A time for building love
Last updated 8/5/2022 at 1:23pm
ILM co-sponsors retreat for Indigenous couples
RED DEER, Alb.-On June 3–5, 2022, Indian Life Ministries, Native Evangelical Fellowship of Canada and Family Life Canada joined forces for the first time to sponsor the first Indigenous Couples' Getaway in western Canada.
Seventeen couples attended this premier event held in Red Deer, Alberta, joined by three speaker couples, two musician couples, and several volunteers.
The conference was born out of 20 years of prayer by a Cree team and Family Life Canada, which has been in Quebec for 20 years, and has the goal to bring help to marriages and families across Canada.
"We address felt needs within marriages and families and seek to offer health and hope," said Dan Degaris, who serves as Director of Development, Indigenous Ministy for Family Life Canada. Degaris adds that beyond offering tips and teaching for strong marriages and families, an ultimate goal is "that we will reach out to men and women's greatest need, which is Jesus Christ."
Both goals were met at the event. One person came to Christ for the first time. Twelve others committed to putting Jesus Christ into the center of their lives, marriages, and family, while other couples committed to work at strengthening their marital relationship. Fifteen couples participated in recommitting themselves to their partners and family.
The passion to help bring Jesus and biblical principals specifically into Indigenous marriages was brought to Family Life Canada as some Cree couples saw the need for specialized family ministry to the First Nations communities. While there are commonalities that all people groups experience, with input from Indigenous families, Family Life leaders began to realize "one-size" didn't fit all with their programs, and began to develop a portion of their ministry that would specialize on First Nation needs.
"We know that the issues being dealt with are different in the Indigenous community than in other communities and they need to be addressed culturally," Degaris said. "Our focus is Indigenous people reaching indigenous people because they can communicate the best. Our goal is to empower the indigenous leaders to minister to other indigenous people. As a result, the speaker couples' stories relate to those who attended in deeply personal ways."
Indian Life Ministries (ILM) and Native Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (NEFC) came alongside Family Life Canada (FLC) to help make the event happen.
"These marriage conferences are so important," said Todd Wawryzniak, director of Indian Life Ministries. "They help strengthen and equip marriages with tools on how to handle conflict and so much more. They help bring couples closer toether through the various exercises that they are encouraged to work on.
"My wife, Krystal, and I attended a marriage getaway from Family Life a year ago and find that we are still using the skills we learned from it," Wawryzniak added. "For Indian Life to get to participate in bringing these conferences to indigenous couples is such an honor and blessing."
In the future, the three organizations hope to expand the ministry further across the country.
"We are excited that NEFC is able to work together with Family Life Canada and Indian Life Ministries to host this first Indigenous Couples' Getaway in Western Canada!" said Kene Jackson, NEFC executive director. "We trust that this and following events can and will be significant milestones for the families that are impacted through this."
Through the Couples' Eyes
The Indigenous Couples' Getaway included instruction, worship, fellowship, and exercises to help couples connect and communicate better. Some of the couples shared what the experience meant to them . . .
"I'm so thankful I was able to come. I really liked hearing the speakers's stories . . . How they shared real stories that other native people have gone through. It helped me see there is hope for me."
"At the end of one session, the speaker couple invited the participants to stand up, face their partner and tell them, 'You are not my enemy.' Then the musicians played a slow song and invited everyone to lean in and just enjoy each other. At the end, I was moved to see people with tears in their eyes."
"This is great. It took a lot to get here, but this is exactly what we needed. The speakers are great. The music is great. I'm just so happy I came."
"I'm so happy we came. The most important part for me was the discussion about the Three A's. Addiction, Adultery and Abuse. It's a big deal to get in front of people and honestly share your struggles-especially the Three A's. I learned so much."
"All of it was wonderful. The sessions were so good. I especially liked the time we spent writing a love letter! I'm so glad I came."
"Thanks for this. It was really a godsend."
"I was so hard-hearted when I came to this conference. I said that if this didn't work, that was the end of our marriage. This was exactly what we needed. Thank you for sharing your personal stories. I'm so glad we came."