Wife Swap: The title of ABC’s new prime time reality series is meant to raise eyebrows. So when Kelly Haskins Stonerock’s (’89) husband, Jeff, senior pastor of Victory World Outreach Church in Goodrich, Mich., told their congregation that he and Kelly were going to be one of the show’s swapping couples, they thought there might be protest. Instead they got a standing ovation.
Suggestive title aside, the show aims simply to create tension when each of two contrasting households takes up the lifestyle of the other. The women of the families are swapped, and for a few days each lives by the house rules of the other. Then she’s given rein to change those rules – everything from food choices to family discipline.
The lengthy contract each family signs prohibits almost all physical contact, not only between husbands and swapped wives, but also between children and their swapped mothers. There is no cash prize for participating.
Last fall Kelly and Jeff watched episodes of Wife Swap. “I knew from growing up in a non-Christian family that we were seeing a fair sampling of American families,” Kelly Stonerock said. “We felt compassion for those families and a responsibility to share the Biblical principles that have made our marriage and our family happy and successful.”
Producers selected the Stonerocks for the show from among 10,000 applicants. But before they signed a contract, Kelly and Jeff spent six weeks seeking counsel and praying – a lot. In different ways both Kelly and Jeff heard the confirming word: Go into all the world… “How much more into the world can you get than prime time TV?” she asked.
On January 14 Kelly was flown to Atlanta to meet her temporary family, the Finleys. When she walked into the house one of the first things she saw was a sign: “We are all infidels.” The first line of the family’s home manual was: “We are hard-working southern atheists who believe religion is nothing more than a myth.” She met Reggie Finley who hosts a Web site and radio show as “Infidelguy.”
“I went on a mission field, and my home became a mission field,” Stonerock said.
For the duration of her stay in the Finley household Stonerock simply tried to live out the joy and peace in Christ that she first began to experience at Calvin. Sometimes that was light-hearted: She gave Reggie a “Jesus Saves” hat to replace his “Born Again Atheist” cap. Sometimes she cut straight to the chase: She talked with 12-year-old Dorian about the need for salvation. She felt, at times, misunderstood, nervous and full of affection for the three Finley children.
Back in the Stonerock home, Amber Finley established a “God-free zone,” taxing the Stonreock’s six children for any mention of God or Jesus and bringing in a tutor from the Michigan Atheist Association for the kids’ home schooling.
Both Kelly and Jeff had opportunities to talk with members of the show’s crew who had experienced Christians as harsh and judgmental. “Even if this show never airs,” one told Kelly, “you’ve changed my life.”
As of this writing the Stonerocks had not seen the edited tape of their
swap experience, nor did they know when the show would air. It seems almost
not to matter to them. Opportunities for sharing their faith – including
a weekly chat room on Kelly’s new BibleGal Web site (www.biblegal.org)
– have opened up simply as a result of their participation in Wife
Swap. And that was their aim and prayer from the beginning.
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