Josh was born to his wonderful parents, Mark and Carol.
Erika was born to her wonderful parents, Danny and Heidi.
Josh grew up as the second oldest of six children: Andrew, Sara, Elizabeth, Sam, and John.
Erika grew up as the oldest of eight children: Jairus, Ethan, Sam, Gabriella, Luke, Eliana, and Janessa.
As a child, Josh especially enjoyed polar bears, playing dollhouse with Sara, playing outside, and researching fighter jets.
As a child, Erika especially enjoyed swinging while singing hymns, playing Playmobil with Jairus, playing outside, new projects, reading, and writing stories and poems.
When Josh was ten years old, he read some gospel tracts that Andrew had gotten in the mail. Through them, God showed him that he had violated His laws and needed salvation in Jesus Christ. Later that night, Josh talked with his parents and they explained the gospel and led him in a prayer to give his life to Jesus Christ.
When Erika was four years old, her mother read her a Bible story and began talking about Jesus. Suddenly Erika knew she needed Jesus. She stopped the story and asked her mother to help her give her life to Jesus—and she did. When Erika was ten years old, she yielded full control of her life to God and received God’s covenant with her of eternal kingdom life in Christ.
When Josh and Erika were around five years old, both of their families began attending the same church. Throughout their fifteen years at this church, the families got to know each other. Erika remembers helping Josh’s family move into their new home back when she was about seven years old.
On May 18, 2003, Josh and Erika were baptized as an outward demonstration of the covenant that they each had with Jesus Christ.
Throughout their teenage years, Josh and Erika participated in many group activities together. They taught Children’s Institutes, led backyard Bible clubs, took speech classes, and competed in speech and debate tournaments. During one tournament, Erika had just completed her first round of Impromptu speaking. When she walked out of the room, Josh was in the hallway waiting for his round. When he asked her how her speech went, Erika was impressed by how he made God the central theme of his conversation.
At other tournaments, Josh and Erika watched each other’s speeches and encouraged each other to speak for God alone and to proclaim His truth. Along with their siblings, they worked on studying Apologetics to prepare for the Apologetics speech event. They enjoyed seeking His kingdom in this way and sharing what they had learned. Erika also assisted Josh and his sister Sara in preparing for their debate rounds, researching, writing cases, and gathering evidence. The Mathews and Wenzel families also travelled together to tournaments several times.
During this time, both Josh and Erika were growing in their walk with the Lord. God was teaching both of them exciting new truths about life in Christ—how walking with God is letting Christ live His life through them. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21). “I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life that I now live in the flesh, I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20). Often God would reveal the same exciting Scripture passages to both of them simultaneously and independently.
As their friendship developed, Josh became attracted to Erika’s spiritual depth and her walk with God. As they grew closer to the Lord, Josh wondered if this was someone that God might lead him to also grow closer to in marriage one day. Josh placed this in God’s hands and asked God to bring this about in His time if that was His will.
That spring (2009), Josh and Erika graduated from high school with the TEACH Institute. Though Erika had planned to graduate in 2008, the Wenzel family joined TEACH at the beginning of the year, and TEACH wanted each student to spend at least two years in their program.
In the fall, Josh began Bible School at the International Ministerial Institute (IMI) in Texas while Erika began working on a Bachelor’s in Communications from home. Throughout that semester, God taught them both separately about the depth of His love for them. “The LORD your God in the midst of you is mighty; he will save, he will rejoice over you with joy, he will rest in His love; he will joy over you with singing!” (Zeph. 3:17).
The next year, IMI opened its doors to young ladies for the first time, and in February 2010, after Erika completed her Communications degree, she too headed for Texas and IMI. The following three years were focused, intense, and absolutely wonderful as outward distractions were set aside to seek God alone and meditate upon His Word.
During their time at IMI, Josh and Erika each wrote a commentary on the Bible, spent two hours each day alone with God, and soaked in the truths of the Kingdom of God and life in Christ. Both had made a commitment to not pursue romantic relationships during this time as they sought to deepen their walk with God without other interests. “Set your affections on things above, not on things of the earth, for ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4).
Upon graduating from IMI in Spring 2012, Josh worked on a Bachelor’s in Computer Science (which he finished in early 2015).
In November of 2012, God impressed on Josh that he should pursue a marriage relationship with Erika. After talking about it with his parents and praying about it for several months, Josh talked with Mr. Wenzel and asked for permission to pursue a marriage relationship with Erika.
After Erika graduated from IMI in Fall 2013, the next chapter of their lives began quickly as Erika’s father let her know that Josh was interested in beginning a relationship with her. Unsure if that was God’s next step for her, Erika took a month to pray and seek God on the issue before agreeing to move forward with the relationship.
On December 21, 2013, Josh and Erika, along with his parents, attended a Handel’s Messiah concert before going out to dinner and discussing their relationship for the very first time. The next year was spent in purposefully seeking God together. During that year, they and their families participated in many activities. Josh and Erika had many conversations and gradually got to know each other better. Both of them desired only God’s will in their lives and wanted Him to be the center of their relationship.
On December 21, 2014, Josh took Erika for an early morning walk across the beautiful back property at the Wenzels’ home. He led her to a special spot next to a creek that he had set up in advance with candles and Christmas lights. There they prayed, quoted Scripture, spoke blessings, gave each other gifts, had communion together—and became engaged.
Their hope and prayer in their lives is that Christ would be known more and that His kingdom would be increased through their oneness and testimony. Their life goal is simple: HIM.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)
"The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?...One thing have I desired of the LORD, that will I seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD, and to enquire in his temple." (Psalm 27)
“Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him: fret not thyself because of him who prospereth in his way, because of the man who bringeth wicked devices to pass.” (Psalm 37:7)
"But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." (Philippians 3:7-16)