Newlyweds and new Christians Clint and Penny Bragg were the darlings of their small church. She was on the worship team and the deacon board of missions. He led discipleship training. They taught Sunday school classes together and separately, helped organize the singles' group, and directed vacation Bible school. All while Clint juggled a job as area manager for a glass business and Penny completed her bachelor's degree and teaching credentials.
"We didn't know how to say no," Clint admits.
Yet despite the hectic schedule, their first year of marriage flew by without a hitch. On the surface, they seemed to thrive on the busyness. They didn't realize the marriage-building time they needed was being eaten up by the whirl of spiritual activity.
"It felt like God was blessing all our plans," Clint recalls. "But instead of going with or beside God, we were running ahead and asking him to catch up."
"We didn't have the spiritual roots of a strong, long-term Christian," Penny agrees. "We were still on the emotional high, very goal-driven."
The first cracks
A two-week mission trip to Haiti in August 1990, a month shy of their first anniversary, began the first cracks in their seemingly solid relationship. Having spent two military tours in Vietnam, Clint was familiar with the harsh conditions of a third-world country. But Penny's sheltered life hadn't prepared her for the extreme poverty and suffering she witnessed. Suddenly her faith wasn't providing the security and answers she depended on.