John Welsey once said, “Prayer is where the action is.” FamilyLife would agree.
Every FamilyLife Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway is supported by a group of local prayer team volunteers. They not only pray in general for the conference and countless details, but also for specific requests from getaway guests. Sheldon and Jo Hovaldt, who now volunteer on the Sioux Falls prayer team, vividly recall the difference that prayer made in their own lives.
About seven years ago, the Hovaldts’ marriage was dying. “We were prepared for divorce,” Sheldon says. “We had been at odds for a long time.”
He thinks that he and Jo would be divorced today had their grown daughter not intervened. She begged them to go to a Weekend to Remember. “I couldn’t tell my little girl no,” Sheldon says.
The Hovaldts reluctantly went to their first marriage getaway. “I was thinking she’s about to find out how dumb she’s been and how much she’s been doing wrong,” Sheldon says, “and she went in thinking the exact same thing about me.”
But instead of filing for divorce, the Hovaldts left the getaway determined to make their marriage work. How could one weekend make such a dramatic difference? The Hovaldts believe the answer is simple: prayer.
Keeping a promise
Sheldon and Jo knew the couple who organized the prayer team for the getaway, Ken and Bev Veltkamp. Before the Weekend to Remember they had asked them to pray for their dying relationship. After the getaway, The Veltkamps told Sheldon and Jo, “We have been praying for you all weekend.”
The Hovaldts told their friends of their transformed marriage. The Veltkamps were thrilled and said, “We always have more room [on the prayer team] if you want to help us out.”
Sheldon grinned, “We’ll see. We have to work on our marriage first.”
Sheldon and Jo worked hard on their relationship for three years. Realizing the transformation in their own marriage, Sheldon says, “My bride and I both wanted to do more to help couples for the Lord.” So they approached the Veltkamps. They were ready to become prayer room volunteers. Now volunteers they ask God to answer requests that are dropped into the getaway prayer box. Also, they pray with couples who come into the prayer room, asking for intercession for specific needs.
When Sheldon read the recent evaluations from the Sioux Falls Weekend to Remember, he was very encouraged. Eighty-eight people had made spiritual decisions: Twenty had decided to follow Jesus Christ and 68 had recommitted their lives to Christ.
Although he knew that each new believer in Christ would receive a letter from FamilyLife with a booklet about strengthening their relationship with the Lord, Sheldon wanted to do more. He wanted to personally encourage each of these couples … to be sure that anyone who had made a spiritual decision at the getaway knew about local churches and FamilyLife resources for spiritual growth. So he promised God that he would contact each of them.
Making the calls
On a Saturday morning in January 2012, Sheldon kept his promise and picked up the telephone.
One of his first calls was to a man who was a new believer in Jesus Christ. Sheldon congratulated him for his new-found faith, and promised to send him a list of local churches. Then he told the man about FamilyLife’s e-mentoring program and online resources.
“My wife and I were just talking about this,” he said. “We need to find a church. We need to figure out what to do with our walk [with the Lord]. … I can’t believe the timing.”
Similar conversations were repeated over and over that Saturday afternoon. One wife added, “My husband and I are now talking … We are not always fighting all of the time.” Sheldon could sense her relief and recalled the years when he and his wife, Jo, really struggled. He was so grateful that his marriage has been transformed.
And as he read getaway comments from people like Rebecca … and Kristy … and Joe, he was reminded that God answers prayer:
“We came as a last resort … it [the getaway] made us realize that perhaps the main reason that our marriage had gotten so close to the end is because of the lack of God.” —Rebecca
“Gave me help and hope anew for my family! Great tools! … Reminded us to include God in our marriage and family.” —Kristy
“Gave me a completely new perspective on my marriage and wife. …” —Joe
When Sheldon ended his calls that Saturday, he felt confident that the couples had information to connect with a local church and to access FamilyLife’s online resources. He was grateful that he had kept his promise to God, and reminded of the importance of prayer.
After all, “Prayer is where the action is.”