Kari, Alton, Sam, Virginia, Paul, and Gabe smile at the end of Remix, Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS).
- Days gone: 14
- Talks given: 15
- Miles traveled: 8,230
- Venues: the inner city to a lovely San Diego resort
- Listeners: high schoolers through “oldlyweds,” with the NFL thrown in between
Those are some stats from our recent two-week California speaking tour. Though we’re happy to be home for a bit, we are still flush with delight and gratitude for a wonderfully rich ministry tour out west.
Our trip began on Valentine’s Day Eve, when we flew into San Francisco to speak at the First Covenant Church of Sacramento’s marriage conference, held in Corte Madera. Partnering with Jeff and Betty Koons for the second time in two years, this weekend launched our two-week stint off to a great start.
Jeff and Betty Koons of 1st Covenant Church of Sacramento lead a vital marriage ministry at their church.
In spite of torrential, cold rain, those attending the conference were open, hopeful, and responsive—all great reflections of the capable and personal leadership provided by Jeff and Betty. We were most surprised and delighted to have three couples who serve with Hands of Mercy Ministries in Mexico drive up for the conference. As friends of ours from Campus by the Sea, they wanted to build into their ministry by building their marriages. Wise couples!
En route to Kari and Gabe’s new home in Sacramento after the conference ended Sunday afternoon, we made a brief stop in Santa Rosa to visit our dear friends and mentors, Garth and Rosemary Dougan. Well into their 80’s, they continue to inspire us with their lives so faithfully lived for kingdom purposes. What a treat to touch base with them!
The next couple of days we partnered with Gabe and Kari in their college ministry, Remix, at Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS). We launched a four-part series entitled “God Loves Sex” on Tuesday night, and their creative advertising helped bring in about 160 post-high school kids. Our talk was entitled, “The top 10 lies culture tells you about sex—and God’s response” and to be honest, we were more than a little nervous. We knew that most attending would be very familiar with the lies...but not know they were lies. We prayed that they would see beyond the middle-aged, slightly frumpy, old, white married couple and hear truth that would set them free.
God met us and them in an amazing way. They listened with rapt attention, and responded with either laughter or tears. They eagerly accepted the free gift of Letters to my Daughters (given to the women) and So You Want to Marry my Daughter? (given to the men.) They hung around and talked afterwards. One young woman, with tears running down her cheeks, said that lie #6: “Co-habitation sets you up for a better marriage” was one she had believed, and had resulted in her living with her boyfriend. Even having a child eleven weeks earlier hadn’t given her the sense of security she was longing for. The truth of God’s design for the covenant commitment of marriage made sense to her and she left with a resolve to make some changes. Praise God that He meets each of us where we are.
We could barely sleep after that electrifying night (or maybe it was the stop at In-N-Out Burger at 11 p.m. that challenged our sleep?), so aware were we of how powerfully God was at work through that ministry and that church. What a privilege to partner with them. The next morning, before flying to San Diego, we met with Kari and Gabe’s staff team for a time of training and that was also very encouraging. “We have no greater joy than to know that our children are walking in the truth.” (3 John 4)
Our days in Carlsbad were dry, beautiful, and full of great connections with our growing number of friends in the NFL who attend the annual Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) conference. Our schedule was fairly packed but relaxed and it was fun for us to have H.I.M. Board members Doug and Julie Macrae join us for the conference. We thoroughly enjoyed hearing Gary Thomas, author of Sacred Marriage, speak numerous times, especially since we have him booked to speak at the H.I.M. marriage conference next year. He was terrific. Paul and I had a sell-out crowd come to hear us teach on temperaments in a seminar entitled, “Why can’t they be more like me?” and we had a raucous time, which seemed to be helpful to many. All in all, the days were well spent and we were honored to be a part of that vitally important ministry.
Back up to the Bay Area, we landed in pouring rain the night of the 21st and purchased an umbrella before checking into a hotel! Three out of the next five days were spent ministering at Peninsula Covenant Church (PCC) in Redwood City. Gary Gaddini (who spoke at the H.I.M. marriage conference in February 2008) is the lead pastor at PCC and one of our favorite teachers and friends. Even though he was off in the Congo during our visit, his ministry values and heart were easily detectable in every aspect of the body life of the church. We preached at three services on Sunday and felt welcomed and received by the three very different congregations (traditional, family, and very contemporary.)
An unexpectedly large crowd showed up at PCC for the Monday night segment of the mini-marriage conference.
Monday night, we did two more talks to complete a “mini-marriage conference” in-house and once again felt so at home and familial. We returned to the church Thursday morning and spoke to their “Mother’s Together” program on the subject of “The Two Things that Make Him Come Alive.” We especially loved that morning. Led in part by Gary’s lovely wife Anne and another of our long time friends, Mary Giani, the program is intentionally designed to love, pamper, and speak truth into the lives of young moms who don’t necessarily have a relationship with the Lord. It was done beautifully and thoughtfully and we were privileged to join forces with these passionate, vision-driven women.
In between Tuesday and Thursday morning, we put a few more miles on the car. :) We drove back to Sacramento to speak at Jesuit High School’s parent’s night Tuesday and that was . . . different. :) Put on the calendar by two dear Campus by the Sea families whose sons attend Jesuit, we were asked to speak to the parents and their kids on sexual purity. Just before beginning, a young high school informant let us know that it seemed that most of the parents were fairly relaxed with the position that “boys will be boys” and therefore didn’t seem especially committed to sexual purity. With that perspective in mind, our approach shifted to trying to convince the parents that God’s design for sexuality purity is good. I don’t know how many bought it, but we tried to be faithful in teaching truth. It’s always comforting to remember the words of Mother Teresa in such times: “God calls us to be faithful, not successful.” All said, we thoroughly enjoyed our time with our Campus by the Sea families who organized it, the Padillas and the Barrs, and we trust that God will multiply our efforts.
Wednesday we drove from Sacramento to Monterey (why not?) to do a marriage evening for Stone Harbor Church, a young church plant pastored by our dear friends Johnny and Lori Potter. We got down in time to take a long oceanfront walk full of animated conversation with them before the evening meeting, and that was one of the highlights of being there. The evening went well with a lot of good interaction and before we could blink, we were driving back up to Redwood City for the Thursday morning mother’s meeting.
The two weeks passed oh so quickly! Paul flew directly to Boston Thursday afternoon and I flew to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to spend a few days with my dear friend Helen. We’ve returned to a backlog of counseling, paperwork, and dust bunnies, which are all being tended to.
Meanwhile, around the world, our Julie is just completing her fifth week in Mbale, Uganda, and if you haven’t checked out her blogspot, you really should (http://juliefriesen.blogspot.com). Her experiences are changing us! I can only imagine what they’re doing to her. We are so thankful for a “peace that passes understanding” as she lives in the heart of a country ravaged by AIDS, poverty, and desperation. We are so thankful that she is His ultimately; that really is our hope.
It’s good to be home. In between lots of counseling and speaking for local churches and organizations, we’re gearing up for our “Worth It” conference (March 28) and our H.I.M. marriage conference, April 3-5. Hope to see many of you there.