GALAX, Va. (March 6, 2017) – Pastors Javier and Elizabeth Hernandez have led marriage seminars for five Holston congregations in recent years – and they believe couples need help with their relationships now more than ever.
“If we have healthy marriages, we can have healthy churches,” said the Rev. Elizabeth Hernandez.
Married for 25 years, Javier serves as pastor and Elizabeth as co-pastor at Puerta del Cielo (Door of Heaven) United Methodist Church in Galax. On Saturday, Feb. 25, the husband-and-wife team shared a marriage-strengthening program with about 25 participants.
The message was based on Matthew 19:8: Jesus replied, "Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning.”
The pastors said they have felt a strong call to help families. “We saw a lot of need in this area,” said Rev. Javier Hernandez. “We see a lot of dysfunctional families, and God put this on our heart. When you unite two people with God, nothing can separate them.”
The theme of the marriage conference was “Uni2 X Dios.”
The national focus on immigration law and deportations has elevated stress for families in her church and community, said Elizabeth Hernandez, a teacher in the local school system.
“They don’t know what to do with this situation,” she said. “Maybe the wife has legal status and maybe the husband doesn’t. It affects the marriage spiritually, mentally, financially … everything is involved. The wife might be worrying about how to raise the kids without Dad.”
The Feb. 25 seminar was attended by local people as well as participants from Rios de Viva Agua (Rivers of Living Water), a United Methodist congregation in Morristown, Tenn.
Javier Hernandez told his listeners how he says “I love you” often to his wife and frequently asks how she is feeling. He encouraged them to pay attention to the relationship dynamics, even after years of marriage.
If things aren’t going well, he said, “You might be the problem.”
Elizabeth Hernandez also encouraged seminar participants to give daily care to their marriages. “How many times a day do you ‘like’ or comment to somebody else on Facebook?” she said. “You can grow healthy marriages by saying positive things.”
The co-pastors were inspired to organize marriage workshops after attending a marriage-enrichment seminar led by the Rev. Pete Rowlett and Ginny Rowlett. The Hernandezes have also led marriage conferences for Spanish-speaking United Methodist congregations in Morristown, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Maryville.
“If God is the creator of family, he tells us how we can cultivate good relationships,” Javier Hernandez said.
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newspaper.