HomeBuilders Heroes, Part 2
About the Guest
It seemed like Tazwell and Bonita Thornton were never going to meet. For 22 years they passed each other by at the University of Maryland. Eventually, an exchange of phone numbers and a lasagna at the door won the heart of Bonita, who would become his wife a year and a half after that first date. The Thorntons prayed for a ministry they could do together, and God led them to FamilyLife's HomeBuilders couples' studies. Today on the broadcast, Tazwell and Bonita tell how they have seen God work in their own marriage, as well as in the marriages of countless others, through these studies.
Hear Tazwell and Bonita Thornton’s story.
HomeBuilders Heroes, Part 2
Bonita: There's an excellency inside of all of His saints that really belongs to God, you know that, and we exist in cracked little vessels, and folks are sitting out in congregations across the country not understanding how they can be utilized. So, to us, Homebuilders was a way to say, look, this is the way to get those folks up out of those seats. We can show you humble gentlemen that were pastors, started off saying, "I'm just here to be with my wife." These are dynamic leaders today.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 24th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine, and I'll tell you what, when God does a work in your marriage, you just naturally want to share it with others, right?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition of our broadcast. The troops are in order, they've been inspected, and they're ready for your address, Commander.
Dennis: I'm ready to address them, too, sir.
Bob: We're going to be talking today about the mission, the Great Commission, and their role is to reach out to their friends, their neighbors, their co-workers, folks at church, help them get their marriage on track, and if they don't know Christ, introduce them to Him, right?
Dennis: Exactly, and unashamedly we're going to challenge folks here at the beginning of the broadcast and in the middle of the broadcast and at the end of the broadcast to enlist in the Homebuilders army. We're going to call you to make a difference in your neighborhood, your church and rebuilding or, in some cases, building marriages and families for the first time.
Bob: Now, the Homebuilders is a small group Bible study where four or five couples get together every other week for six to eight weeks, and they go through material together that helps them better understand how to have a marriage according to the biblical blueprints, and in the context of that, they build relationships, they get to know one another better, they get to share with one another, learn from one another, and grow together as a couple.
Right now, there are tens of thousands of couples going through the Homebuilders material. Over the last 10 years, there have been more than 1 million people who have gone through this material, and yet we need some fresh troops enlisted. Not only that, but we've got a battalion commanders with us in the studio today.
Dennis: Man, I'm telling you.
Bob: Who are going to tell you their story of how they're taking over their city with Homebuilders.
Dennis: Our audience is in for a treat.
Bob: Buckle up, everybody.
Dennis: That's right, Bob. In fact, if you're driving a car, you may want to pull off to the side of the road and listen, because you may start driving too fast as a result of hearing this couple that's in the studio today. Tazewell and Bonita Thornton join us on the broadcast. Tazewell, Bonita, welcome to FamilyLife Today.
Tazewell: Hello, Dennis and Bob, it's good to be here.
Bonita: Thank you for having us, it's a pleasure to be here.
Dennis: Tazewell and Bonita are from Baltimore, Maryland. They have one child, his name is Mark, and he's an evangelist in his own right, Bob, and they've been impacting folks up and down the Eastern Seaboard on Homebuilders for the past half-dozen years and, Bob, this is an exciting story. Tazewell, I've got to turn to you at this point. I know that you two knew each other all the way back to your high school years, back in the 1960s, and you didn't marry until 1992. Now, how did that happen?
Tazewell: Well, would you believe me if I told you I would see here once a year from the time we got out in '69 up until 1992.
Bonita: God is good.
Tazewell: And it would always be "Hi," and "Goodbye."
Dennis: Where did you see her?
Tazewell: Well, she worked at the University of Maryland, and I worked there also, but I'd see her around Baltimore at different places. I'd be driving my truck, and she'd drive up at a red light, "That's Bonita Cartwright," and I'd wave at her, and she'd go, "Hi," and that's it.
Dennis: Real cool.
Tazewell: Cool, you know, and …
Bob: That's 20 years?
Bonita: Twenty-two years.
Bob: Twenty-two years of just kind of passing in the night?
Tazewell: Passing in the night. See, the Lord's got a definite plan, and He has a plan.
Bob: What happened in '92?
Tazewell: Well, that's a long story, but I can synopsisize it by saying I was on my way to work, running late, and I drove past the corner of Lafayette Avenue and Droot [sp] Hill and, you know, how you do a double take? I drove past the intersection and said, "Wait a minute, that was Bonita Cartwright." So I went around the block and, you know, I drove up in front of her kind of cool, you know …
Bob: That's right – "Oh, yeah, Bonita, yeah, hi."
Tazewell: "Are you going downtown?" She said, "Yes." So she got in the truck, and she tells me she's on her way to Florida for a vacation, right? Now, the thing is, we're driving down, and she gives me her phone number, but she didn't write it down. She said, "Well, when I get back we'll have to do lunch," and she got out at the corner of Baltimore and Martin Luther King, right, and I'm praying for a red light, because I know once I get to work with all the numbers I'm going to have to deal with, I'm going to forget this number. And the Lord is, like, saying, "Stupid, you're already late. Keep going, keep going."
So when I got to work, I reached into the trash can and pulled out a Gatorade bottle, which I was drinking because my mom had [unintelligible] so I drank it, too. So I ripped off the Gatorade bottle, and I wrote the number on there and stuck it over the sun visor. Now, up until this point, she had never given me her correct phone number. She always gave me her office phone number. So I would call up and say, "Can I speak to Bonita Cartwright?" And they'd say, "Oh, yeah, she's out, leave a message."
Bob: She could have given you time and temperature, so at least she was giving you her work number.
Tazewell: Yeah, yeah. So about two weeks later, I said, "Let me see if this is the right number."
Dennis: Also, this time you called, and it was …
Tazewell: It was this voluptuous voice on the end of the phone saying, "Hello." I said, "That's Bonita Cartwright, this is really Bonita Cartwright. I don't believe it." And she said, "Well, why wouldn't this be me?" I said, "Well, you never gave me the right number before." She said, "Well, I would like to talk to you but I just burned my son and myself's dinner." I said, "Really?" I said, "Would you like some lasagna?" She said, "I would love some." I said, "Not a problem. Give me your address, and I'll have it to you within 15 minutes." So she gave me her address, I run down the stairs, run into the kitchen, take the lasagna out of the microwave, put it in there, chopped up some salad, garlic bread, put it in the oven, within 15 minutes, I'm standing in front of her door like this.
Bob: This is one smooth guy, isn't it?
Bonita: About three weeks later, Tazewell called me and asked me out for a date, and what impressed me about him, we went out to lunch, okay, and what impressed me about Tazewell was Tazewell kept his eyes here. He never looked below my face. He was very, very focused, and we proceeded to go out a couple of times, and what I admired about him was, number one, his integrity. He's a very principled guy, he loves God, and what I loved about him even more is he never tried anything with me. And, you know, having been in the world, and you can have a lot of degrees, you can have all the accolades, you can do whatever you want, and no one will tell you you're out of order. But at some point you meet the living God, and at the point that I met God and received Him as my personal Savior, I surrendered everything to Him, you know, body, soul, mind. And I made a decision that I would celibate until the day I got married. So I was celibate for, like, 10 years. That's what that long waiting period was.
Tazewell dated me for a year. He never touched me. He treated me like his princess.
Dennis: So you'd been a Christian for a number of years.
Bonita: Yes, I had.
Dennis: Before you got married to Tazewell.
Bonita: Amen, yes, definitely.
Dennis: You came to the conference, then with a walk with the Savior. In fact, you both have that walk.
Bonita: Praise the Lord, yes.
Dennis: Do you remember looking back on that conference and one thing standing out as the main thing you took away from that weekend experience as a newlywed couple?
Tazewell: Yes, the fact that this is a lifetime commitment. There is not even an option for divorce; that this is a signed, sealed thing that until we come into the church separately, but we leave together as a new unit.
Dennis: You all have now been to how many FamilyLife Marriage Conferences?
Tazewell: Six or seven.
Dennis: Six or seven of those conferences?
Tazewell: Yes, because we even went to a couple that we were going down just to visit to see how it was to go and where we weren't participating, and it was enjoyable just being able to sit.
Bonita: Just have some fun. It's so romantic. I think that's what it does – it's romantic, and I think the biblical blueprint, I think that's the most important part – having all the Scriptures put together in one format is what really impressed me.
Bob: Was it at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference when you first heard about Homebuilders?
Tazewell: Yes, it was.
Bob: And do you remember hearing about that and what you thought?
Tazewell: I remember hearing about it, and it answered a prayer that we had. When we first met, one of the things that we wanted to do was – my wife was out testifying to street people and alcoholics and homeless folks, and she would do this on a daily basis, and a lot of times she'd go out, and she'd say, "Well, why don't you come with me?" And I said, "Well, I'm really not into that." But this answered a call for us to do something together that we could make a difference.
Tazewell: Together, together. The Dynamic Duo, yes.
Bonita: And that really impressed my heart, because I think, you know what it is when you get a call from God, and you really want to work for Him, you really want to work for the Lord, but you want to do it with your husband. And one of my prayers before I even met Taz was, "Father, please be stretching the arms and legs of my mate," because I want a guy that I can honor God with and growth with and be together forever until you rapture us up. I asked to go at the same time with him. And so when he saw Homebuilders, Taz really got excited about the model of Homebuilders. He looked at me, he says, "We can do this. We can do this." And even though at the beginning, I'm, "Well, we've got to get the house together, Tazewell, and I've got to do this," he blew past all those negatives. He said, "No, we're just going to do this."
Dennis: So what did you do, Tazewell? Did you call some friends, then, and invite them over to the house?
Tazewell: We talked to some couples that had gotten married and some couples who were in the process of getting married, and we told them we were going to be doing this romantic Bible study – that's how you phrase it, too. You say, "Romantic Bible study," because then if a guy says, "Well, how romantic is it going to be?" And we said, "Well, we guarantee it's going to increase your sexual life." "Oh, okay, man, I'll be there, I'll be there."
So I asked my minister if it was okay, and he allowed me to use the church on a Saturday evening. And we …
Dennis: I would imagine your pastor would even come if you advertised it like that.
Tazewell: So we did "Building Your Marriage," and we met for seven weeks, and the couples that came were enriched. So after getting this off the ball, we found out that we wanted to try to do it at my wife's church. And they were in the process of moving from one edifice to another edifice, so they said, "Well, now, if you can wait until we move into the new building, we guarantee we'll make sure that you are able to do this."
Bonita: In God's love.
Tazewell: So two years later, they moved into their new edifice, a 2,000-member church, and just like they said, "Okay, now you can start your Homebuilders." So she put together a proposal and sat down with the pastor, Dennis, and laid out the whole thing from A to B – this is what we're going to do, this is our objective, this is what we hope to service, this is how many couples we want to do," and the first year we did …
Dennis: And knowing Bonita, how could he say no?
Bonita: Well, what was wonderful about it was – and this is something I would say to any couple that's thinking about ministering to churches, because that's kind of where we are right now, is that you have to be really sensitive to good shepherds, you know, leaders of churches have a responsibility to watch the spiritual food that their flock eats, and sometimes I think we get a little bit sensitive if the pastor says, "Well, we've got to wait a while." There's reasons for that, and if you do things their way, it doesn't mean put it totally on hold, but you have to respect where they are.
Bob: You didn't go about this kind of half way, then, did you?
Bonita: I think that what happened for us was we saw it right away. See, what impressed us was if you're looking for something, if you're saying, "Father, we want to work for you, we need a tool." When we went to FamilyLife we saw the tool. When Bob Richardson gave that little promo on Homebuilders, we looked at each other and said, "This is the tool that we can use." Dennis Rainey and that team at FamilyLife have put something together that we can use.
Right now, as a matter of fact, the Preparing for Marriage piece that you developed – let me tell you, we use it exclusively at our church to minister to the engaged now.
Dennis: No kidding.
Bonita: And it is awesome. We just finished with 30 couples in one session, and …
Dennis: All of them getting ready to get married.
Bonita: Getting ready to get married, and we've done it now for two years, and this year became the official year that it's been incorporated as just one of the resources of the marriage ministry at the church.
Dennis: Give us one of those stories of a couple who maybe wandered into one of these Homebuilders couples studies and how it impacted them.
Bonita: Well, there are so many, but I can picture one without saying their names. A precious couple that really loved the Lord, that were very involved in the church and started having challenges in their relationship. And, really, when we approached them about participating in the Homebuilders study, they took the study, but then we approached them about being a leader. And the husband said, "Oh, you don't know. We shouldn't do that. We can't be a leader." I said, "Let me explain something to you. The books are so tight in their information, in their biblical basis, that all you have to do is agree to be the facilitator. You sit down with the material with a group of people, and all you want to do is keep it moving, bouncing off of one another, sharing ideas, hearing what 'thus saith the Lord,' and what's going to happen is your marriage is going to be blessed.
Soon after that, we got a phone call, and they would have divorced. And these were folks that were working steadily in the church, on the outside smiling like this, but inside walking through some real tough issues. Homebuilders made a real difference to them.
Dennis: Because they led it, they ended up growing out of their isolation.
Bonita: That's right, because they were forced to work together, to communicate, and as they listened to the stories of other people, they realized, you know, again, you can go through the study. We have couples that have gone through – they're in their fourth and fifth books now. They come to one study, and they continue to come. Why? Because they'll say, "Gee, this is making such a difference." It makes a difference for us, don't you think? I mean, communication-wise, our communication is really excellent, you know, and there are times when we could still go there. We can have differences of opinion. But, you know, you have to exercise those practicable tools that you've learned, and that's what I love about it. You know, there are days when maybe you might be a little bit fatigued, but you've got to go out and meet with these couples, and you've got to pray before you go.
Dennis: You know, I've got to stop them right here, Bob, because there's three things about this couple that make them a hero, a true hero for families. Number one, they were courageous enough to step out in faith and attempt a ministry on behalf of the hopeless, on behalf of people who don't have a game plan or a blueprint for their marriage and their family; secondly, they use the truth of Scripture unashamedly, and they love people enough to tell them the truth, that's what we were talking about there; and, third, they're mentoring by stepping in the lives of these young people and calling them to be good.
Now, you think about how many young people today have older people in their lives who love them enough to call them up to the standard of goodness. And you know what? That is going to be, I believe, one of the ways we see a family reformation in our nation is where God calls out couples like you to step into their churches and their neighborhoods and the young people's lives and just perform a ministry of hope to the next generation.
Bob: And, you know, we are seeing churches all across the country begin to use the "Preparing for Marriage" material as a part of their pre-marriage preparation, and I would have to think, Bonita, that a couple that would go through this material is going to start marriage with a foundation that most couples don't have. They are going to have the foundation poured, and they can build on that rock.
Bonita: What I loved about it was that it's a way of giving us the privilege – see, there's an excellency inside of all of His saints that really belongs to God, you know that, and we exist in cracked little vessels, and folks are sitting out in congregations across the country not understanding how they can be utilized. So, to us, Homebuilders was a way to say, look, this is the way to get those folks up out of those seats, the ones that are married that want it.
Dennis: Preach it, yeah, absolutely.
Bonita: And look and look, and set down self and flesh, all the things you say you can't do, we can show you humble gentlemen that were passive, didn't think they had a word. Started off saying, "I'm just here to be with my wife." These are dynamic leaders today that wives looking up to them, and go, "Hey, honey." Looking up to them as kings and lords into heaven. Why? Because they've stepped in to the position by faith – not by performance, not for show, but because, "Okay, yes, Lord, I'm going to do this on faith." They watched their marriages get better, and now these precious humble souls are giants in the church.
Dennis: And there's a lot of women right now listening to you, Bonita, going, "I would love for my husband to be a giant." Yeah, they really would. That's the longing of their heart, and you're saying that by stepping out and getting involved in one of these small group Bible studies, that could begin the process of a spiritual hunger that stretches some legs and some arms …
Bonita: I like that.
Dennis: … that you were talking about earlier.
Bonita: That's good, that's right, that's right, and treating them like the positions, because you know women, you know us, we sometimes wait for the performance. Well, that's another think I learned at the FamilyLife Marriage Conference is that his position is not something based on performance. I have to honor him and reverence him according to Ephesians, and so when you're obedient to doing what God says, guess what? There are rewards that we, as women, can't even touch, you know? There are rewards for precious men like Taz and other men that are stepping up saying, "I honor you. I'm going to take care of you. I'm really going to follow Ephesians," and then you get some homes, even though you go through stuff, there's a bonding that's so close, because you're doing it God's way, and that's why we really push Homebuilders so much.
Tazewell: I'll tell you something else, one of the things we point out to the guys is that if you've been in relationships, and the relationships fell apart, don't you think this is something that you want to invest something different in? You know, and you're going to invest something different by saying to this lady, "I'm not going to violate you, I'm not going to disrespect you. I'm going to treat you just like a gem and respect you and not do anything that's going to – our Father would look down and say, 'They're not right,' because love is willing to wait. Lust can't wait. So I tell them point blank, if you think this relationship is better, and if it's worth investing time in, then show this lady that she's special.
Dennis: Good for you.
Tazewell: And make the sacrifice. Now, for all those that talk about what they can't do and all this stuff, I say, "I'm a witness to that, and everything you say you can't do, God says you can." It's just something you have to stick to.
Bonita: Romans 12:1 says your renew your body as a living sacrifice, wholly acceptable, which is no big thing not beyond your reasonable service, that is, you know? Because, see, the Word is living, and I tell couples, we challenge couples, that the Scriptures that you all have in the conference book, the Scriptures – start doing memory verses together.
Bob: I've noticed you've picked up a little bit on that. You've got a few words …
Bonita: Well, Psalm 19:11, if you bury the Word – and it's not for show or former fashion, you know, we don't war against flesh and blood, we know that. And you said many times a marriage is under attack, it's the littlest battlefield, and you're so right, Dennis. And how else are they going to do it unless they have the Word buried in here so that it can be birthed out of them – men blessing women with prayers and loving them up; women saying encouraging words to their guys as they get unemployed or something. You know, the challenges of life, and I love that, and I think that's the biggest message, and that's what the Homebuilders studies does. It gives you the Word of God in a palatable form that you can take.
Bob: All right.
Dennis: All right is right.
Bob: I am ready, the battle is engaged, the troops have been called to action, and anybody who has been listening to the program today, it's time to call and enlist in the army.
Dennis: Hey, who wouldn't want to be in the same army as this couple?
Bob: I wouldn't want to be against them in battle, you know? Whoa.
Dennis: Absolutely, and you know what? You can be on the same team, and you can call our 800 number and become a Homebuilder in your neighborhood, your community, your church, and back to 2 Timothy 2:2 – God commands us, He says "These things, which you have heard from me entrust to faithful men who will teach others also." Now, wouldn't you love to pass on the truth of God's Word to a couple like Tazewell and Bonita? I mean, think about what that's worth to the kingdom.
Bob: That's right. Call us, say "I want to enlist in the Homebuilders army. I need more information." We'll send you the information, we'll get you all fixed up so that you can do this. It's simple, it's achievable, it's not going to take a lot of time. You don't have to have a seminary degree, you don't have to have a perfect marriage. You have to have a desire to see people's marriages built around the Word of God. You have to have a little bit of time in your schedule, and I know most people say, "Well, that's it. We don't have time in our schedule." Yes, you do. You have time for what's important to you. Call us – 1-800-FLTODAY is the number. That's 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY or go online at FamilyLife.com. There is information there. Just say, "I want to join up with Tazewell and Bonita and the rest of the soldiers and get in the army."
Dennis: Let's go!
Bob: And I want to do some work in my community, in my church, in my neighborhood, and I want to see it built on the Word of God!
Dennis: Let's go!
Bob: All right! Here is what we're doing this month to try to make it – well, to encourage enlistment. All of our Homebuilder study guides are available at a discounted price for the rest of the month, and I think it's a significant discount, too. Go to our website, FamilyLife.com, or call us at 1-800-FLTODAY for more information. We want these groups to take off in communities all around the country, and we're doing whatever we can to try to get these study guides into as many hands as possible. So, again, go to the Web, FamilyLife.com, or call 1-800-FLTODAY and enlist in this 2 Timothy 2:2 battalion and do what Tazewell and Bonita have done and get Homebuilders groups started first in your home, in your community, in your neighborhood, and then get some other folks stirred up, and let's see if we can get a movement going here of Homebuilders, all right?
And let me encourage you, too, when you do get in touch with us, if there is any way you can help us with a donation during the month of August, we are asking our listeners to do what you can to pitch in and try and help us end our fiscal year in a healthy spot. We are right about 18 percent behind where we had hoped to be by this time in the year, and we've got just a few days left in the fiscal year. It ends August 31st, so if you can make a donation of any amount during the month of August, we would really appreciate it.
In fact, we've had listeners calling in challenging other listeners to do the same in our challenge fund. We've had folks who listen in different parts of the country, those of you who listen in the Washington, D.C. area on WAVA. We've heard from a number of you challenging other listeners in your area to get on board. We've heard from folks in California, San Francisco, Los Angeles, who have called to say, "We want to challenge folks who live in our part of the country to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today." We've heard from different professional groups, different family groups. We appreciate your support. We're hoping that other listeners will take up the challenge, call in, make a donation, and if you want to issue a challenge of your own, we'd love to have you do that.
You can donate online at FamilyLife.com, or you can call 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation. We appreciate your financial support of this ministry, and we hope between now and the end of August we can hear from you, if there is any way you can help we would appreciate you getting in touch with us.
Tomorrow we want to hear from a couple who – well, they've got an amazing story. They wound up in a Homebuilders group almost by surprise, and God used it in a pretty powerful way in their marriage and in their lives. We'll introduce you to Michael and Mary Murray on tomorrow's program. I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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