Posted by: ritagone | September 12, 2012

The State of Marriage (inside Russia)



In a few days, we’re going to be doing a marriage retreat at a Catholic conference center on the outskirts of the city of Moscow, Russia.  It seems unreal that we’re even here in Russia, yet that’s the reality.  We have left Moscow after a few days of wonderful sightseeing and are spending a day in Ryazan with some couples, then we turn around on Friday and head back to Moscow to start the conference.  Everything is on schedule, planned out, running like a tight ship.  We just pretty much go where we’re told!!

We have 25 couples and 10 single people coming – at some peril and risk and discomfort to themselves – to join us.  In Russia, it’s not like back home, where you just hop in the car after securing the grandparents to babysit for the weekend so you can get away.  It’s just not that simple.  First of all, the expense is too great for most of these couples to endure.  So for months I have been raising money back home.  If you participated by donating money toward this marriage retreat and you’re reading this, this is what it is all about.  And thank you.  Your contribution has made it possible for people to attend.  You will hopefully have changed lives.

When we were in Russia two years ago, in Ryazan, doing our first marriage retreat, we were overwhelmed by the needs we saw around us.  I’ve given out this statistic over and over again, and each time I repeat it, I myself am struck by its awesomeness: 75% of the marriages in Russia end in divorce.  There is rampant alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse, and abandonment.  Everything that can go wrong in a marriage situation goes wrong in marriages in Russia…to an extreme.

In Russia, orphanages are filled with, of course …orphans.  But there are children in these orphanages who aren’t truly orphans, because they have at least one parent.  Sometimes their parents split up, and the parent who has custody can’t cope with raising a child, and so the easy way out is to abandon that child to the care of the government institution, leaving him or her on the doorstep of the orphanage.  It’s heartbreaking.  It’s bad enough to be a child with no parents; imagine the feeling a child must have knowing that her parent, mother or father, just walked away from her and left her to the permanent care of a building full of strangers.  How would that not turn your heart to dust and ashes for years to come?

There are all kinds of stories and statistics that would shock and horrify you.  Satan has a strong foothold in this vast country.

But God is here too.  I see Him in the expectant looks on the faces of Sergey and Katya, for example, who have worked for months and months to make this marriage retreat a reality.  I hear it in the voices of the couples we have already talked to, as they struggle to discover the way to make their marriages different from all those around them.

So we come to the conference center in anticipation and hopeful that those who are coming to be with us will be expecting God to meet us all there.

What exactly does that mean?  We use that phrase — “That God would meet us there” —  all the time, but too often we don’t analyze just exactly what we’re hoping for.

Here’s what I’m expecting:

That the people who have prepared have prepared well.  That would include my husband Michael, who is, I believe, one of the most gifted teachers I’ve ever heard.  He’s funny and insightful, hopefully in any language.  It also includes Rob Fairbanks, CA President, who is presenting one of the sessions along with Robi, his wife.  And it includes myself and Robi, who are spending time with the women separately from their husbands in order to draw them out and give them an opportunity to voice what is hidden in their hearts and often unable to make its way to the surface.  It also includes the babysitters, the people responsible for refreshments and our rooms, the musicians, anyone and everyone who has something to do for the three days we are together.  And most especially the translators who bring the words of all of us to the people so that they can understand what is being said to them.

I’m expecting that God right now, as you’re reading this, is preparing the hearts and minds of those people who are attending.  It is no small thing for Russians to get off work, to get away from home, to make time to spend a weekend at a marriage retreat.  Think of your own worst arrangements that need to be made to get away from home and then double or triple it and you have some idea of what these folk have to go through to get there.  I want it to be a time of refreshment for them, a break from the mundane and the usual, but, more than that, a time of healing and renewing, that they would go home on Sunday with a new heart and a cleansed soul.  And marriages that are able to withstand all the slings and arrows that come their way in the coming months and years, for come they will in Russia, as they do everywhere else in the world.

I’m also expecting that halfway around the world, people who contributed financially and/or pledged to pray for the marriage retreat will be doing just that: maybe not at the exact right time, but close enough!  That prayers for those attending, those teaching and leading, and everyone concerned will be reaching the heart of God so that He knows how important this weekend is to so many.  (As if He didn’t already know!)

It’s not too late.  You can pray with us and for us.

Let’s see together what our expectations for a wonderful marriage retreat will lead to.

Hey, I didn’t come halfway around the world for it to be banal!  I want it to be an event that will glorify God and cause the devil to weep with fear and trembling.


  1. Thank you for your devotion and sacrifice to participate in this event that I know will bless these open hearts. Lives will be changed. Prayers are on their way.
    Blessings, Martha

  2. Love!! Excited for what God is going to do and praying lots!

  3. praying for you, Michael & your team. Gail

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