Kandern to Kentucky

Estes Chapel on the Asbury Seminary campus

Two weeks from today will be our first Sunday in Kentucky. Kentucky?! Four years ago when we moved overseas to serve missionary kids, I also began full-time Masters of Divinity (MDiv) studies on-line through Asbury Theological Seminary. I was awarded the Cooper family scholarship and Central UMC, Rogers paid for my books so we have been able to get this far without going into debt. Another miracle! On August 1 we will move to Kentucky to complete that degree (May 2015).

Valerie and I are eager to get back to Arkansas and begin a new phase of ministry, but we also feel that this year in Wilmore will actually help our transition back into western culture. Wilmore will be a lot like Kandern, because of it’s small-town charm, the transient nature of the seminary community, the numerous young families, the (hopefully) simple and quiet daily living and the international flavor of the student body.

A “selfie” of Jonathan and J-Dub (Asbury’s John Wesley statue)

We already have a place to live in seminary housing, a gracious community that is welcoming us and a part-time job pastoring Wesley Chapel – a little church 15 minutes from home. It’s exciting, but there are several more difficult hurdles that we have to overcome before August 1.

Praying and trusting – When we headed to Germany, we had several thousand dollars of donations that helped us get on our feet. (TeachBeyond does not have the same program for our return to the States.) Praise the Lord that we were already able to save up enough money to pay for our tickets home and to ship a few belongs back, but our monthly living budget has been squeezed (squashed actually) by the extra expenses of getting life restarted in Arkansas/Kentucky. It’s time to “let your requests be made known to God” and trust Him (Phil. 4:6). Will you join us?

Taking a break from packing to say goodbye and have a cookie with Gail.
Taking a break from packing to say goodbye and have a cookie with Gail P., one of our friends at BFA

If you would like to give directly to us or help pay for our U-Haul, a gas card, etc. please contact us! ( griesse@gmail.com or (636) 344-0436 ). If you would like to make a safe, secure, tax deductible donation through TeachBeyond click here.

We have seen God answer prayers time and time again over the past four years, both our prayers and the prayers of other missionary families. Does the Lord really delight in giving us the desires of our hearts? I believe He does, but what is in our hearts? God is good, but His primary purpose is to shape us to become more and more like Jesus. We need Him now more than ever in this difficult time of transition.SignBothBlue72

 

PS – Need a family portrait? Be on the lookout for a fund-raiser that could give you some current photos of your family… or whatever you want pictures of!

Expanding By Two Feet

Yes, if you haven’t already heard, we are expecting the arrival of our second child! Wow! Isn’t God good? Our newest “recruit” will arrive around Dec. 6 and we know that she will have a huge impact in our ministry and our growing family. Valerie has been dealing with a lot of (the normal pregnancy) nausea and fatigue, but otherwise momma and baby are doing great. Elijah and poppa are trying to mentally adjust and prepare too.

If you’ve been praying for us, we can’t say a big enough “thanks.” Your encouragement and intercession has sustained us through a difficult season. We have done our best to take faithful steps over the past 3-4 months as we moved into a slightly smaller, more affordable place in Kandern and worked to increase our monthly support base… all the while knowing that a new baby would really change things!

But one thing will never change; God’s love. It is because of Him that we are not afraid to bring another child into this broken world… in a foreign country… where our financial needs are only met by God’s grace… when life is challenging enough. We are not afraid (Romans 8:31-38, Matthew 6:25-33, Psalm 23:1-6). We are overjoyed!

We also expect that this will be our last school year at BFA. If you are one of the many people who have thought about joining our support team, now is the perfect time! We’d love to have you as our newest team member! Just visit our Donate page and pray about the amount that the Lord would lead you to give. If you already are a monthly supporter, “Thank you!” You can share our ministry with your friends (who may not know us personally) by directing people to Our Testimony page, or our 10x10x10page if they want a quick, easy way to give.

Eli is already practicing to welcome his baby sister!

We have so much to celebrate! You, our heros who are sacrificially giving to make a difference in the world… Baby girl, God’s gracious gift of life and love… and Jesus who revealed to us all what love really means. That is a lot to be thankful for!

Intimacy

Recently, I was involved in a panel discussion with our high school, small group girls. This was a great privilege for me but also took me out of my comfort zone. The topic was “Intimacy with God.” What does it mean and not mean?  What is the importance of intimacy with Christ?

My initial thought was I can do this.  When the day came, I was so fearful of being in front of the girls… just plain scared!  My prayer throughout the day was for me to be vulnerable and transparent.

The first thing that God brought to my mind was King David. He was a man after God’s own heart. How am I like him and how do I differ from him? Do I seek God on a daily basis and spend time in his word? He asks us to go into a quiet place with no distractions. Well, that is kind of difficult with a two year old, but it is doable and important.  How are the girls living in dorms  able to get alone-time with they live with 20+ others?  All of these thoughts were running through my mind.  I just needed to communicate what I do on a daily basis to have intimacy with God, plan and simple.

Instead of studying His Word while thinking What’s in this for me?, I would rather ask What is he trying to say to me?  I want to be more of a listener rather than always expecting something in return.  It’s also important to speak to God about specifics not just general things. Because I know that God goes before us and He knows us intimately,  I have nothing to hide. Another component that I find to be the hardest is repenting of my sins. It’s tough to come before God and ask him to wipe my slate clean, especially when I don’t feel worthy enough.  God knows that we are not perfect.

Lastly, something important that was communicated through our time with the girls was not to compare ourselves with others. I know that I’m guiltly of that. When I see someone who has this vibrant light of Christ shining through them, I wish I was more like them.  Danger, danger!  We all are in our own intimate relationship, constantly growing at our own pace right where he wants us.

I really enjoy what we are doing here. God is teaching me more about my relationship with HIm. He has taken me from where I was and grown me into the woman I am today.  I’m so very grateful!

We’d like you to meet…

Our new friends in Romania

We’d like to introduce a new family to you. They have become an important part of our lives since the beginning of the year. They are so important to us that we are going to take a team of students from Black Forest Academy and from August-Macke Schule to Romania to help build them a home there. But unfortunately we don’t know their names yet. We don’t know their story. We haven’t done a background check. We just know that they are in need. (UPDATE: Click here to learn more about the family now that we’ve met them and worked with them on their home!)

Through Habitat for Humanity, we are taking 26 volunteers (mostly high school kids) to change this family’s future. Not only are we sharing God’s love with them, we are sharing the entire experience with kids from our local German public school. It’s an amazing team effort and a lot of hard work all to help people that we’ve never even met. Why would anyone bother to do something like that?

It comes down to three simple things. 1) We have been richly blessed to be able share our wealth with others. 2) We have been shown that love has the power to change people’s lives. 3) Through Jesus, we have been given a free gift, even though we’ve struggled, made mistakes, and mostly served our own needs.Habitat for Humanity logo

Our family trusts the Lord and relies on our supporters to meet our daily needs. Still we are wealthy by most of the world’s standards. But 42% of Romanians, “are at risk of poverty or social exclusion.” 31% are, “severely materially deprived, meaning that they had living conditions constrained by a lack of resources such as not being able to afford to pay their bills or keep their home adequately warm.” [1]

There have been many times in my life and Valerie’s when someone has shown us unconditional kindness and love that turns a bad situation in a new positive direction. We’ve both received everyday acts of compassion that make it possible to “pay it forward” and bless someone else. Our monthly sponsors are a great example, just like our families.

And then there is God’s amazing love for us which cannot compare to anything the world has to offer. He loves us so much that He made a way for us to come close and rest in His strength and peace. Because of His Son Jesus, He has even overcome the power of death and has forgiven us for our selfish mistakes. That changes everything. In our lives, it has changed the way we see the world and the way we want to spend our time.

The Oradea Projekt Team
The Oradea Projekt Team from BFA and AMS

Would you take a moment right now to pray for this family and then pray for our team? Jonathan will be leaving very soon to help lead the trip. The costs including building materials, meals, airfare, etc. is 1,100 euros (approx. $1475 USD). If you would like to make an online, one-time, tax-deductible gift to help cover these costs, please click here. To mail your gift in to TeachBeyond, Just click here and print out a Support Pledge Form. Follow our progress and subscribe at oradeaprojekt.wordpress.com/ We’ll be sharing daily updates, pictures and videos there.

Oradea, Romania

Thanks for YOUR love and support. You are our heros and continue to amaze and inspire us to give to others. We hope that those three simple things will make a difference in your life… and then, through you, they can make a difference in someone else’s.

 

 

POST-TRIP UPDATE: Thank you for your financial support and prayers! The trip was an outstanding success. Use the WordPress link above to see student comments and photos from the project.

 

[1] http://www.romaniantimes.at/news/General_News/2012-02-08/19657/Almost_half_of_Romanians_live_in_poverty_

New Stuff …and New Staff!

BFA’s new staff for 2012-13

It’s GO time! The past three weeks have been packed full of German language training, New Staff Orientation and an All Staff Conference. Whew! We have 55 new staff here at Black Forest Academy. It is a true miracle!  Last spring during my time in the Personnel Office, there were plenty of days we thought “How is the school going to be fully staffed next year?”  Why do I continue to sometimes doubt what God can do? He has been so faithful!

My job in Personnel has been extremely fulfilling. I love doing my job and helping the New Staff transition into ministry at BFA.  This year I’m going to be the Event Coordinator and go on one recruiting trip.  I will be responsible visiting eight Christian universities in 3 midwest states. This is something new for me this year, but I am so excited. It will be a lot of work and I know that I will have moments of wondering, “How is the school going to be fully staffed next year?” God will again demonstrate His faithfulness.

Our students are arriving daily now. Our Opening Ceremony is Sept. 4. Such an exciting time! Students are welcoming new faces from around the world and reconnecting with friends for the first time in a while. Parents are saying good-bye and leaving their kids… this is always heart wrenching to watch but we know that this is why we are here… to help disciple, teach and serve these missionary kids and their families.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Eli taking a break as we walk in the woods.

On a personal note, Elijah is running and playing.  What an active little guy.  He has brought Jonathan and I such joy.  We are just amazed that God has given him to us.  His vocabulary grows everyday, i.e. guck=truck, book, dog, shoes, ni-night, momma, papa, APPLE JUICE (his favorite to say)….the list goes on and on.

Thank you all for your support to our ministry whether it is financially or prayerfully!  We are truly blessed and thankful to be here at BFA. We will be praying that God would show His faithfulness in the new stuff in your life too!

Discipling, Teaching, Serving at Black Forest Academy

%d bloggers like this: