The Yodies say the experience also has enriched their marriage. They pray together, and they now share a spiritual bond, John Yodie says.
John Yodie says he was the one who originally resisted going to church, and his wife would tell him he should go because he would get a lot out of it.
Now, when she is too tired, he encourages her to go.
"I can't see us ever stopping again," he says.
Ernie and Carol Miller ran a busy bed and breakfast, and he also owned a masonry business that kept him working 70 hours a week.
The Millers, who were Seventh-day Adventists, liked to keep the Sabbath holy and not work on Saturday.
Ernie Miller's contractors kept asking him to work on Saturday to finish a job, and one day he worked instead of going to Willow Brook Seventh-day Adventist Church, which the family had attended for 12 years.
It happened again and again, and each time the decision was easier.
"Before you knew it, we weren't going to church anymore," Ernie Miller says.
Carol Miller didn't want to go without her husband, and for 10 years the family didn't attend at all.
"We worked seven days a week, from sunup to sundown. We didn't have time for anybody or anything," he says.
In September 1995, their close friend was killed in a construction accident. The Millers took a hard look at their lifestyle and realized their lives also could end at any minute and that they needed to set priorities.
They sold the bed and breakfast, and in November of that year they moved to an apartment complex behind Seventh-day Adventist Church in Hagerstown.
One night in March 1996, the Millers were looking out their bedroom window at the church, and they decided to visit the next day.
Continued from D1
"The first people we saw when we walked in the door were two of our friends who used to go to Willow Brook," Ernie Miller says.
Carol Miller says they felt at home from the start.
"It felt so good to be back," she says.
In their years away from church, they still kept their beliefs, Carol Miller says.
Ernie Miller, 47, and Carol Miller, 48, both have strong religious backgrounds. As a child he attended Parkhead United Methodist Church in Pectonville every Sunday with his parents, brother and two sisters.
Carol Miller and her parents, four brothers and sister attended Blairs Valley Church of God until she was 16, when her father was killed in an automobile accident that left her mother badly injured. The family moved to a smaller home in St. James, and they stopped attending services.
"Ironically, the thing we needed most was to keep going to church," she says.
She met Ernie Miller at a club, and, at the time, neither was attending church.
"We both were into drugs and drinking," she says.
She was at her sister's home one day, and an aunt of her sister's husband asked if she and Ernie Miller wanted to take Bible studies.
They did, and they joined Willow Brook Seventh-day Adventist Church. They were married in 1974, and they have three adult children and two grandchildren.
Carol Miller says that since she and her husband returned to church, her relationship with Jesus Christ is real this time.
"I look back now and think I was just going through the motions. I was a young Christian mother trying to do everything right," she says.
While she once found it hard to keep the Sabbath, she now finds it a blessing.
She says the main difference in her life is a love for others that she didn't have before.
"I try to spill that out at work and everywhere I go," she says.
She says she used to be shy and hesitant to mingle with her church family. Now she has started a ministry of her own, in which she invites 10 or 15 church members to her home each month.
Ernie Miller also is involved in a ministry, helping to lead Bible study at Roxbury Correctional Institution.
He says he has a closer relationship with God this time, and going to church is not a task anymore.
"You need a church family to encourage you and help you keep your strength," he says.
They feel such a strong connection to their church that they want to give something in return.
Every Friday night a small group meets in their home, and they go out and visit people who have just joined the church.
"We want to make the new members feel as welcome as we felt," he says.