by Jayna Richardson
Billy and Joy Thompson knew when they got married in 2009 that their life together would include traveling to teach and make disciples of all nations, specifically Ghana. But they didn’t know that God would begin to lay a burden on their hearts to minister to marriages. After multiple trips to Ghana to plant churches, train pastors, and participate in construction projects, Billy and Joy began to realize that many Ghanaians were hungry for relationship advice. Although some of the local churches had requested marriage help, Billy and Joy at first felt they weren’t ready because they hadn’t been married long themselves. But they would soon sense the Lord leading them to pursue the opportunity to build marriages and families.
During a trip to Ghana in 2016, the Thompsons spoke to a group of pastors and wives about being in ministry together and shared some of their own experiences. One pastor wasn’t able to bring his wife to the meeting, but he wanted her to hear the message. He brought her to Billy and Joy’s hotel room on their last night in Ghana and asked if they would share the information with them. The pastor’s wife seemed uninterested at first, but during an exercise in which Billy and Joy asked the couple to simply look into each other’s eyes for a full minute, something broke inside her and she began to cry. The couple embraced and confessed that they were on the brink of divorce. “God sent you two for us,” the wife kept saying.
“It was a turning point for them,” said Billy. “We only spent about fifteen minutes with them.” But those fifteen minutes made all the difference. This experience was a turning point for Billy and Joy too as they realized the great need for more marriage training in Ghana.
Back home in Tulsa, Billy and Joy found out FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® was coming to their city. They had been to a WTR in Dallas in 2010 just after they got married, and they felt they could use a tune-up. “While there, we kept thinking that this would be good to share in Ghana,” Billy said. So they got in touch with FamilyLife to see how they could make it happen. They learned about some video-based resources that were a possibility, but they quickly realized the lack of technology in Ghana would be a hindrance. “We finally realized we were going to have to wing this,” Billy said.
So that’s what they did. In spring of 2018, Billy and Joy went back to Ghana and turned their attention to couples in a village in the Volta region. They spent an entire day with twenty couples and a few singles from the village. There was no technology. There were no workbooks. With their WTR manuals in hand, Billy and Joy simply shared through a translator the scriptural principles they had learned in Tulsa. It was simple, but it was a big success. Couples expressed excitement and gratitude for what they were learning and begged the Thompsons to come back and do a longer event next time.
One pastor told them, “So many people are struggling, but we just don’t know how to advise them.” Couples in Ghana face the difficulties of living in a culture where sex is a taboo subject and where women’s opinions and roles are often undervalued, so they were hungry for biblical principles to help them navigate these and other marriage topics.
One highlight for Billy was seeing the pastor and wife who had visited their hotel room in 2016. They were still together and had made a point to sit on the front row at the marriage conference. Joy was encouraged by a couple that came to breakfast the morning after the event. They expressed their delight at the project Billy and Joy had assigned the couples for homework as a way to improve intimacy. “They were glowing and came in with a notepad at breakfast, asking for more,” said Joy.
Billy and Joy are already looking forward to next year’s trip. They’re hoping to do a three-day marriage conference in that same village in March. “We feel we had a greater impact with marriage ministry than with all of the other ministry activities,” said Billy. “If the family stuff isn’t together, it all falls apart.”
The Thompsons’ experience in Ghana shows that couples who want to minister to marriages don’t necessarily need a lot of specialized training or expertise. Sometimes all it takes is biblical tools and a willing heart to go where God leads.