MIFFLINTOWN - Take one heartbroken couple, a mistaken pretzel order and faith in God, and what do you get?
The story of Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzel company and, from its success, a growing family counseling ministry.
While the company receives the name recognition, founders Jonas and Anne Beiler want their ministry, not their business, to be the purpose of their lives.
In 2005, the Beilers sold the international franchise to focus on their ministry, which currently serves families in two Lancaster County locations.
The Beilers will share their story and ministry at 9:30 a.m. Sunday at the River Church in the Central Juniata EMS Building, state Route 35, Mifflintown.
The Beilers' desire to reach hurting families began early in their marriage when their 19-month-old daughter died in a farming accident. Overwhelmed by their grief, the Beilers drifted apart, and Anne battled depression.
Agreeing to stay together because of their other two daughters, the Beilers lived as "silent partners who ... went through the motions of family life," according to their website, www.thebeilers.com.
"There were many days months and even years when I thought I was finished and life was over for us as a couple," Anne Beiler shared in an interview with The Sentinel. "The silent suffering we both experienced caused us to look to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith."
As they began to restore their marriage through counseling, the Beilers said, they also began to see many other families suffering with despair. Jonas felt God's calling to begin lay counseling, and his wife began a concessions stand to help support his work.
Her stand sold a bit of everything, but Anne's pretzels were the top seller. Her pretzel business grew and grew, eventually becoming the international franchise Auntie Anne's Soft Pretzels.
In 1992, the Beilers' ministry plans expanded when they opened the Family Resource and Counseling Center. In 2008, they opened a second center in Gap.
"Our experience has given us determination to help where we can," Anne Beiler said. "There's not a whole lot in our Society that is family friendly. We feel like we want to keep the banners of God and family waving to give hope to those who are struggling."
Jonas Beiler said they share with married couples that fulfillment comes from providing for each other with experiences that allow them both to become better people through the relationship.
Because of Anne's influence, Jonas Beiler said he is a better person than he ever could have been alone.
"For couples just starting out in marriage I would suggest that you remind yourself often that it is still more blessed to give than it is to receive," Jonas Beiler said. "Marriages may be made in heaven but the details are worked out here on earth. ... marriage works best when you work at it every day."
Anne Beiler's advice to young married couples is "Love God more than you love each other. If God is number one you will respond to each other with love and patience."