Last week my wife and I got to travel to Nicaragua to host a marriage conference and retreat for 35 pastors and their wives at one of the nicest resorts in Nicaragua. Now I want to tell you the back story.
I’ve been taking youth mission team to Nicaragua through Hardin Baptist Church for over 10 years now. After pending time in schools, churches, and homes, I began to notice a big problem in Nicaragua: marriage.
Marriage in Nicaragua is trivialized, misunderstood, and devalued. Most of the kids are from broken homes, many of whom don’t even know their fathers. Seeing the great need for stronger marriages and families in Nicaragua, we began to pray and look for ways we could help.
About two years ago, God revealed a way we could help the marriage crisis in Nicaragua. We could teach the churches in Nicaragua about marriage, and then the churches could show their communities a better version of marriage and family. And if we were to teach the churches, who better to start with then the pastors. But how?
Four years ago, I began doing pastor conferences with a network of about 35 pastors who are all connected through Partners in Christ Ministry. What if we started with them? But not just with the pastors, what if we included their wives as well?
But where and how? Then the idea hatched of doing not just a conference, but a conference and retreat. A three day get-a-way from the pressures of everyday life and ministry to rest, recharge, and invest in their marriages.
Then the best idea of all surfaced, what if I invited Katie to come along with me? How cool would it be for her to teach 3 breakout sessions just for the pastor’s wives? They have never had teaching for just them. So, I asked her, and after doing some praying and working through childcare, she packed her bags!
So now for the fun part. How are we going to pay for all this?
At first, we decided to start small. We could invite 10 couples at an expense of $300 each ($3,000 total). Not bad, but what about the other 25 couples? And then we saw God do what God always does. He makes possible the impossible.
I was texting with a friend and somehow the marriage conference got brought up. The more we talked, the more interested in helping out my friend became. As the days went on and emails were exchanged, he let me know he was in. Meaning he would cover the full cost of the other 25 couples! And from that moment God was on the move.
A family from our church approached me looking for an idea for how spend the 10% tithe money their kids had been saving all year. After pitching some ideas, they decided to buy all 35 couples The Jesus Storybook Bible to take home and read with their kids.
Then Katie’s Precept Bible study took up a love offering to buy each wife a copy of Women in the Word. As the money kept rolling in, we were able to give all the women at the conference their choice of either a massage or manicure. They felt like princesses.
So, with all lights green, we booked flights and begin inviting the pastors. Their response was unreal. They simple could not believe they were going to get three days with their brides at Montelimar. One pastor told me he didn’t have enough money to take his wife on a honeymoon 15 years ago when they got married, so he told her this retreat would be their long-awaited honeymoon.
Then came time for the teaching. I used Genesis 1-3 to teach on the Glory of Marriage, and the Problem of Marriage, and then Ephesians 5 to show the Gospel of Marriage. I also used Proverbs to teach on the Fountain of Love verses the Fire of Lust. And lastly, I gave the guys 9 tips for loving their wives well from Song of Solomon (I’ll blog those 9 tips soon, guys).
The more I taught, the more I heard statements like, “We have never heard teaching like this about marriage before!”, or “We did not know marriage was about telling the glory of God!” Over the three days there was much learning, much rejoicing, and much confession and rekindling of flames.
However, the best teaching happened during breakouts I was not allowed to attend! My lovely wife got to spend three sessions with just the wives, teaching them how to study the bible for themselves, and how to work through unique challenges of being a pastor’s wife. The girls loved their time with Katie and all the teaching they received.
The time between teaching was a joy to behold. Couples were swimming in the pool, walking on the beach, or sharing coffee and desert together. Guys played baseball on the beach while their girls relaxed by the waves. We saw grins and giggles as couples made their way to their rooms after dinner, excited to practice verses from Song of Solomon.
And now I’m on an airplane in route from Miami to Nashville, reflecting back with 20/20 vision on God’s goodness over the past two years. This week I saw how much God loves 35 pastors, and their wives, and their marriages, and their churches, and their communities in Nicaragua.
In fact, He first loved them so much that He sent His Only Son to die for them. And with that same love He sent them to a resort in Nicaragua so they could rest, recharge, and learn how to live out gospel love towards their spouses.
I’m not sure why God used me and Katie as part of His great blessing to these men and women in Nicaragua, but we are sure glad that He did. Because we didn’t just impact them, they impacted us. Now I pray we all walk off that beach ready to show the world a better picture of marriage; for the sake of our churches, our communities, and the world. May God truly be glorified in our marriages, because our marriages were made for that very reason.
Watch this video to hear about the conference in their words. https://vimeo.com/242120230