The couple in front of ITMI's Adi and Ema Ban was the second couple to make the same request.
It was 2014. Their Pre-Marital Seminar was wrapping up. They'd spent the weekend encouraging, discipling and equipping a group of engaged couples in preparation for Christ-centered marriages.
"Could we join your Couples Fellowship Group?" was the request.
This request grows in significance when you consider that Romania is a post-communist country, where scars and fears from communist days still shape culture and keep people from acting on their innate desire for community.
Adi told both couples that it would make more sense for them to wait until they started a second group. They promised to pray about it, and asked the couples to do the same.
The Bans got other positive feedback on the seminar, too. Their ministry to families and couples is meeting a deeply felt need in Romania.
The Couples' Fellowship Group
ITMI's Adi and Ema Ban have been discipling a group of couples for the past six years. They began as young, newly-weds, but they are young families, now. The group has been reading and discussing, "Sacred Parenting" by Gary Thomas.
The book facilitated discussion about questions of all sorts - from, "What does it mean to find time for devotions and for each other?" to questions about sleepless nights and teething babies.
One of the women shared, “I can’t wait till we have group meetings, since they mean so much to us (especially for moms).”
What the Couples Fellowship Means to its Members
By the fall of 2015, Adi and Ema were praying more intently about starting a second fellowship. They shared their plans with the first group, who suggested some others that might be interested in joining a fellowship.
The Bans had a Christmas Party for both groups. The two couples who had been patiently waiting since the Pre-Marital Seminar for a second group to start came, as well as others who were interested.
The party was held in a nice little cafe in Oradea, owned by believers. They sang, prayed, shared, played group games, and, of course, ate.
Some of the couples from the first fellowship shared, of their own initiative, what being in a group meant to them for the past five years.
One couple in particular remembered how the first year they came to the group meetings but did not “give” too much of their own (time, resources, effort in studying the material).
At the beginning of the second year, Adi challenged them and said, “It’s not so much what you take, but what you put into it that will make a difference in your walk with the Lord, and in your family life.”
They rose to the challenge, and shared the benefits they saw in their own lives!
Another couple shared how much they appreciated the reading materials. If it had it not been for the group, they would not have intentionally read so many books on family life because of their tight schedule.
A third couple shared how important it was to them to have good friends to do things with and help each other out as needs arose.
For one couple who live a long distance from their families, being part of the Couples Fellowship meant having family in Oradea. The group “came through” for them when they were looking for a place to rent, when they moved, when he was looking for a job and when they had their baby... to mention just a few.
After the Christmas party, all the new families - except one - decided to join Adi and Ema's second Fellowship group.
The second group officially began their once-a-month meetings in January of this year.
They've been studying James together.
Why is the Couples Fellowship so Influential?
- It provides community in a post-communist country where community is often feared.
- Families receive support that enables them to start out with a Biblical and strengthened foundation.
- Marraiges are strengthened and pitfalls are avoided so families can live as a testimony to their communities.
- Children are being raised with a positive model of marraige and family that will bless generations to come.
Of course, the real answer to this question is that its discipleship, applied to the needs of the Romanian church. Its the model Jesus gave us and that's why it works!
Adi and Ema have been faithfully stringing one season of ministry after another for six years. Making investments in His Kingdom, large and small, day after day, month after month, year after year.
Thanks for your investments in them, year after year, month after month, that allows them to turn around and invest in others. You are making a difference.