Four years ago I was tasked with the responsibility of planning a marriage retreat for the houseparents of Cookson Hills. With my husband and I having just been houseparents, my memory was still fresh as to what it felt like to try to sustain a marriage in the midst of ministry to kids who are at-risk. I knew what I would want if I was still houseparenting: delicious food, strong coffee, and time to just be with my husband in a beautiful place. So with that as my jumping-off point, I started working with a ministry team from Southeast Christian Church to plan a three-day retreat for our team of houseparents.
Over the past four years, we have refined the retreat to include spiritual depth, plenty of opportunity for conversation, as well as special getaway date nights. We end the retreat with a group date that is refreshing, relaxing, and fun. This retreat is a team effort! Two of our supporting churches (Ridge Chapel in Kansas, OK and New Life Church in Siloam Springs, AR) provide the resources for the snacks, drinks, decorations, and meals, along with providing the meeting space. The social work and educational staff at Cookson Hills cover all of the daytime childcare responsibilities so the houseparents can get away. It truly is a community effort every year!
Last year was a beach theme and we focused on having fun and keeping things light. This year’s theme was spiritual warfare; keeping your marriage strong and standing firm in the midst of difficulty. This was an opportunity for the houseparents to drink deeply from a “stream in the desert” so they could renew their passion for their ministry here at Cookson Hills. Just as the Lord told the Israelites in Isaiah 43:20, “I provide water in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people.” I believe the Lord provides “water” to our houseparents through those who are willing to come and host this marriage retreat each year.
A marriage retreat is important, possibly vital, to our ministry. I pour my heart into planning this retreat because our houseparents pour their heart into the kids that we serve. This retreat should be special because they are special and what they are doing in God‘s kingdom is significant. I want them to have energy, unity with their spouse, and the passion to continue houseparenting for years to come.
Here’s what some of the houseparents had to say about this year’s marriage retreat:
For me, the best thing was the time it gave us to reflect on our marriage. Bringing up great memories and even the bad ones are a testimony to where we are now. It was a huge blessing and overwhelming to know of all the hands that helped to make this retreat happen. God’s presence was with us every step of the way, and it was a beautiful feeling.Javier
I always appreciate our Southeast Christian Church Marriage Retreat team! They helped us dig into the word and reminded us to STAND FIRM. We are on the front line of a spiritual battle for the souls of the kids we serve. Satan loves to distract and divert our attention by attacking our marriages. We need to stay vigilant and remember that our battle is not with flesh and blood whether that is our spouse or one of our kids. We were given great opportunities to reconnect with one another as well as with our fellow houseparent team members. Already looking forward to next year!Debbie
I love how God wants to bless us and our marriages! This year we learned how God wants us to be known to each other (our spouses and our team). I love that it gives us time to connect intentionally. I also appreciate having time to just breathe.Ryan
I enjoyed being able to spend time with my husband and, honestly, just being spoiled with date night, gifts, and time together as a group to bond. I also learned a few things that stuck with me!Sarah S.
1. We need to remember we are not the source of each other’s happiness, God is.
2. Be battle-ready! A reminder that we are involved in spiritual warfare. Do not believe the lies the enemy tries to tell us about our spouse or ourselves!
It’s amazing to think that people from a church in Kentucky love us so much that they stop their lives, come to Cookson Hills, and minister to houseparents. The love they poured over us through these past few days helped me heal some frustration, feeling defeated, and anxiety that comes with just being in the trenches. I’m looking forward to next year!Sarah G.