If you go
› What: Marriage seminar featuring Rick and Cindy Mercer.
› When: 7-8 p.m. Friday (with light refreshments), 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday (with Greek-themed lunch at noon).
› Where: Hixson Seventh-day Adventist Church, 6424 Hixson Pike.
› Admission: Free, but space is limited, so call to register.
› Phone: 423-544-4382.
Whether you're single, dating, engaged or married, there's always room for improvement in relationships.
Rick and Cindy Mercer, who have been married for 20 years and currently serve in the Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, are living proof of this concept and will share their story as they lead a marriage seminar at Hixson Seventh-day Adventist Church this weekend.
The seminar is free and open to all members of the community who can benefit from the experience, regardless of relationship status, according to coordinator Sylvia Knoch, a member of the Hixson SDA church.
"The thing I say to people is, you're driving your car. And in your car you're always making sure you have oil and it's tuned up because it's your mode of transportation," Knoch says. "But what do we do for our marriages? It's often the last thing that we think about to work on when it should be the first thing."
Cindy Mercer says she and Rick share a "miracle story" in which Cindy, a registered nurse, felt called to pray and fast for her husband, a certified public accountant, in 2003. Rick was living a life full of parties, drugs, alcohol and pornography and would sometimes stay away from home all night without Cindy knowing where he was.
"I just didn't know if I had the perseverance, and I didn't know if I was willing to have that sacrifice to stick in there, because life was very hard with him," Cindy says. "I didn't know if I had any energy left from this."
Cindy says that she felt God beginning to change her, and eventually Rick, through prayer, which she calls the "secret ingredient" for enriching marriages and relationships. The Mercers were later baptized in 2004 and joined the Carolina Conference in 2014, and they have since mentored several people and been part of over 40 marriage and prayer seminars.
"So many people really do not realize the power that's in prayer. They don't realize that they are one prayer away from a miracle in most situations," Cindy says. "We just want to encourage and tell people that there is hope for any situation, and it does not matter what you're going through or what you've been through."
Since initially praying together for the first time in 2003, six years into their marriage, Cindy says her and her husband "do not let a day go by" without prayer.
"We believe it's definitely been the glue that has held us together and kept us connected," Cindy says. "It's a non-negotiable for a couple who's wanting to have victory in their marriage."
Knoch says she has helped set up marriage seminars at the church since 2015, after she and her husband, Dan, attended the Georgia-Cumberland Conference of Seventh-day Adventists annually for several years. Ideally, she says, attendees would be able to spend time in another quiet location for the weekend, but she realized that was not a real option for many adults, especially those with children.
"Everybody should have an opportunity to come to these conferences because it's amazing what you learn," Knoch says. "[Marriage seminars] can get expensive and everybody can't afford them, so I was telling my husband it would really be good if we could bring this back to our local church and just open it up to the community, because there are so many people that could benefit from this information."
The Mercers reside in North Carolina, where Rick is a pastor and Cindy is the prayer and women's ministries director for the Carolina Conference. They have four sons and work alongside each other in full-time ministry.
They will share their full story during the seminar's three sessions. The first, on Friday night, will be "It Happened Because of Prayer." The next two sessions, titled "The Power of Intercessory Prayer" and "Ingredients for a Healthy Marriage," will be held Saturday morning and afternoon.
"It's never too late, and often people don't know where to turn to or where to get help, and unfortunately they sometimes get wrong advice, so this is going to be a wonderful, beautiful program," Knoch says.
Space is limited, so those interested in attending should RSVP. Limited child care will be provided, but parents are encouraged to make other arrangements before arriving. Each couple will also receive a special gift, according to Knoch.
As for what attendees should bring, Cindy says they should "come as they are."
"Bring your heart and willingness to have an open heart," she says. "Expect a miracle. Bring an expectation that God's going to change your situation."