FCC was the second or third church they visited after moving to Hudson from the Twin Cities. They were newlyweds—just married about six months. They entered the auditorium and took a seat against the back wall. During the service, the pastor, Gregg Heinsch, led a child dedication ceremony.
“Gregg was personable and very gracious,” Pat said. When Gregg stated that the couple standing on the platform had repented of their sin from having a child out of wedlock, “We were pretty shocked,” Carla stated.
They sat through the rest of the service and left, intending not to return to FCC, but by the time they drove to the stop sign by the YMCA, Pat was overcome. He looked at Carla and said, “He’s right. That was the truth.” They decided to return to FCC and for the past 18 years have made it their church home.
These days, it’s not unusual to see loving banter between Pat and Carla on their Facebook status updates as they comment on parenting, marriage and wellness tips.
Carla often writes, “Babe, could you bring home more bacon?”—a reference to one of Pat’s love languages. The encouraging and often humorous exchange is markedly removed from the abusive remarks they repeatedly thrust at each other just a few years ago.
When Pat and Carla moved to Hudson, they looked forward to having a family and raising their children within the community. Shortly after they began attending FCC, Carla had a miscarriage 10 weeks into the pregnancy.
“I sought out Gregg, not only for help with my grief, but I also wanted to know where my baby was,” Carla said. “He showed such compassion and love to me.”
During her discussions with Gregg, she shared with him that she had an abortion a few years earlier.
“Gregg was so loving and prayed for me. He told me that God would forgive me. He really opened a path to recovery for me,” Carla said. “I could feel Christ’s love and rescue from my self-destructive patterns and the dark places where I had been.”
Receiving the salvation offered through the gospel of Christ was “not a one-time thing” for Carla. She continually asked herself, “Does Christ really love me? Will he love me and rescue me? It was such comfort to accept Christ’s love and forgiveness.”
It also helped Pat and Carla to really get to know many of the people at FCC and their stories of redemption in Christ.
“We thought we were such a mess,” Carla said. “We see so clearly that God will use what we’ve been through.”
Carla feels led to help other women experiencing this kind of pain. She is involved with an organization called Rachel’s Vineyard that provides a retreat for women affected by abortion.
“It has become my joy as Christ redeems that,” Carla added.
Although Pat and Carla each grew up attending a church, they had not experienced a gospel-centered church, such as FCC. Receiving unconditional love from others was something new to them. In their first years of attending FCC, they continued to struggle with old, destructive patterns.
Pat became involved in the men’s ministry at FCC, attending a Promise Keepers group for men led by Joel Moore. Pat was learning about the biblical role of husband. As he listened to the discussion and studied the material, Pat admitted, “Things weren’t clicking for me.”
Pat visited Joel at his office, located in downtown Hudson at the time, and shared with him the difficulties he was having in the course.
“Joel looked me right in the eyes and said, ‘You’re not a Christian, are you?’” Pat said. “And without hesitation, I immediately said, ‘No.’ Joel told me that I needed to be. He prayed with me. It was a significant moment, but there had been a lot of things at work within me leading up to this.”
Pat entered into a deeply destructive period for about two to three weeks after praying with Joel.
“The church really rallied around me,” Pat said.
Pat and Carla agree that much of their transformation has occurred in the past five years through their marriage relationship. The turning point came when they each gave up on their marriage.
“The way we verbally abused each other was pretty nasty,” Carla said.
The advice she received from a friend encouraged her to “be a better wife” and then Pat would treat her better. She tried to endure the situation, and sometimes she would fight back. They each began seeing counselors both as a couple and also separately. They also began spending time alone with God in Bible study and prayer.
Reading the book, “Love and Respect,” by Emerson Eggerichs introduced Pat to what the author calls “the crazy cycle,” which is rooted in passages in Ephesians that talk about the husband loving his wife and the wife respecting her husband.
The phrase “loving your wife” really bothered Pat. “I had no idea of what it meant to love Carla. I felt like she was my enemy, and I knew that Christians are supposed to love our enemies, so I started with that.”
As Pat continued to learn more about what the Bible said about being a husband, he learned that he could draw near to God in the midst of sin.
“I stopped asking God to change Carla and gave up on a better marriage,” Pat said. “I wanted God more than a better marriage. I began to have compassion for Carla, and that was not a feeling that I generated.”
As Carla was also reading “Love and Respect,” she decided to trust God with Pat and to respect him.
“I cried out to God, and I started feeling led to love my husband and that God would heal my heart,” Carla said. “I began to feel hopeful, and we started having traction toward marital hurts.”
They are now quick to forgive each other.
“It’s about repentance and faith, minute by minute, moment by moment,” Pat added. “We now have unconditional love. It’s a change God brought about. We can celebrate God’s work. Counseling helped us, but God changed us. It was supernatural.”
Pat and Carla have both received training in soul care and biblical counseling and are now helping other couples who face similar circumstances.
“To be a Christian is to change—in those key relationships, exposing idols in their heart,” Pat said. “You are most accountable to the person you married.
“Find one trusted person to confide in,” Carla recommends to women. “ Tell them what is happening because loneliness can be devastating.”
“A man has to be honest with what God has called him to do,” Pat said. “Be willing to talk to someone about it, to do something different.”
“I love my church family,” Carla added with tears in her eyes. “Our friends at FCC have loved us through this. They never stopped. They’re family.”
First published in “FAITH Hudson,” Winter/Spring 2014, a publication of Faith Community Church.