Sanford Herald Article

Marriage-focused ministry guides couples through hardship

SANFORD — Weddings are all the rage in the pop culture sphere lately, from a slew of wedding-centric TLC reality shows to Kim Kardashian’s extravagant “Fairytale Wedding” broadcast. But for all the effort that goes into planning the big day, it’s the marriage that follows that takes the most work.

And for Sanford residents Doug and Jodie Bullard, it’s worth every effort.

The Bullards launched ONE Flesh Marriage Ministries about 10 years ago in an effort to help struggling couples strengthen their marriages through faith. The ministry became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in 2010.

“The purpose of the ministry is to help other married couples,” Doug Bullard said. “We speak to them about the truth of God’s word and show them practical ways to apply that to their lives.”

ONE Flesh Marriage Ministry is a personal project for the Bullards, one that has worked with multiple churches throughout Lee and Wake counties. The services offered through the ministry include mentoring sessions for engaged, married and separated couples; discipleship training at local churches and yearly conferences, which include lodging, catered meals, worship and teaching sessions.

The ministry’s second yearly conference in 2011 drew 26 couples compared to 16 couples the first year. At this year’s conference March 30-April 1, the Bullards said they anticipate serving about 32 couples.

“Most of the couples we see are in crisis mode,” Jodie Bullard said. “For some, it’s a last-ditch effort. They’re just at a crossroads.”

The Bullards met in college through Jodie’s roommate, and the couple married in 1996.

“It was kind of a chance meeting,” Jodie said. “I said, totally flippant, He’s cute. I think I should marry him.’ It was a God-orchestrated time. The two of us probably wouldn’t have gotten together on our own.”

But like many of the couples they serve, the Bullards experienced a rough patch. Doug said 2001 was a pivotal year for the marriage, a time when the couple experienced some difficulties. But they decided to stick it out and turned to God to guide them. Jodie said the experience led them to realize they were too busy living for themselves to realize God’s intent for their lives and marriage.

“The strange but awesome thing about faith is it really is a muscle,” Doug said. “You’re trusting in what you can’t see, and when you get a hint of that first time God comes through for you, it strengthens that muscle. Faith builds the relationship.”

The Bullards said faith has played a crucial role in strengthening their own marriage, as well as their relationships with God and their four children, Madison, 12; Megan, 10; Malorie, 8; and Maguire, 5.

After overcoming their own obstacles that year, the Bullards said they were called to start their own marriage ministry, serving God through serving other couples. Jodie said based on feedback from those the ministry has served, it helps struggling couples to work with another couple who have experienced their own challenges, gaining two perspectives from one marriage.

“It’s the most important human relationship we have,” Doug said. “With some couples, you see a difference immediately, and some, it takes awhile. But people have been very forthcoming about how it changed their lives and their relationship with God.”

When they aren’t serving couples through ONE Flesh Marriage Ministry, Doug is an independent consultant in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry, and Jodie homschools their children.

In the future, the Bullards said they hope to operate ONE Flesh Marriage Ministry full time. Their primary goal, Jodie said, will always be to help others strengthen their relationships through opening their hearts to God.

“We’re just two people God called to share our lives,” Jodie said. “A marriage the way God designed it is worth the time and the sacrifice.”

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