Our family hosted our first, “Unless the Lord Build the House” marriage retreat this past weekend, and it was a tremendous blessing for our family. We had room for twenty seven couples, and even with last minute cancellations, we still had twenty seven couples attend. We were humbled by the honor of encouraging families from 13 states to include as far away as Hawaii. Many drove long distances, and our prayer is that God blesses their families with lasting fruit for their investment of time and effort.
It began months ago when God put the idea on our hearts. The children immediately were thrilled, and it became a vision that they owned.
Teri and I are often greatly distressed over families where the dad and mom are not united in heart in pursuing Jesus. The primary goal of this retreat was to help Dad and Mom have a common vision for the future of their family. I saw a secondary benefit of hosting a retreat like this to be the opportunity to teach our children what it was like to successfully organize an event.
The children excitedly discussed and planned for weeks because they were responsible for all of the logistics concerning hosting the retreat. Teri and I worked on the material for the sessions and critiqued their plans. Finally, the weekend arrived and is now gone. We are all feeling quite spent, but what a good feeling that is.
We also invited any couples, who had the time, to worship with us on Sunday. In addition to four families from the retreat to our church, there was another family that visited from Texas. It was a blessing indeed.
Steve for the family
Sarah took this picture as several of the children were unloading. Notice the walkie talkie? The children enjoyed communicating with each other during the weekend.
Jesse was our “chief soda conference servant.” He did a great job at keeping the sodas cold! Here he and Mary are pushing the big cooler out of our hotel room and down to the meeting room!
Saturday evening, I felt prompted for the children to sing/play “I Feel Like Traveling On.” The guys had just played/sang this song for the men at the homeless shelter that morning. Sarah took this picture.
We have just completed a couple of trips where we spoke at a total of fourteen cities. What a blessing it was for our family. My heart is encouraged and discouraged at the same time during these trips. One of my greatest joys in all the world is encouraging dads who have a heart to follow Jesus. At the same time my heart is broken as I see dads who are cold and hard-hearted. It is obvious that the world has their heart and as a result their family is suffering.
As in other trips though, to talk to dads that want to grow in Jesus and lead their family in following Christ thrills me to no end. What a joy to speak to a dad who has a clear hunger for and commitment to following Jesus down whatever path He leads. One thing is clear, He will always lead down a path that is away from the world and towards holiness.
We have received many emails following these trips confirming fruit in homes. The Lord led me to ask this dad if I could change the names and include it in the blog. He agreed and with the names changed here is what he wrote.
_______________ Steve, Just wanted to give you an update on how our family devotions have been going. We met at your Family Conference. I had stayed after the conference to talk to you regarding my younger children not getting much out of devotion time. The names and ages of the children are girl (10), boy (6), girl (4), boy (2), and baby girl. We took the suggestions that you made to me, mixed them with some tips we picked up from the conference and from your books, bathed them in prayer and ended up with the following:
Devotions start at 7:45pm in the living room. Everyone has an assigned seat. I hold the 2 year old and my wife has the newborn. The 10 and 6 year old sit together and the 4 year old sits next to my wife. This allows those that don’t read or don’t read well to sit next to someone who can.
I open with a short prayer asking for blessing upon the devotion time.
We started reading from Matthew (skipping the genealogies) and everyone reads two verses until we get to a good stopping point. If they can’t read then I will read part of the verse while the person next to them points to the words and then they repeat it.
If the wording was hard for them to understand then I’ll explain the passage. If it is something they are familiar with or simple enough for them to understand then I’ll ask some questions and try to get them to draw application from it. Then I’ll draw some application from it.
If we have any updates from missionary families that we keep up with then we will share them.
New prayer requests.
For prayer time my wife and I came up with a list of people/things that we need to pray for. We organized the list into 3 categories (Spiritual/General/Health). Prayer order is from youngest to oldest. I give the person who is about to pray two or more things from the list to pray for and then they pray. We encourage the person praying to pray for whatever they are led to but they have to at least pray for what I give them from the list. After that person finishes then I’ll give the next one their prayer items and they pray and so on until I pray last.
We will soon be finishing our first month using the new format and so far my wife and I have definitely seen improvement. Our ten year old daughter has always done pretty well with paying attention but seems to be getting more out of it now. Our six year old son had always been a struggle in the past but is now paying better attention and getting more involved. Our four year old daughter and two year old son still need some work but with more prayer, time, and consistency they will start to catch on. Thank you again for sharing your time with us. A Brother ________________
After one month he is seeing encouraging growth in his children. Can you imagine what he will see in one, two, five or ten years? May we all be busy about following Jesus. If we love Him we will feed the sheep. It’s dads like these that make it all worth while.
Here in Kansas, despite the cold temperatures that usually accompany Christmastime, it isn’t uncommon to see a young boy outside riding a brand new bicycle on Christmas Day – and I always enjoy seeing the smile on his face at he tries out his new bicycle.
This week, although it would seem odd, we were able to see smiles on the faces of adult men who received the gift of a bicycle. It wasn’t at Christmas time, and, although we are in Kansas, the men weren’t.
Earlier this year, we received a Gospelink newsletter (Gospelink is an organization in the States which allows families to sponsor native missionary pastors in a foreign country; many of whom can be fully supported for $110 a month; you can often choose the pastor you would like to support; and you may write letters back and forth to your pastor – more information below). Many of the native missionary pastors that are sponsored through Gospelink have no form of transportation, and will often walk many miles to minister and share the gospel in villages near (or far) from their homes. In fact, at one point, when we asked a pastor that we support what his means of transportation was to the villages that he ministers to, he wrote back that his means of transportation was his feet.
The Gospelink newsletter mentioned that they had received a “matching donation offer” of several thousand dollars towards bicycles for pastors that had no transportation: for every dollar given towards bicycles during a set period of time, this other donor would match with another dollar (up to several thousand dollars of matching funds). Each bicycle cost $75 (US funds). As it was an incredible opportunity to help poor pastors advance the gospel, and at the same time was a great way to increase one’s financial gift, some in the family were excited to contribute towards the project.
Just this past week we received a thank you letter from the Gospelink National Director in the particular African country where the bicycles were purchased and then distributed. Accompanying the hand-written (and then photocopied) letter were photos of the pastors receiving and trying out their new bicycles. The joy that was on the faces of these pastors was a thrill to our hearts – and we hope it encourages you as well.
If you, your family, your church, or possibly your home church, is interested in fully or partially sponsoring a native missionary pastor, please visit or contact Gospelink.org.
I believe one reason children lose interest in their parent’s faith is that they see a life that is simply religious. There is no deep love and excitement for Jesus, but simply going through the outward motions and with the flow of those around them. Difficulties, persecutions and trials of life that come into our lives provide excellent opportunities for our children to see Who Jesus is in our life.
Certainly, they are not what we prefer, but they bring with them the blessed grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our children have had those blessings and the most recent was this weekend. As we were packing up after our Charleston conference, Sarah was sitting on the floor amidst some boxes. She said she was feeling terrible and really didn’t know if she could do much more. With others pitching in to finish what Sarah normally does, we were soon packed up and heading for the hotel.
Such was the beginning of some of our family’s most memorable days because by Sunday morning six of us were terribly ill and since then only one has "escaped". Still very sick, that afternoon the Lord enabled us to begin the 900 mile drive to Shreveport, LA for a conference on Monday and Tuesday. Then on Wednesday with some better and some worse we drove 600 miles home.
It is easy to praise the Lord Jesus when all is well, but the real growth opportunity is to rely on Jesus and be at peace when things are terribly bad. The children saw that if Jesus doesn’t remove the problem, then He will enable us to go through it.
It made no sense for us to begin homeschooling when Teri was in the midst of depression. She shares that she was hopeful that if she was obedient in homeschooling God would remove the depression. However, we found that God is faithful and He gives grace to do what He calls us to do. We want the difficulties removed, but most often, His way is to enable us through them.
After thirty days on the road and thirteen cities, we are home in our own beds again. We met many special and courageous brothers and sisters in Christ and were shown much love and kindness. I think we would all agree it was our most memorable trip, in more ways than one, and we praise our Lord Jesus Christ for His love, mercy, and sustaining grace.
We have been so blessed as we are approaching the half-way point on this trip. Being away is difficult, but we love being together and sharing as a family. The hearts vary greatly in each city, but there are always some that respond to the challenge to draw closer to Jesus and throw the world out of their home. Here is an email that thrilled my heart that I just received.
"Steve and Terri, I would like to thank you for ministry! I’ll admit that I was not the one who raised my hand when you challenged the entire conference on removing the beast, but when I got home I was so convicted that I removed BOTH beasts from our house. I have to admit that it was a very uplifting experience, stepping out and doing something in faith, even when my flesh cried out NOOOOOOO! I know my family will be blessed by this decision and my wife and I are very excited about what lies ahead. Thank you again and may God bless the rest of your ‘tour’." A dad of a home set free.
It is good to see Christopher and Sarah sharing their hearts with the young men and young women. They are blessed and challenged as they share with homeschooling children whose hearts range from tender towards the Lord Jesus to well, let’s say, just shy of openly hostile towards the things of the Lord. I’m sure the parents of the rebellious young people were praying that their children would respond to the message. Dad and Mom, don’t ever think that homeschooling is enough if your desire is to raise men and women of God.
If God would prompt you, please, please, pray for our meetings. We have seen God do a mighty work in many, many, hearts. He is the One that must do the work.
As I mentioned last week, we’ve just started our 22nd year of homeschooling. The Mom’s Corner for this month discusses some of the scheduling changes that we’ve made over the past week in starting school once again. Even now, we continue to modify our schedule as our needs change.