This husband and wife who have been married 45 years in Royal Oak, Michigan, found renewed love and energy for their marriage after refreshing their faith in Jesus in a prayer group at their church.
Frank Petri's story
Seven years ago our thirty-eight-year marriage was under a great deal of stress. My health wasn't good, and I was so nervous about everything that I would stay awake half the night worrying. My spiritual life was strained. It wasn't joyful or peaceful and neither was I.
Today, my entire life has been changed. I've never been happier than I am now. My new life began when our pastor mentioned in one of his homilies that he might be starting a prayer meeting in our parish. After Mass I asked him to let me know if he did. I had read a little about the new prayer movement, and what I had read interested me. I was skeptical, but interested. Three weeks later, our pastor came up to me and said, "We're having a meeting tomorrow night. Come and join us." I was surprised that he had moved so quickly, but my wife Ernestine and I went.
It was just a small meeting, four or five people, but that was the beginning, We didn't immediately feel at home there, either. We both thought that maybe it was too far out for us. In fact, when we left that first meeting, we really weren't interested in returning. We were raised in a very conservative era, and God always seemed fairly distant from us. He was King, and we were down here. He was real and cared for us, but we couldn't get too close to him. We just weren't raised with the expectation that we could know God personally. Our training said that you didn't talk in church. You didn't really express closeness with even your own brothers and sisters, so we didn't hug other people or show our emotions very much. Our culture was against it, so we weren't really at home with the attitude of the prayer meeting. To see people praying in tongues, praising God out loud. talking to him personally, raising their hands in prayer, and hugging one another was really foreign to us. But something drew us back.
When the next week rolled around, we said, "Let's try it just once more." And when we went back, we realized why we had returned. It was the faith of the young people there, with their sharings and obvious dedication to God. It just impressed us no end. I said to my wife, "There must be something good here. Young people, any people, don't do all this, unless something good is happening." So we kept going back. And every time we went, we seemed to draw closer to Jesus.
I was finally prayed with to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, but I was honestly disappointed. I had come to expect a lot, but I didn't feel anything. I knew that for some people it had been a tremendous experience, but it seemed as though nothing had happened to me. A week later, in the middle of the night, I woke up crying like a baby and couldn't stop. It just poured out of me. I was really alarmed. I woke up Ernestine and said to her, "What's wrong with me? I've never done this before in my life! Something's wrong, I can't stop crying!" She said, "The Holy Spirit is touching you. I'm sure of it. " And she prayed for me, and I prayed.
On that night, I felt a release of all this tension, of deep hurts from the past. All the pain I had experienced in our relationship as husband and wife, as well as hurts from my whole life, came back to me, and I was freed. I had been holding everything inside, and I couldn't forgive. So often, I thought that I was right and the other person was wrong. Now I realized that I had a hostility in me, all this sin in me, and that I was being set free. God just took it all away. It was extraordinary and beautiful.
From that night on there has been a total change in my life. Not all the changes have been abrupt, but they all stemmed from that night. I am so much happier now. God doesn't seem like a dictator to me anymore. He's a loving father, and Jesus is a wonderful brother who I can share all my troubles with. He loves me and really helps me.
I used to be afraid to turn to God. It meant I had to go before the King, and I'd have to be in just the right mood. Now, no matter what, I can go to my Father. I can go to my Brother. I can ask him to forgive me and he does. Before, when I tried to pray, worries and anxieties would rush into my mind. Now I can leave them to Jesus. God has changed me physically, spiritually, and emotionally.
Today, at seventy-one years of age, I feel better than I did fifteen years ago. My relationship with Ernestine is so much deeper. We used to love each other, but it wasn't a total, sharing love. I would never think of taking Ernestine's hand at the table and holding it, for instance. We just didn't relate that way. Now we hold hands a Iot. We really love each other and aren't afraid to show it. We still have misunderstandings, but Jesus shows us how to work them out. At this point in our lives we have a better marriage than seven or seventeen or twenty-seven years ago. It seems incredible, but it's true. Life used to be a terrific strain. Now, after all these years, it's a joy to be alive. God is so good.
Frank Petri (71 years old when he wrote this in 1979)
Married to Ernestine for 45 years; six children.
Royal Oak, Michigan
Ernestine Petri's story
I was born in Austria. My mother was a governess; my father died when I was young. In 1916, we had to move to Hungary, where there was food, but in 1919, when they had a revolution, we left for England because my mother was English. Later we emigrated to Canada, where I met Frank. We were married during the Great Depression. Our first baby died, and the next year I had a tubular pregnancy and had to be operated on after only four months. All through these turbulent years, I knew that God was there. I always tried to do his will, but there was always something missing. No matter how hard I tried, life remained incomplete. Just seven years ago, our pastor talked about a new prayer meeting at church, and Frank and I were curious. I remember thinking, "That 'something’ is still missing, so I might as well find out about this.”
At that first meeting, though, I really questioned why I was there. We weren’t at all used to praising God that openly, yet, because of my sense of incompleteness, I still felt that the Lord might be leading me to the prayer meetings. So we continued to attend. Each week, something would draw us back, though I still felt uncomfortable. That's why I encourage people now to have patience. I tell them how hesitant I was at first.
Then one night, I knew why I was there. My whole relationship with God started to change. I began to understand what Jesus had done for me. For the first time ever, I understood what it meant that he took all of my sins into himself and destroyed their power to kill me. I knew that I had simply to accept that gift. I had never really understood what it meant that Jesus saved me. And now I really do. Before, God seemed so far away. I loved and adored him and knew that he loved me. But I didn’t experience the intimacy with God that I felt after I was baptized in the Holy Spirit.
Seven years ago, God still seemed far away. Now I know that God is right here within me. That was the gap, you see. That was the “something” that was always missing -- that intimate relationship, that real closeness that makes God my best friend and companion, as well as my God. I've found what I was missing. It was in Jesus. All the time. I've experienced his closeness so powerfully at times that it overwhelms me. After sixty-seven years, I can praise God and mean it, because the life I Iead comes from a heart that's really full.
Ernestine Petri (Aged 67 years when she wrote this in 1979).
Married to Frank for 45 years; six children.
Royal Oak, Michigan.