Stephen Jackson had a broken back, a fractured skull and an unwavering faith in God.
Jackson was one of three Hall County firefighters who fell some 50 feet in a July 2014 training exercise involving an aerial ladder truck.
Following his stint in Grady Memorial Hospital and Northeast Georgia Medical Center, he and his wife, Misty Jackson, wondered what would come next for them.
Forever Marriage ConferenceWhere: Lakewood Baptist Church, 2235 Thompson Bridge Road, Gainesville
When: 5-11 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, 8 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27
How much: $130 per couple, $315 for a three-couple table
Register: forevermarriage.org/conference, registration ends Monday
“We both just really sensed that God had a specific plan and purpose for us, and we weren’t sure what it was. But we just committed together that no matter what it was ... we were going to live for God,” Jackson said.
In that time, they encountered friends, family and co-workers who were butting heads and spouses who were more like roommates.
“More often than not, it was ending in divorce and the destruction of the family,” he said.
The Jacksons later connected with Scott and Dawn Smith as well as Scott and Molly Legg, two couples already counseling other couples.
In January 2017, the three couples started Forever Ministries, a faith-based nonprofit that is host to date nights and an annual conference for couples. The first conference had 240 people.
“We are just trying to do everything we can to impact couples for Christ here locally. We want to see couples thrive,” Stephen Jackson said.
One of the common problems couples face is communication, an issue that can infect most aspects of a relationship.
“That just flows into so many other areas — into your finances, into conflict resolution, into intimacy, into everything,” Jackson said.
The conference is from 5 p.m. Friday, Jan. 26, to 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Lakewood Baptist Church at 2235 Thompson Bridge Road in Gainesville. Jackson and Scott Smith said they want couples to have a chance to be together and process the day’s lessons.
The University of North Georgia dance school will offer lessons, and participants will also find couples’ bingo, cornhole, fire pits and more.
“In Christ, as married couples, we’re better together than we are alone. That’s the key theme,” said Scott Smith, vice president of the ministries. “We’re going to break out of what that looks like practically, how God uses marriage to help us grow in all these aspects we’re talking about.”
In the ministry, Jackson and Smith said they hope to help couples who may be “spiritually immature,” where issues are exacerbated and festering.
“One thing we’re trying to do through Forever Ministries is disciple couples to spiritual maturity; that way, when they face those valleys, those hard times, those problems, they know how to resolve it. They know what to do in the valley, and they can come through the other side stronger,” Jackson said.
The conference is not just for couples who may feel at the end of their collective rope; those at all stages of their relationship are encouraged to attend.
Scott Smith said one session will focus on couples who have been together for 20 years or more, particularly those who have had kids fly from the nest.
“What they invested their time and energy in for 15, 20 years is now no longer their central focus, and they’re struggling to have purpose and meaning in marriage,” Scott Smith said.
The registration price is $130 per couple, with a three-couple table rate of $315.
Dinner, brunch and four sessions are on the itinerary for participants.