All posts by Jonathan

Husband, father, friend, disciple, teacher, thinker, encourager, rider, runner, giver.

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!

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_

Bear Creek

If you’re ever in north-central Arkansas, not too far from Batesville and even closer to Evening Shade, there is a community of hard-working, God-fearing folks who would welcome you like family. They are the members of Bear Creek United Methodist Church. They are making a difference in their neighborhood but they are also having an impact globally.

Bear Creek is helping missionaries in France, Italy, Tunisia, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, China, the Middle East and other countries. Even though attendance at this little white church in the woods is around 25-30 people each week, they are supporting missionary families around the world by supporting Black Forest Academy.

One of the reasons why BFA staff members do not earn a salary is so that more families serving overseas can take advantage of the safe environment, rigorous academics, and the caring Christian atmosphere that BFA provides specifically for missionary kids. Bear Creek Church’s monthly support makes that possible. Not only are they partners with us, they are partners with the entire BFA staff and with every family represented in the student body.

So what difference does it make if you become a new $20, $50 or $75 monthly sponsor? It makes a world of difference… literally. Just ask the families serving in Tajikistan, Romania, Spain, Serbia, Croatia, Moldova, or any of the 50 countries represented by the student body. Your financial support serves the kingdom and plays a key part in fulfilling the Great Commission [Acts 1:8].

Thank you, to Bear Creek and Pastor Roger Hook for encouraging us, treating us “like family” and supporting the family of believers around the globe. Stop by and see them next time you’re in the neighborhood.

[2 Corinthians 8:1-15 is a great scriptural example where Paul points to the need for congregations to demonstrate Christian stewardship.]

HomeOfLife-EliCombo

Celebrating Life

Thank you for all of the birthday wishes and the many prayers of thanksgiving as we celebrated Elijah’s first birthday. We did not want to let the day pass without expressing our gratitude for encouraging us through your support. Having a child is a definite joy, but one that is also full of challenges based on where God has placed us overseas.

One of the gifts we gave Eli this year is a $25 donation to the Home of Life & Nutrition, or Hogar de Vida, in San Andres, Sajcabaja, north central Guatemala. Through our missionary friends Tim and Dena Stromstad who work with poor and orphaned children in Central America and through a research project (class assignment) with Asbury Theological Seminary we became aware of a need that became heavy on our hearts.

Even though Guatemala is the most populous country in Central America, “more than half of Guatemala’s population lives below the national poverty line and 13% of the population lives in extreme poverty.”[1] When looking at indigenous people groups, the poverty percentage more than doubles. We all know that with poverty, it is the children who suffer the most. “Nearly one-half of Guatemala’s children under age five are chronically malnourished, one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world.”[1] Guatemala finds itself lumped in with chronically poor, sub-Saharan African countries like Liberia and Rwanda and is only three places below Haiti’s dismal malnutrition rating, the worst in the western hemisphere. Adoptions have also become a problem due to corruption, kidnapping and fraud. One of the primary reasons for corruption in an industry charged with protecting children is the cycle of poverty. As Christians and a family who is richly blessed, we see this as unacceptable.

The Home of Life & Nutrition in San Andres that Tim and Dena started in 1992 serves a community that is five hours from Guatemala City. Most of the people they serve are Quiche-speaking Mayan Indians, one of the indigenous people groups who are the poorest segment of the population. Now the socioeconomic lesson is over. Please don’t let this moment pass…

A CALL TO ACTION: As we celebrate Elijah’s life, we want challenge twelve people to also respond with a gift of $25 to Children of Promise International (parent organization), earmarked for The Home of Life & Nutrition in Guatemala. Give electronically (click here to donate – credit or debit – use the DONATE button) or mail a check to make your one-time gift.

Children of Promise International
6844 Loop Rd.
Centerville, OH  45459-2159

If you mail a check, include “Home of Life & Nutrition, San Andres, Guatemala” on a SEPARATE piece of paper, so that your tax-deductible gift goes directly to children in Guatemala without any hassles from the IRS! Leave a comment/post below and let us know if you are able to give. We’ll save an electronic copy of this so that we can share it with Elijah when he gets older.

There is much good that can be done in the world once we realize how blessed we are. Don’t ever think that one person can’t make a difference. Elijah is living proof. Through your gifts, he can help impoverished children in Guatemala and celebrate the gift of life that God has given.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Facts from the Central Intelligence Agency website – public domain <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gt.html#Econ>.

[2] Photos appear courtesy of Homes of Life. More can be seen on their website photo gallery. <http://www.homesoflife.org/photo-gallery.htm>.