Michael Miller: Service offers a Christian approach to finding love

Michael Miller

Polly wasn't meeting men at her church who were her age and who were available for friendship and, possibly, dating leading to marriage.

She tried Christian Cafe and eHarmony.com, two online dating services.

"But the difficulty with those other venues is they're not local," said Polly, who asked that her full name not be used. "You spend a lot of time, energy and emotion writing someone without that real possibility of seeing who they truly are in real life."

However, things have been different for Polly and other Peoria-area Christian singles since Linda Martin and Kim Whitaker started Cache Connections on Valentine's Day 2007.

The two Northwoods Community Church members created the Christian matchmaking service not to help singles find recreational dates, but to help them find people serious about their faith and serious about getting married.

"We are not here for the desperate," Whitaker said. "We are here for people wanting not to compromise and not wanting to be unequally yoked" with non-Christians in a relationship.

"We have a 12-page questionnaire that not only talks about the general characteristics of a person but also what their faith walk is."

"It's definitely for marriage-minded people," Martin said.

That's something that even the membership contract states. A faith statement of basic Christian beliefs also must be signed.

The emphasis on fundamental Christian beliefs is what attracted Darrell, who has been a Cache member since February.

"They didn't just come across like a cultural dating service," he said. "Their people were born-again Christians. They really care about their clients."

The two women are both happily married -- Martin for 23 years, Whitaker for 28. They studied Christian approaches to dating by reading such books as "What's a Girl to Do?: While Waiting for Mr. Right" by Janet L. Folger and "Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship" by Joshua Harris.

"We wanted to be really sure that we have a good idea of what God's plan is for dating and relationships," Whitaker said. "We want to make sure everything we do is based on biblical standards and very pleasing to God."

When a client signs up for Cache Connections' services, he or she gets not only personalized matchmaking services, but also petitions to heaven.

"We spend a lot of time in prayer over our clients and clients' connections," Whitaker said.

After going over applicants' questionnaires and conducting a follow-up phone interview, "We feel we have a pretty good idea of who they are," she said.

Information is keyed into a database, which the women then study to see if a good connection between clients is "suggested." They then let the two people know about the possibility and ask them to pray about it. If both say yes, then phone numbers are given out.

The service was at 46 clients earlier this week. Three or four matched couples are "in process," Martin said. If a relationship gets going and one person wants to stop it, Martin and Whitaker will take on the job of letting the other person know.

"It is not our intention for anybody to get hurt through this process," Whitaker said.

Cache's focus on values also raises the quality and safety of interaction.

"It's even better for women because it takes a lot of the things they're scared of out of the mix," Darrell said.

Some people have even been turned away when it's been clear their values didn't match those of Cache Connections.

The service has different levels of membership that differ mainly in how actively Martin and Whitaker will search for matches. After the $50 application fee, costs range from $25 per match to a six-month, $500 membership.

There's also Cache Community, an online forum for singles who have signed off on the faith statement but aren't marriage-minded. It is free, but will cost $25 per month in the future, the women said. The community includes approximately 70 people.

Whitaker and Martin also have created a few social events for members, such as a bowling night. They are exploring the possibility of a monthly

game night at different churches. A free Christian Singles Connect event, featuring discussion, worship and fellowship, will be held from 2 to 5  p.m. Sunday, Sept. 23, at Zion Tabernacle off Cole Hollow Road in East Peoria.

The women, both of whom have other full-time jobs, aren't making a profit on Cache Connections. So far, they said, they're breaking even due to advertising costs.

That could change, though, as they continue to court the Christian community.

Michael Miller covers religion for the Journal Star. Write to him in care of the Journal Star, 1 News Plaza, Peoria, IL 61643, call him at 686-3106, or send e-mail to mmiller@pjstar.com. Comments may be published.