Diocese of Portsmouth

    Jesus saved our failing marriage

    Faith stories
    23 Jan. 2014

    It was a difficult route that brought Les and Terry Roper to God. Through 13 years and four countries their marriage stumbled and faltered. They argued, bickered, split up and reunited. But on the brink of divorce they both found faith, and are now helping others find the peace and love they have enjoyed.

    With their own troubled path as inspiration Les, 55, and Terry, 61, from Southsea, are keen to tell others the good news. “I know now what God can do,” said Terry. “I know so many broken-hearted people and I know Jesus is the answer.”

    The couple married in 1976 after a whirlwind romance in Germany, where Les was stationed as an army police officer. They were blessed with sons Craig, now 34, and Tom, now 29, but moved frequently with Les’ work – living in 12 different homes in the first 13 years of marriage.

    They were stationed in England, Hong Kong, Germany and Northern Ireland. But by 1988 Les had left the army and the family were living in Durrington, near Salisbury. Their rocky relationship stumbled on, despite a veneer of perfection. Terry said: “We used to walk around the village holding hands and people would say we had such a lovely relationship. They didn’t know what was going on.”

    A year later Les jumped at the chance to work as a Ministry of Defence police officer – but decided he would be better off alone. He told Terry he would be moving out of the family home. She was distraught and found herself turning to God. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Terry. “But I think God was at work even then. For some reason I went to church. I just put on a dress and went one Sunday morning. I don’t really know why I went. I sat at the back and cried. I started to go to church and it was like the vicar knew my business. He was talking about marriage and divorce, about love.”

    Three weeks later Les left the family home. Terry continued to attend church and became friends with a Christian neighbour called Helen. One day, feeling wretched and lost, Terry sat in her living room and cried – asking God for assistance. She said: “I was sitting in my living room and thinking how awful my life was. I was feeling very depressed. I said: ‘God, help me’. I had this overwhelming sense of love and connection. It felt like the room was filled up with cotton wool. I didn’t know what was happening but I felt filled through with love. I went from hysterical crying to feeling absolutely wonderful. After 20 minutes I went to see Helen. She said: ‘You’ve been touched by God. You’re really blessed ’.”

    Les wrote a letter to Terry telling her their marriage was over and she started divorce proceedings. But one day Terry sought comfort from her vicar – who offered to pray for her. She said: “I told him a bit about what was going on and he prayed over me. I had another experience with God. I felt it from my feet to the top of my head. I felt absolutely wonderful and I knew I would never be the same again. It was like a huge weight was lifted off me. Then the vicar suggested I write to Les and I did. It was just three words: ‘Can we meet?’”

    “It was a very weird letter and very out of character,” said Les. “I rang Terry straight away and we agreed to meet.”

    Terry said: “We went to the pub. I remember saying to him it will be all right. I didn’t have any animosity any more. I never talked to Les about Jesus, but everyday I used to pray for him to be filled with Holy Spirit.”

    Les started visiting the family home and – little by little – the couple started to rebuild their relationship. Terry decided not to press for a divorce. And eventually Les decided to come to church too. Les said: “I thought that I wanted to see what Terry had got. We went to a party hosted by Terry’s Christian friends. There was no drink there. Just old fashioned party games and good fun. And I really enjoyed myself. I started attending a Bible study group and I enjoyed it.

    "Looking back there was something happening spiritually. We had an evangelism study on how to share your faith. We were told that before you share your faith, you have to be right with God yourself. We were told to write all our sins on a piece of paper and to write over it a verse from the Bible – 1 John 1, verse 9, and then burn the paper.

    "I felt guilty because of all the things I had done in the past. When I did it, I felt a release. The next time I saw Terry I told her I had been forgiven, God had forgiven me. My faith developed from there. I moved back in and God fixed our marriage.”

    That was in 1990. With Jesus at the centre of their relationship, the Ropers have enjoyed the past 22 years of married life. In 2009 the pair moved to Southsea and are now part of the congregation at St Jude’s. Les is a house group co-ordinator, Terry is part of the welcome team and they are both involved in the church’s Alpha programme.

    Terry said: “I think God completely changed me. Now I can allow God to flow through me to other people. I’m now more outward focused and God flows through me in how I deal with people.” Les said: “God has been good to us and we want to show and tell other people what God has done in our lives. Our story is quite a long story. I use it to give people a flavour of what God can do in your life if you let him in. For people with damaged relationships, there is hope.”