We had been married for 14 years when we went to our first Weekend to Remember® marriage conference in 1988. Until then, Gloria had never been away from our four children for the night.
We loved the conference, and it had a great impact on our marriage. But the story we really want to tell is about what happened after we checked a small box on the evaluation form to indicate that we would like to volunteer with FamilyLife however we could. We wanted to help other people grow in their faith and in their marriage the way we had.
We had absolutely no idea of what God had in store for us!
We started shortly after the Weekend to Remember by leading a small group using the HomeBuilders Couples Series®. It’s something simple that anybody can do, and we’ve found that leading HomeBuilders groups strengths our marriage as well.
When we attended a FamilyLife seminar for volunteers in 2000, we were challenged to train HomeBuilders leaders in the Cincinnati area. We accepted and were so excited that we could have flown back home without a plane!
We also became part of the FamilyLife volunteer team for Cincinnati. We encouraged local churches to send groups to the Weekend to Remember and did whatever we could to get the word out. Eventually we became resource center coordinators and associate planners for the Weekend to Remember. We started traveling as volunteers to six to eight conferences a year.
As a resource center coordinator, Gloria is responsible for the on-site resource center—the set up and actual management. As an associate planner, Rodger works alongside the FamilyLife senior event planner. Rodger makes sure that the registration process goes smoothly and has a group of other volunteers who report to him.
In 1992, God opened a door of international ministry for Rodger when he went to Eastern Europe with a group of pastors (unrelated to FamilyLife). They talked with Russian ministers, went to churches, and visited hospitals and orphanages. For the next ten years Rodger continued to minister with these pastors. He started to pray, “God we really want to make an impact in Russia!”
And Gloria prayed, “Lord, we are doing this FamilyLife thing in the U.S. Would you put this all together?” It just didn’t make sense to us—until … .
After helping with a Baltimore Weekend to Remember, we rode with FamilyLife staff members Dennis and Carolyn Sapp to the airport. When Dennis heard about Rodger’s ministry in Russia, he said: “You’ve got to get with FamilyLife’s International Department (now Global Outreach).”
A few days later, Gloria answered a phone call that went something like:
“This is Drew Coons from the International Department of FamilyLife. Would you and your husband want to accompany us to Russia to help with HomeBuilders?”
Gloria answered, “Oh, Yes!”
Then Drew said, “We think you need to ask your husband.”
“You don’t understand,” Gloria replied. “If I mention FamilyLife and HomeBuilders in one sentence, Rodger will say, “Yes.”
We traveled together to Russia in early 2003 to help facilitate HomeBuilders. Afterward, Drew challenged us to return every six months. We left again for Russia in December 2003—this time not knowing where we would stay or who would pick us up from the airport in St. Petersburg, Russia. We were overjoyed when a pastor, holding a sign with our name, met us at the airport.
Although it was fairly late and we were really tired, the pastor insisted that we must meet a young Russian couple that he did not know. We agreed to go to a coffeehouse. Lev and Maria Grinfeld had come to the coffeehouse to tell us that a meeting we were supposed to go to the next day had been cancelled.
As we started sharing how we were reaching families in Russia through FamilyLife, Maria’s eyes filled with tears. She said, “You have no idea. We have been praying for two years that someone would bring us materials that we could use for marriages and families.”
We go back about twice a year to work with the Grinfelds. Today, two other couples have joined Lev and Maria on FamilyLife staff in Russia. Seven volunteer couples have also been trained who can present FamilyLife marriage conferences there.
Although we’re still not sure of all God is up to, we know one thing: We’re committed to whatever God wants us to do.
God has used us—just an ordinary couple—to do His extraordinary work. One small step—checking a little box after a Weekend to Remember—has led us across the globe.