By Lauren DelGandio and Seth Eisenberg
Last week, we had the pleasure of spending four intensive days with marriage educators and couples for a program sponsored by the California Healthy Marriage Coalition (CHMC), the nation’s largest federally-funded umbrella organization promoting strong marriages. The program was a chance to share, learn, and explore evidence-based approaches to strengthen marriages as a strategy for improving the well-being of children, families, and communities.
Our visit to Ontario, California, 35 miles east of Los Angeles, began with an intensive two-day introduction to PAIRS Essentials, a highly experiential relationship skills curriculum that has contributed to the lives of thousands of couples in all stages of relationship. Participants included couples and dedicated professionals, many of whom have spent decades working to strengthen marriages in communities throughout California.
“This stuff rocks!”
Among the participants, we met Ron McLain, who began his work helping marriages, families and youth in 1974 through Campus Crusade for Christ. Ron is California Director of Pastoral Care for the Link Care Center in Fresno. Together with his wife, Joan, Ron founded Marriage Mentoring Ministries in 2004 to improve the quality of marriages and families in Central California. Their ministry has trained more than 230 couples from 43 different churches. In 2006, Ron and Joan founded the Healthy Marriage Coalition of Fresno/Madera County to provide marriage education to the general public. Their work has touched the lives of thousands.
As he left Ontario Friday to return to his home and family in Fresno, Ron thanked us for modeling health during the PAIRS Essentials training. “This stuff rocks,” he shared in his closing evaluation. “It will transform your relationships.”
“Take it! Use it! It’s awesome!”
Sixto and Tonya Castillo head the marriage preparation ministry at Holy Family Catholic Church in Hesperia, California, located within the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino, 45 miles northeast of Ontario. The Castillo’s provide marriage education to many of the nearly 20,000 families in Hesperia, 60 percent of whom are married. Forty-three percent of the homes in Hesperia include children under the age of 18. More than 10 percent of the community’s families live in poverty.
“Take it! Use it! It’s awesome!” Tonya shared in her comments at the end of four days in PAIRS Essentials.
“Never felt so unconditionally loved …”
Maria Crockett attended the program with colleagues from the Relationship Research Foundation in Newport Beach, California to learn how PAIRS Essentials could strengthen their work with couples and families as well as the value for her own marriage. A day after completing the program, she wrote: “I have never felt so completely, unconditionally and safely loved by complete strangers which allowed me to be very vulnerable and open … Everyone must take it. Thank you so very much for how you have transformed my life.”
Elder James and Kathy Flowers have served together in ministry for more than thirty years. In 1987, they established Marriage God Style Ministries in Pomona, California and began hosting the Keep Your Heart radio broadcasts to share biblical principles of covenant marriage and help couples pursue excellence in their marriages. James hosts Relationships 101, an Internet-based educational program that tackles the many challenges of relationships, with particular focus on forgiveness, communication, and how to resolve differences. Kathy helps women overcome obstacles of abuse, depression, and low self-worth. Married for 40 years, they are members of the Inland Empire Marriage Coalition, formed to help reduce the divorce rate in an area whose population has nearly quadrupled since 1970, fast becoming one of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. Their Coalition prepares couples for healthy relationships, committed marriages and strong families through skills-based programs in churches and other community forums. As Kathy prepared to return home following the four-day training, she said that what stood out for her was how immensely healing PAIRS Essentials was for couples. “That’s what’s different about PAIRS,” she said. “It helps couples heal.”
Each of the participants in the class left an impression on us that will forever remain part of our lives. Through their courage, sharing, and passion for strong marriages and families as the foundation for happiness and fulfillment, they are collectively making a difference for thousands throughout California.
Their dedication to living lives that make a difference, to tangibly helping couples sustain relationships founded on love, intimacy, and commitment, to offering children the greatest opportunity to fulfill their potential, and to being unstoppable in their vision for a safer, saner, more loving world will impact countless homes over the years ahead – making a difference for children and communities for generations to come.
PAIRS Foundation is one of the nation’s oldest and leading relationship skills training organizations. Seth Eisenberg, President and CEO of PAIRS, and Lauren DelGandio, are national Trainers.