Conference Promotes Healthy Marriages

By Celeste Ryan Blyden

Over 130 couples from Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, and beyond recently gathered in Washington, D.C., for From This Day Forward, a one-day celebration of marriage commitment. Willie Oliver, Family Ministries director for the North American Division, and his wife, Elaine, a consultant to the department, have been hosting the event for the past eight years. “There are no perfect people, so there are no perfect marriages,” explained the Olivers during the opening session. “We’re not perfect either, so we present to you as people who use these skills every day.”

A show of hands revealed that a number of couples in attendance had been married for 30 or more years, but most had been united less than 15 years. Kyle and Dawna Baker, of the Emmanual-Brinklow church in Ashton, Md., have been married for three years. Like some of the men present, he came because his wife “made” him. But as the Olivers—and their co-presenters Pastor Mike and Brenda Aufderhar and Pastor John and Januwoina Nixon—began to share their engaging, spiritual, and well-choreographed presentations, he found he could relate to their experiences. “It’s always good to learn,” he said after witnessing the Aufderhars’ roleplaying illustration about the types of arguments that trip up many couples.

In addition to the roleplaying, which kept the audience in stitches, the presenting couples used video clips, Bible texts, a workbook, and a question-and-answer session to teach couples about oneness, communication, problem solving, sexual oneness, and forgiveness. Each session included exercises that encouraged couples to share and discuss their viewpoints, pray for one another, and create action steps for the future.

At the end of the day—after all the words of wisdom had been relayed, the free resources on marriage had been distributed, and the registrations for future events had been won—the Olivers’ wrapped up with a commitment service. “Remember that your spouse is a gift from God,” Willie said after the attendees had read their vows. “Now, gentlemen, you may salute your bride.”

Podcast - To hear an interview with Willie Oliver about marriage and these conferences, listen to the May 1 edition of AudioVisitor at the Podcast link on this website. Magazine - The August Visitor will focus on marriage and include an article by Willie and Elaine Oliver. Link - To learn about additional events, scheduled for Denver, Miami, Phoenix, and Bermuda, etc., visit www.adventistfamilyministries.com.