Less than a decade ago, my marriage was on shaky ground. Although Keith and I were both Christians, we didn’t know God’s plan for our family. I was headstrong and felt the need to be in control. Keith wasn’t a leader in our home, and he avoided any conflict that was brought on by my constant nagging.
Over the last seven years God has done an amazing thing: He has not only transformed our marriage through FamilyLife, but also allowed us to help thousands of couples. This all began in 2000 when Keith called me from work.
He said that he had heard about FamilyLife’s “I Still Do™” event in Denver and thought that we should go. (I Still Do was FamilyLife’s arena conference that proclaimed the importance of the marriage covenant.) Actually, he had already bought the tickets!
That event was emotionally and spiritually overwhelming. The most powerful part of the day was the incredible weight that God kept heaping on me as I sat and listened to the speakers. He was showing me how my ways of doing things were bringing toxins into my marriage. God showed me His plan—I was saddened to think I had messed things up for so long but happy that God could help me change.
We repeated our wedding vows at “I Still Do,” and Keith stood up to say he would lead a study in the Homebuilders Couples Series® in our neighborhood. We also signed up to go to the Weekend to Remember® marriage conference in Colorado Springs.
Two months later, at the Colorado Springs conference, we heard how we could build our marriage even further. We could not soak up the information fast enough. We wanted God to use us and indicated this by checking a box on the evaluation form to state that we would be willing to help promote the conference in the future.
Joe Stallings from FamilyLife called to follow up on our interest in the local team. A few weeks later he and his wife, Teri Elaine, came to town. She had such sweet Southern charm. She greeted us with a great big hug and asked, “Has God called y’all to come work with us?”
Joe explained that he did not have a city team to promote the conference in Colorado Springs, and he asked us to pray about which volunteer position we would like to fill. We prayed over the next week and felt God call us to be the prayer directors.
Keith dove in head first, contacting all intercessors on a regular basis by e-mail with many prayer requests. Joe sent us books on fasting and prayer and was a true mentor to us. We were growing and feeling loved all the time. We served as prayer directors for two years.
During that time, we finally started our first Homebuilders group. One of our neighbors asked to host it in her home, and some couples from our church participated. We went through four Homebuilders studies with these couples; we grew very close and had a lot of fun together.
One evening, one of the wives approached Keith and me to say that her husband had been struggling. He had never actually made a profession of faith and couldn’t grasp the fact that all of his sins could be forgiven and wiped away. She needed help to get through to him. Keith showed her the back of the Homebuilders book that tells about salvation and we prayed with her.
She showed everything to her husband, prayed for him and with him. Within a week, he indicated that he accepted Jesus Christ as his Savior. Today, they are one of the couples who appear in the Homebuilders video that is shown at the Weekend to Remember conferences.
In June 2002, Keith was laid off from his job. We tried to find another position in the area, but it was not meant to be. After we decided to move to Norfolk, Va., the hardest call Keith had to make was to Joe Stallings.
Joe was sorry for our loss but said that the Norfolk team needed some fresh leadership. He explained that we were an answer to their prayers, and we began to see a part of God’s future plan for us.
We moved to the Norfolk area in September 2002 and the Weekend to Remember conference was the following February. We immediately became co-City Ministry Directors and were mentored by godly couples who had served on the team for a long time. They wrapped their arms around us, and we had fun learning how to be directors.
Keith’s career blossomed beyond our dreams in Virginia, and our ministry grew to places we never thought possible. We’ve now been serving as city ministry directors in Norfolk for five years—some of the toughest years we’ve endured in our marriage. Keith’s layoff in Colorado and some bad financial decisions on our part produced a lot of debt that we’re still climbing out of. My battle with depression and anxiety are a constant roller coaster ride. We realize that the trials will never stop coming because the enemy wants to distract us from our mission. Yet we know that we have the right tools to face the battle. Our marriage is stronger today than ever.
This past February we saw our largest conference in Norfolk with 863 people in attendance. But on Saturday morning we were told of the untimely passing of our friend Joe Stallings. We were very saddened by the news, but so grateful for his impact on our marriage and countless others.
By Sunday we could feel God moving at the conference as couples walked arm in arm. That weekend 103 people gave their lives to Jesus.
As I look back on the last seven years, I can see how God has worked many things through a lot of people within FamilyLife. For us, it started at “I Still Do.” From there, we don’t know how many couples have taken the message and shared God’s knowledge with others. But we do know that we will keep doing our part to get the message out and fight the enemy’s attacks.
Keith and I can’t wait to walk along the streets of gold with Joe. We look forward to sitting with him on the front porch of our shack in heaven and hearing all of the stories of how God used our ministry with FamilyLife to change lives and legacies.
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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