Written by S.J. Duca. Originally published in Family Foundations.
Part 1 of a 2 Part Series.
A parent’s impact reverberates for generations. In three interviews across three states, I heard
testimonies as to what a difference it makes when parents share with their children about the goodness of life and Natural Family Planning (NFP). These stories bring hope, offering a glimpse into how younger generations are taking to heart the example of those who came before them, and taking up the call to build a culture of life today.
Bobby and Danielle
The youngest of four children, Bobby Van Horn grew up watching his parents teach NFP and attending Couple to Couple League (CCL) gatherings in Houston, but he never imagined himself teaching. Today, he and his wife Danielle are walking in his parent’s footsteps, having taught 380 couples over the past eight years.
Bobby and Danielle’s unexpected journey to teaching NFP started with a simple email, about a weekend training, that they received two years into marriage. Seeing the need for teachers in their Denver diocese and realizing how foundational NFP is for marriage, they felt a stirring to answer the call. “But we were also terrified,” Danielle added.
While Bobby grew up in a home where NFP might be a normal dinner topic, Danielle learned about it at college, at a Humanae Vitae women’s study. Participating in the Catholic community there, she saw firsthand a difference in the women she met who lived the Church’s teachings on sexuality; they were so full of joy.
“NFP helps women hear about the beauty of their bodies and how they can understand their bodies — it’s something God has given us to understand,” said Danielle. “Once we recognize how wonderfully our bodies are made, it’s empowering.”
As Bobby and Danielle entered into marriage, they experienced a fruitfulness from practicing NFP together that flowed into all areas of their family life. “One of the biggest gifts of marriage is being able to participate in life through the marital act,” described Bobby. “Allowing God to enter into that transforms other gifts He gives us. It allows us to place all in His hands and cooperate with His will in all aspects of our lives.”
So, when the email came, Bobby and Danielle knew it was a call to answer. Thanks to the support and mentorship of Bobby’s parents and other CCL mentors, the two now have more experience in public speaking, class management, and the sympto-thermal method than they ever could have imagined.
“I wouldn’t have told you we were the ideal couple to teach, it’s something we grew into,” shared Danielle. “Initially chart reviews were challenging, to talk about something so sensitive in an
authentic way, and also to gently challenge couples. Now I finish a review and can’t believe I was able to articulate that! To explain how abstinence is important before marriage and feel like it was a meaningful conversation — I would never have thought eight years ago that I could do that.”
Since their diocese requires all couples preparing for marriage to take an NFP course, Bobby and Danielle meet couples from all walks of life when they teach. Besides describing their personal growth from teaching, they shared that they’ve seen NFP classes change others.
“God has called each of them there for a reason, and desires each of them to understand and embrace the truth of NFP,” reflected Danielle. “That’s so powerful. We’re constantly surprised by who ends up there and the transformation they go through.”
Bobby and Danielle have also been struck by how the future children of those they teach may someday be their own children’s neighbors, schoolmates, friends. Seeds of truth planted by teaching a single course may grow for generations!
With strong support from CCL and their diocese, Bobby and Danielle feel encouraged to continue teaching, but also see a need for more young couples to take up the call. They’re currently planning a diocesan picnic to invite couples deeper into the NFP community.
“I wonder if some couples just feel it’s intimidating,” said Danielle. “But you learn, and the Holy Spirit works through you if you give it a try. If you allow God to enter into the gifts He’s given you, it transforms your life, even your relationship with your kids. You’re going to be excited to teach them about these issues and form them in the dignity of their bodies. It’s all so intertwined.”
Certainly one reason it’s on their heart to invite a new generation into the mission of sharing NFP is Bobby and Danielle’s gratitude to those — like Bobby’s parents — who supported them in taking up the teaching call.
Do they anticipate making it to seventeen years of teaching NFP, like Bobby’s parents? Bobby is optimistic: “I think so!”
Read Part II of this series here.