Here's the article about the couples' retreat that I wrote for the SAM staff website. Let me add in a more personal way that it was super encouraging and a refreshing time for us individually and together!
Is it possible to love and cherish the same person for a lifetime, despite deeply rooted personal problems, a history of sinning against one another, cases of infidelity, unforgiveness, financial problems, bad in-laws, and other all-too-familiar crises? The overwhelming testimony from the Mil Palmeras couples' retreat is yes.
We and 19 other couples descended on the Hotel Gavilanes this weekend to share a time of fellowship, encouragement, and exhortation and to pursue deeper, happier relationships with our spouses. From the first night, I was struck by how the Mil Palmeras team pursued excellence in every part of this retreat, from leaving chocolate and notes of encouragement in our hotel rooms to a schedule that kept us somehow busy but not worn out.
Alex Chiang, both an international conference speaker and the brother of Pastor Julio, spoke from Genesis 2 and 3 on the 5 stages of a couple's life, addressing Adam in singleness, in love, in marriage, in frustration and in parenthood. Julio and Miguel organized two workshops on practical steps toward peace in marriage, one on communication and one on finances.
While some of the ideas and principles presented in the conference were important reminders for us rather than new information, I loved seeing all of the "firsts" for other participants. For many, I think it was the first time they had seriously discussed tithing, the first time considering a budget, the first night away without kids, the first time hearing about sex from a Christian perspective, the first time looking at how their relationship with God transforms their relationship with their spouse.
My favorite part of the weekend was hearing people talk openly and sincerely about how much they valued their spouse. It was clear from some of the testimonies that these marriages have not all been easy, but between tears and laughter, I saw a commitment to love and serve one another that I know will go a long way. So many of the Mil Palmeras families are new to faith in Christ, converts since the founding of the church just years ago. Seeing their fresh hope, their restored (and restoring) relationships, and their deep love for Christ and one another was a blessing to me as I seek to grow in all those things.