By Stori Long
Theologian Frederich Buechner said that vocation “is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” For two Baylor alumni, this has proven to be all too true.
Husband and wife team Brandon and Elizabeth Oates have combined their mutual heart and passion for ministering to those who come from broken homes to create Project Restoration, a ministry created and maintained by the couple.
“Brandon and I got the idea when he and I went on a 24-hour retreat, just the two of us, and just prayed about what God wanted from us,” Elizabeth said. “The idea behind the whole ministry is that just because you’ve had some hard issues in the past doesn’t mean you can’t have a functional future.”
The couple, who married in 2001, designed the ministry to help people of all ages who are affected by problems arising from a dysfunctional family background. They created a website to further the ministry, which includes the testimonies of the couple, a list of speaking topics and speaking events. It also has resources such as a six-week study for teenagers written by Elizabeth called “Dealing with Divorce.”
“There is so much divorce recovery resources for adult, and even young children, and so little for teenagers,” Elizabeth said. “I thought that someone needed to speak up for them.”
Elizabeth and Brandon also teach a class for engaged and newlywed couples through Legacy Family Ministries. The class is held at Harris Creek Baptist Church in McGregor, where the couple continually sees the impact of coming from a broken home.
“We see so many young couples who come from broken homes and they have so many questions like ‘Am I doomed to get a divorce?’ or ‘Do I have to go down the same path my parents did?’” Elizabeth said.
Brandon echoes the desire to help young couples dealing with these questions.
“A lot of these couples are dealing with unfortunate circumstances, but it’s stuff that can usually be fixed. But it’s stuff that if it doesn’t get fixed, it only gets worse,” Brandon said. “It takes time, patience, the Lord and a Christ-centered relationship.”
Much of the inspiration for the couple’s ministry came from their own lives and their own marriage. Brandon and Elizabeth met at Baylor, but the two came from very different family backgrounds.
“We both came into marriage with very different ideas,” Brandon said. “Elizabeth’s parents were divorced and mine were married for 37 years. She came into marriage having seen the brokenness and I came in never seeing the problems. This made the first year very difficult.”
The differing expectations the two held created tension in the first years of marriage. However, when the two started speaking to other couples, they came to realize this was a common problem in marriage and they were not alone in these issues.
Elizabeth also does numerous speaking engagements on family and marriage issues and she and Brandon both serve as life group leaders at Harris Creek. Elizabeth also writes a monthly column for Waco Today on faith and family issues.
“Elizabeth is very driven and extremely intelligent. She’s the type of person who can seemingly do anything,” Meredith Miars, a member of Harris Creek, said. “She’s just so passionate and so compassionate about the young couples she counsels.”
Brandon shares this admiration for his wife and her devotion to ministering through her writing.
“I am more involved in the marriage counseling,” Brandon said. “She has a more active role in the ministry, but I’m definitely her number one fan.”
At the core of Elizabeth and Brandon’s ministry is the desire to show those they reach that there is always a second chance.
“We want all people of all ages to know that God is a God of restoration,” Elizabeth said. “He makes beauty from ashes.”
Anyone interested in Brandon and Elizabeth’s ministry can visit www.projectrestorationministry.org for more information.