377 Years of Marital Experience in One Room
22nd November 2018
Twenty-six couples attended this year's North England Conference (NEC) 'Endless Love' retreat, held in Nottingham. The weekend retreat, from 9-11 November, was organised by the NEC Family Ministries department under the leadership of Pastor Paul Liburd.
For the opening evening's icebreaker activity, Pastor Liburd challenged the 26 couples to arrange themselves in a line according to the number of years they have been married. Three couples in attendance had only been married for 7 months while the veterans in marriage were Leebert and Vinette Hughes, who have been married for 44 years. In all, the marriage age for all the couples in attendance was a combined total of 377 years of marital experience in the room. Pastor Liburd urged couples to tap into the wealth of experience and wisdom, in the room by talking to each other throughout the weekend.
The first seminar on Sabbath was on communication essentials, aimed at helping couples develop effective communication and listening skills in their marriages. The speakers, Leebert and Vinette Hughes cited Ephesians 4:15-32 which talks about speaking the truth in love; reconciling conflicts quickly; building others up and not tearing them down; and responding biblically rather than react in a sinful manner.
They then challenged couples with another seminar, on conflict resolution. They cited research which suggested that criticism, defensiveness, hostility and angry withdrawal were four behaviours that were deadly to a marriage. The road to resolving conflict is not an easy one but with God's help this can be achieved. Couples were then given the opportunity to discuss and identify which of the five conflict resolution styles (harmonising, avoiding, directing, cooperating and compromising) best describes them and their spouse. At different times of Jesus' ministry, it seems He used different styles to resolve conflict, including harmonising (Matthew 26:47-50), avoiding (Matthew 27:11-14), directing (Matthew 21:12-13) and cooperating (John 4:25).
After Sabbath lunch, Pastor Paul and Jeanetta Liburd took the couples on a journey of forgiveness and reconciliation. It was a thought-provoking session full of real-life stories of people who forgave what seemed humanly impossible to forgive. The session stressed God as the source of the true spirit of forgiveness adding that an unforgiving spirit will keep many out of heaven. After a short break, Pastor Andrew and Andrea Rashford-Hewitt presented on the subject of 'the marital bed'. Sex in marriage is a topic that is often not talked about but the presenters emphasised its importance and the need to be open about it as a gift from God.
A couples' retreat would be incomplete without a Saturday evening banquet. This event saw couples dressed to the nines for an evening meal and official photographs taken by Donald McKenzie. However, the real star of the evening was Andrew Hazel, who treated the couples to an evening full of laughter with his excellent comedic entertainment in his role as master of ceremonies.
The last two presentations on Sunday morning were entitled 'Mine, Yours and Ours'. The crux of Dr Victor Samwinga's presentations was to help empower couples with tools to foster oneness in dealing with financial matters in their marriages. Financial dysfunction can lead to money worries, stress, money fights and ultimately divorce. He quoted Amos 3:3 which asks, 'can two walk together, except they be agreed?' Dr Samwinga's second presentation focused on the ten principles for handling money for couples who wish to experience healthier finances.
Throughout the weekend seminars, couples had the opportunity to interact with other couples as well as to discuss with each other new ways of thinking and handling issues in their own marriage. Counsellors were available all weekend for those who needed them.
After an engaging question and answer session, the retreat was brought to a close with a solemn commitment service, where couples renewed their wedding vows.
Reflecting on the event, Roy and Tatenda Kanduka, who attended the 'Endless Love' retreat for the first time and had been married for seven months, said, "It was an enlightening experience ‒ one in which we learnt from both other couples' mistakes and successes. This ranged from conflict management, communication, marriage bed and finances. We also had a great time bonding in a different environment away from the hustle and bustle of life. As it was our first time attending such a conference, since we got married seven months ago, we borrowed a 'few leaves' from the wisdom of the older folk, on how to keep the flame burning, even through the difficult times. We left the place more enriched than when we first arrived. We hope and pray Jesus will lead us for the decades ahead by His grace, as He has done for the older folk."
Rob and Cathy Zimbeva said, "The sessions were inspiring. We never switched on the TV for the two days we were at the retreat. We focused on ourselves and had plenty of time to reflect on the topics that were discussed. It was also inspiring to see loving couples, who appeared to be genuinely in love; happy to be together and having fun. The sessions were thought-provoking and we have started implementing lessons learnt from the retreat and are also sharing with family and friends. The 'Endless Love' retreat was romantic and spiritual. We will definitely attend future sessions God willing."
It is no surprise that others are already talking about going back for more enrichment, at next year's marriage retreat.
[Lynne Sesinye-Samwinga & Jeanetta Liburd]