Episode 1 | Van & Debbie
September 16, 2022


“We were asking for our marriage to be restored, and it is not restored…it is brand new.” - Van McNeece

 

Debbie and Van were married in 1998, and even though they had each grown up going to church, the first nine years of their marriage were not built on a spiritual foundation in Christ. In fact, they never spoke of God or the Bible, never prayed together, and only occasionally even attended church. Material wealth became their primary measure for success in life, yet even when each of them landed a “dream job” and achieved financial success, they were miserable and unfulfilled.

By the summer of 2007, Van and Debbie’s marriage was all but over. Debbie moved out. Her therapist advised her to file for divorce.

Then, one day, Van opened his mailbox to find an invitation to a new message series from Hillside Christian Church. That series was “Sex, Dating, and Marriage: According to God’s Plan.” The timing caused them to wonder if perhaps this was a sign from God. Could it be possible that God could rescue their marriage from the brink of divorce? Could God’s plan actually give them some hope for a future together?

They decided to come to Hillside for the six weeks of the series. If by the end of the series things weren’t better, they would proceed with getting a divorce.

“We walked into the auditorium,” Debbie remembers, “which just seemed like the biggest leap of faith for us. The music started, and we looked at each other, and we just had tears streaming down our face. I remember thinking, ‘Maybe this is it. Maybe God is real. Maybe He is in this place.’ It was almost as if a valve had been released.”

Van says, “I remember we left [church that day], and we were holding hands. I was crazy excited, but I was trying to hold it all in, because I was not quite sure how Debbie felt about everything. I [prayed], ‘Lord, please let her feel like I feel about what I just experienced.”

Van looked Debbie right in the eye and asked her what she thought. With tears in her eyes, Debbie responded, “I loved it.”

Van recalls, “It was like pouring cool water on a hot fire, and you could actually feel some relief…and that we weren’t alone.”

“Before we started coming to church – [before we were] challenged by the Word of God – we didn’t have positive things to talk about. We always [only] talked about our problems, and what each other did wrong.”

“[The teaching] caused me to see my own sin and my own failures as a good leader, not just in my marriage but in my life. It reminded me of who I really am. I had never heard anyone teach the Bible that way. I had never heard suggestions on how to apply it in my own life…to take the Word of God and stitch it into my life and teach me how to live as a human being in a better way. It gave me new eyes to see my bride and my kids.

“When we would leave [church], we would have things to talk about that were positive, that were good, and that produced fruit. It caused us to start having conversations about Jesus, about God, about all these things that we never talked about before.”

“We had to have really hard conversations,” Debbie says. “It’s not like you can pretend like the last eight or nine months didn’t happen. We had to really work through that, and we were able to walk through that with a lot more grace than we could have before.”

That six week message series was the beginning of God remaking Van and Debbie’s marriage, and it was the beginning of God rewriting the legacy of their family. Debbie gave her life to Jesus Christ later that year, and she was baptized in January 2008. Van’s daughter Samantha also gave her life to Christ. A short time later, God blessed the McNeeces with a son, Noah, and he later gave his life to Jesus and was baptized as well.

“We were asking for our marriage to be restored, and it is not restored…it is brand new.”

 

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” - 2 Cor. 5:17