s no way he could have predicted what would happen next. The two didn’t even know each other – and his unusual method to catch her eye had an amazing response.

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The online world plays a big part in a lot of modern love stories that you hear about today. Indeed, couples may hook up through an online dating app, or a relationship between two friends may blossom into something more romantic while bonding on social media.

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On this occasion social media had a big role to play in this couple’s relationship in the most surprising way. Rather than simply meeting on a dating app or being introduced by a friend, when this couple followed each other on Instagram, they didn’t know each other at all.

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The story of how these two people met begins in Kenya. The man had gone there to help out in any way he could, with an organization called Youth with a Mission. They were working with another group called Dare to Dream, which offers business training and micro-loans to entrepreneurs.

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While working as a missionary, romance was most likely the last thing on the man’s mind. But, as his story outlines on his Imgur page, love has a habit of creeping up on you when you least expect it. And in this instance, he began a relationship with a complete stranger.

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Both the man and woman were avid Instagram users and this is where their relationship began. The former was searching through different hashtags on the social media site when he came across one particular profile that caught his attention. But, this was only the beginning.

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Instagram is a great site to use if you’re looking to find others who share your interests. Adding hashtags to your picture uploads allows others to find your profile and can bring those who share interests together. And, this is exactly what happened to the young missionary.

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The profile that caught the man’s eye belonged to “really cute” youth pastor, he wrote on Imgur. So he decided to take a leap of faith and followed her account – and then subsequently liked all of her photos in a bid to get her attention.

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But the missionary’s plan to get the woman’s attention was a big risk. What if she didn’t follow back? What if she decided to block him? There was no way for him to know whether she would reciprocate, all he could do was sit and wait for her response.

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Luckily, the man’s plan worked. Finding the woman through Instagram hashtags turned out to be a great idea, as it meant they already shared a passion even though they were both total strangers. The youth pastor made the decision to follow him back and their friendship soon blossomed.

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Now the pair were both following each other on the picture sharing social media site, they could clearly see that they shared similar interests. The woman then tracked down the missionary worker on Facebook and popped up in his inbox. And from here, they then began to speak to communicate and get to know each other.

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But, there was one slight problem. The female youth pastor already had a boyfriend. Now, the missionary did not know about the other guy when he first got in contact, as there were no photos of the pair on Instagram. Indeed, the man then suggested they stop communicating with each other.

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The missionary explained his reasoning on Imgur. He wrote, “It started off as just small talk and we talked about ways to impact our community. She had a boyfriend at the time and when things started to get romantic I told her we had to stop because I didn’t want to disrespect her relationship.”

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And considering this pair had never met, what happened next is quite surprising. The man continued, “[The woman and her boyfriend] broke up instead and for months we talked. I felt like I knew everything about her except how it felt just to hold her.”

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From that point onwards, the couple’s bond grew in strength and it became clear that they were falling for each other. They began calling each other on Skype and spoke every single day over a period of four months. Indeed, this was the beginning of a special relationship.

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The first few months of any relationship are full of precious moments where you’re getting to know one another. But, with this couple, although they were speaking to each other every day and growing closer, they had yet to meet in person.

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Then the female youth pastor made a decision that would change all of that – she organized a meeting so they would come face-to-face for the very first time. So the woman decided to fly out to Kenya and meet the missionary where he was working.

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The pair both must have been very nervous and the male missionary worker decided to pull out all the stops to make a great first impression. The couple knew so much about each other – and yet had no idea how their first meeting would go.

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Meanwhile, the man returned the youth pastor’s brave decision to fly out to him with a grand gesture that would have come as a complete surprise to the woman. That’s because on the first day that they met, he laid out 100 candles and 200 roses for her and then got down on one knee and proposed.

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A proposal is often a surprise but it seems almost unbelievable for a man to propose to a woman on the first day they meet. But after travelling to visit a stranger she met on Instagram, what would the her reaction be? She, of course, said yes.

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This, however, was only the beginning of their story. That’s because the woman stayed in Kenya with the missionary rather than fly back home straight away. The newly engaged couple then spent the next few weeks in a school helping local children with their education.

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Meeting someone for the first time is nerve-wracking and to walk away from a first meeting as an engaged couple is surprising. But this pair had become extremely close over social media and a meeting like this is rare but not unique.

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Indeed, Erica Harris and Arte Vann share a similar story. The former, from California and the latter, from New York, also found each other on Instagram. They, too, were strangers who began their relationship on the social media platform.

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In February 2015 Harris had followed Vann’s Instagram page after discovering the latter’s poems which he posted on the site. Vann subsequently reciprocated the follow and the pair began to talk to each other on the social media platform. And from there, the relationship went from strength to strength.

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Vann spoke to The Guardian about what he first thought of Harris when they hooked up. He said, “She was just really funny and really spontaneous. She just made me smile. I could tell she was such a good person and a great mother and that she cared about people.”

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Then, it was time for Vann and Harris’ first encounter. So the former made the brave decision to buy a one-way ticket to Harris’ home state and the couple met as he arrived at LA Ontario international airport. But, that’s not all. Vann got down on one knee and the pair got married there and then.

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Amazingly, Vann and Harris tied the knot at the airport terminal and moved into a property four days later. Vann told The Guardian, “It was the best moment of my life. I was so happy. It was such a long road without having her… I waited for a very long time.”

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Vann even invited a CBS Los Angeles reporter to record the proposal and ceremony. That’s because Vann’s mother couldn’t attend and the recorded footage meant she could share their day with them. His mom wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the footage, though, and the video soon went viral.

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Meanwhile, the reaction to the footage and their love story surprised Harris, and she hoped it would help spread the message that anyone can find love. She told The Guardian, “We were both so broken. We want to share with other broken people out there that there’s hope. We’ve found healing through this love.”

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But things were very different for the male missionary and his youth pastor fiancée in Kenya, whose marriage announcement didn’t go down well with some initially. The pair had decided to elope in Kenya and although they did have the permission of her mom neither of their families had been at the ceremony.

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However, the couple made their Kenyan marriage as soon as they returned home. But, when back, they realized many loved ones held doubts about their relationship. The man wrote on Imgur, “There were so many people that told us we were going to get divorced in the first two years. Some were family and some were friends.”

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The man continued, “It was such a scandal that she even lost her job with the church over it. They said we weren’t going to be able to make it and we would become another statistic. They said our story was a bad influence for their youth.”

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The reason behind the church’s decision related to the woman’s role as a youth pastor. Apparently, she hadn’t spoken to the eldership and pastor of the church before the wedding, leading to some animosity. But, the couple set about proving them wrong and they did just that.

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The newlyweds then jetted off on a trip of a lifetime – deciding to make new memories. The missionary wrote on Imgur, “We traveled all over the world chasing every adventure we could – making stories to tell together and remember together.”

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And after the married couple’s trip they decided to embark on their next adventure, starting a family. The couple began trying for a baby but tragically they lost their first child early on in the pregnancy. And as they got through their shared grief, the pair jetted off travelling again.

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Meanwhile, when the husband and wife returned from their trip they decided to try for a baby again – and this time it was a different story. Indeed, in February 2017 the couple welcomed a baby girl into the world, just a month before the missionary posted his story on Imgur.

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The man admitted on the site that their love story is an unusual one, but he hopes that by sharing their story he can help others who are struggling in relationships. He wrote, “We hope you’re encouraged to take chances. To fail, to succeed, to remember all of your experiences. To choose to love and fight for each other every day.”

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The man continued, “Marriage has been the best thing that ever happened to us. It has been an incredible adventure and we literally try every day to show our love for one another to one another. We never go to bed angry at each other [and] we never hide things from each other unless it is awesome presents.

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“Getting married young is not for everyone but don’t let anyone define your perfect love story,” the man added. “Every day we are constantly thinking about how we can make our story more and more awesome. We try and sometimes we fail but a lot of times we succeed. But trying together is what has kept us alive.”

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Indeed, these two unusual love stories show that you really can love in the most unexpected of places. Bonding with a stranger over social media is one thing, but to fall in love and end up married to someone you met on Instagram, that’s pretty incredible. And, yet it happens.

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