NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Tuesday, June 23rd. We’re so glad you’ve joined us today on The World and Everything in It. Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next…
AUDIO: Mawwage. Mawwage is what brings us togetha today.
EICHER: That’s from one of my favorite movies, The Princess Bride.
REICHARD: We got an invitation for September, when our niece gets married in Pennsylvania and we can’t wait to go!
EICHER: Well, we have one, too. It’s from one of guys I coached from kindergarten all the way through middle school—a lifelong friend of my boys. So we’re excited about that!
What a great thing for families and friends to come around and support young couples as they start their lives together.
But so is marking milestones a great thing—honoring marriages that stand the test of time. WORLD reporter Myrna Brown recently spoke with one couple celebrating 40 years this summer. Here’s their story:
GREGORY SAMUELS: Ok, try this. It’s called meditation. See if you like this one.
MYRNA BROWN, REPORTER: Sitting next to each other in their Chattanooga, Tennessee home, Greg and Jackie Samuels are doing what they’ve always done as a married couple.
JACKIE SAMUELS: When we were dating we did things together and we went into our marriage, we’re still doing things together.
With shades of gray in her short, curly afro–and his beard, 61-year old Jackie is helping 67-year-old Greg choose music for a new video he’s creating.
GREGORY: You know, I’m a go-getter. My wife is more reserved. And so, she adds that balance in my life.
Born in Milwaukee,Wisconsin, Greg recalls life before Jackie, more than 40 years ago; He was clean-shaven, 22 and restless.
GREGORY: I wanted to get out of the inner city so that I could go somewhere, you know, just get away from the hustle and bustle and also to really study God’s Word.
One Sunday, two missionaries from Spring City, Tennessee, showed up at his church. They had news about a Bible institute and camp surrounded by 100-acres of woods, dirt roads and a fish-filled lake.
GREGORY: I did not know the history. I did not know how strategic Cedine was. That was probably the only camp that really dealt primarily with Black Americans back in the day.
In 1976 Greg left the streets of Milwaukee for the rolling hills of rural Tennessee.
GREGORY: I must admit it was quite an adjustment, especially in some of those old cabins they used to have back in the day. They had open floors. You hear the crickets and all of the creatures and all of the skunks. But I adjusted, I adjusted.
It was a similar story for Jackie.
JACKIE: I was just finishing high school…
She arrived at Cedine Institute two years after Greg, from Washington, D.C.
JACKIE: I had said I knew it was going to be a small town, but I did not know it would be in the woods! And so I was just, oh Lord, what have I done?
Greg, the first student Jackie met at Cedine, led the 18-year-old and her parents to the registration building.
GREG: And she was just huddled up, like a cocoon in the back and looking real nervous. Real young girl. And so I didn’t pay much attention to it.
But Jackie says Greg made an impression on her parents.
JACKIE: When I got finished registering, my mother came back to the car and my mom said, you’re gonna marry that man. And I told her, no I’m not. And so two years later, I said, mom you remember that fellow with the glasses on? She said, I knew it!
He proposed to Jackie on the lake that surrounds Cedine and flows into the Tennessee River. They were married on August 16th, 1980. Once the Samuels started having children, Greg joined the army and was assigned to more than half a dozen different posts. But with each assignment, Greg noticed a troubling pattern in his new bride.
GREG: My wife was an excellent mother. We homeschooled all three of our girls. But there was something missing, especially when it dealt with the things of the Lord. You know, she didn’t want to do things to please the Lord. She just basically wanted to do things to please herself.
Greg says he was determined to love his wife through her inconsistencies.
GREG: And here I am preaching and teaching all of the country and my wife was faithfully by my side. But she was not saved.
JACKIE: I had known about God for more than 25 years, but I never really had a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Then, one day Jackie was listening to Christian radio and heard a convicting message on being a godly mother.
JACKIE: I was listening to Adrian Rogers and so that summer of 2007, I bowed my head and asked Christ to come into my heart and be my personal Savior.
Greg was the first person Jackie called. Then she shared the news with her young adult daughters.
GREG: What my wife did, she apologized to them for being a hypocrite basically. And then through my wife’s testimony, they cried and accepted the Lord.
Jackie then had another hurdle to climb: regret.
JACKIE: I told my husband I wish it wouldn’t have taken me this long of a time. So much I have missed. But as long God allows me to live, this will be my desire to reach couples for Jesus Christ.
After a 27-year-military career, Greg retired and in 2007 the Samuels settled in Chattanooga, just one hour away from Cedine Bible Camp.
AUDIO: [Children answering Bible questions]
Students come from all over the country for Bible quizzing and camping.
SINGING: How great is Our God
But Greg and Jackie volunteer at the retreat center helping married couples rekindle their love for each other and for Christ.
GREGORY: We try and be the first person they see when they get there. We work as a team. We work as a team, no doubt.
JACKIE: We also try and visit some of the couples during the year to see how they’re doing.
GREG: Like for instance we traveled… where did we go? We went to Cincinnati, Georgia, Tennessee a lot, too. You just don’t have these folks come to your retreats and forget about them. We want to follow up and see how they’re doing.
Part of that follow-up includes putting music to memories.
GREGORY: A lot of times when they come off the mountain top at Cedine, they’re ready to live for the Lord as couples. And we want to renew those feelings by showing them a video of the good times they’ve had.
Good times anchored in God’s redemptive plan for marriage.
JACKIE: Because of my husband’s praying, because of his faithfulness, that’s what kept us together. Christ does make a difference in our relationships.
GREG: I’ll tell you the secret. Especially the husband, you need to know God. You need to have a personal relationship with him. And not only a personal relationship with him, your wife needs to be your best friend.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Myrna Brown.