In February 2013 Trisha and Danny Kennedy wanted to steal some time together alone, so they signed up for a Carnival cruise in the Gulf of Mexico. It was a much-needed and much-anticipated getaway for two weary parents who hadn’t traveled without kids in years.
On the fourth day of their cruise, a fire broke out in the engine room. The crew quickly extinguished the fire, but the accident disabled the ship’s primary power source. It also shut down the water and plumbing systems. You can imagine what kind of situation this would create for the 4000+ people aboard the ship! Many passengers had to sleep on the deck to avoid the stifling heat and stench of the cabins. Towboats arrived to help, but a snapped line and other issues further slowed the return to shore.
With the electricity out, Trisha and Danny had virtually no communication with worried loved ones back home in Houston, including their own children, who were with family & friends. Besides frustration over the lack of technology, they also faced boredom. Trisha recalls hours of just sitting and staring, passing time and trying not to be anxious. Still, the passengers and crew found ways to cope with the emergency situation, and after an extra five days on the ship, Trisha and Danny disembarked and were reunited with their family.
Like a ship adrift, marriage sometimes loses its power, with no direction, no purpose, and no certainty of rescue. Many couples feel it, but struggle to admit it. For Trisha and Danny, Faithwalking’s Missional Marriage workshops have provided a mooring for their marriage, a marriage that has weathered many storms.
Missional Marriage, offered four times per year, is a one-day workshop that helps couples deeply integrate Faithwalking principles into the fabric of their marriages. Trisha and Danny attended their first Missional Marriage workshop a little over three years ago. Having already gone through various levels of Faithwalking training and leading, they were soon recruited to the presenters’ team. Trisha in particular was reluctant to speak in public, but after several workshops she discovered that she and Danny really thrived as presenters. “During our first presentation we shared about how our vows had really messed up our marriage. The participants were struck by how honest and authentic we were, and our authenticity inspired others to open up.”
What comes naturally to Trisha and Danny is startling to many Missional Marriage participants, many of whom have never had a forum for being raw and real. Authenticity is a gift that the Kennedys bring to the conferences. It shows participants that authenticity can be developed for sharing in constructive and loving ways.
The fruits of Missional Marriage showed up during the cruise misfortune. Before boarding the ship, Trisha and Danny had written down guiding principles for their vacation. As a result of having communicated expectations with one another, they were able to manage their anxiety and connect with one another—and other passengers—during even the most stressful moments of the ship’s breakdown. One female passenger told them she never would have made it without their care. “Showing up to be your best self in the worst circumstances can be tiring,” Trisha admits. “You have to choose to love one another.” Because the Kennedys had implemented what they had learned and taught in Missional Marriage workshops, the cruise experience was not the nightmare that it was for many others.
The image of anxious days, unhappy conditions, and boredom on a crippled ship paint a cynical metaphor of a journey that is supposed to promise so much. But many couples have experienced that very sentiment in their marriages, and when they attend a Missional Marriage workshop they are surprised and relieved to hear that they are not alone, and that it is good and healthy to be honest about struggle. Trisha states, “Missional Marriage calls us to reflection. It gives us a chance to reflect on our own marriage and a chance to reflect with others and encourage them towards greater authenticity. We create a safe sharing environment for that.” Trisha and Danny have never cruised through an easy marriage but through Faithwalking and Missional Marriage they are learning to navigate it better.