Sometimes you wonder how God could be directing the path of your life. And then, sometimes you don’t wonder at all. That’s because you just know. You look back over the weeks and months and years and think, God was there all along.
Take Jeff Brawley, for example. More than 30 years ago Jeff felt that God had something special for him to do. But because college wasn’t for him, he didn’t feel qualified to do “ministry.” So he got married to his childhood sweetheart, Sheila; started a successful welding business in Phillipsburg, Missouri; bought a farm; and began a family.
Then came the day we all remember, September 11, 2001. Sitting in the comfort of his Missouri office, Jeff watched the Twin Towers collapse. He saw terrified men and women, moms and dads, husbands and wives running through the streets. With blinding soot all around them, some ran into churches. He saw their fear. Felt their terror. Imagined their questions.
That was a defining moment for Jeff Brawley. Like the collapsing towers, his goal of having a comfortable life had crumbled.
“Show me what I need to know”
On the morning of September 12, Jeff began what he calls his journey. He started a new routine of getting up at 5 a.m., opening his Bible, and petitioning God, Show me what I need to know. He began walking around his farm and praying—even in the sleet and snow.
An avid hunter and fisherman, over time he believed that God wanted him to use those passions to reach others for Christ. With the support of his pastor at Lebanon First Assembly (Lebanon, Missouri), he began an outreach for men.
Then about five years ago, both Jeff and Sheila woke up around 1 a.m. Feeling burdened for others, they asked God to give them direction for their lives. For four hours they took turns praying back and forth as they lay on their bed. They specifically asked God to use their marriage to reach others.
Remembering her parents’ once-rocky marriage, Sheila prayed they would have compassion for others. She told Jeff that she wished that they could be marriage counselors. Then she added, “But we’re neither one educated, so we could never [do that].”
About a year later, Jeff got involved with another men’s ministry. Although the meetings he organized were life-changing for thousands of men, Jeff realized that many had problems in their marriages. He and Sheila asked God, How can we help?
Presenting God’s design for marriage
Soon after, the Brawleys heard about FamilyLife’s Art of Marriage® which is designed for church and community settings. It consists of six videos that present God’s design for marriage in a fresh and engaging way.
Within three months they had organized their first Art of Marriage event at their church for 75 couples. In January 2013 Jeff and Sheila hosted another for 150 couples.
One of these couples had attended the first Art of Marriage event at a time when they were ready to call it quits with their marriage. The second year they laughed and cried as they celebrated what God had done in their lives.
Jeff and Sheila’s newlywed son, Dylon, and his wife also attended an Art of Marriage. “We knew it would be life changing for them,” Sheila says. “… and they loved it.”
And five couples who participated in the Brawleys’ second Art of Marriage brought it back to their different churches, located in five communities in southwest Missouri. Fifty couples attended one of these events.
Seeing what God has done through the Art of Marriage, the Brawleys are planning their third event for January 2014.
It’s now been more than 30 years since Jeff first thought that God had something special for him to do. Today he knows what that is. He and Sheila have an amazing ministry that has touched thousands of men and women, mothers and fathers, husbands and wives. When people ask them how to have strong marriages and families, they point them to God’s blueprints for life.
Since 9/11 Jeff has kept his morning appointment with the Lord. Every day he asks God to give him His heart … to show him what He seeks. “I started seeing people’s faces different. I started seeing the brokenness past the smiles.”
“We are supposed to be used as a tool by God to reach others,” Sheila says. “I just want God to use me.”
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