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See how the Heart of Marriage Retreat has blessed the lives of many couples

We attended the Heart of Marriage Retreat September 2019 for the first time. We had been married 14 years at the time and felt our marriage was strong! We are “2nd time arounders” and had felt so blessed that God helped us find one another when He knew we needed to. Our expectations for the retreat were high, but almost a bit anxious because neither of us had never attended a marriage retreat before. Our experience exceeded our expectations! We loved all of the morning worship times, the workshops and the general training. While we were able to confirm that our marriage was/is strong, God also revealed to us some tools that we could use to enhance our communication skills! We have found ourselves using those skills often and that has been such a benefit to us! For sure, we plan to attend the next “Heart of a Marriage Retreat! Every married couple needs this one!

Alvin and Diana Ashurst, Atlanta, GA

The Heart of Marriage retreat was inspiring and uplifting to our marriage. It was incredibly impactful to us to listen and learn wisdom from experienced couples, newlyweds, blended families and those married for 20, 30, and even 40+ years. My wife and I have established friendships with other couples that continue to last even years after the conference. Interacting with couples who Love God, have similar values, and have many other things in common with us was encouraging to see. We enjoyed participating in the insightful workshops and the meaningful, intimate conversations about the little and big things in life. Even after the conference was over, we still have access to the Heart of Marriage experts, resources, and information that continue to bless our marriage. We are inspired to go the distance and we left the conference feeling refreshed, even more ready for our future together. Thank you and keep doing this marriage retreat. It is a blessing for many marriages.

Mr. and Mrs. James Jordan Jr., Sacramento, California

On behalf of my Wife and I, we would like to say we were so blessed to attend the 2019 Heart of Marriage Retreat. It was our first time attending and the welcoming hospitality we received was a real blessing. The Watkins and the Mapps made us really feel like we’ve known you all forever, as well as the other attendees we interacted with. I’m glad that the Lord directed us to attend this Retreat, we have been blessed by many of the tools learned through the workshops we selected. You know, sometimes you just have to get away from your environment in order to hear things clearly from the Lord. In all my wife and I were just coming out of a series of medical storms and a few deaths in our family. You know sometimes storms will beat you up and can affect every area of your lives. We are also on the verge of being empty nester’s so in addition to the storms, we also needed to reconnect as a couple and best friends. When you spend time raising kid’s and not take enough time out for each other a gap can form, so it was a blessing just to get away and hear many of the testimonies of others. It’s good to fellowship with like-minded couples and build your marriage up for the Glory of God. The Heart of Marriage Retreat is fertile ground to enrich your marriage experience and we recommend this Retreat to other couples. We thank you all and look forward to flying from California on a yearly basis to attend and have recruited some others to join us on our next visit. God Bless You All

Gary & Sis Melinda Smith

God has blessed us with many opportunities to reboot, renew and revive ourselves. On January 1st, we make weight loss and financial resolutions for the New Year. With each new week, we have another chance to be more productive at work, school or church. Each day affords new opportunities to work harder and be a better person than the day before. All areas of our life require a reboot, even our marriages. The marriage retreat is a time to renew the bond with your spouse and examine the roles you play in each other’s lives. The retreat allows us to network with other like-minded Christian couples. We share experiences and learn from each other. It reminds us that our problems, disagreements and challenges are not so different or unique after all. The marriage retreat is a fun, safe environment where you can laugh, cry, learn and explore all areas of your marriage without being judged. We have personally seen marriages transformed and heard powerful testimonies that encouraged even the faint at heart. If you’re looking to grow your marriage, understand God’s plan for marriage, and make a new friend or two… the marriage retreat is for you!

Cordero & Saboora Jenkins - Atlanta, GA

I initially went to the Heart of Marriage Retreat kicking and screaming because like some men, I just didn’t want to go. However, after attending the retreat and learning that I could do some things differently; how to be a more well-rounded person spiritually; and experiencing the fellowship with other like-minded couples, I was so impressed that my wife and I joined the committee. And I feel that the retreats have definitely helped us understand each other better and become stronger in our union with one another. I agree with Tyrone. Attending the Retreat has helped us learned how to speak each other’s “Love Language” all while applying a spiritual foundation.

Tyrone & Brendalynne Duncan - Atlanta, GA

Being married for 13 years to my husband, Rev. Andre’ Patterson, I felt good that we have united longer than anyone in my family; i.e. my siblings. Even though there were times we agreed to disagree, we found common ground to talk out the situation and come to an amicable resolve. My husband is my caregiver and best friend. We’ve done and do a lot together including ministry together when we each pastored two different churches. But last year was a very difficult time for our marriage. Due to matters beyond our control, we separated for 2 months. With much Godly counsel, I was told that my husband and I needed to attend the Heart of Marriage Retreat. After our coming back together, we felt it was the right thing to do. Never could I have imagined that something so rejuvenating could be so powerful in a marriage. Not only did my husband experience a spiritual breakthrough, but I came out realizing that I could and would be a better wife to my husband. I/we thank the Heart of Marriage Retreat 2018 and Couples Ministry of Ben Hill UMC for helping save our marriage.

Andre and Darganae Patterson

Q&A with the Reverends Vance P. Ross and Bridgette Young Ross about the Heart of Marriage Retreat What made you decide to attend? We’d been invited by Michael and Joy Watkins for the past few years but couldn’t make it work with our schedules. Last year we put it on our calendars several months in advance so we could attend. A bonus was that old friends of Joy and Bridgette from Chicago had been attending and Bridgette got to see them for the first time in several years. What did you like most about the retreat? It may sound strange coming from two ministers, but we were worried that it might be too “churchy.” Vance doesn’t like to be too personal with people he doesn’t know. Bridgette doesn’t want to spend weekends with people who prejudge what a minister should do or say, and won’t accept us “as real human beings.” We were both pleasantly surprised that it was a great time where we could learn, be ourselves and relax. It was good to be with people who are committed to their faith and to each other. What would you say to first-time attendees? Bring your spouse, open minds, a sense of humor (and yes) your bible. You won’t be beaten up by Scripture, but find good resources for connecting with one another. You don’t have to agree with everything the presenters say, but they give information that will lead to revealing conversations with your spouse if you’re willing. We have a great marriage and attending HOM just helped us keep working on making it better!

Vance P. Ross and Bridgette Young Ross

After dating long-distance for only four months, David proposed to me on Christmas morning, in his Atlanta townhouse in 2016. We knew it would be a short engagement since I didn’t want or need a wedding. We are over 40, both divorcees, and our four boys are grown. So I started making plans to move from our hometown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, – where we both grew up – to Atlanta right away. Before we eloped alone to Montego Bay, Jamaica on June 29th 2017, I was convinced that we needed pre-marital counseling. Although God had confirmed our union, we wanted to be sure to develop a strong foundation from the beginning. Being fairly new to Atlanta, since David had not yet connected to a church, I began a pre-marital counseling search. During my online search, I found The Heart Of Marriage Retreat. David and I looked over pictures from past retreats, read the testimonials, looked over the weekend agenda, and we thought it would be good for us to attend, although it would be ‘post-marital’. Having a lot of experience with planning a number of large events, including corporate and even family weddings, I am very particular about event details. Since I have yet to meet anyone with my level of OCD, I am usually disappointed with the lack of detail, ignorance or just plain laziness in most events. Therefore, I don’t have very high expectations when I attend most events, and this one was no different. On the contrary, The Heart Of Marriage retreat was absolutely excellent! It was completely above and beyond our expectations! Not only was everything done in excellence, but each workshop, each speaker, each activity, the meals, the worship, was incredibly amazing! My husband and I felt genuine love from the marriage retreat staff, as well as the facilitators and the participants. As a result, we knew that our own marital bond was strengthened that weekend, as we were forever changed by the candidness, testimonies, laughter, tears, transparency and conviction. This retreat provided what we didn’t know our marriage needed, and gave us the ‘pre-marital/post-marital’ guidance that changed us forever. So much so, that as the retreat came to a close, we wanted more. When they announced that Ben Hill would continue marriage ministry discussions and meetings, we signed up via email right away. It drew us to consider Ben Hill as a church home, and after attending Sunday services for one month, we felt as though the Spirit of the Lord called us to become part of the Ben Hill family. Since then, we have been active in the marriage ministry, usher board and the missions ministry. We are grateful for what God is still doing in our marriage as a result of the Marriage Retreat. Our prayer is that God will continue to reveal his purpose for us at Ben Hill, as well as in the world. We are excited and looking forward to what’s in store for us at this year’s upcoming Heart Of Marriage Retreat. We are certainly looking forward to connecting more with each other, as well as with the other couples from last year and seeing new faces. I have invited every married couple we know, even from other states. We have an expectation that God will move again, even greater and exceed what He has done last year. And as a result, couples will be healed, repair and restore, connect deeper, and be changed forever. Today…..David and I are closer than ever. We just purchased a house to accommodate visits from our boys ages: 19, 21, 23, & 25.

David & Terrae Ward, Atlanta, GA

We are Tom and Shirley Brame from Cincinnati, Ohio and we have been married going on 26 years in November. God, in His providence saw fit to have us attend the 10th annual Heart of Marriage retreat in 2015. Little did we know that in the crisis within our marriage that we were going through at the time, the Heart of Marriage retreat showed us that God would meet you during your trials. During Sunday’s rededication ceremony, we focused on Ecclesiastes 4:12, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” With the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we were able to bring a little bit of the Heart of Marriage home. Now we are preparing our 2nd annual “After the Vows” marriage retreat hosted by Peace Baptist Church. We are forever grateful for attending the Heart of Marriage retreat and not only did it strengthen our marriage but continues to strengthen others.

Tom & Shirley Brame, Cincinnati, Ohio

My husband and I attended the Heart of Marriage Retreat for the first time last year. We’ve attended marriage conferences before, however, we came not knowing what to expect at Heart of Marriage. Through the weekend, God began to reveal that it was time for us to focus on building intimacy in our marriage and within our friendships. We attend workshops that touched on intimacy including one about prayer and another about sexual intimacy. We took the lessons learned and have practiced spending much needed time together focused on one another which lead to a deeper understanding of one another physical, spiritually, and emotionally. In addition to building intimacy within our own marriage, we were able to deepen our relationships with the other married couples we regularly meet with through our monthly Young Married Couples group. We spent date night bowling, eating, and having great conversations with our fellow married couples and had a really fun time. It is through these type of fun activities that we become deeper friends, learn more about one another, and encourage one another to be our best within in our marriages. We thank Heart of Marriage for giving us an opportunity to deepen intimacy in our marriage and with our married friends.

Desireé & Vernon Brown

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