By Darrell Todd Maurina
When Karen Tidwell remarried after a difficult first marriage, but she and her new husband Mike knew they needed help to make their marriage work.
While stationed in England for her husband’s Air Force career, they joined a Christian program known as University of the Family and said the Bible-based teaching was responsible for keeping them from divorce. Now that both the Tidwells and their former group leaders, Russell and Marni Hawkins, are all in Clovis together, the Tidwells have joined a leadership training program that will qualify them to become group leaders in the “Married for Life” course offered through University of the Family.
At 7 p.m. Saturday, the two couples will host an information and registration night for the marriage-building seminar at Trinity Family Center in Portales. Both couples said they welcome anyone to come who is interested in a Bible-based program on marriage and family life – not only couples with problems, but also couples who want to make a good marriage better.
“One of the most beautiful things for all the couples, including us, is we come admitting that our marriages aren’t perfect,” Karen Tidwell said. “We work on being transparent, and we encourage couples to work harder.”
“I’ve always enjoyed the Hawkins, and not only because they are friends of ours, but also because they have a real knack for leadership,” Michael Tidwell said. “They bring it down to our level. We’ve really benefited from this course, and no matter where you are in your marriage, it’s going to be beneficial.”
The small group format helps build long-lasting relationships, according to Russ Hawkins.
“Mike and Karen will be friends as long as we’re stationed here at Cannon Air Force Base,” Hawkins said.
“It was a real answer to prayer when Russ and Marni walked into our church,” Karen Tidwell said. “Mike and I had known for at least three years that the Lord was leading us to a marriage ministry, and we’d experienced Married for Life in England but has no one to train us here once we were moved to the United States.”
Russell Hawkins said the Married for Life program is one of several components of University of the Family, which isn’t a degree-granting school but rather a series of courses designed to address a number of different areas of family life. Other courses offered focus on children and other family-related issues.
The center of the 14-week program is Bible study and prayer, Hawkins said.
“Agreement is not just between husband and wife but between both of them and God,” Hawkins said. “We teach that God is not a God of confusion, and if there is an important problem, the husband and wife should both pray about it and the husband and wife will get the same answer if it is of God.”
Both Tidwells said they’ve seen the effects of the course in their lives and especially with their three children.
“I had baggage when I came into this marriage, so much baggage that Samsonite had nothing on me. Honestly, I credit Married for Life with saving our marriage,” Karen Tidwell said. “I think the kids see more agreement in us, and they’re not as good trying to play ‘divide and conquer.’ They see dad taking leadership.”
Couples interested in going through the Married for Life course are told up-front that they will need to make a significant commitment of time, Karen Tidwell said. Husbands and wives come to the sessions together and meet in the home of a small-group leader each week for 14 weeks. Sessions focus on topics as varied as the roles of husbands and wives, spiritual warfare, forgiveness in marriage, agreement between spouses, long-term consequences of decisions, and marital intimacy, and couples need to commit to attend each session. The Tidwells went through the entire course three times before feeling qualified to become leaders-in-training.
“Anything worth doing, you have to make some commitment,” Karen Tidwell said. “You have to be committed to coming every time, and you have to be obedient to seeking (God’s) call on your life.”
Those interested in further information about the course can contact Russ or Marni Hawkins at 784-9071 or Mike and Karen Tidwell at 769-9041.