Kim and I know what it’s like to feel hopeless. Our first marriages were destroyed by selfishness, alcoholism, and unfaithfulness.
We were introduced to each other at one of our church’s small-group meetings. We stood in the street that night, talking about trusting God to give beauty from life’s ashes. I was struck by Kim’s quiet depth and appreciated our rich conversation.
Our friendship grew into love as we discovered that we had the same goals, values, priorities, and commitment. We married on October 7, 1995, and instantly had five children—Kim's two daughters and my three girls.
Having experienced the pain and sorrow of a failed marriage, we asked the Lord to teach us how to be a godly husband and wife. He answered our prayers through the HomeBuilders Couples Series® (FamilyLife’s small-group Bible studies) and showed us how we could give hope to others.
At the time, we attended a large church in Omaha. We heard an announcement about joining one of its HomeBuilders groups, and we signed up right away. We knew that we had some unhealthy patterns from our previous marriages and wanted God to teach us His plan. Also, we wanted to be in community, and for us that meant building relationships on a consistent basis. When we got into a HomeBuilders group with several other couples, it was a great framework for building ongoing friendships. It was like being a part of a small church within a big church.
When we went through the first study, Building Your Marriage, we had two teenagers in our home and a baby on the way. Occasionally insecurity, miscommunication, or past hurts would surface. Kim and I learned to meet those feelings with unconditional love, prayer, and commitment and became healing gifts to one another and our children.
After participating in three studies in Omaha, we were asked to lead a group. Although we were very much aware of our past failures, and we felt unworthy to lead other couples, we had learned a lot from our first marriages and wanted God to use the past for good. We knew the difference between a terrible marriage and a happy, healthy marriage, and we had a passion to help others.
Our marriage was strengthened as we opened our home and our hearts. We saw firsthand how God could use what we had walked through to minister to others. One HomeBuilders group had a few couples in their second marriages, and they really appreciated the fact that we were walking through similar challenges. As we shared, God not only brought healing and hope to our hearts, but also used the group to support and encourage each other.
About four years ago, God moved us to the Black Hills of Custer, South Dakota—with a population of 1,800 people—and He stirred our hearts to once again begin leading HomeBuilders. We approached the pastor about beginning a marriage ministry and asked him to look over a HomeBuilders Couples Series study. He recognized the need and gave us the green light to proceed.
The more that you get to know people, the more you can sense that there are difficulties everywhere in marriages. Kim and I have found that small churches need HomeBuilders as much as big churches. It’s so important to keep working on marriage that some couples participate in one HomeBuilders group after another.
When we led the study Improving Communication in Your Marriage, a newly married couple in their 20s joined our group that ranged in age from the 30s to 70s. The newlyweds reminded me of my first marriage: They wanted to have a good marriage but didn’t really know how. They got into a pretty ugly fight one night, and Kim and I counseled them. They’ve learned from their mistakes and have continued to be involved in HomeBuilders studies over the past three years. They have a heart to help newlyweds get off to the right start and will co-lead a group with us this fall.
Some have asked why Kim and I continue to be involved in HomeBuilders. Well, there’s always something new that comes up … a new season in life … something new to communicate. There’s more depth to know about each other and the things of God. Pursuing intimacy and growth in marriage never ends.
Kim and I have witnessed God strengthening and restoring hundreds of marriages through HomeBuilders. But there were two marriages in our groups where the wives chose to leave godly husbands. It was heartbreaking to see their choices. People in the church can put on a pretty good front and you can think that things are fine, but it’s surprising how many people are struggling. Sometimes you don’t find out until it’s too late.
Although HomeBuilders provides a great opportunity to strengthen marriages, you still need two willing spouses. God is able to change any marriage if hearts will let Him. As leaders, we wish that we could choose for people, but we can’t. We can put the truth out through a tool like HomeBuilders. We can give couples hope. We can pray for them. But we can’t choose for them.
Kim and I have both gone through a lot of sorrow in our lives. Although it has been painful at times, God has used HomeBuilders to help us use the past for good. He has truly been our Redeemer and Restorer, and this has made everything worthwhile. As we see God change other lives through His work in us, we say, “We’d do it all over again.” And I think that’s a miracle.
Reprinted with permission from The Family Room. You can receive the free e-zine by e-mail every month.
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Walt and Ann Bealke have been married for a long time, just not to each other. They are now 5 years into their marriage (the third for each of them), and are seeing God redeem their pasts and build a Gospel-centered marriage.
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