From Hawaii to Rome . . . Georgia, that is!

The sun set over Hawaii before we boarded our 11 pm flight to Rome—Georgia—via Phoenix.  Those red-eye flights are getting more challenging, but are an easy-to-make trade-off for a whole day exploring the island.  We were pretty beat by the time we arrived in Atlanta, but revived quickly when Jeannie and baby Brady chauffeured us to their home in Rome, about 1.5 hrs north of Atlanta.

We are so impressed with how God is using the Kings!!  In the 2.5 years they’ve been in Rome, they have made a huge impact on their community, their school, and their church.  Driven with a similar passion for the incredible goodness of God’s design for family and marriage, Nate and Jeannie are “making it happen,” all the while building into their own almost 11-year marriage and their 4 precious children, ages almost 8 down to 1.5 years.  No bonbon eating in front of the TV for them.

Our invitation was to do a marriage conference for their home church, Pleasant Valley South Baptist Church, whose senior pastor, Dr. Phil May, also shares their commitment to marriage and family ministry.  Knowing the bandwidth of their church community, they held the conference “in house,” Friday night and Saturday until 1pm, and provided a children’s program for those with youngsters.  Brilliant!  Their original hope was to have 25-30 couples, so they were ecstatic when 55 couples participated in the conference!  Lots of hard work in publicity and planning preceded the weekend, and obviously paid off.

When couples arrived Friday night they were welcomed by a beautifully set room and served a lovely catered dinner.  It was very well done and every detail was tended to, right down to the Danny Oertli music playing in the background.

Dana and Greg Tarter were among the first to arrive for dinner, and having left their 4 children in the children's program, they were very happy to have some quiet moments to themselves.

Nate and Jeannie emceed the weekend and really did a great job.  We gave one talk Friday night on the overall theme of “the irony of intimacy” and felt the conference got off to a really good start.  Wedding cake was served, door prizes were creatively given out, and the atmosphere was filled with hopeful anticipation.

Nate and Jeannie did a great job of running the conference and their expectations were exceeded all weekend.

Jeannie’s aunt made the beautiful wedding cake on the right and along with the “groom’s cake,” provided yummy desserts for all. 

This very creative couple “presented” the door prizes theatrically.  They were a delightful, comedic team.

Saturday morning, bright and early, the couples streamed back to the church for two sessions with us speaking and another session with relevant workshop options.  Paul and I spoke on temperaments in our workshop, while Nate and Jeannie taught on spiritual oneness and prayer, and the “fun” couple spoke on keeping your marriage alive by having fun.  Nate and Jeannie affectionately refer to them as the “Doug and Julie Macrae of Rome!”

When all was said and done and the clean-up crew had finished their job, the weekend was pronounced a huge success.  It seems that everywhere we go, the sentiment is similar: our marriages and our families need this kind of encouragement.  The worldly view regarding the disposability of marriage infiltrates at least our subconsciouses and the clarity of God’s design slowly fades, leaving all of us more vulnerable to our own selfish agendas and solutions.  This great congregation in Rome expressed deep gratitude to us for reminding them that there are more important things than indulging the entitled belief that “my right to happiness trumps all else.”

Sunday we taught a class on marriage to the congregation at the First Presbyterian Church, for whom we had done a marriage conference in January.  Tommy and Pricilla Overton oversee family and marriage ministry there and we love to work with them.  It was a sweet time of following up on some themes from the conference.

The rest of the time before we flew out Monday morning for Boston (with our suitcases still packed with the winter clothing we had needed two weeks earlier in Pennsylvania, the swimsuits and snorkeling gear we had needed in Hawaii, and our “business casual” dress needed in Rome), we hung out with the sweet King family.  Cookie baking, talking, eating, laughing, having mutual friends over for dinner—it was good to relax a bit with all six delightful Kings.

Emily and Camryn help Mr. Paul bake chocolate chip cookies . . .

. . . and Brady enjoys the finished product.

Cam, Emi, and Drew have breakfast before school as we take off for the airport.

Meanwhile, Brandon inched towards 7 months and sent us smiles across cyberspace while his parents celebrated the publication of Gabe’s book The Gospel Revolution.  Lisa wrapped up her commitment to the JMU’s women's basketball team and returned to the soccer fields.  And Julie muscled her way through some huge exams, moving closer to finishing her 5th of 7 terms of physical therapy school, while Derek makes preparations to join her in San Diego for a week over Easter.

It was good to get home after 2.5 weeks on the road, but we returned overflowing with gratitude for all of the ways God met us during this multi-faceted, 11,000 mile trip which took us from the easternmost point of the USA to the westernmost point!

Brandon is 7 months old.  :)