FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Real Homebuilders: Minnesota

with Rusty and Robin Eckstrom | July 4, 2012
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Rusty and Robin Eckstrom's life appeared full, content, and apparently complete. But was it? Why did the Eckstroms still long to be part of something bigger? Find out how God used a willing couple to bring help and hope to marriages in the Iron Range.

  • Show Notes

  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Rusty and Robin Eckstrom's life appeared full, content, and apparently complete. But was it? Why did the Eckstroms still long to be part of something bigger? Find out how God used a willing couple to bring help and hope to marriages in the Iron Range.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Rusty and Robin Eckstrom’s life appeared full, content, and apparently complete. But was it?

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Real Homebuilders: Minnesota

With Rusty and Robin Eckstrom
July 04, 2012
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Bob:  Rusty Eckstrom can think back to a time in his marriage when work was really busy; and as a result, his marriage wasn’t getting the attention it deserved.

Rusty:  We were a start-up at that time, and I was the fourth person hired.  I was spending two to three weeks of the month on the road, traveling, doing various things.  At that point in time, you kind of do everything.  I was also in the Navy Reserves.  I spent about nine years on active duty, and people used to ask me what I did in my free time. 

I said, “I go to Navy Reserve weekend duty.”  Rob was home with the kids; and I was busy building a life—doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing—providing and just doing everything.  At that point in my life, I wasn’t doing what I really needed to be doing for my family.

Bob:  This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, July 4th.  Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine.   We’ll hear about the wake-up call that happened in Rusty Eckstrom’s life on today’s program. Stay tuned.

And welcome to FamilyLife Today.  Thanks for joining us.   You know, one thing that you and Barbara can’t say that just about everybody else in America can say—you can’t tell us about the first time you went to a Weekend to Remember® marriage conference and how God used it in your marriage because you were teaching the first time you went to a Weekend


Dennis:  That’s not true.  That’s not true.  Once again, I have to correct you, here, on the broadcast. 


Bob:  You went to a Weekend


Dennis:  It is quite amazing, after all these years—20 years!

Bob:  You were one of the three couples who helped found the ministry.

Dennis:  Yes; but here’s the interesting thing, Bob.  We actually went to a conference that Don and Sally Meredith led in Colorado Springs at the Antlers Hotel—had to be the spring of 1975.  We—

Bob:  So this was actually before FamilyLife got started.

Dennis:  Oh, yes.  It was actually prior to FamilyLife becoming a division of Campus Crusade for Christ.  We actually attended what would become, really, the seed bed for FamilyLife to be started.  So, technically, you’re right.  Barbara and I really never attended a Weekend to Remember, but we got a chance to hear a good bit of the material from a couple who helped start this ministry.  It was from that, really, that the ministry was birthed.

Bob:  So how was your first Weekend to Remember?

Dennis:  Well, it was life-altering because it moved our picture of marriage kind of out of looking at it from a horizontal standpoint, thinking it’s about Barbara and me, to realizing it’s about something much larger and bigger.  It’s about the image of God.  It’s about, really, proclaiming Jesus Christ, both generationally, but also to other marriages and families throughout the country.

Bob:  Mary Ann and I were just reflecting on the first time we went to a Weekend to Remember, which was 1987 or 1988—I’m not sure which year it was.  We walked away saying, “Doesn’t everybody already know this?”  It was really more of a reflection of how arrogant we were than it was the material.  But we just—the pride would come to the surface later; but that weekend, we were kind of proud and a little stubborn in the whole deal.

Dennis:  Well, it’s interesting you say that because I think people come to the Weekend to Remember and a good number of them have some biblical understanding of marriage and family; but they’ve never really sat, and soaked, and studied as we attempt to take a couple through a weekend, where we look, biblically, at what marriage is all about.

We have with us, on the broadcast today, a couple who came to the Weekend to Remember,not in their first years of marriage, but some 16 years into your marriage relationship.  Rusty and Robin Eckstrom join us on FamilyLife Today.  Robin, Rusty, welcome to the broadcast.

Rusty:  Thank you.  Thank you for having us.

Robin:  Thank you so much.

Dennis:  Rusty and Robin live up north—Minneapolis.

Bob:  Yes.  That’s where I was born.  They’re fellow Minnesotans.  I didn’t live long there, but that’s where I hail from.  I found out how cold it got in the winter and I said, “Let’s get out of here.”

Dennis:  You got out of there.  I love Minnesota—been up there fishing many times.  Rusty and Robin have three sons and a daughter.  Rusty works in the software business, selling software to the automotive industry and also to manufacturing companies. 

You guys attended the Weekend to Remember, as I mentioned, 16 years into your marriage.  As you sat there—what Bob has reflected on his recollections, I gave mine—what did you guys think?

Robin:  I was delighted to go.  We were so excited to have an opportunity to be there.  We had friends that brought us, actually through HomeBuilders®.  There was a neighborhood HomeBuilders going on; and they said, “There’s this conference.”  We said, “Okay, we better do that.”  We went, and it was absolutely life-changing for us.

Bob:  You weren’t going because the two of you were at some dramatic point in your marriage and you needed to get something fixed.

Robin:  Well, we didn’t know that we were at a dramatic point and that we needed to be fixed.  We did, after we were there.  We realized a lot of things, but—

Dennis:  Well, seriously.  A lot of couples get into a “normal” and they get used to it.  They think, “This is kind of what it was intended to be.” 

Robin:  Right; exactly.

Dennis:  But at the Weekend to Remember, you kind of see the biblical blueprints and find out, “You know what?  God’s got something in store for us here.  Perhaps, a few of these things we have been missing.”

Robin:  That’s right.  That’s exactly what happened to us.

Bob:  Rusty, be honest with me.  A lot of husbands, when their wife says, “Oh, let’s go to this conference,” they go, “Ahh, I think I need to change the air in the tires that weekend.”  You know, they kind of think up some reason—were you excited about going to it?

Rusty:  We were—had actually been prepared, along the way.  The friends that invited us, Steve and Ann Lomm [spelling unsubstantiated]—

Dennis:  Oh, yes.

Rusty:  —were the previous regional people for Minneapolis.  They led the volunteer team—just really good friends of ours in the neighborhood.  They had gotten us involved in HomeBuilders.  We’d already had a chance to experience some of this type of material—to learn a little bit more about our relationship and what it maybe should and could be. 

So, I wasn’t reluctant to go.  When we went, as Robin mentioned, and as you discussed, we were 16 years into our marriage.  We had a chance to sit down and talk about things that we’d never discussed.  The thing that amazed me, I guess—that first weekend—is the material and how easy it was to go to those places. 

It let you get to things that you don’t just naturally do in the busyness of life.  We had four kids, at the time, already.  We were busy going three different directions, every night—sporting events here, and there, and everywhere.  You don’t realize what you’re not doing.

Dennis:  We help you apply what you learn.

Rusty:  Absolutely.

Dennis:  We do that by, not only teaching and providing a manual that goes through an outline—very logical, from the Scriptures—but also, we give couples time for application projects, which is what you’re talking about.  You had a chance to talk about what you’d heard—

Robin:  Right.

Dennis:  —and talk together about what you took away.  Do either of you remember what your big takeaway was from that first conference?

Robin:  I think the biggest thing that we both realized was how much work we still needed to do and that it opened up just a bucket of issues that we didn’t even realize that we had; but it was so wonderful to be able to have a glimpse of the intimacy that was going to come.  I think that’s what we saw—we saw that there was great hope in us becoming more than what we were.

Dennis:  Robin, there would be some who would hear you make that statement about opening up issues and they’d go, “Oh, hold it; time out!  I don’t want a bucket of issues!  Things seem to be going okay right now.”

Bob:  “Let’s not take the car to the mechanic.  He might find something wrong with it.  It’s running okay; let’s not mess with it.”  That’s how a lot of people feel.

Robin:  Right.  We were so wild-crazy in love by Sunday afternoon—we were literally almost in the same chair.  Do you know?  It was so fun.

Dennis:  We like you because it saves space in the ballroom.  [Laughter]

Robin:  It was so fun.  For six months, we were on a high that came from the conference—working through things and talking to each other in a new way.  We decided that it was the right thing for us to do, every single year. 

I think the best advice we got right away, and I have used it—I’ve used it for almost 20 years.  I tell people, “You have to be obedient to the conference.  You have to sit in the first five rows if you can, and you have to do everything they ask you to do.  If we are called to trust and obey, then we need to do that for that weekend, too, to really see what Jesus has for us.”  It changed our life.

Bob:  Rusty, what do you remember from that first weekend?

Rusty:  My big takeaway actually came from the session on Sunday morning—for the fathers and for the husbands.  It just made me realize that, at that point in my life, I wasn’t doing what I really needed to be doing for my family.  The company, I’m working for now—we were a start-up, at that point.  I was the fourth person hired.  I was spending two to three weeks a month on the road, traveling, doing various things.  At that point in time, you kind of do everything that needs to get done. 

I was also in the Navy Reserves, yet.  I spent about nine years in active duty; and when I had gotten out, I continued in the Reserve business.  I’m retired from that, now; but people used to ask me what I did in my free time.  I said, “I go to Navy Reserve weekend duty.”  Then I had two weeks a year to do that, as well.  Rob was home with the kids; and I was busy building a life—doing what I thought I was supposed to be doing—providing and just doing everything but really taking care of my wife and family. 

Dennis:  You guys went on to attend 12, a dozen, Weekend to Remember marriage getaways, and didn’t just stop there.  Somewhere, along the way, you decided you wanted to pitch in and help volunteer. 

What a lot of folks may not realize is we’ll have more than 125 of these events, throughout the year, in every major location around the country.  We have more than 20,000 volunteers who really are a part of bringing this Weekend to Remember marriage getaway to their community and make it happen.  That’s what you guys have been doing. 

Robin:  Yes.

Dennis:  You’ve been serving on the local team—that are all volunteers, helping to bring it to Minneapolis.

Robin:  Yes.  We love doing that.  It’s wonderful.  The best thing about the team is—of course, the people on the team are fabulous and you get to see them often—but the prayer that we get to blanket that conference in prayer, and the way FamilyLife has set up the book that we get to pray through on each session, and all that intercessory has been a huge privilege for me.

Dennis:  You know, I’m watching the tears well up in your eyes as you talk about praying for these people.  What a lot of folks may not realize is we actually have boxes for prayer requests in the men’s restroom and the women’s restroom at these hotels.

Robin:  Yes, that’s right.

Dennis:  We’ll get requests from people who aren’t attending the Weekend to Remember.  They’ll put requests in there.  But you get some really poignant requests from people who are going through some really challenging circumstances.

Robin:  Very hard.

Dennis:  You get a chance to really go before God, asking Him to break through in some very tough situations.

Robin:  Yes.  It’s huge.

Bob:  What kind of things do you see on those prayer request cards?

Robin:  Oh, Bob, it’s so heavy.  There is a tremendous amount of damage been done with pornography—huge, huge.  There is—people lose children.  There is infertility that they struggle so with.  There is, of course, infidelity.  There is—every single issue that is hitting society today—happens in that ballroom.

Bob:  And I know most of the folks who are coming aren’t in a desperate spot.  They’re kind of like you guys were the first time that you came, but real life happens to real couples everywhere—

Robin:  Everywhere.

Bob:  —and to have a place where you can come and say, “You know, we’ve been through the rapids; and we’re not sure what to do about it;” and to get some help.  There are some breakthroughs that happen that weekend; aren’t there?

Rusty:  Absolutely.

Robin:  Oh, yes.  Our prayer room is open for couples.  We’ve had miraculous things happen.  You know, where they say, “Okay, you might be dealing with something right now.”  Literally, a couple, right outside the ballroom—he just told her, “I’ve been having an affair with somebody at my office for three months.”  He just spit it out like that. Luckily, somebody from the team was right there.  They just grabbed them and put them right in our prayer room.  Then, the whole team came around them; the speakers came in.  It’s so exciting to see them come back—they came back the next year and brought a group.  We were just praising God over that.

Bob:  Wow.

Robin:  The prayer requests can be very dark at first; but we pray over them, just relentlessly.  We are relentlessly praying for every couple that comes—every couple, by name, over, and over again—and then the requests come in.  Our team is very diligent about creating a sanctuary where we can literally come before God and stand in the gap over, and over, and over, and over again.

Bob:  Rusty, when the weekend is over, you get a chance to hear how God has been at work as you read through evaluations that come in from couples who have attended.  There’s some pretty amazing stuff that goes on in these weekends.

Rusty:  It helps to balance out the weekend.  As Robin mentioned, the prayer requests can be daunting.  The thing that I think about that’s happening, too, is we’ve been in—we’ve been praying for these folks.  Then, as you come out to stand by the HomeBuilders table or something, and answer questions, you just wonder, “Who these people are—who these couples are?” as they come out.  We get so good at hiding the stuff that’s going on in our life—you just don’t know—and you go, “Who could these people be?” 

But, then, at the end of the conference, we sit down and we go through the comments, the commentary—the top ten.  It’s just unbelievable.  It’s amazing—the numbers of salvations, and people praying to receive the Holy Spirit and recommitting to their families and relationships.  It really makes you realize that this is an incredibly important ministry; and that it’s very, very important to be a part of this.

Dennis:  At some point, you guys decided you liked volunteering; but you wanted to take it a step further and have a more purposeful outreach—by actually importing—bringing into your community, The Art of Marriage®, a six-hour video event that we really designed for folks like you.  We put this together so that a couple, like you, who are passionate about making a difference in your friends, family members, associates at work, community, in your church, would be impacted. 

We put a tool together, a video tool, that is a turnkey deal.  We give it to you.  It’s, “Plug and play.”  Why don’t you share with our listeners how you heard about The Art of Marriage and, then, what happened?

Rusty:  We first heard about it, just prior to release, in one of our team meetings with the Rail’s [spelling unsubstantiated], as we were getting ready to prepare for the upcoming conference season.  We saw just a portion of a clip that hadn’t even been completely done and edited, at that point in time.  It was some amazing stuff—I don’t even remember which clip we saw.  At that point in time, we said, “We need to do this.   We need to have an event like this.” 

The launch was last year, at Valentines.  We were on the cruise, so we couldn’t do that; but we said, “We still need to do one of these things.”  Fall came around—it’s soccer season.  We just had ours in January—we did it as a retreat for our church.  We had

14 couples—one salvation. 

The thing about it, as you mentioned, it was just very, very easy to do.  I had a business trip late on—unexpectedly, the week before.  So, I was out of town.  We started Friday night and Saturday.  I didn’t get home until midnight Thursday night; and the week I was planning to prep and do some other things, I was on the road.  I was reading through the material.  I brought my handbook with me to look at some things.  As you mentioned, it is just simple.  I was simply the facilitator.  I was there to put the DVD in, and just to introduce the topic, and let people experience the material.  It was phenomenal.

Dennis:  The 14 couples were from—

Rusty:  From our church.  We had two from outside the church.  Two of the couples actually had been involved in other types of marriage ministry.  One was Marriage Encounter.  They had done Marriage Encounter for many years, where you develop your own material and present about your relationship and life.  Another couple was involved in Divorce Recovery and had moved from that.  They said, “The finest marriage material that they had ever had a chance to be a part of.”

Robin:  “Ever seen. Finest marriage material they have ever seen.”  The quality of the DVDs, the way they draw you in, the way you don’t end up distracted, the way the weekend is put together, the way the sessions are mapped out—if you do everything exactly as we’re told to do, it was a huge blessing.  For us to hear from couples that have been involved in this for a long time— 

We had young marrieds there, brand-new, brand-new young marrieds.  We had couples that had been married for a few years, some couples that had been married around 30 years.  We had a wide variety.  They were blown away at the quality of the material—the laughing, which was fun—the joy that was there—and then the amazing information they were given.  It was six of the most powerful sessions we have ever done with FamilyLife.

Bob:  Some folks wondered—I think all of us wondered, “A video-based conference—can it be as impactful and as effective as a live presentation is?”  Because you’ve been to a dozen Weekends to Remember—you’ve seen how, in the midst of that, God shows up and some great stuff goes on.  These are videos.  Here you are in a retreat setting with 14 couples, popping in the DVDs into the DVD players.  God can still show up with DVDs?

Robin:  Yes, sir.  He sure does!  Absolutely; and people were surprised by that.  They’re like, “Oh, it’s a DVD series.  We’re not doing that.”  I’m like, “Okay.”  But when these 14 couples were done and we read our evaluations, it was very well-received.  They were once again, “The highest quality—,” —very engaging.”  We asked couples to trust and obey.  Do what you’re told, and DO YOUR LESSONS; right?

Rusty:  Do your projects; right.

Robin:  Do your projects!  Pay attention, do your projects; right?  And so they did that.  Each couple was blessed, and blessed, and blessed.  We’re doing Kingdom work; you know?  It’s so exciting!

Dennis:  Yes.

Robin:  We were so excited to get a salvation from a young couple—so delighted to come around him and that new marriage.  It was so exciting for us.

Dennis:  You guys are heroes.  You really are because we’re never going to address the needs of marriage and family today through an organization that’s located in Little Rock, Arkansas, or Colorado Springs, or in L.A., or Dallas, or some other major city. It really demands that we push the solutions out to the grass roots of America and put the tools in the hands of people who care, like you, and then get out of your way and say, “You know what?  It’s yours.  You own it.  Do with it what you wish, and make an impact in the people’s lives that you have an influence with.” 

You’ve done that, and you’re a Homebuilder.  You may now know it, but you guys are true Homebuilders—part of the Homebuilders movement.  That’s, simply, people who care about other people, who want to have an impact—want to provide help for them, hope for them.  You’ve done that around the issue of marriage and family, and you really are heroes.  I appreciate you guys stepping out in faith.  Undoubtedly, your faith has grown as a result of you stepping out and doing “Kingdom work”; right?

Robin:  Yes, yes.  We sure hope so.

Bob:  I think it’s important for folks to realize—you guys are just—you’re normal folks; right?  I mean, you’re in business, you have a family; but somehow, God has birthed in you an interest—a passion in trying to do something proactively.  We think there are more folks like you out there.  If they’ll grab a tool and change a home, they can change the world; can’t they?

Robin:  That’s right.  That’s right.

Dennis:  You know, Rusty, one thing you said, someday, is going to be a payoff.  You may never hear them say it; but your three sons and your daughter have watched you two, you and Robin, care about the marriages and families of others.  That has to make an impression and put an imprint on their soul—that if this was important enough to Mom and Dad to give their scarce available free-time to impact others— 

I mean, they watched you, more than likely, or heard of you coming home at midnight the night before you had The Art of Marriage starting in your community.  They’ve seen the sacrifices.  I think those messages are really important messages that we need to be giving to our children, our adult children today, because they’re going to be in a battle, I promise you, for the marriages and families of their generation.

Robin:  Absolutely.

Rusty:  Absolutely.

Robin:  Yes, they think we’re different.

Bob:  But we are different.

Robin:  We are different.

Bob:  And we hope there are a lot of different people who will grab one of these tools and go to work because we can have an impact in our community.  We’ve got The Art of Marriage event kit for somebody who would like to host an event like this in your church, in your community.  We’ve heard stories about people who are taking The Art of Marriage event kit and doing an event at a lake house or as a part of their family vacation.

You can do that.  Go to for more information about The Art of Marriage event kit.  And, then, there’s the small group study, which is a condensed version of The Art of Marriage material that a lot of small groups are going through—one session a week for six weeks.

More information about both the event kit and about the small group study when you go to  You can order those from us if you’d like. is our website.  You’ll find all the information you need about The Art of Marriage—both the event kit and the small group kit.  There’s also information about the Weekend to Remember.  This fall, we’ll be hosting Weekends to Remember in dozens of cities, all across the country. 

When you click on the Weekend to Remember link on our website at, it will take you to an interactive map, where you can find out when the Weekend to Remember  is going to be in a city near where you live.  Start making plans to join us for two-and-a-half day weekend getaway for couples—a great getaway time for a husband and wife, just to be together, to be able to talk about your marriage and to learn what the Bible has to say about how to have a strong, healthy marriage relationship.  Again, go to for more information about all of these resources.  Our website is

And with that, we have to wrap up for today.  Hope you have a great Fourth of July, those of you celebrating here in the United States.  It’s Independence Day.  And I hope you can join us back tomorrow, when we’re going to talk to a former U.S. congressman.  There was a time when he and his wife were at sea in the middle of a storm and thought it was the end.  We’ll hear their story and hear about their rescue tomorrow.  I hope you can join us for that.

I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team.  On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine.  We will see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today

FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. 

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