How does a retired American couple from Alabama find themselves ministering regularly to marriages 1,000 miles away in Cuba? Mike and Lisa Conn have a thriving ministry to couples in their hometown of Montgomery, but they’ve also visited Cuba four times in the last two years to minister to marriages in desperate need of help.
Mike and Lisa couldn’t have predicted in their early years of marriage that marriage ministry would someday be their calling. They both came from divorced families, and they endured their own share of bumps in the road once kids came along. Mike was preoccupied with his work as a navigator for the Air Force, and Lisa was wrapped up in being a mom to their two young daughters. “We were missing each other in every way possible—poor communication, unresolved conflict, intimacy problems; you name it, we lived it,” says Mike.
The turning point came when they found a Bible-teaching church and joined a Sunday school class that focused on building healthy Christian marriages and families. For the first time, Mike and Lisa were equipped with God’s blueprints for marriage. The seed was planted for their future ministry. When the Air Force moved them to California, they took that teaching with them and began using it to disciple young couples at the base chapel.
In 1991, Mike and Lisa attended FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® and were blown away. The next year, they took 13 couples with them to the San Francisco conference. They continued to return (and bring more couples) every year and were thrilled to see how God was using the conference to bring positive changes in many couples’ lives and hearts.
When they returned to Alabama and Mike retired from the Air Force, they knew they were called to family ministry, although they didn’t know yet what that would look like. They set up their own non-profit organization called Covenant Family Ministries and began using FamilyLife materials such as HomeBuilders® and the Art of Marriage® as well as their own materials to develop an ongoing ministry.
In 2013 a Cuban pastor, concerned about the growing divorce rates in Cuba (currently at about 70%), contacted Mike and Lisa’s church to see if the church could put together a team to minister to the couples in his church. Mike and Lisa had been involved in international missions to Brazil and Haiti before, so when asked if they would go on their church’s next trip to Cuba, they agreed.
In November 2013, they made their first trip to Cuba with four other couples. They introduced the Spanish version of the Art of Marriage to 25 Cuban couples and left copies of the Art of Marriage workbooks and Building Teamwork in Your Marriage®, a HomeBuilders Bible study. They also organized some fun activities for the couples to illustrate marriage principles, such as a three-legged race that got everyone laughing.
Mike and Lisa also trained three leadership couples who could take the reins and continue the ministry once the Conns headed home. The new leaders continued leading couples through Art of Marriage and Building teamwork in Marriage and emailed Mike and Lisa with updates on their progress.
Since that first trip, Mike and Lisa have visited Cuba three more times and have continued to lead workshops on marriage and parenting. During the most recent visit, more than 60 couples renewed their marriage vows. Mike and Lisa presented the couples with a marriage renewal certificate provided by FamilyLife.
“FamilyLife’s Spanish resources have made a huge impact in allowing us to minister cross-culturally in Cuba,” say Mike and Lisa. “We are grateful for the opportunity to share the ‘help for today and hope for tomorrow’ available for marriages through the gospel and FamilyLife.”