P.S. I should have asked sooner
The P.S. series includes behind-the-scenes insights and closing thoughts on each feature piece — the good stuff that didn’t quite fit into the final story. Click here to read “When Love Breaks the Rules.”
I’m a little embarrassed to admit how long I’ve known Joel and Sri Paulraj, without actually knowing their story. After eight years of friendship, attending church together, and even playdates with our kids, I heard their full story for the first time about two months ago when the Lord brought Sri’s name to mind as someone to interview for Project Surplus. When I approached her, she was willing but also concerned. She’d read the first few features on the blog, and was worried her own story might not be interesting enough. Clearly, she need not have worried.
I’ve always known Sri and Joel to be some to the most friendly, hospitable people you’ll meet. They are the first ones to open their home to host barbecues, baby showers, and birthday parties, with a “bring as many as you want” and “stay as long as you need” kind of attitude. They work to make others feel welcomed and at ease while never drawing attention to themselves. They love and respect one another and it’s evident in their interactions.
I had no idea the twists and turns they had to navigate just to be together, or how much the Lord used their relationship to transform their faith. For Sri, it’s Joel’s patience and willingness to put others first that inspires her to grow. Joel says Sri’s “raw relationship” with God and ability to simply have a conversation with Him challenges him to shed the “Christianese” that can creep in from many years in church.
Joel and Sri’s love story is truly unlike any that I’ve heard. It transported me to a world that I was largely unfamiliar with. I recognize that there are some cultural complexities present that may be difficult for a Western reader to fully grasp. My goal here is not to advocate for or against arranged marriage or inter-faith dating. My mission here is simply convey this incredible story as accurately as I possibly can. It would actually make for a pretty great movie!
Joel and Sri still visit India often and have close ties to an Indian community in Chicago. They are active in ministry at church, where they serve as small group leaders. You’ll also find Joel serving on the security team, and Sri tucked back in one of the children’s ministry rooms, helping teach the kids. Together, they are raising the most darling daughters. As Joel explains it, he and Sri have a unique perspective in that they are able “to see the western culture and also the eastern culture and be able to find the best of both worlds.” I’m privileged to call them my friends and I truly enjoyed sharing their story with you. I only wish I would have asked them sooner!