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Robinsons sacrifice for their marriage

Lois Robinson crossed the state line into Alabama on Oct. 13, 1995 and broke down into tears. She was not happy. She was hurting.

Not here, she thought. She had not wanted to return her, even though this was home and always would be. Lois Robinson had plans. Lois Robinson was an important person at Fort Bragg, North Carolina doing an important job working with the federal government and there was only one place left for her to go: Up.

And then, the voice.

Husband Leander Robinson heard it. “Buy Dr. Thames’ field,” God said. Dr. Thames’ field meant one thing to Leander Robinson. It meant coming home. It meant Greenville, Alabama.

The two packed up their things and left North Carolina. Lois, who had followed her husband to far away Guam and back to the states while he was in the Air Force, moved again.

She was okay until she saw the Alabama state line.

“Lee was rejoicing,” recalls Lois. “I was breaking down. I had finally gotten to where I wanted to be in life and was doing well with my career. God said give it up. But my heart was still in North Carolina.”

The two were high school sweethearts and even then Lois says Leander was constantly playing the role of psychologist, offering advice, asking questions, analyzing.

“Ever since I’ve known him he is always trying to analyze someone,” she says. “He was always counseling his friends, but he has a passion for that. Just like I have a passion for numbers.”

Leander earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Troy and Lois a business and finance degree from the same.

Leander likes to share a story: A few years ago he was at Super Foods talking with a woman who was a member of Frazier Memorial United Methodist Church in Montgomery. The woman seemed extremely angry, says Leander.

“I told her, ‘you’re angry at God,’” he says. “Right there she started crying. She told me she was angry with God, but we kept talking and soon she was laughing. She said that was the first time she had laughed in over a year since her husband died.”

Leander joined the Air Force out of high school and was stationed in the Philippines. He paid $4 for a ticket to witness the greatest boxing match in history. Ali beat Frazier in the Thrilla in Manilla.

Returning home, he asked Lois to marry him in 1977.

The night before their wedding in 1978 Lois said a simple prayer to God.

“I asked God to please make our marriage a model one,” she says.

It has been, says Leander, which makes it much easier to preach about faithfulness, trust and commitment. In a nation where the divorce rate hovers around 50 percent, Leander and Lois are Exhibit A that, yes, marriages are meant to last.

“People cannot believe that in 31 years of our relationship no other person has ever come between us,” says Leander. “It blows them away.”

Returning to Greenville they founded the Covenant Warrior Christian Center, initially starting their ministry in a single room at the Holiday Inn on the Greenville Bypass. From there they moved across town to a building on E. Commerce St. In 1998 they were able to purchase the old Thames Animal Clinic and surrounding land and convert it into a church.

Yes, Dr. Thames’ field.

Last year, Leander and Lois took on another challenge: helping at-risk youth through an after-school tutoring program. Covenant Care Community Development, a non-profit entity separate from the church, had been in existence since 2001, says Lois, but there had been nothing done to advance its goal of outreach to the local schools.

After working as tutors in the school system, the Robinsons decided it was time to take that next step.

In 2008, the couple opened the church’s basement to children who needed help learning.

The response was amazing, says Lois.

“Kids just started coming in,” says Lois. “We received over 66 referrals through Dr. Tera Simmons at Greenville Elementary and we had 50 children by Christmas.”

Lois says the program serviced 106 students last year. Volunteers from LBWCC, the schools and even honor roll students offered their assistance. Ashley Joyner, Valedictorian for Fort Dale Academy’s 2009 class, gave “at least 100 hours” of her time, says Leander, helping students with pre-calculus homework.

“Ashley helped turn some of those kids’ grades from F’s to A’s,” says Lois.

This year the program will assist students in grades third through eighth. Lois says they tried helping high school students last year, but they actually became more of a distraction. The program will operate Monday through Thursday from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.

“They work here,” says Lois. “We have access to everything the Butler County School District is doing – the reading programs, the math – so we’re really able to tutor them in what they are learning in school.”

Although the program receives donations of time and money, (The Board of Education and County Commission each offered some funding to help last year), the work is done for free. Parents don’t have to pay anything.

Sacrifice, says Leander, is a big part of their marriage.

Lois had the opportunity to return to work with the federal government after moving back to Greenville, although at a lower pay grade. Still, she would have been doing something she loved with the chance for advancement. Leander asked her not to.

“I told her I needed her here full time,” says Leander. “Looking back now, maybe I shouldn’t have.”

But Lois says she has no regrets. The couple pray together on every decision they make, work as a team, and they follow the direction of God.

She has turned her love for numbers into lessons she can use to help the church’s membership understand financial responsibilty.

“Right now there is no place on this Earth that we’d rather be,” she says. “Now we are serving our community.”