TUCSON, Ariz.–Chaplains from the Arizona Air National Guard’s 162nd Wing led their first ever Strong Bonds retreat for more than 30 couples at the Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa, Aug. 18-20, 2017.
ANG couples face unique challenges in support of their military family and Strong Bonds is an avenue to allow couples to reconnect away from the rigors of deployment, work and home life. The program offered through the 162nd is based on a series of videos and books featuring Mark Gungor, pastor and CEO of Laugh Your Way America.
“The goal of the retreat is to help enrich any marriage,” said retreat facilitator Chaplain Nathan Mestler. “No matter if the marriage is doing great or if the couple is struggling, there is material in this program to help any marriage take a step forward.”
Throughout the two night and three day retreat the couples attended four different sessions. “The Tale of Two Brains,” “The #1 Key to Incredible Sex,” “The Flag Page,” and “How to Stay Married and Not Kill Anybody.”
One couple, Master Sgt. John Franco from the Chaplain’s office and his wife Teresa had the honor of being the couple married the longest, 28 years. For Teresa Franco, The Flag Page session was helpful.
Prior to the retreat each person was sent information on how to create their country flag. According to the webpage, creating a flag gives you a chance to see what motivates you and how you differ from those around you.
“Even though we have been married so long, it opened my eyes,” she said referring to The Flag Page. “It was a good learning experience. I realized I need to be more patient and relax in order to understand him better because we are total opposites.”
Both John and Teresa thought their marriage was in great shape before attending, but Teresa recalled instances when she wanted to attend similar events and John didn’t want to go because he didn’t think their relationship could benefit.
“Let’s be honest, a marriage seminar isn’t the first thing a guy thinks of when he thinks of a fun way to spend the weekend,” Gungor acknowledges during the first session and on his webpage.
John Franco was not an exception.
“There I was sitting in the back of the room, a non-believer. I was asking myself, I have been married 28 years, what could I possibly get out of this? Then there were 4 or 5 things that I wish I would have known a long time ago,” he said. “We have had blind love and acceptance of each other’s faults. I wish I would have done something like this earlier, I think it would have made the bumps in the road easier.”
Parents of three, the Franco’s are now empty nesters and eager to use the tools they acquired to help them transition from parents to partners once again.
According to Mestler, the next Strong Bonds retreat will be held in May 2018 and there was such a high demand for their first ever retreat that the second is already full. He anticipates being able to offer retreats like this on a regular basis, so that you too can “Laugh Your Way to a Better Marriage”.