Husband, wife have coached nearly 20,000 couples. Now, another couple will take over.

Lavern and Ronda Nissley passing Springfield relationship center’s leadership to David and Theresa Mabry.

In 1990, Lavern and Ronda Nissley attended a marriage conference; their lives were changed, and a spark was ignited.

With a desire to share what they had learned with other couples, the Nissleys founded the Marriage Resource Center (MRC) in 2004.

Now known as the Encompass Connection Center (ECC), the Nissleys have coached upwards of 20,000 couples, but the time has come for change: beginning in June, David Mabry will serve as executive director of ECC, while Theresa Mabry will serve as co-director.

“Ronda and I have had incredible fulfillment,” said Lavern Nissley. “When we put the gifts that God has given us together, there is a synergy there that is incredibly fulfilling. We love to work together.”

Lavern Nissley said it is time to hand the baton to a younger couple to be able to bring new and fresh ideas from their background and experience.

“We will continue to stay involved in this realm until we die,” he said. “We want to keep doing this the rest of our lives in terms of making a difference in relationships, but that can take a variety of forms.”

Theresa Mabry has been shadowing the Nissleys throughout this month, and her husband will come on board June 3. The Nissleys will continue in a supporting role through June before stepping away at the end of the month.

“We will continue with everything as is, though there may be some development that takes place within each program,” said Theresa Mabry. “If we can add to it, we will, but mostly we are going to continue the same set of services.”

ECC strives to inspire and equip relationships to thrive using timeless values and skills. The organization offers training, support and classes to couples and families.

The Nissleys — who have been married 45 years — said what has been most valuable is watching transformation “right in front of our eyes.”

“You see what can happen when couples go from being prickly, to walking side-by-side, connected. We want to see that continue,” said Lavern Nissley.

At the start, ECC offered in-person classes known as The RINGS Experience. However, at the start of the COVID pandemic in 2020, RINGS was “forced” to change format.

“We quickly put together a virtual course with all videos and teachings,” said Lavern Nissley.

The virtual format became a permanent part of the RINGS experience, allowing the ECC to reach couples and families around the world.

“It’s quite different but has given us a lot more traction,” said Lavern Nissley. “COVID really was a blessing because it forced us to learn technology like Zoom.”

ECC is currently coaching a pastor couple in Kenya who wants to bring the training to pastors in their network of churches.

Founders of One Another Marriage, a non-profit in Columbus, the Mabrys have worked with couples, families and organizations to achieve healthy and vitalized relationships using proven tools and skills. David Mabry also worked with ECC from 2006 to 2008 before the couple moved to Columbus.

“We are grateful for the opportunity to return to Encompass Connection Center to continue this work in such a strong and vibrant organization,” said David Mabry.

Theresa Mabry said she is excited to be back in the Springfield area and community, and she is looking forward to reconnecting with people and getting to know the partners that Lavern and Ronda have within ECC.

“This is a lot, but they have done a great job being organized and helping us get our arms wrapped around what we can before they step away,” she said. “We look forward to being able to call them up and continuing the mentoring relationship.”

David Mabry said healthy marriages and families are particularly important for a healthy community and society at large. The Mabrys will celebrate 31 years of marriage in June.

“Having an organization in the community that is focused upon healthy and vibrant relationships is critical for solid societal foundations,” he said.

Lavern Nissley said this transition is not about “Lavern and Ronda” but it is about a cause.

“It’s a metaphor — like a book — it is time to turn the page,” he said. “The Lavern and Ronda chapter has passed, but the David and Theresa chapter is starting. Ultimately, it is about healthy relationships; that’s the thing that ties this all together. This cause can continue. Keep reading the book.”

About the Author