One Marriage at a Time

An attempted bribe to entice the Oertlis to move to New England. :)

The beautiful spring weather today is effectively mitigating the potential “pain” of this 2009 Tax Day and though the trees are still bare and the bulbs haven’t yet awakened, blue skies and sunshine remind us that changes are in the offing. This is such a renewing time of year. How appropriate that the resurrection of Jesus is celebrated as the earth is resurrecting. We trust that your Easter weekend reminded you of the reason for the hope that is in us and refueled your passion for living for Him.

The past two weeks have been so full and eventful. Following the “Worth It” conference, preparing for the H.I.M. Marriage Conference the next weekend consumed our efforts, but before it arrived, we counseled for a day and we spoke at Bowdoin College.

I say that so casually, but it was anything but casual. We had been invited by Joelinda Coichy, a Bowdoin sophomore who had been quite involved in family camps and family ministries during our Grace Chapel years. Joelinda is full of passion for Jesus and is committed to making a difference for Him on that very liberal campus. Her involvement with Bowdoin Christian Fellowship (the IVCF chapter) positioned her to book us and we both gladly and fearfully accepted. Speaking on “The Top Ten Lies the Culture Tells Us About Sex,” we were forewarned that the audience would include the self-identified Bowdoin “Sexpert”, a female senior who has a weekly column in the campus newspaper where she dispenses sexual information to the student body. The event was advertised campus-wide and to everyone’s delight, about 75 students showed up (out of a student body of 1500.)

With visions of liberal campuses across the nation driving conservative speakers off platforms, I’ll admit that we were...petrified. We wondered if the sophisticated, bright Bowdoin students would even listen to this middle-aged (our perspective) or old (their view) couple speaking on sex. We knew that “we” had nothing to offer them unless the Spirit of God invaded that space, so we sent out an email plea for prayer.

The extroverts hung around long after the Q and A time was over.

And God did His thing. From the moment we took the podium, we felt connected with the audience and our 45-minute presentation flew by. They “actively” listened and responded appropriately. A 45-minute period of Questions and Answer followed and we found out later that at least half of the questions were posed by non-Christians. All were respectful and sincere in their questions, which reflected that they really listened. We were humbled by the convincing evidence that God had clearly protected the evening and used it for His purposes. Wow!

Happy reunion with Bowdoin College student, Joelinda Coichy.

Joelinda later wrote:
In terms of the event, I spoke with the “Sexpert” the night after the event and she was very positive. She said that it was interesting to her because she has never heard sexuality presented that way. She said that you guys were great! She also said that she appreciated you mentioned at the end about sex ultimately being our own decision, but that we all were worth healthy relationships where we would be valued and cherished. She and her friend were taking notes because they are looking to take the perspective that you provided about sex to other groups and pockets of students on campus. I was shocked, she was surprisingly positive about the event.

I was so blessed by you guys and I know that many others were too. The crowd that we had was pretty remarkable, I know God is moving. We are just going to have you guys back up here next year!!

 Best to you, 

Praise God! After the event, we spent the night in the beautiful “retreat center home” of Rob and Sim Gregory, IVCF Staff for Bowdoin, and we felt like we had found long lost friends. As we chatted long into the night, we discovered that our hearts for families and ministry beat so similarly. We hope to have many opportunities to partner with them in the future.

Pretty well pumped, we drove in the rain through the White Mountains Friday morning to Jackson, New Hampshire, for our marriage conference. Any disappointment we had related to the conference not selling out was quickly replaced by delightful expectation as the first session got underway that evening. There was a palpable sense of the Spirit of God in that carriage house, which only intensified as the weekend progressed.

Worship at the marriage conference was sweet.

Worship led by Danny and Rayna Oertli was unifying and sweet, and their concert Saturday night was captivating. The workshops were well received, the food was phenomenal, and the setting was romantic and beautiful. Each of the main sessions was highlighted by testimonies from couples whose marriages had been transformed by the power of God. It’s impossible to express how powerful it was to hear these real life, hope-giving stories. All agreed that the weekend was one of, if not the best marriage conference we’ve had. All praise to Him!

Several emails received post-conference express some widespread sentiments:
Thank you both so much for recommending that we attend the HIM weekend. We really went just to get away somewhere pretty for some R&R, but God is so faithful that He didn’t let it stay that neutral for long! We both learned so much in every single session, things that have the potential to change our lives as Christians and as a couple. Of course, the fabulous food and location didn’t hurt a bit! :)
I hope to hear more from the Friesens soon; I enjoyed their presentation immensely, with their humor, sound Biblical teaching, and loving sensitivity to the problems that their audience might be facing or have faced in the past. And Danny Oertli was incredible! —a New Hampshire couple
We attended your marriage retreat in Jackson this weekend. This is the first time we’ve come home from a short get-away knowing “reality” is back around the corner, but have also carried home with us a wonderful, enlightening and extremely spiritual experience. We are excited to begin praying together, and to incorporate the wonderful things we’ve learned and experienced with our 5-year-old daughter. Thank you so much for your gift of kindness and sharing your own personal stories and love for God. We are forever grateful, and plan to attend next year’s retreat! —a Massachusetts couple

Mark Haroutunian helps Danny get set for the concert.

Down the mountain Sunday afternoon we drove, full of joy and thanksgiving, arriving in time for Danny’s concert at Countryside Bible Chapel Sunday night. He delighted all by playing some of the new songs which will be featured on his first live CD, “Glimpses,” which will be recorded live on April 25 in Denver. His fan base in New England continues to expand.

The happy Yardleys and Oertlis enjoy freshly baked cinnamon rolls Monday morning in our “great room.”

We arrived home to a houseful of Yardleys. Dan and Susan Yardley and their four children had arrived the previous Thursday with their new addition, Abigail Habin, a beautiful seven-month-old Korean baby handpicked by God for them. What fun to celebrate this joyous occasion with this precious family. Our house was bustling for the next few days with eleven of us hanging out. :)

Official members of Red Sox Nation enjoy Opening Day at Fenway.

Yardleys left Tuesday afternoon while we were counseling, and Oertlis left Wednesday after experiencing Opening Day at Fenway Park and officially becoming members of Red Sox Nation. One more reason to love those guys!

In the midst of those busy days, Paul and I spent five hours with Dave Nobel, the new director of Campus by the Sea, discussing vision and dreams for the future at CBS. We really appreciated the time with Dave and were delighted to discover how well in sync we are with him. We’re really looking forward to working with him and his wife, Kim, this summer.

On Maundy Thursday, we drove to Alexandria, VA, to spend Easter with my folks and our easy trip was interrupted by a right rear blow-out on the 295 south off-ramp. Our male-female differences were readily apparent as I responded with terror, suggesting Paul hide in the car with me until help came, and he quietly but firmly exited the car and changed the tire. In fifteen minutes, we were off and “running,” very thankful that the tire was all we lost.

Easter joy 2009...Lisa, Marilyn Nugent, Grandpa Collins, John Nugent, and us mug for the camera after a wonderful meal prepared by Virginia's sister, Laura “Childs.”

Our days with the folks were wonderful. Highlights included attending the Easter pageant at Immanuel Church, sharing several meals with my sister Laura and her husband David, adding John and Marilyn Nugent to our family Easter celebration, seeing Lisa’s JMU softball team play at Towson, and celebrating the resurrection.

Paul continues the tradition of chocolate chip cookies for the team . . . and delights the Lady Dukes for the first time with his trademark cookies.

We arrived home on Monday in time for our H.I.M. Board meeting that night and 14.5 hrs. of counseling on Tuesday. Today we’re recovering!

Great reports continue to come in from Mbale, as Julie completes eleven weeks serving with Cure International. We are so thankful for all God is doing in her and through her and we’re now counting the days until we join her there in May.

April 15 just got a little sweeter as the Red Sox finally grabbed a big win in Oakland.

We’re now gearing up for our largest Engagement Matters weekend in a long time. Twenty couples will gather at the Weston home of Doug and Julie Macrae this Saturday and Sunday to consider the sacred nature of marriage. Pray for us as we lead this weekend, along with the Macraes and the Kings.

Lisa recently related to us a powerful story about one of her assistant softball coaches, who is on fire for the Lord. As the story goes, about eight years ago, this coach’s parents sought counseling for their then dysfunctional marriage. Just happens that they went to a Christian counselor who not only helped their marriage, but introduced them to Christ. As their only daughter witnessed the transformation in their marriage, she decided to embrace Christ, too. She is a gift to Lisa, as these two work together to be “Jesus with flesh on” to these collegiate softball players.

This is why we do what we do. We believe more passionately than ever that marriages that reflect the glory of God are compelling invitations to check Him out. And by His grace, the world will be marriage at a time.