Sam was called to preach and minister full time in 1983. For ten years, he served as founder and director of an inner city Christian theater ministry. He also assisted his brother, David, in his evangelistic ministry during this time. The Christian theater outreach was an extremely time consuming and demanding ministry that yielded much fruit, but also much stress and pressure. Since funding was extremely scarce and we struggled to survive financially, God our provider used this season of our lives to prove to us we could literally trust Him for every need we had.
During this time, Jim Fuller, a former supervisor from Sam’s previous engineering job wholeheartedly embraced our ministry. He and his wife, Janet paid our way to a couple’s retreat in Gatlinburg. We vividly recall the refreshment of getting away and soaking in scriptural teaching on marriage. Between every session, we talked about what the truths meant to us and how we could better live them out. We had always been totally committed to our marriage and loved each other deeply, but this event profoundly affected our marriage and family life. What an opportunity to discuss serious topics and to plan our future while at the same time to deepen our love. We saw adjustments we needed to make that would ensure our marriage stayed centered around Christ. We never realized how the pressures of life and ministry had drained us. We were energized that weekend. Little did we know; God was sowing a passionate desire within our hearts to offer this hope to other couples.
Sam found himself drawn to scriptures on Christ centered marriage and family. When the Lord gave him opportunities to preach, these truths started forming the theme in his sermons. Sam developed a few teaching sessions on marriage and named them Celebration of Marriage because the Lord impressed him with Ecclesiastes 9:9 where He exhorts husbands to live joyfully with their wife every day of their life. The Lord opened doors for him to pour this passion and truth into the lives of couples at marriage conferences at several churches. Sam had been teaching adult Sunday school at the church we attended. It was as though the Lord was filling him with an urgency to point others to center their life and marriage on Christ. To this day, the more he studies, the stronger the urgency grows.
The compulsion to move in the direction of a ministry that would allow us to spread the family messages God was instilling in us became a reality as the Lord directed us to Charlotte, NC. Our boys were 4, 6, 8, and 10 years old. We explained what we sensed God was doing and told them we would be finding a home church in Charlotte but their dad would be traveling to minister in different churches. Our theme verse became Deuteronomy 5:29; O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear me, and keep all my commandments always, that it might be well with them, and with their children forever! From this verse, the Lord gave us the mission to challenge families to build their relationships around such a deep abiding reverence for God that they would joyfully obey Him and thereby reap the benefit of generations of descendants who would love and honor Him. We told the boys our ministry would need a name that depicted our mission. During a family brainstorm session, each of us submitted names and voted. Family Fortress Ministries won the vote and was officially incorporated in Charlotte in 1993 as a nonprofit organization.