by Richie Sparling, Outreach Director
June 15, 2016 we will celebrate the completion of our third year of marriage. Who would have ever thought we would be teaching a marriage class to couples who have upwards of 15 years of marriage under their belts? Certainly not us!! And yet this is a door that God has opened for us and we have stepped through.
In the fall of 2012 Gabrielle and I were privileged to participate in a fantastic premarital class with our home church. The title of the class is 2-1 Premarital ministry, but the roots of the class go all the way back some 15 years or so to a Divorce recover class. With the success of the Divorce recovery ministry, the facilitators began to realize that rather than just minister to those suffering from Divorce and broken marriages, they had a responsibility to prevent this terrible end result to marriage. Therefore they worked backwards, using all the research from their time navigating various situations of divorce, and put into a premarital class all the reasons for which couples get divorced. What they realized was that if they could help couples communicate through these issues prior to marriage, in the long run they could help prevent those same issues from resulting in divorce years down the road. They have also helped couples realize the purpose of marriage, its eternal impact and God's design, and the seriousness of the commitment and pact they are making with another sinful human being. In this way challenging couples to truly discover their compatibility and loyalty to the idea of commitment with each other for life.
Needless to say, the class is incredible. It had a profound impact on our relationship and marriage. Not to say that without the class we would be failing in our marriage, but the benefit to our marriage has been amazing.
We brought the class materials with us to the Dominican Republic because we planned on continuing to use them in our marriage. Not two months into our time here, the Lord opened the door for us to break out our binder and share with a young couple about to get married the information that had been given to us. Essentially we went through the entire class with this couple and they loved it! From there, and from their own personal testimony, the word spread and we had more opportunities to share our knowledge. I even spoke at a Valentines day dinner for couples of our church here in Montellano ...almost ALL of the couples from our church. Then I was asked to offer a mini conference to couples from the church.
With all of these opportunities, and how incredibly receptive the couples who sat through these sessions were to the teaching, including the church leaders from various churches, I felt like the Lord was opening the door for me to offer the full 11 week class. I went to the pastors and proposed a plan, invited a young couple from Makarios about to get married, several newly married couples, a couple Gabrielle and I had been mentoring and also asked the pastor to select other couples from leadership in the church to take the class. In my proposal to the church leaders, I laid out a vision for the church to continue the class and offer it as a premarital class to couples from their church and outside the church, that it would not only be a blessing to marriages, but a tool to share the gospel as marriage is presented as an image of Christ and the Church.
Five weeks ago we started with 16 couples and Pastor Pedro Marrero stood before the class and announced that many of them had been invited to take the class, not just so that it would benefit their marriages, but so that after taking the class they could then teach it as the church is planning on making it part of their regular ministry.
Wow!!! What a privilege to have a front row seat to God's working! We are simply the instruments God chose to use to accomplish His work, because there is nothing special about who we are or our background that sets us apart and that anyone would look at us and say "with all your experience you should teach a marriage class". But we praise God for the work He is doing and are so thankful for how He will continue to use the ministry started almost 20 years ago for His glory.
We are into our 6th week and each session has been more and more incredible! Praise the Lord for what He has done and will continue to do!
Outreach happens in various forms within Makarios and we are excited to see how this area develops in the future as relationships are forged and fortified through time, effort, energy and love.