Though the Marriage Conference 2009 “No Partner Left Behind: Changing Lives One Marriage at a Time,” has come and gone, the lessons and inspiration gained will live on at least in two local couples.
Chad and Wendy Coldwell, and Charles and Kimberly Scott of Richmond attended the conference Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Farris Theatre. The couples are in their 30s. The Coldwells have three children; the Scotts have two children.
The purpose of the conference, hosted by Happy Home Ministries, was to strengthen husband/wife relationships, to prepare couples considering marriage and to nurture those that need refreshed.
“The family unit is being torn down and ripped apart by so many things that we have let creep in and destroy our homes and the love that should reside within them,” said LindyAnne Johnson of Happy Home Ministries. “The world tells us that we need to “just be happy,” no matter what it takes. That is nothing but a lie. Marriage is not always happy, comfortable and perfect. Marriage is hard; it is work, it is selfless. It is wonderful when we are able to give instead of take, take, take. Marriage is not all about me; it is about the needs of others…my husband and children.”
Neil and LindyAnne Johnson of Richmond, and the spirit that became Happy Home Ministries, endured some hardships as a couple and emerged stronger and more committed based on dedicating themselves to each other and their family.
“I have a passion to restore the homes here in Richmond, and all over the U.S., to loving homes where children are secure, where relationships are built on rock instead of sand, where husbands and wives are seen together instead of apart and where family life consists of dinners together, games, vacations, and most importantly, family life is made the priority in life,” LindyAnne said.
“You hear of a marriage conference and don’t know what to expect going in,” said Wendy. “As soon as we heard about it, we wanted to go.”
“We liked the message about not giving up on each other and respecting your partner,” said Kimberly.
During the conference, the movie “Fireproof” was shown. The movie depicts a family in crisis and what happens to them.
“In the movie, they [the couple] were at the lowest spot, ready to give up. You watch them slowly come back,” Wendy said. “Your whole perspective changes. Marriage can’t be taken lightly. It’s not an easy thing; it has to be worked at. If you’re not working your part of the job, it’s not going to make it.”
Couples were offered the challenge to participate in a “Love Dare.” This part of the program would take place over a 40-day period, following the various suggestions from the “Love Dare” book (written by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, B & H Publishing Group) for each day of the dare. The goal was to learn more about each other, become closer, learn to open up and talk to each other and how to express feelings appropriately.
The Scotts were already into the Love Dare program for approximately 30 days when interviewed. “It’s really brought us together more,” said Kimberly. “For the most part the assignments get harder. They start out easy, from not saying something you’d like to, to talking about personal feelings. It’s brought almost a brand new, refreshing start to our marriage.”
The Coldwells were just planning to start the Love Dare when interviewed by The Daily News, but had already benefited from what they learned.
Testimonies from couples that had experienced trials, endured them and became closer were very powerful for many conference attendees. Wendy remembered one couple’s testimony mentioned that they decided to start praying together on their second date and that made an impact on her.
“Praying together is more intimate than sex. You’re more out in the open. It brings you closer together,” said Wendy. “You find you know this person better. We found this new respect for each other and a new way to look at each other. When you’re married, you take two people and become one. It makes me feel more like we’re one.”
The program lasted for seven hours, which may sound lengthy, but both couples said it passed very quickly and enjoyed the hour-long break for dinner.
“It [the conference] was continuous and just flew by,” said Wendy. “It was very well planned. The testimonies were very powerful and we walked away completely happy with everything we heard.”
“The skits brought both of us to tears and the testimonies really touched us,” said Kimberly. “With things my husband and I have gone through in the past and things we’re going through now, it helps knowing people have dealt with it and are getting through. Knowing it strengthened other marriages helps us too. We came out knowing everyone has the same problems, whether you know it or not.”
Wendy continued, “I thought of all these people that need to be there. The openness of everyone that spoke brought a whole new light to everything. A lot of really personal information was shared. That could’ve been very intimidating. Everyone has problems. This was definitely something good.”
The Marriage Conference is expected to return this fall. Both couples are planning to attend a second time, and are recommending it to their families, friends and neighbors.
“It can help any marriage – anybody in a relationship or who is thinking about marriage, or teens who will be looking to get married, it can help,” said Kimberly.
Wendy echoes this sentiment. “It’d be great for anyone engaged or dating. It shows you an insight of what to expect. There’s just something everyone can enjoy and get something from. Following God and trusting each other will help us make it through anything.”
“Every so often it’s good to go to programs like that,” said Kimberly. “Each time is different, and we all need the extra support.”
Photo: Neil and LindyAnne Johnson