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From This Day Forward Conference Connects Couples

By LaTasha Betts Hewitt

“A Sabbath for your spouse…a day of connection.” That is how North American Division (NAD) Family Ministries director Willie Oliver described the From This Day Forward (FTDF) conference held at the Renaissance Philadelphia Hotel Airport.

More than 80 couples gathered for the conference with the desire to improve their relationships. Some lived right down the street while other attendees came from as far as Kentucky. Participating couples ranged from newly engaged to those married for nearly half a century.

After 49 years of marriage, veteran couple Jesse and Thelma Spencer from Philadelphia still felt there was room for improvement in their marriage. “We never had any lessons prior to getting married, and we’re never too old to learn,” admitted Jesse.

Many churches brought large groups, such as the Chestnut Hill (Pa.) church with eight couples. The Angaza Sharon congregation in Newark, Del., brought 18 couples, all members of the church’s marriage club.

The day opened with uplifting songs from recording artist Denise Barclay of Columbia, Md., followed by a welcome from FTDF leaders Willie and Elaine Oliver of Silver Springs, Md., who praised attendees for taking the time to strengthen their marriage. They reminded attendees that the “one-day celebration of the marriage commitment” was not designed to instantaneously solve all marital problems, but to serve as a “tune up”.

“Elaine and I developed FTDF 10 years ago to help couples service and maintain their marriage, much like we take our cars to get serviced. When cars are serviced regularly, they run better and last longer. The same is true for marriage,” shared Willie.

The Olivers presented informative sessions on the joy of marriage, encouraging couples to view their union as a team. Practical principles were outlined in a clear-cut manner but laced with humor, and to help the audience better understand some points, the Olivers even made reference to experiences from their own marriage.

Presenters Mike and Brenda Aufderhar from Wenatchee Wash., through their use of role-play and improvisation, addressed ways to improve communication, master problem solving, and practice forgiveness. With a series of chants and hand motions, the Aufderhars helped engrain key points into couples’ minds.

Each couple was also given booklets filled with notes and exercises for them to complete individually and then share privately with their partner. Couples were encouraged to choose a current issue in their marriage and then practice the skills they learned from each session to move toward resolution.