This article was originally published in the August 2012 edition of ITMI Monthly.
Ana followed her fiance, Mihai, up to the stoop of ITMI’s Adrain - Adi as they knew him - and Ema Ban’s home in Oradea, Romania. As the couple welcomed them in with smiles, Ana immediately felt safe and warm.
She fidgeted nervously with her fingers, hair and anything else she could find. She and Mihai were there for a diagnosis of their relationship. Ana knew the Bans wrote and published a book on marriage - she assumed they were a picture of perfection.
Ana observed Ema’s preparatory interactions with her three sons and her response to her husband, and was relieved to find they weren’t perfect; the boys had a hard time remembering to keep their voices down in the next room, and although the house was clean and well-kept, it showed signs of normal life.
The Ban Family, serving in Romania.
Even while she observed this, she was drawn to the family’s humble and gracious approach to everyday family challenges.
Ana repeatedly brushed imaginary hair from her eyes. She knew vulnerability - something so unnatural in Romanian culture - would be necessary. She found some comfort in observing that Mihai, too, appeared a bit on edge.
Adrian opened the session in prayer and they began discussing the couple’s pre-session work. They’d worked hard on their communication style tests, personality tests and questionnaire about their expectations for marriage.
As the session progressed past initial insights from the pre-work, Ana began to notice that Ema had looked at her multiple times and emphasized that sometimes, she can be too intense, causing Mihai to withdraw.
Ana tried to wrap her mind around this as she heard Adi advise Mihai to keep lines of communication open and try to figure out the cause of Ana’s intensity.
Then she listened as Mihai shared his perception of her. She felt her eyes widen at the difference between his perspective and hers.
Ana was so sure she was action-oriented with a type A personality, and strengths on the people and relationships side. Mihai definitely noticed her preference towards actions, but saw her far less people-oriented.
Ana bit her lip, uncomfortable and unable to grasp this paradigm shift. They ended the session on a positive note, but to Ema’s experienced and discerning eye, Ana’s uneasiness was clear.
The next morning, when Ana read Ema’s caring follow up email, she realized that if she wanted a gracious, humble family built on a strong, God-honoring marriage, like the Ban’s example, she needed to open up and let Ema help her.
Ana replied, narrating an all-too-common story for this generation of Romanians. Her father spent most of his time drinking with his buddies. She never knew how to relate to him and never understood his way of showing love. “Before I heard you talk to me last night,” she said, “I never realized just how much of my relationship to my father I will take into this marriage.”
As couples are discipled by the Bans in marriage, they are also being equipped to make disciples, multiplying and reproducing the Ban’s passion for Romanian families.
Later that week, Ana sat down for coffee with a woman who had worked through a similar background in Adi and Ema’s Young Couples Fellowship and had learned how to deal with her baggage and not allow it to ruin her marriage. Ema initiated this important next step in Ana’s growth process.
The Bans' Young Couples Fellowship group.
The story isn’t over. Much is still at stake for Romanian families.
But thanks to your partnership and Adi and Ema’s ministry, many will have a community of God’s people to walk with them.
In a culture where communication and vulnerability are avoided like the plague, this discipleship is not only saving marriages, but freeing up young believers to love, serve and disciple others.
Summer Kelley is a writer living in Phoenix, Arizona with her husband and three kids. She’s had the honor and privilege of telling ITMI’s stories since 2006. She’s a homeschooling mom and a T-shirt and jeans aficionado who likes all things simple. When she’s not writing or homeschooling, you can find her honing her skills as what some might call a "suburban survivalist" as she learns to thrive in the suburbs with 3 kids. As a productivity and organizing enthusiast, she may or may not spend hours attempting to use technology to "save time.” Summer loves reading, the outdoors and Coca-Cola Classic from the fountain.
Steve Evers has advocated for and served the ITMI partners as ITMI Director since 2001. Approximately once a year, Steve visits with ITMI partners in their countries and brings stories back to encourage supporters. Steve enjoys photography and mechanics, (both hobbies that have greatly benefited ITMI partners!) Prior to becoming ITMI's Director, Steve served on the Board of Directors for 12 years. Steve lives in Arizona with his wife, Darlene.