Extravagant Love Impacts Middle East Couples


By Alliance workers serving in marketplace ministries

Editor’s note: Alliance workers spent three months in a Middle Eastern country, where they unveiled the Alliance Marriage Encounter (ALMA) outreach. The couple has served in Latin America for more than two decades and has facilitated ministries that bring hope and healing to broken lives and marriages through Encounter outreaches. Inspired to follow God’s call into unfamiliar territory, the marketplace ministry couple found a people who are eager for God’s love.

We didn’t know their culture; we didn’t speak their language. They spoke English. We had met the team members just five short weeks ago. Would we be able to show the love we had for them? 

We were a parachute drop-on site for three months to lead the logistics of the Alliance Marriage Encounter. The whole theme of ALMA is love. How could they see our love when we had just led the team of five couples through the grueling schedule of long meetings and late nights for the following six weeks of volunteer service? 

During one meeting, they had even spoken out. “We must do it a different way,” they implored. Yet experience has taught us that each step is essential to accomplish the goal. Michael and Renee* and the other couples conversed in their native language as we ate our dinner that evening. There was so much nervous laughter. Were they totally overwhelmed? Would they continue with us to complete the preparations for the first ALMA seminar in the region in five weeks? 

Divine Encounter

ALMA has been an instrument with which to pour extravagant love into the hearts of couples around the world, offering them hope for healing and reconciliation in their marriages. But can a ministry or program make it happen? Only as couples who have received this love turn to look fully at the Author of love and pour out their lives for others will the ripple effect move beyond the weekend experience into homes and families.

The power behind ALMA is the bended knees of couples, taking an hour together in prayer on behalf of other couples who are experiencing the love of a Marriage Encounter weekend. God is at work; the love of Jesus Christ goes forth as He touches hearts-at times through a sigh, a tear, or a laugh-and calls each heart to Himself, bringing new joy to a marriage.

God’s Team

God had a plan for Michael, who was raised in the majority religion, and Renee to be part of the support team. The evening of the first meeting, they were at the church listening to a Christian band when they received a call from a woman at the meeting saying, “Come now. There is a meeting for the Marriage Encounter.” The couple, who had experienced an ALMA weekend in 2009, agreed to go. We had already started the basic explanation when they arrived and explained the challenging commitment required of each participant to embrace the ALMA ministry over the following nine weeks. Everyone agreed, and the team was established.

Immediately after the meeting, Renee approached us and explained how they ended up in the meeting that day, and more miraculously, how her husband-an avid soccer fan-had just said, “Yes” to missing many soccer matches by participating on the ALMA support team. He always made it a top priority to watch soccer on Saturdays from early afternoon until about midnight.  She couldn’t believe it! Michael then approached us and affirmed his decision to serve on the team, foregoing many soccer matches.

Individual team members had not had an opportunity previously to participate in a group setting, each one contributing his gift. They prayed for unity-to edify the whole and produce the fruit-the extravagant love. All rose to the challenge and served graciously. 

Soon, donations arrived on a rainy evening and team members were excited to see that their hard work was beginning to pay off. When they visited the Catholic retreat center, where the event would be held, they began to visualize their guest couples arriving and the privacy of the center that would be ideal to serve the couples quietly in many diverse ways.

Unexpected Shake Up

Every member of the support team experienced great challenges in the weeks leading up the ALMA weekend. When we received the call 10 days before the Encounter that John*, our key in-country leader, had experienced a severe medical need that required heart surgery, we were shaken. In just a few short weeks, this brother who had become so dear to us had come within minutes of death.

Again, we sent out word requesting intensified prayer for the team in preparation for the ALMA weekend. Other team members discovered long-term embezzlement in their company, resulting in severe setbacks due to the loss, as well as several computer problems, including breakdowns in the middle of translating important text to be used during the weekend. It was uncertain whether they would even be able to take time off to work the Encounter. 

God’s Sovereign Plan

Many miracles happened during the 48 hours of love-too many to list here. Couples truly engaged in sensitive conversations in the privacy of their bedrooms. One couple confided that this was the first time in 18 years of marriage they had talked intimately. Another expressed such joy; just by looking in their eyes-even though they spoke no English-their new love for their spouse of more than 40 years could not be held back.

Remarkably, after just 24 hours, the whole atmosphere of the Catholic retreat center had changed. The head nun said, “You must come back and have the Marriage Encounter three times a year.”

A woman of the majority religion who works at the center said, “When will you do this for my people?  We desperately need something like this for our families!” 

By the end of the weekend, nearly 10 nuns were lined up, requesting to enter the ALMA Thanksgiving service that was beginning in the chapel. They didn’t want to miss out on what was happening in the hearts of the couples who were experiencing God’s love. All the “shaking” from the trials prior to the event had produced the fruit of hearts transformed by extravagant love!

Each time Michael and Renee entered the logistical command room, they smiled broadly.  They were energized to see what God was doing and had missed many hours of sleep that weekend so that the couples could experience God’s love. On the “Prayer Clock” poster, they wrote the names of more than 150 couples who had committed to pray for one hour slots during the weekend: couples from Brazil, Egypt, Indonesia, Chile, and the USA, as well as international workers from Africa upheld the ALMA weekend in prayer.

That night, though team members were exhausted, each member embraced us and thanked us repeatedly for the wonderful weekend. We knew that we had been able to show love to the support team, even though we had challenged them and stretched them to use their gifts as the Body of Christ. “Thank you for your encouragement for all of us,” said Renee, “and thank you for coming from so far away to help us and being willing to teach us. We love and respect you very much.

“We might have served the Lord a little, but surely God has served us abundantly this weekend. He served the families and His Church, His Body. His mercies endure forever on us.  The joy Michael and I have is overwhelming. I am blessed to serve with my husband and to see him enjoying every single thing he did no matter how small.” 

Amazing Grace

“With the team we were united, and love poured out in our hearts for every member. We got to know each other in a better way; we learned to love one another, appreciate one another’s gifts, and respect each other’s opinions. I think this is the real Body of Christ.”      

At a church picnic just a week later, Michael and Renee, along with other couples of the support team, were praying and talking with excitement to see when they could schedule the next ALMA weekend; they hope very soon. They have been empowered to serve the Lord with joyful hearts. 

Our hearts were heavy as we said good-bye. The embraces and tears were beyond formalities.  Love was the language we communicated beyond cross-cultural barriers. We left a piece of our hearts in this beautiful country. So we were excited to receive an invitation to return in March 2011 to lead a second ALMA weekend. Once again, we are trusting in God’s sovereignty and for His provision, knowing that, through ALMA, the Lord is working in the lives of lost and hurting people.

*name changed

Learn More

Read about ALMA in Latin America

Check out Alliance work in Europe and the Middle East. 

What You Can Do

Praise God for these opportunities to reach people in the Middle East with God’s truth. Pray that He will provide for the financial needs of marketplace ministries workers as they bring the light of Jesus into public settings. Also, pray that those who hear the message will trust in Christ.  

Impact your world for Christ! Give to Alliance Great Commission Ministries and help support our international workers around the world.


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