Connecting you to God’s work through Cru
Busy schedules can’t keep Andy and Christy Rovenstine from helping other couples succeed.
The aroma of oven-baked chicken and homemade potato wedges escapes through the backdoor as Andy Rovenstine enters. Draping his pea coat, wet from the rain outside, over a kitchen chair, he smiles as his two boys round the corner to welcome him home.
Christy, his wife of 14 years, greets him with a hug and kiss before launching into a recap of the day. Life is busy in the Rovenstine house. The couple’s only extended time together is on Saturdays and occasional weeknights.
Andy works as a material planner for an elevator control company and Christy, once a second-grade teacher, now tutors several students throughout the week. The extra money helps make ends meet and gives her a break from the household routine.
Tonight, Andy will be washing the dishes by hand. Their trusty dishwasher died mid-cycle yesterday afternoon, and they won’t be able to replace it until Monday. The delay is not on account of the home improvement store. Rather, this weekend they will be investing in something they believe is more important: marriage.
For the last six years, the Rovenstines have volunteered with FamilyLife®, a subsidiary of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru in the U.S.). Early in their marriage, the couple attended several weekend marriage getaways called a Weekend to Remember®.
Success stories from the weekend’s events are numerous. One of Andy’s favorites came at the end of a conference he helped promote. A father of two felt obligated to attend and brought along a 12-pack of beer to get him through the weekend. Somewhere between Friday night and Sunday afternoon, God worked in the man’s heart. Nine beers and a note that said, “I quit” were left behind. The memory still brings tears to Andy’s eyes. “When God’s Word is spoken, you never know what that is going to do,” he explains.
Christy’s motivation stems from her days as a teacher. “I saw how kids changed when their parents started splitting up,” she explains. Academic and social issues often surfaced. “We can intervene in marriages before it gets to that place,” she says.
Last year, FamilyLife launched The Art of Marriage® DVD series, putting Weekend to Remember content within reach of any family. Now couples with full-time jobs, elderly parents, or strapped pocketbooks are able to nurture their marriages from a church, living room or hotel ballroom nearby. The Art of Marriage empowers volunteers like Andy and Christy to make a difference on a more intimate scale.
On Friday evening, Subway wrappers take the place of dinner dishes. In the lobby of Cordova Neighborhood Church just outside of Sacramento, Calif., Andy and Christy pray over their sandwiches, surrendering control of the weekend to God. A few hours later, 21 couples sit in pairs throughout the church sanctuary.
Andy, the emcee for the weekend, welcomes the small crowd and praises them for choosing to invest in their marriages. From the sound booth in the back, a fellow participant pushes “play” on the DVD player, and the weekend program is off and running.
“Marriage is embedded in culture as a gospel testimony. It’s always making a statement. The only question is whether it’s a good statement or a bad one,” says Dave Harvey, pastor at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, Pa., on the screen.
A few minutes later, the screen prompts participants to open their workbooks to page 10 for a short discussion. Some wrap their arms around their spouses’ shoulders as they read. A few sit a subtle distance apart, staring tentatively at the notebook between them. Maybe the session has surfaced a point of tension. Or maybe it’s just the weariness of the week setting in. Whatever it is, Andy and Christy are glad they are here. All reactions and backgrounds are welcome. This is holy ground—a place for authenticity, understanding and healing.
But before healing can come, couples must put words to what is broken and have a clearer idea of what God designed marriage to be. The workbook serves as a guide to intricate matters of the heart, where pride, pain, hope, disappointment and a desire for unconditional love each wrestle for attention.
Theme music cues couples to return their attention to the screen. John and Shula Gossard sit at the back of the room, his arm draped casually around his bride of 16 years. “I thought it was going to be a little bit impersonal,” Shula confesses, “But I was sucked right in and forgot all about that within the first 10 minutes.”
After the last video of the day, Andy gives an overview of the homework project the couples are to discuss before the 9 a.m. session tomorrow. Tonight’s project, the first of three, continues on the theme of receiving your spouse as God’s gift. Questions are straightforward. What comes to the surface is good, but not always easy. “Everybody has a hard time in marriage,” says Christy. “It’s not easy. You have to put work into it.”
The Rovenstines are heartbroken by the statistic that the divorce rate inside and outside the church is virtually the same. They believe marriages in the church should look different than the rest of the world. “At some point in time you’ve got to say, ‘enough,’” states Andy. “I may not be able to do much, but I can host an Art of Marriage event. We have to reach people where they are.”
The pastor of CNC, Mike Mitchum, agrees. “One thing I desire for the people in my church, and for all married couples, is that they have marriages that will last a lifetime,” he says. “That takes work.” Married 32 years, Mike and his wife, Robin, are committed to nurturing their marriage for years to come.
To begin the Saturday afternoon session, Andy welcomes the couples back from their various hideouts around the church. In addition to lunch, the couples had been asked to nourish each other with kind words in the form of a love letter. The workbook suggests couples write about the qualities that initially attracted them to their spouse and about ways God has used their differences to help them grow. They are also challenged to express specific ways they are committed to grow in the near future.
Some couples return holding hands as they take their seats. Others sit knee-to-knee still dabbing at their eyes with tissues. With Christy by his side, Andy speaks into the microphone with a sigh in his voice. “We needed that,” he says, “We have been to many conferences, and will probably be at another one in the next year, but it’s good to see where we are.” Christy looks up at him smiling in agreement.
At the close of the event, Andy and Christy invite the couples to join them in reciting a legacy pledge. Once again, Andy recognizes that each couple’s relationship is in a different state of health, and the pledge won’t be right for everyone at this moment.
He invites couples to stand and speak the pledge or silently read along while holding their spouse’s hand—a gesture of hope that the words will one day be true of their marriages.
Many couples stand and pledge aloud, “We give our lives completely over to God—every dream, every possession, every relationship—and ask Him to guide us in every decision we make, for His sake and for the sake of our family and the generations that will be affected by the choices we make this day.”
Moments like this motivate Andy and Christy to find time to focus on their marriage and invest in marriages around them. Next month, the Rovenstines plan to go through the six sessions of The Art of Marriage with another couple from the comfort of their home.
Whether it means washing dishes by hand or sacrificing a Saturday, Andy and Christy are committed to building marriages.