By Austine Oduor and Malinda Wheeler
Photos by: Caxton Kimeu
From Friday 30th March to Sunday 1st April 2018, the 2018 East Africa Marriage Retreat was held at the Grand Royal Swiss Hotel in Kenya‘s lake city of Kisumu. The ‘I Choose Us’ retreat surpassed all expectations and was the biggest ever in East Africa since 2013.
The retreat brought together over 300 participants (disciples and guests) from Nairobi, Kampala, Kisumu, Juba, Dar es Salaam, Embu, Mombasa, Kisii, Eldoret, Nairobi and Kigali who were looking forward to enriching their marriages.
According to Evangelist John Maleya who spoke on behalf of the team of Evangelists present: “Our dream over the last six years has been to host a major East Africa Marriage Retreat that would bring all the marrieds together. This retreat has been amazing. It has grown in number and quality since the first retreat in Mbale in 2013, and then in Limuru in 2014.
Prior to the workshop the participants were encouraged to read the book ‘I Choose Us’ by John Philip Louis and Karen McDonald Louis. This book gives insight into how we all have our own harmful and destructive behaviours. The book provides a series of questionnaires that helps us to discover why we behave the way we do and the ‘life traps’ that entangle us. There are chapters devoted to each ‘life-trap’ and scriptures to help us draw closer to God for healing, understanding and fulfillment.
Our guest speakers, Peter and Caroline Sterling from the Greater Houston Church of Christ skillfully guided us through the ‘I Choose Us’ program that uses clips from movies that promote dialogue and give us examples of ‘life traps’ in action, and examples of dysfunctional marriages.
Peter and Caroline pointed us to God, and encouraged more open communication with our spouses so that we can heal our hurts and take our relationships to a new level of love, understanding and patience. They emphasized the importance of praying together, spending time together, and becoming who God wants us to be in our marriages. They were open, honest, vulnerable, and very real about their own lives and encouraged the same among us.
Peter and Caroline, natives of Jamaica and now living in the USA, have been married for 32 years and have three children and one grandson. They brought with them a wealth of experience and deep love for God and his people. At one point they sold their business to join the full-time ministry in the Greater Houston Church of Christ where they served for 8 years. They have also hosted a radio show, “Sterling Relationships”, and currently use their own resources to travel around the world to provide the ‘I Choose Us’ sessions to our family of churches to strengthen marriages.
The three day event was full of fun, food and fellowship. On Saturday evening there was a dance where couples dressed in their finest party clothes, participated in games, and ended the night with dancing and showing off some of their ‘old’ and ‘new’ moves. The retreat ended on Sunday with praise and worship, followed by a poolside lunch after a vote of thanks.
The retreat was organized by a central committee led by Paul Nthei and Charles Omollo with members from Kisumu, Nairobi, Mombasa, Kampala and Eldoret who did an incredible job. The Nairobi and Kisumu Teams played a crucial role in making sure the event was a success.
The Kisumu Church hosted the event and gave their hearts to ensure that everyone was well cared for. The Kisumu single sisters commendably provided babysitting services so that the couples with young children could fully engage in the retreat.
There were challenges as the dates had to be changed several times due to post election skirmishes but indeed God’s time is always best and the event went better than anyone could have imagined.
The attendance was great, the venue superb, and the hotel staff gave us excellent service. God gave us a wonderful couple to facilitate the event and the moments we spent with them were very enlightening and nourishing.
At the end, we were able to better understand our spouses, deepen our ‘Love Connection’, and have better insights into what makes a great marriage. Marriages were not only strengthened, but God’s name and purpose was glorified.
After the retreat a whatsapp forum was set up and discussions are currently happening on a weekly basis. We hope to soon be posting some of the topics covered in these discussion on the Church website.
Plans for the 2019 marriage retreat to be hosted in Arusha Tanzania is underway and we are encouraging more couples to attend so that more marriages can be transformed as a result.