It’s deep without being intense. Low-key and high-impact. Royal treatment while drawing closer to eternity’s King. Glen Eyrie’s Marriage GetAway retreats have been helping couples walk in true love for 25 years.
Building the Fire
When Hal and Dee Denney first considered spearheading a marriage retreat at Glen Eyrie in 1992, “Marriage GetAway” was a just concept with wide-open potential. Rather than create another intensive marriage program packed tight with assignments and workshops, the Denneys resolved to build a ministry based on one simple thing—reconnection.
Marriage GetAway (MGA) has always focused first on connecting with Jesus. Connect with the Designer, connect with the design.
“God created the marriage relationship,” Hal says. “It’s His thing. When two become one, a lot has to happen. We went through some hard times in our early years, but we learned and grew through that, and that was part of God’s preparation for us to effectively lead MGA.” Since the very beginning, MGA guests have enjoyed a weekend filled with meaningful personal touches—like being greeted by someone to carry their luggage, or finding roses and candy in their room—intentional blessings meant to bring couples together.
“These details got the couples interacting right away, preparing them for what was to come,” Hal says. “They’re wowed and excited and talking, which is what we want to see.”
What started with one couple at the first retreat grew to about a dozen couples on about a dozen weekends a year by the time the Denneys retired in 2005 (at age 75).
“In my 54 years on staff with The Navigators, those 13 years were my most enjoyable, memorable assignment,” Hal says. “When we went home those Sunday afternoons, we crashed. We were spent. But you know what? We would do it again and again and again. That’s what the Christian life really is, and in God’s design, that’s what ministry is. Spending and being spent for others.”
The Denneys’ love for the couples they have served is unmistakable. They are still in frequent touch with some of them.
“So many couples were very, very special to us,” Hal says.
Terry and Jean were one couple who became good friends to the Denneys, helping them at many MGAs.
“They were so grateful for all they had learned,” Hal says. “Terry and I were on the phone often, sharing the Word and praying together.”
David and Susan were another special couple. At their second MGA, David asked Hal to be his mentor. The two have had many encouraging phone calls since, often talking about David and Susan’s ministry in their community and church.
As the Denneys look back on more than a decade of ministry, and watch as MGA continues its mission a quarter-century later, the retreat’s generational impact is probably most exciting. “Couples went home and put what they learned at MGA into practice,” Dee says. “Some couples even started their own MGA program when they returned home.”
Keeping the Spark
Current MGA directors Terry and Leah Green took the reins in 2005, having attended their first Marriage GetAway in 2002 with the Denneys.
“Being asked to continue the ministry when the Denneys retired felt like the answer to a five-year prayer,” Terry says. “As we begin our 12th year in this ministry, we celebrate seeing marriages blessed as they come to a ‘different place’ with a ‘different pace’ to gain a different perspective.”
Under the Greens’ care, MGA has inspired several other marriage retreats at Glen Eyrie. Those various retreats together have served 1,155 couples since 2006.
“Many scholarships are given each year through the generosity of donors to our MGA scholarship fund,” Leah says. “We have not had to refuse anyone asking for financial assistance to attend MGA. We are so grateful!”
Kent and Nancy Dyer were young professionals building their careers when they married. A highly-structured marriage retreat in their first year had overwhelmed them.
“As two very independent people, we wondered if we would ever be able to work through the many issues that surfaced,” Nancy says. “We left discouraged, and subsequently stuffed our issues and just focused on what we had in common.”
Then, in 1995, the Dyers came to MGA.
“This experience was very different,” Kent says. “Instead of attending classes all day long with assignments to complete, we enjoyed ‘fireside chats’ each day with Hal, Dee, and several other couples.”
The rest of the time, they were free to explore hiking trails and connect with each other on the soul-stirring grounds of Glen Eyrie, far from the hectic life they left at home and work.
“We were encouraged to begin sharing our personal devotional life together as a way of building intimacy,” Kent says. “It was exciting to see couples who had been married for many years praying together for the first time!”
Since 1995, the Dyers have helped host about a dozen MGAs.
“We are convinced that the secret to a happy and fulfilling marriage is found in worshipping and serving the Lord together as a couple,” Nancy and Kent say. “We have used the principles learned at MGAs over the years to minister to internationals in Oklahoma, young married couples, and various Bible study groups in our church.”
Adventure Capital—A Worthy Investment
Beth and Rodney Blankenship have attended 15 Marriage GetAways, often serving the Greens as host helpers.
“MGA is so much a part of our life and marriage that things we’ve learned and discovered about ourselves and each other there come up weekly, if not daily,” Beth says. “We don’t have a perfect marriage by any means, but our trips to MGA have made it work better. Disputes don’t last as long, and we’ve learned to appreciate each other for the people we are.”
For Rodney, MGA is epic.
“When I come through the Glen Eyrie gate, I feel like King David coming home from war,” he says. “I am safe. I feel God’s presence. I go to my room, take off my armor, and rest. By Sunday, I am like James Bond, here to get my new assignment, and learning how to use new weapons in my Bible. MGA brings God back to the center of our marriage. We refocus on what’s important.”
Rodney says that’s a worthy investment.
“You invest in other areas of your life—your home, your retirement, your children and their education,” he says, “but what are you doing to invest in your marriage as your most important human relationship?”