The Brandts

The first of a new series about unique ministries conducted by members of CMDA, this article explains how one medical couple uses their home and property to strengthen marriages (medical :and non-medical). They believe that their “program" and its principles are transferable, and hope that other mature couples with the time, energy and resources will join them in addressing this crucial need among their colleagues, in the church and beyond.

Since 1996 Robb Brandt, M.D., and his wife, Ruth, have invited four guest couples at a time to their home in Beaver Falls, Pa., for weekends of encouragement, discipling, refocusing and fun. Thus far, they've hosted approximately a hundred guests, including a number of medical and dental couples...and they're planning for more.

"The concept of Family Fitness Retreat was born one day," Dr. Brandt explained, "while I was climbing the hill behind our house. Gasping for air at the top, I scolded myself Wow, are you out of shape! After catching my breath at a favorite quiet-time spot, my prayer-thoughts included some struggling young Christian families, medical and otherwise, that seemed too weak and unprepared to climb the steep hills of their lives. Like me climbing that hill, they needed to get in better shape. But I knew that many of these couples felt that even with two paychecks, They still couldn't, or wouldn't, afford a weekend family seminar, not to mention adding the cost of childcare."

Next, the surgeon, a member of CMDA since 1956, asked himself what he and his wife could do to address this need, "Our children were grown,” he said, "and looking down on our home I thought of their empty bedrooms. I pondered all the planning, prayer and energy we had put into parenting. Could we share some of the ideas we used with our own children? I wondered. Maybe young couples would come to a free weekend away from their cute little noisemakers and other distractions - to think, pray and plan about improving their family life."

The idea takes shape

"After discussion and prayer,” Dr Brandt said, "despite having no special training or skills, and knowing many could do it better, Ruth and I decided to go for it! We designed a simple weekend retreat we've christened, 'Family Fitness Retreats - Fit to Serve.'"

Having attended many family seminars through the years, the Brandts had collected a lot of books, videos, and other resources targeted for families. But they realized, as they tried to settle on a program, that in many instances the seminars had left them feeling flooded with great ideas, inspired and motivated, yet without sufficient time to discuss and assimilate the new ideas into time family situation. Upon returning home and resuming their hectic schedule, "Lots of great possibilities got poured down the drain," Dr. Brandt said, "We didn't want to sponsor something destined for failure because it overloaded participants with too much of s good thing all at once," he added.

After considering a variety of approaches, the Brandts settled on a "program" that they believe can be