Therefore, a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife: and they shall become one flesh.  Genesis 2:24 (New King James Version)
Marriage is a choice.  Loving is a decision.  Staying married in a loving relationship is a choice that depends upon a decision to love one’s spouse.  Having a Christ-honoring marriage is the decision that NAD Family Ministries hopes would be the commitment every married couple would make.  To make these choices a reality, Family Ministries offers a one-day celebration of marriage entitled, “From this Day Forward,” [FTDF] to teach couples how to have joy-filled, flourishing marriages.

On March 8, 2008, about 50 couples convened at the Hilton Hotel in Downtown Miami, Florida, to participate in the FTDF celebration co-sponsored by the Florida Conference and the Southern Union to have their marriages energized into vibrant wedded unions the way God designed.   The celebration began around 9 a.m. to spiritually elevating music from Denise Barclay of Columbia, Maryland, who blessed the attendees with her melodious voice.  She sang “Shout to the Lord!” followed by the familiar hymn, “Come Thou Fount.”  When the music ended marriage consultants, Claudio and Pam Consuegra, of Minneapolis invited the couples to enter into harmonic unity by focusing on the “oneness” that should exist in marriage.  

Presenters Mike and Brenda Aufderhar of Wenatchee, Washington, then roused the group with an electric chant to motivate couples into improving communications with one another.  Using various techniques, the Aufderhars demonstrated how disagreements can be handled in a pleasant manner to foster the spirit of compromise in love.  

Interspersed between each session throughout the day-long event, Willie Oliver, NAD Family Ministries Director, distributed door prizes to the participants.  These prizes ranged from music CDs to marriage enhancement materials, and free tickets to attend subsequent FTDF celebrations.

All attendees were encouraged to role-play and practice different techniques to improve spousal relations.  Around noon, everyone received a healthful vegetarian box lunch.  Having lunch on the premises was a blessing to all.  The noon repast was an opportunity for the presenters to fellowship with the participants and answer questions.   After lunch, Willie and Elaine Oliver of Silver Spring, Maryland, presented a powerhouse message on the importance of intimacy and affection in marriage.  Married couples were encouraged to remember their obligation to show affection to one another.  As the first of the two institutions God created in Eden before sin entered this world, marriage is blessed by God in all its expressions.   

Yet, in today’s rush and hurried society, many married people lament the vows that remind them their marriages are for “better or worse…richer or poorer…in sickness and in health…till death do us part” while only a select few ever reflect upon the genuine blessings found in the challenge “to have and to hold from this day forward.”  Recognizing these vows as the benediction that cements a marriage union, newlyweds Troy and Sherneth Pickens of Riviera Beach, Florida, embraced the FTDF celebration.   

Having only married in October 2007, Troy and Sherneth envisioned this event as a vehicle to help them establish their marriage as God intended.  Troy confessed that he “couldn’t wait to attend this event.”  After eyeing the ad for FTDF in the January issue of Southern Tidings, Troy booked a room at the Hilton and made plans to surprise his bride with a “honeymoon” weekend away from the daily tasks of living.  When he surprised Sherneth with this special weekend, her response was a resounding “yes, let’s go!”

Not only were Troy and Sherneth pleased to have attended FTDF, a number of long-time married couples were also ecstatic about this program.  Three couples with more than 50 years of matrimony attended this special celebration.  Already in possession of the secrets to having successful marriages, these couples wanted to learn new ways to keep their romances alive.  As the celebration continued, one spouse experienced an epiphany after practicing a new communication technique.  This wife of nearly 24 years stated how she never realized that she didn’t listen to her husband when he was speaking.  Since she had the habit of formulating a response while her husband was speaking, she never bothered to actually listen to what he was saying.  Learning a new communication technique enabled this couple to change lifelong patterns of poor communication.  Acquiring active listening skills became a veritable blessing to this family.     

FTDF had a number of repeat attendees.  Among them were Dion and Dilyn Henry who had attended FTDF in Orlando two years earlier.  They had enjoyed the earlier celebration so well, they made certain they didn’t miss this event even though the Henrys were in their tenth year of marriage.   As the happily married pastor of the Ridge Area SDA Church in Avon Park, Florida, Dion believes that loving marriages form the basis for strong, committed Christians in service to their churches and community.   

Ronaldo Da Cunha, Family Life Pastor of the Miami Temple SDA Church who also attended this celebration in order to better serve his church of some 1300 plus members comprising 82 different nationalities and ethnicities echoed Pastor Henry’s sentiments.  Pastor Da Cunha claims a successful church reflects its married members who are in satisfying marriages.  Contented couples maintain wholesome families.  When a church has wholesome families, the church can have successful ministries. 

The FTDF celebration ended on a spiritually high note that afternoon with married couples invited to enter into a covenant with the Lord.  Each spouse, reciting a modernized set of marriage vows, recommitted themselves to God and to one another.  These couples received Marriage Recommitment Covenant certificates heralding that they shall “maintain the bond of oneness that is ours…for as long as the Lord gives us life.”

As the attendees filed out of the celebration, Troy and Sherneth Pickens complimented the presenters.  Sherneth exclaimed, “Everyone who has an opportunity to come to a program like this should take advantage of that opportunity and attend.  It just might save your marriage because it focuses on what the Bible says about marriage.”  Troy, formerly a pastor of another Protestant denomination, concluded: “If I learn how to love my spouse the right way, then I can learn how to worship my God the right way.  True worship starts at home where one’s ministry begins.