Commitment. More romantic than flowers.

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February 06, 2019 By Amy Morgan

February is Valentine’s month, and our culture tells us romance should be in the air. For some, the holiday is a welcome occasion to celebrate with gifts, flowers or candlelight dinners. But do those traditional gestures really touch hearts, or do they just create unrealistic expectations?


And what about couples for whom Valentine’s Day triggers sadness or despair? If a marriage is going through a rough patch, a holiday touting the love that is lacking only adds pressure to an overstressed relationship. 

Carl Caton
Carl Caton, founder
of the San Antonio
Marriage Initiative (SAMI)

Carl Caton, the founder of the San Antonio Marriage Initiative (SAMI), has been working since 2009 to serve the needs of church-based marriage ministry leaders (mostly devoted lay couples) and also pastors, church staff and counselors. His experience in marriage ministry shapes his opinion of the Valentine season. What he finds most romantic is not the Hallmark movie setting, but the tenderness of a couple who has learned to love in a way that truly reaches each other’s hearts. Carl has had first-hand experience with this after being married to his high school sweetheart, Kelli, for 35 years. 

According to Carl, research has shown the single biggest indicator of the happiest marriages is commitment. Commitment to each other and commitment to God.

“Every couple has a rough patch in their marriage. It might be a medical challenge, a difference in parenting styles, even infidelity,” Carl says. “These don’t have to be the death knell – a lot of couples grow through them. There are great stories that too often we don’t tell.” 

“The more we come together to advance God’s kingdom and advance marriage, the better we all are.” – Sue Huggler

SAMIHe refers to information from best-selling author Shaunti Feldhahn, who reported statistical findings from thousands of couples in her 2014 book, “The Good News About Marriage.” She found that 80 percent of couples who had worked through challenges in their marriage — even those who were on the brink of divorce — considered themselves very happy five years later.

SAMI couple

One of Carl’s goals at SAMI is to get the word out that marriages are in fact thriving and to normalize the reality that couples need support and help when they hit the inevitable valley. Carl notes he sees a crisis of hope in marriage in general in our culture. 

“Don’t think you are the only one when you are going through a very difficult season in your marriage,” he says. “Couples feel so isolated and hopeless. The reality is we are seeing thousands of incredible stories of marriages turned around.” 

SAMI supports leaders on the front lines of preserving marriages: couples who walk alongside others, pastors, counselors, or those in church marriage ministries. All find trusted wisdom through SAMI, which offers a system of support via emails, videos, communication tools, events, date nights, and conferences to help foster marriage. 

“As couples approach a potential crisis, it is difficult to know where to go for help. SAMI provides that help.” 

“There are hundreds of opportunities for health and hope on the SAMI website,” Carl adds. “In 2019 alone, there will be more than 100 marriage events offered through churches in this city. At almost every event, there will be couples who will share their stories of inspiration in a real way.”

Carl has recruited several couples – the Hugglers, the Lagoudises, and the Brugners – to express their experiences with marriage ministry. “These three couples have marriages that are so inspiring,” he says. “You can see the tenderness and connection they have with each other.” 

I have served with Carl Caton, the leader of the San Antonio Marriage Initiative, for the past several years. He is one of the brightest, most gifted and spiritually mature leaders I’ve ever had the privilege to work with. He and his wife have an extraordinarily healthy relationship, and he has a deep desire for every marriage to be strengthened or restored. Scott BarrThe SA Marriage Initiative supports the role players on the front lines who champion biblical marriage to make an eternal impact on the families in our community.

Scott Barr, Steward of Southwest Exteriors
The Look You Love Coming Home To

Rick and Sue Huggler have been married for 35 years. They run a marriage ministry at First Baptist Church in Boerne. In 2009, they connected with a few like-minded friends, and their little nucleus began a marriage-mentoring program that developed into a ministry. 

“We have a great heart for marriage,” Sue says. “We know how difficult marriage can be. We are both very type A people; we each had careers in the military. God clearly has a sense of humor bringing us together,” she adds. “We come alongside people and share our experience. The more transparent we are about our story, the more people can breathe a sigh of relief: ‘If there’s hope for the Hugglers, there’s hope for all of us!’” 

Rick extols the results they’ve witnessed from studying the video series “Love and Respect,” by Emerson Eggerichs, a resource provided by SAMI. “This summer Sue and I went through the series with three young couples and found it to be life-changing,” he says.

Robert and Donna Lagoudis
Robert and Donna Lagoudis

Donna and Robert Lagoudis have been married for 26 years. They received training to become certified marriage counselors through The Relational Impact Group and to lead the marriage ministry at Bulverde Baptist Church.

“The key is coming alongside and introducing couples to life-changing tools. There’s fantastic material out there,” Robert says. “It took us 10 years before we read our first marriage book,” laughs Donna. 

“Early in our marriage, I read James Dobson’s statement that marriage and sex get better the longer you are together. I couldn’t imagine being with someone for 25 years and still enjoying it,” Donna says. “When you make your marriage a priority it can be a relationship that is so powerful and enjoyable you are blown away. It is a miracle, and it is amazing.” 

They credit the resource, “The Five Love Languages,” by Gary Chapman, as personally impactful. 

“For 10 years, Robert thought my love language was gifts. But I didn’t want gifts. I felt guilty because I thought there was something wrong with me, and he thought I was ungrateful,” Donna says. 

“One day he brought the book home, and we read it together. My love language is acts of service. His is physical touch. It helped us be more intentional about how we fill each other’s love tanks. He has learned to give me gifts of acts of service — he built me a chicken coop. I learned to give him foot massages, which means a lot to him.”

The Lagoudises recommend couples continually and mindfully spend time investing in each other, a habit newly-married Faith and Matt Brugner have already begun to establish. Faith grew up in San Antonio observing first-hand the marriage of SAMI’s founders, Carl and Kelli, who are her parents’ close friends. Their example has instilled within the young couple the importance of building their new marriage upon a strong foundation of support. 

I look at the kingdom return on investment. The San Antonio Marriage Initiative provides excellent resources, support, and training on a modest budget to anyone who wants to connect and collaborate to build healthy marriages. The number of marriages that are positively impacted is very impressive. It is clearly God’s design for people to work together in a way that glorifies God and brings people to God. I am privileged to partner with this ministry to transform lives, which will lead to transformed families that will in turn transform our community. I encourage all of us to use what God has blessed us with to invest into His kingdom.” Scott Barr

Scott Barr, Steward of Southwest Exteriors
The Look You Love Coming Home To

“We knew how important it would be to grow in community within our church,” Faith adds. “We joined a young married group with an older mentor couple. They are really honest and vulnerable about their marriage; they don’t try to act like they have it all figured out.” 

Rick and Sue Huggler
Rick and Sue Huggler
have a great heart for marriage.

They learned from Paul Tripp’s book, “What Did You Expect?” to be intentional about spending time together and not let life’s busyness keep them from connecting. 

“It’s a good book for someone who has been married for a little while when that honeymoon phase wears off,” Matt says. “We’ve tossed that book in as a wedding present for friends.” 

Whether you are developing a firm foundation, struggling with an issue or just want to rekindle some lasting romance, SAMI will point you in the right direction. Reach out to Carl. He will put you in touch with someone local to help and equip you. The toughest step to take is the first one. 


SAMI logo

San Antonio Marriage Initiative
(210) 651-5050
23995 Bat Cave Rd, Ste. 150 | SAT 78266


Be A Light.

Visit the ministry website. Get inspiration to keep your marriage healthy. Sign up for the SAMI newsletter for more ideas. Attend. Register to attend one of the many events SAMI hosts throughout the year. Volunteer. Ask how you can become an advocate for marriages in your church. Pray. Pray for the ministry to continue to thrive and reduce the divorce rate in our community. Give. The Marriage Initiative invites you to partner with them financially so even more marriages can be impacted in our community. Visit their website to learn how you can become a financial partner and invest in marriages across our community.


Southwest Exteriors

Scott Barr is committed to building a team that delivers “The Ultimate Client Experience” in each and every project. His first job in the home improvement industry was when he was 13 years old, and he has been with Southwest Exteriors since 1990. While exceeding clients’ expectations, Scott is also continuously working on developing a team of leaders who are challenged and excited about their work. When asked what he enjoys the most about his position as the Steward of Southwest Exteriors, he said, “Hearing from clients that have become raving fans of our company because of our commitment to client satisfaction before, during, and after their projects.” Scott’s desire is for the business to be a ministry that glorifies God, and he wants to continue to support other ministries by building a successful business.

Southwest Exteriors   
(210) 828.5555
2430 Freedom Dr., San Antonio, TX 78217

Mention the Beacon and receive 15% off all windows, siding, and concrete flooring projects.



Written by

Amy Morgan

Bachelor's degree in Journalism from TCU. Worked in Medical Marketing and Public Relations for 5 years before working as a pharmaceutical representative for 3. Retired from full time work to raise my sons.


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