In 1949 it cost 17 cents for a gallon of gasoline, Harry S. Truman was the 33rd President of the United States, and Helen King married her high school sweetheart, D.L. Govan.
Despite their pledge of lifelong love, D.L. and Helen’s marriage was rocky at best. They had their first three children in three years, and an argument followed the birth of each child.
After each argument, they were unable to reconcile and Helen fled to her parents’ home … intending never to return.
But each time she did return … because of an aunt’s advice.
And this year they celebrated their 60th anniversary.
“He’s the father of your children”
Helen recalls one especially heated argument that began when D.L. went through her purse without permission. She was furious, and the argument escalated until Helen left with the baby.
“Well, you don’t have to go back,” her mother told her. “You can go to school.”
But Helen’s aunt, Helen Frances, disagreed. She helped Helen realize that she still loved D.L., despite their arguments. “He’s the father of your children,” she’d say, “and that’s the man you should be with. … Your children need their father.” Then she’d add, “It’s not just D.L.’s fault.”
Over and over again, Helen heeded her aunt’s advice and returned to D.L. But something was missing in their marriage.
Although Helen and D.L. both grew up in the church, neither understood what it meant to follow Christ on a daily basis. A young man at the factory where D.L. worked carried a Bible in his pocket, and he often questioned D.L. about his faith. “I began to wonder,” D.L. says, “Am I really a believer?” Eventually D.L. found himself on his knees, asking the Lord to come into his life.
When he went home Helen asked him, “What’s happened to you?” It wasn’t long before she also made a profession of faith. The Govans joined a church and realized that they could work through their problems with Christ’s help.
Their commitment to one another was tested when D.L. was laid off after working for Boeing for 17 years. To support his family financially, he got a trash route, and Helen and the boys helped him.
D.L. says that Helen was not accustomed to collecting trash and explains that she was raised in a family that would probably be considered upper middle class. “It was a kind of a no-no for her to stoop to the level of being a trash hauler’s wife,” he says, “but it was all I could do at the time.”
When the Govans’ youngest daughter entered school, D.L. entered college while working various jobs. With five other children in college, Helen went to work as the assistant director of the Phyllis Wheatley Children’s Home in Wichita, Kansas. She later joined D.L. in taking classes at Tabor College and they graduated together in 1979.
The value of mentoring
Today D.L. is a retired minister of Voice of Calvary Fellowship in Jackson, Mississippi. He has signed a marriage covenant saying that he won’t marry a couple in the church without premarital counseling.
In 2007, D.L. and Helen were the first couple in Mississippi to be presented with the Healthy Marriage and Families award. They have followed the example of Aunt Helen Frances by helping dozens of couples stay together in their marriages.
“We are anti-divorce,” D.L. says, “’Let the Lord be the glue that holds the two together,’ as my wife puts it.”
The Govans are also pro-mentoring. When Helen counsels women she tells them to not just pray for their husbands, but also to pray for themselves. She reminds them that they cannot change their husbands, but God can.
Years ago a woman with three children came to Helen and said, “I’m divorcing. I can’t put up with it. He doesn’t appreciate me.”
“You need to make home a palace for him,” Helen told her. The woman followed the advice and was surprised by her husband’s reaction. He was overwhelmed by his wife’s kindness and started helping with their children, cooking, and cleaning. This couple is still together today.
In the last 60 years gasoline reached $4 a gallon, Barack Obama was elected the 44th President of the United States, and Helen and D.L. Govan celebrated six decades of sharing life together.
If Helen could look into her Aunt Helen Frances’ eyes today, she would say, “You really blessed us with your wisdom. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”