PLANT CITY — Following his teachings on the sanctity of marriage, Pastor Brian Stowe of First Baptist Church in Plant City, along with his church and community, threw the wedding of a lifetime for four happy couples.
After finding donations of wedding dresses and suits, shoes, jewelry, food and wedding cakes, the congregation also decorated the church’s worship center for the ceremony and the fellowship hall for the reception for the couples’ family and friends.The road to the altar was a journey in grace.
Prior to the summer nuptials, Stowe preached a series called “Engaged,” in which he conveyed the importance of being engaged to God in your walls (home), in these walls (church), and outside these walls (Great Commission). Noting that “we knew we had folks living together,” Stowe said he “felt compelled to address” the situation and provide “a solution.”
Stowe had heard that First Baptist Church in Orlando had held a similar community service and was inspired to follow that example.
He talked with the couples, referencing scripture, and spoke of the importance of marriage. He shared with them that Christians receive God’s blessing by following His Word.
“We challenged them with what they needed to do, making it clear we’d cover everything,” Stowe said.
There were three stipulations for the couples. They must be believers, which allowed for another obedience opportunity, be serious and understand a lifetime commitment, and attend three premarital counseling sessions.
Stowe’s administrative assistant, Susan Venning, was tasked with getting donations from the congregation and services from community vendors. No one said no, she reported, and some businesses called the church to help, having heard the buzz around town.
Venning added, “Each bride was able to ‘shop’ for her dress and learn its history. They enjoyed individual, decorated bridal suites, hair and makeup talent and refreshments in a space where family and friends could join.”
The couples were overjoyed by the generosity demonstrated by the pastor and congregation.
April and Rob Brooks had decided to be wed in the courthouse when “this opportunity to be married in the eyes of our Lord was bestowed on us,” said April. “What a testament to God’s perfect timing.”
“We are eternally grateful for the remarkable people in the church, community, and Pastor Brian for making this beautiful blessing a reality,” she added.
A year ago, Ruth and Isaiah Edwards came to the church “very broken and hurt,” she said, “Not only did the church help with our healing, they gave us this incredible gift–an opportunity to get in line with God and His plan for us.”
“They opened their hearts, welcomed us, and prayed with and for us,” she added. “We thank God we found a place to worship that loves us where we are at, while showing us His truth with Love.”
Nina and Ryan Pertel believe that “God blessed the broken road that lead me straight to you,” she said as she quoted the words to the song. “We are so happy and thankful for our church helping to complete our journey. We are blessed to have such a wonderful church family and a great pastor. God is good all the time.”
Stowe said the weddings set a great example for the community as well as a “great time of affirmation for our church, to love on these folks and celebrate obeying the Lord. It’s a theme I keep coming back to.”
“There’s nothing better than obeying the Lord.”