When Silence Isn't Golden . . .

For the first time since launching this blog over twelve years ago, three months have elapsed since my last post. In an unprecedented quandary, I’ve had a really hard time finding the words to write, for though there have been many great moments and experiences during this time, we have concurrently experienced some of the darkest and most difficult days of our life together. And quite frankly, I haven’t known how to communicate about this, fairly and honorably, especially since it’s ongoing. This is a season during which my silence hasn’t been “golden.”  So for now, I’ll have to be content to acknowledge that the decision InterVarsity Christian Fellowship made in mid-December to discontinue our affiliation with family camps—and, in fact, to discontinue family camps at Campus by the Sea—has been beyond devastating for us and we are still reeling from the implications of it.   

In the midst of this unexpected and ill-founded decision, we have experienced the most incredible outpouring of support and affirmation from the hundreds upon hundreds of family campers, who are also deeply hurt by this decision. It has been humbling, to say the least, to read of the incredible ways God has met person after person through the ministry of family camps and our involvement at CBS for over 40 years now. We all are praying for redemption that will only come through the hand of God.

God has faithfully met us through this very dark time in very tangible ways, but grief is still grief and we’ve found ourselves alternately “paralyzed” emotionally, despairing, angry, wordless, incredulous, and deeply disappointed in the process that led to this decision. We’ve also felt encouraged, affirmed, humbled, overwhelmed with gratitude, supported, prayed for, loved, appreciated, and hopeful. And we thank the many of you who have communicated with us through letters, emails, texts, and calls—those have been life-giving to us and we’ll forever be grateful.

We have confidence in God and in Him alone, and we continue to pray that He will “make all things work together for the good.”  Trusting His sovereignty has been our greatest challenge and comfort. But we do. He is a good, good Father . . . that’s who He is. And we are loved by Him.

Thankfully, life has happened during this time in many wonderful ways, including:

Christmas!!!  It’s funny how darkness amplifies the effect of light, and the Light of Christmas was more meaningful and comforting to us than ever before. Traditions, which help to make sense of life, continued unbroken: our Patriots’ studies wrapped up, I met with my treasured mentor Gail MacDonald for our traditional Christmas/birthday celebration, and we made our annual trip to St Louis to spend four days with Grant and Emily Williams and their daughters. Though our house never quite got fully decorated for the season (since we were spending Christmas in Pennsylvania with the Johnsons), we did make gingerbread houses, batches of caramel corn, and raspberry jam, and we sewed lots of pajama pants. It was a veritable “Santa’s Workshop” around here for the few days we were home in December.

Always grateful for the opportunity to hang out with one of my most treasured mentors, Gail MacDonald.

The end-of-the-season Christmas celebration with the Patriots’ women was delightful in every way.

And so was the final gathering of the Patriots’ couples. We’re so thankful for this group and for all God did in our midst this year.

Paul was surprised and honored to receive a signed football from the guys in the study . . . and is shown here with the ones still hanging out long after the meeting ended.

Our days in St Louis with the Williams family were made extra special when Dan and Lori Connolly (and girls) joined us. Dan retired from the Patriots last year and we miss them in New England.

Christmas in Mechanicsburg, PA, with the Johnsons and Lisa, was full of joy and celebration. Nothing like having “littles” around to increase the delight factor of the holidays. It was extra special to have my mom (who overthrew her own decision to never fly again and boarded a plane in San Diego, accompanied by Lisa, to made the not-super-easy-for-an-87-year-old trip with flying colors) and my sister Laura and her husband David join us for Christmas day. The Hope of Christmas was balm for our hurting souls. Great family moments around meals, walks, football games, and the antics of little ones kept things hopping in a most delightful way.

After the Christmas Eve service at Derek and Julie’s church . . .

“Happy birthday, Jesus!” party was the first order of the day, complete with balloons, party hats, a birthday cake, and the reading of the Christmas story . . . Priorities!!

The family that rocks matching jammies together stays together??  Derek is a very good sport.  :)

Four generations . . . from 13 mos to 87 years. We are blessed!!

We started the new year in Hershey, PA, serving as a resource couple for the CURE International Ministry Directors’ Conference. Over 100 gathered at the Hershey Hotel from all of CURE’s eleven hospitals, each located in developing countries, for their bi-annual meetings, which included worship, teaching, reconnecting, and planning. It was an honor to be with this group of servant-hearted professionals, and extra special to be with the familiar faces from Uganda and Ethiopia. It was very apparent that God was present and working among us, especially as we met with a variety of people who sought our counsel for a wide spectrum of concerns. By conference end, we felt very met and used by God in ways attributable only to Him.

With Dr. Peter Ssenyonga and his lovely wife Lydia (and Derek and Julie) - Dr. Peter is the Medical Director and Chief Pediatric Neurosurgeon at the CURE Hospital in Uganda and Lydia is on the nursing staff there.

We were back home Jan. 6th for the first big snowstorm of the season, which started in earnest as we drove back from a memorial service in Wilbraham, MA. We were very happy to make it safely home, and after building a fire and changing into cozy snow-viewing-from-inside-clothes, we loved every minute of the storm. 

What’s not to love about this??

The snow-covered landscape was untouched by Monday, when our dear friend from California, Wendy Turney, arrived for a week-long, full-of-fun visit. She and I toured Boston and had a most unusual experience while attempting to find a parking spot in the North End. Spotting a uniformed police officer not far away, we asked him if he had any ideas for non-resident parking, and spying a couple of spaces (which were blocked off by orange cones near the Old North Church), he walked over, removed the cones, and waved us in. Wow!!! Wendy was


impressed with New England hospitality. We marveled about that experience for days.

The very nice policeman who helped us park.

Paul flew to California during Wendy’s visit to attend the memorial service for Bob Sharpless. Bob and Clara, friends of Paul’s parents since the 60’s, were on the original CBS committee who rescued camp from IVCF’s decision to close it in 1968. We’ve been fast friends ever since, as the Sharplesses raised their three kids at camp and their daughter Mary (and her husband Paul Giani) have continued the tradition with their three kids. Bob, an huber smart molecular physicist, was one of the most humble, servant-hearted, no-fanfare men of God we’ve ever known and Paul was honored to attend his memorial service.

He returned in time for us to speak at the First Baptist Church of Hampton Falls, NH. Their first ever couples’ date night was an overwhelming success and we were energized to be a part of it. We loved connecting with a whole new “flock” and meeting their shepherds, including lead pastor Ken (and Connie) Lawrence, who have served the church for 40 years, and Grant (and Jennifer) Winnes who lead the adult ministries programs. What a happening place! We’re really so encouraged to see another house of worship making a difference in a New England community. Paul spoke at their men’s breakfast the next morning and was impressed with the vitality of their men’s ministry. We look forward to partnering with them in the future.

Wendy Turney accompanied us to the First Baptist Church in Hampton Falls. We loved every minute of her visit.

Wendy also got a big dose of Patriot Fever everywhere she looked. 

We left the snowfields of Bedford Jan 20 and after spending a few active, happy days with grandkids Brandon and Ana (while their parents and baby brother Micah were on a pastor’s retreat), we flew to Kauai to speak for the 3rd annual Marriage Conference hosted by Global Algae Innovations. Such a tough assignment!!

Papa hiking the GREEN hills with Brandon and Ana. The “greening of California” has been such an answer to “please send rain” prayers for years. What a difference it makes!!

The Friday night/Saturday conference at Kahaleo Missionary Church combined teaching on parenting and marriage and was enthusiastically received by those attending. We love this church!! It’s Biblically-driven, community-oriented, and service-hearted. Their “Kapu” John Zimmerman (and his lovely wife Paula) walk and lead by faith, and invest themselves deeply in their beloved congregation. It’s a privilege to partner with them. John invited us to preach Sunday morning, so we got to experience first-hand their thriving church family. What a great weekend!

Teaching at the seminar Saturday at Kahaleo Missionary Church on Kauai.

Dave and Debbie Hazlebeck of Global Algae Innovations and John and Paula Zimmerman of the Kahaleo Missionary Church made this weekend conference happen.

Part of the staff at Kahaleo Missionary Church—we’ve grown to really love these folks over the past couple of years.

After the conference ended . . . let the play begin. We spent the next 9 days playing, first on Kauai and then on Kona, and we were renewed and restored by being active (hiking, swimming, snorkeling), by being passive (watching sunsets, sunrises, and the horizon hoping to catch glimpses of spouting/breaching whales), by being still (having quiet times with the Lord, prayer times, reading, writing), and by being out-of-control crazy (can you say Super Bowl Ll?!!!)  God’s “therapy” happened through all of these experiences and we returned to a blizzard recharged and ready to face the world.

We hiked part of the Na’Pali Coast of Kauai and with breathless wonder observed the majesty of His creation.

This is Paul’s idea of “nirvana”: snorkeling with turtles in warmish water.

Kiholo Bay is one of our favorite destinations on the Big Island. We made two trips here in our 6 days on Kona.

Not a bad place to go to church: Living Stones Church on Ali’i Drive in downtown Kona faithfully proclaims the gospel and we love attending when we’re in town. (Who wouldn’t??)

Super Bowl Sunday happened while we were in Hawaii and our grandchildren fully supported the efforts of “our” team. Though very far away in the middle of the Pacific, we’re sure the distance did not hinder our screaming and shouting from reaching the New England area as we supported the greatest comeback in all professional sporting events. Ever. We are still floating from that incredible show of determination to “leave it all on the field” and to “never give up ’til it’s over.” So thankful!!!

It’s all about the Patriots in the Garcia household as well.

Hearing of the impending blizzard scheduled to hit New England on Feb. 9, we made the decision to fly home Tuesday the 7th to avoid being snowed out, which would cause us to miss speaking at a weekend conference, so five hours after getting the text about the storm, we were on a flight home. It was a very good decision. We got home Wednesday late afternoon and the blizzard arrived as predicted Thursday early, causing Logan Airport to be shut down that day.  We were SO thankful on all counts; we LOVED being home for that BIG blizzard.

Our last sunset in Hawaii . . . Tuesday evening, just hours before flying home.

Our first sunset in Boston after returning . . . Our bodies were more than a little shocked!

Jumping right back into it, we spoke for Hope Community Church’s second annual marriage conference held in Portsmouth, NH. Andy and Kate Bauer, who lead the family ministries for Hope, hosted the weekend and were very grateful that we made it back from Hawaii in spite of the snow.  :)  The once again sold-out conference was very well received and numerous couples talked with us about the positive changes in their marriages since last year’s conference. We were also invited to teach at both of their church services on Sunday and we greatly enjoyed that. God is using that church in highly impacting ways in the Newburyport, MA, area. Loved seeing that!

Some of the couples at Hope Community Church’s (now) annual marriage retreat smiled for a photo.

Andy and Kate Bauer (family pastors at Hope Community Church) and Nicholas and Julia have become our dear friends.

We returned to four happy faces after the conference: Derek and Julie, Rachel and Nathan drove up from PA for a couple of days, combining business and pleasure (business for them, pleasure for us!).  Snow becomes even MORE fun with littles around, and Nathan sledding down the snow banks created by the plows filled the air with shrieks of laughter. So thankful for these moments!!

Rachel wasn’t as taken with the snow as her mom and brother were . . .

Over and over again . . .

Helping Papa shovel was mostly fun.

After the Johnsons left for home, we hit the slopes following sunset so we had the hill to ourselves.  So. Much. Fun.

Off to


in Havre De Grace, MD, we drove Feb. 17, after a few days of counseling and reconnecting with very special people, to speak at the 4th annual marriage conference for this young church. Jess and Elizabeth Bousa, lead pastors for this rapidly expanding church plant, are committed to building healthy marriages in their congregation, and having this opportunity every year is part of their strategy.  

We loved serving


There is nothing “sanitized” about this gathering.


draws people who are aware of their brokenness and becomes a place of healing and hope. It is very exciting to be a part of this life-changing ministry. The marriage conference was packed and overflowing Friday night and Saturday, and that was followed by our teaching at four different services Saturday night and Sunday morning at two different sites. As we said our farewells, with promises to return next year, we marveled at the diverse opportunities we have as itinerate ministers. We find ourselves leaving parts of our hearts everywhere we go.

A quick stop at Julie and Derek’s “on the way home” (not really, but close enough) and home just after midnight that night.

Part of the “Restore” team behind the scenes of the marriage conference.

Jess and Elizabeth Bousa and Julio and Mary Pena serve at “command central” for the 

Restore Church




Briefly home for counseling . . .  and then off to Reno, NV, for a Friday night (Feb. 24) couples’ event hosted by dear friends Bill and Kristen Smith. The Smiths have led several small groups through

The Marriage App

and invited us to speak to a wonderfully eclectic group of friends and acquaintances on marriage. It was quasi-evangelistic in nature as many beliefs were represented in the room, but there was rapt attention and positive reception to the teaching. Bill and Kristen did a beautiful job orchestrating the evening and gifted each couple who attended with their own copy of

The Marriage App.

It was delightful to do something so different!

Bill and Kristen Smith hosted a lovely evening at the country club for 50 of their friends and acquaintances.

The following day, Sat. Feb. 25th, we spoke at Auburn Grace Community Church for an all-day conference on parenting. This was our first time with this group and we loved getting to know this “hidden gem” in Auburn, CA. Everything about the conference was so well and so creatively done. The parenting conference was over by 3 p.m. and by 5, the all-purpose room was transformed into a fine dining establishment and a 5-star dinner was served to a full house of married couples on a date night. We were very impressed. A highlight for us was having a number of CBS family camp families attend the weekend events. Such sweet reunions.

For all of you event planners: we were duly impressed with this “repurposed” French door which became the marquee with the schedule for the day’s conference.

We had lunch with a few of our dear CBS friends who attended the conference at Auburn Grace.

Dave and Diana Watts took care of the book table for us at the Auburn Grace conference all weekend. Such a huge help!!

We taught at both services Sunday morning and got to experience the rest of the family at Auburn Grace, and that, too, was most encouraging. 

Back to Boston . . . briefly . . . flying to Orlando on Wednesday, March 1, for the “Increase Conference” (formerly known as the ProAthletes Outreach Conference).  It’s always a treat to present a workshop at this NFL conference and to reconnect with Patriots and ex-Patriots couples as well as many other players and their wives. Teaching on “in-laws” always draws a crowd and elicits many questions and much discussion on how to navigate these often tricky relationships. Our time was regrettably abbreviated due to our own H.I.M. marriage conference, which began on Friday, March 3, but we made the most of the time we did have. We are so thankful for this pro-to-pro ministry that is so gospel driven and committed to encouraging Christlike values on and off the field.

Top photo is of our current Patriots gang and below is (left) Don and Yannette Davis (ex-Pats, now with the NFLPA) and Benjamin and Kirsten Watson (also ex-Pats, now with the Ravens.) Love, love, love these guys.

That takes us up to this past weekend, and it would not do justice to our marriage conference to squeeze it in here, so I’ll start with that in my next post, which will be posted much sooner than three months from now.

Thank you again for your many prayers on our behalf and for your incredible support for Home Improvement Ministries.

No one wants the hard seasons of life, but no one escapes them in some measure. And we are well aware that the grief we have experienced and are still experiencing related to CBS is small on the scale of “hard” that many experience. Though our hearts have been broken by this, we have so much to be thankful for—and we are. God has been very faithful and kind to us as He has ministered to us through His Word, His presence, and His people. For all of you who have been His heart to us, we are eternally grateful.

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