By Terrae Ward
After dating long-distance for only four months, David proposed to me on Christmas morning in his Atlanta townhouse in 2016. We knew it would be a short engagement since I didn’t want or need a wedding. We are over 40, both divorcees, and our four boys are grown. So I started making plans to move from Pennsylvania -- where we both grew up -- to Atlanta right away. Before we eloped alone to Jamaica, I was convinced that we needed pre-marital counseling. Although God had confirmed our union, we wanted to be sure to develop a strong foundation from the beginning.
Being fairly new to Atlanta, David had not yet connected to a church. So I began a pre-marital counseling search. During my online search, I came across The Heart Of Marriage Retreat. David and I looked at pictures from past retreats, read testimonials, looked over the weekend agenda, and thought it would be good for us to attend, although it would be "post-marital."
Having a lot of experience with planning events, including corporate and even weddings, I am very particular about details. I have yet to meet anyone with my level of obsession, and I am usually disappointed by the lack of forethought and pre-planning when I attend an event or function. I don’t have very high expectations when I attend most events, and this one was no different. On the contrary, The Heart Of Marriage retreat was absolutely excellent!
It was completely above and beyond our expectations! Not only was everything done in excellence, but each workshop, each speaker, each activity, the meals, the worship, was amazing! My husband and I felt genuine love from the marriage retreat staff, as well as the facilitators and the participants.
We knew that our own marital bond was strengthened that weekend, and we were forever changed by the candidness, testimonies, laughter, tears, transparency, and conviction. This retreat provided what we didn’t know our marriage needed, and gave us "pre-marital/post-marital" guidance that will stay with us.
So much so, that as the retreat came to a close, we wanted more. When the organizers announced that Ben Hill UMC would continue marriage ministry discussions and meetings after the retreat, we signed up via email right away. It drew us to consider Ben Hill as a church home, and after attending Sunday services for one month, we felt as though the Spirit of the Lord called us to become part of the Ben Hill family.
Since then, we have been active in the marriage ministry, usher board, and the missions ministry. We are grateful for what God is still doing in our marriage as a result of the Marriage Retreat. Our prayer is that God will continue to reveal his purpose for us at Ben Hill, as well as in the world. We are excited and looking forward to what’s in store for us at the 2018 Heart Of Marriage Retreat in September. We are certainly looking forward to connecting more with each other, as well as with the other couples from last year and seeing new faces. I have invited every married couple we know, even from other states. We have an expectation that God will move again, even greater and exceed what He has done in years past. And as a result, couples will be healed, repaired and restored, connect deeper, and be changed forever.
Today, David and I are closer than ever. We just purchased a house to accommodate visits from our boys ages: 19, 21, 23, and 25.
Terrae Ward is a member of Ben Hill UMC. The Heart of Marriage Retreat began as a ministry of Ben Hill UMC more than 10 years ago. The retreat is now jointly hosted by a number of churches.