Paul’s longstanding proposal to sell our house and live in a hotel or RV made some sense this month as we touched down for a mere 24 hours after driving up from Harrisonburg, VA, on Feb. 6th, and flying out to California very early on the 8th. And while we were home, we did 10 hours of counseling. The non-stop flight to San Francisco was perfect for trying to fill our sleep deficit—which was good, because we hit the road running once we landed at SFO. After a quick lunch with John and Marilyn Nugent, we drove the rental car up to Santa Rosa to speak for the Redwood Covenant Church's marriage conference. Organized largely by Carter and Tracey Welch, long time H.I.M. partners, the conference was held in a beautiful community center and attended by many eager couples. We're usually surprised to find at least a couple or two attending a conference who we've known from years gone by, and this was no exception. Monica Ramsey served at CBS about 30 years ago and we hadn't seen her since. It is SO encouraging to reconnect with people decades later and see how their ongoing commitment to the Lord has grown. That was a definite highlight of the weekend.
We were so thankful the conference went well, and also thankful that we got to visit Garth and Rosemary Dougan, who live in Santa Rosa. How we love these two! Garth celebrated his 90th birthday last October, and he seemed younger than he did at 89. Thankfully his health is good and he and Rosemary are registered to attend family camp this summer. Yay!!! Before leaving Santa Rosa, we joined all five Welches for dinner and enjoyed catching up with each of them.
|Garth and Rosemary Dougan stand by a photo taken of them about 67 years ago. :) |
How sweet is this??
We drove to Sacramento that night (2 hours away) and had a happy reunion with Gabe, Kari, and Brandon. These were bittersweet days as we helped them pack up for their move to Santa Clarita the next Tuesday. Sacramento has been the only home Kari has had since graduating from college, and it's been Gabe's home his whole life. Pulling up deep roots isn't easy, but fortunately they've been equipped with "wings to fly" to their new home 5 hours south. They have no doubt that God is directing this move and as I write, they've completed two weeks on their new church staff at Grace Baptist Church—and they're loving it.
Monday night we had the privilege of speaking to a dinner event for Bayside staff and their spouses who had been married five (or so) years or less. Carol Johnston and Sally Shaull set a beautiful "restaurant-esque" evening in the Johnston home and served a fabulous meal. We spoke on challenges to marriage because of ministry and thoroughly enjoyed working with Ray and Carol, the co-hosts and interviewers. Evenings like that are among our favorites.
Gabe, Kari, and Brandon left Granite Bay on Tuesday, and the next night we spoke at the second "Couples' Date Night" at Bayside Church. Happily lacking in the drama which accompanied our first date night the previous month (see our blog post about that), we got to the church early and loved giving the evening presentation on temperaments in marriage. It was fun and well-received and we heard from many who felt it was very helpful.
|Over 900 attended the second-in-the-series Couples Date Night at Bayside Church of Granite Bay.|
Making sure that no moss would grow under our feet, we hopped a flight first thing Thursday morning to Burbank, California, to speak for a Valentine's event in Yorba Linda (Orange County area). The date night was co-hosted by The Rock Church and Calvary Community Church of Brea, and it was also held in a community center. It was beautifully done and we felt honored to be there. We spoke following dessert, transitioning it from a romantic Valentine's dinner to a date-with-a-purpose. We loved working with Brent and Melissa Slezak on this event. They again did a great job (this is the third year in a row we've partnered with them), but even more, the vitality of their relationship is inspiring and we always enjoy being with them.
|With Brent and Melissa Slezak . . . love these guys!|
It's pretty cool that before Gabe took the job at Grace Baptist, we were booked to do a marriage conference for that church . . . that weekend. God is full of delightful surprises! We felt so blessed to get to stay with them in their "new temporary" home that weekend, and that they got to attend the marriage conference. Very cool.
Any chance we get to partner with David Hegg, we grab. As the senior pastor of Grace Baptist, David is committed to healthy marriages as well as to accurate Biblical teaching. He and Cherylyn attended the conference (it’s not always a given that the senior pastor will be present at such events) and we were reminded of how important it is for the leadership of a church to buy-in to such a conference. We were impressed with how interactive the attendees were. They were making it worth their time.
|David and Cheylyn Hegg and Gabe, Kari, and Brandon,|
on staff at Grace Baptist Church in Santa Clarita, CA
The next few days were spent helping Gabe and Kari settle in to their temporary housing, exploring the area with them, and stocking the fridge. It was such a gift to have some days with them during their big transition. We also made a quick day trip to San Diego to visit my parents. My mom had just been diagnosed with "angio sarcoma," a fast growing malignant cancer spawned by the radiation used to treat her breast cancer seven years earlier. Thankfully, a CT scan confirmed that it had not metastasized and a lumpectomy days later was all that was needed. We are all feeling very blessed.
|Brandon visits Sea World in San Diego while visiting his Great Grammie.|
The move south has some pretty sweet perks!
We flew home on Tuesday, counseled on Wednesday, had meetings all day Thursday, Paul spoke to a singles group at Tremont Temple Thursday night, and Friday we drove to Glens Falls, New York, to do a second "annual" marriage conference for Pine Knolls Alliance Church. (It's becoming clearer to me why I feel like we haven't been home.)
Before the conference started Friday night, we spoke for lunch for local pastors, hosted by PKAC. Senior pastor Steve VanDixhorn has a deep commitment to networking with other local churches and this event was an affirmation of that. We had a blast interfacing with a wonderful group of pastors "in the trenches," and we encouraged them to not let the demands of ministry rob their marriages.
The conference launched that night and continued the whole next day (until 4 pm) and we felt God met us profoundly. We were privileged to hear from several who attended last year's conference and whose marriages had been transformed, and we heard from many this year who left feeling much more hopeful that they had when they arrived. It was evident that God was at work.
Our plans to have dinner with Richard and Amy Dean (Amy coordinated the whole conference again) and Steve and Ann-Marie VanDixhorn were scrapped due to threatening weather, so we ended up driving home that night and we were glad we did. The storm did come and it would've been very hard to have made it home Sunday reasonably. We did hate to miss the evening and church at PKAC on Sunday, but we couldn't afford to get stranded.
|With Richard and Amy Dean at the end of the Pine Knolls Alliance Church marriage conference.|
Amy worked tirelessly to make this happen.
That also bought us an extra day at home. :) That was good. We made good progress packing trunks for Uganda and procuring supplies for the trip on Sunday and Monday, which was really good, because we counseled on Tuesday, and then picked up our marriage conference speakers (David and Carrie Tebay) late afternoon. We spent the evening with them, introducing them to Legal Seafoods, and left them at a hotel with our car because we flew to Orlando on Wednesday, the 20th.
The Pro Athletes Outreach (PAO) conference began that night, with Lecrae kicking it off. He is good, and I'm not a big rap fan. We had so much fun reconnecting with ex-Pats and others we've developed relationships with through the 13 years we've been going to PAO. We presented at a workshop on Thursday, hung out with couples, and squeezed everything we could out of the day, because at 4 am Friday, we left the hotel to catch our flight back to Boston.
Admittedly, most of our crazy schedule is due to our planning, but in this case, the PAO conference was moved a week later than it's "always" been, but not until long after the rest of our winter/spring was mapped out. Hence, we missed more than half of their conference and had to shoehorn in the day we were able to be there. We so believe in the work of PAO it was worth it.
God had another big surprise for us on that trip. On our flight from Newark to Orlando, our across the aisle mate was Gail MacDonald, my long time mentor and friend. :) It felt like pure gift to be able to catch up with her so unexpectedly. Her husband Gordon was also on the flight, but they only got one "upgrade" and he kindly gave it to her. It was great to see him as well.
We left the PAO conference to return to Boston in time to launch our H.I.M. annual marriage conference held at the Viking Hotel in Newport, Rhode Island. The conference was sold out with 130 couples, which was exciting, and we were fully energized in spite of our tiredness by the presence of the Lord. There were so many highlights! Thirty-two of the couples attending had been married 6 years or less - and most of them were graduates of Engagement Matters. Very exciting. About a third of the couples were new to H.I.M. as they attended their first H.I.M. event. David and Carrie Tebay, from Calvary Community Church of Brea in California, were the plenary session speakers and were well received as they communicated in real, practical ways how to live a gospel-driven marriage. Several new workshops were among the seven offered twice during the weekend, and very popular was Christopher and Dorothy Greco's workshop dealing with forgiveness. Also well received was a new workshop Paul and I did on "How to Help Friends in Marital Crisis"—more than 60 chose to attend, and the 1 hr 15 mins time period seemed way too short.
Danny and Rayna Oertli led worship again and were joined by another guitarist, Kevin Hanly, and a percussionist, Erik Kerr. Many will remember Erik and Marlene from Grace Chapel in the 90's and beyond—both incredibly talented musicians who led worship at Grace Chapel's night service for years. It was great to reconnect with them, to have their talent on the stage and their friendship off the stage. Together they made a great band, which was good for the larger crowd in the larger room.
|Danny and Rayna Oertli, together with Kevin Hanly and Erik Kerr, led worship.|
Kelly Plosker took on the task of creating an environment for the conference and creatively transformed an already beautiful ballroom into a warm embrace to all who entered. Simple but elegant. That's what Kelly does. Lovely centerpieces. Sweet goodie bags. A welcoming registration table. It's amazing how the little things, like adorable tags on the bags of Paul's "World Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies", make such a difference in ambience. She thought of everything.
Sue Martis and Barbara Steele, H.I.M. assistants, both put copious amounts of time into preparing for this conference and we obviously couldn't have done it without them. It was a great gift to us to be able to cruise in from the PAO conference, after having been in town only six days since Feb. 1 (and three of those were counseling days) to a well prepared for conference of our own. We are so blessed to have such an amazing team around us, with those two at the helm.
|Part of the team behind the H.I.M. marriage conference, after all was said and done. Great group!|
With the Uganda trip so much on our mind due to our departure the day after the conference, we shared with the conferees the agenda for our 12-day ministry tour, highlighting the H.I.M.-sponsored and underwritten Pastors’ Retreat which will be held in Ginja March 11-13. We were deeply touched by their response, both in assurances of prayer and in financial partnering, and leave for this trip feeling very supported.
Most gratifying to us were the many couples at the conference who affirm that the health of their marriage has been significantly and positively impacted by the work of H.I.M. Numerous couples there attributed their intact marriage to the hand of God working through H.I.M. It was truly humbling to hear story upon story of God using the well-meaning but meager offerings of this fledgling organization to affect marriages, families, and eternity.
We're all too aware that we can't change lives, but He can. And in ways we'll never fully understand, He allows us to have some small role in that. What a privilege to be on His team, helping to make a difference . . . one marriage at a time.
Now, about that RV idea . . . It's gaining no traction with me. But many more months like this, and I might be more open to it.
Oops: looks like we'll only be home 5 days in March. Yikes!