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!

Feel Like Giving Up

Jonathan gets a (sweaty) hug from his guys after the final game of the season.
Jonathan gets a (sweaty) hug from his guys after the final game of the season.

If you run 5Ks, marathons or play team sports you know that feeling of wanting to give up. One of the hardest times to be a coach is when you’re way ahead and enjoying a big lead or way behind and about to get “mercied.” Our basketball guys were in both situations this past season. When you’re way ahead it’s easy to relax and forget the self-discipline and hard-fought effort that it took to get there. When you’re way behind, you just feel like giving up.

Where do you find yourself today when it comes to your work and your ministry? Be honest with yourself, because I am about to be honest with you… Valerie and I feel like giving up. I could lay out a list of the challenges that are piling up for us, but my heart and mind know where that would lead. Nowhere good.

Instead, we have chosen to be grateful, to work hard and to pray. We daily thank God for you and your faithfulness to sacrifice and support what God is doing here at BFA and around the world through the missionary families we serve. You have not given up even though it would have been easy to use your money for a vacation home, a vacation or any number of things. You are our heros! A huge part of our future ministry will be financially supporting international missions just like you have.

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Valerie and her team members from Personnel

We are also going to work hard in these coming months to love, encourage and assist the students and families who need us. At school we are doing fund-raisers, helping with sports events, training our team members who will replace us, teaching students, creating and communicating to serve our community. At home the list is daunting, but doable. Moving a family of four back to the States and once again selling almost everything?… Kein Problem as the Germans say.

And yes, we pray… a lot. It’s amazing that we find the Lord waiting and anticipating us when our eyes bolt open at 3:00AM because of the challenges that lie ahead. He’s ready to listen and give us His peace. In fact, He delights in meeting us during those weak moments. “‘My kindness is all you need. My power is strongest when you are weak.’ So if Christ keeps giving me his power, I will gladly brag about how weak I am.” (2 Cor. 12:9, CEV)

We feel like giving up. But would you help us finish well? We found a humanitarian airfare that will allow the four of us to return home with 10 checked bags (50 lbs./23 kg each) for $2450. Would you be willing to cover this added expense? If $2450 is too much, consider a special gift of $745, the price of an adult ticket. Your extra gift through TeachBeyond would be a huge encouragement and another reason to be grateful for God’s provision. Take a moment and visit TeachBeyond’s secure US Donations page or our Donate page.

We will be grateful! We’ll work hard! We’ll pray and believe that God will provide. And we’ll see you SOON!

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Now Hiring: All Positions

You’ve seen the signs before at your favorite store or restaurant. Jay Leno reads some pretty funny want ads now and then. If you looked through a newspaper (if you’re under 16, ask an adult what that is), you might be surprised by some of the jobs listed. Someone gets paid to do that? Just ask Mike Rowe the host of Dirty Jobs! When we look around at what needs to be done to make this world a better place, there’s a lot of work to be done. The same is true on the mission field.

Many of you know our friends Chris and Jenny Greathouse. If that name seems familiar they are part of our story that eventually leads to us serving overseas. Jenny recently shared this biblical perspective with TeachBeyond about  being a missionary. It’s a paraphrase from 1 Corinthians 12:12-20:

Now the mission community is not made up of one job, but many. If the IT technicians and maintenance workers should say, “Because I’m not a teacher I do not belong to the mission community,” they would not for that reason cease to be a part of the community. And if the counselors or finance officers should say, “Because I’m not a Bible translator, I do not belong to the mission community,” they would not for that reason cease to be a part of the mission community. If the whole mission community were frontline church planters in the 10/40 window, where would their children go to school? If the whole mission community were teachers, who would be there to financially support them? But, in fact, God has arranged the workers in the mission community, every one of them, just as He wanted them to be. If they were all doing one job, where would the community be? As it is, there are many jobs, but one Mission and one Kingdom.

Girls cleaning windows during BFA’s Impact Day

When I read that, I see our family seeking to disciple missionary kids and support their families. I see you, our faithful monthly sponsors who make a kingdom sacrifice that reaches many corners of the globe. I see our prayer partners and think of the many ways you continue to encourage us. I see our families and friends who love us and keep it touch as much as possible. Some one has to fill each of those roles!

So where do you see yourself in God’s plan to reconcile the world? He’s been “hiring” ordinary folks like you and me for centuries. When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing that you get to work as a partner with God! Yep. We are really His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20). No experience or years of experience, professional or amateur, under qualified or over qualified, we hope that you would find your place in the mission community. There’s a job waiting for you! 

Guys bringing in drywall during BFA’s Impact Day

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!

Moving House

Thankfully we don’t have a lot to move!

I don’t believe that I have ever met a person who likes to move, even if it’s just across town. Moving is a lot of work! Once the school year at Black Forest Academy is complete, it’s not summer. It is moving season! Almost everyone is relocating. Graduates are moving to college. Families are moving back to their home country after completing their time on the mission field. Some are just going home for 366 days because of visa/immigration requirements. Others, like us, are moving to cut expenses or be closer to campus.

July 1 marks our first day in our new home in Kandern. We moved about three kilometers from Riedlingen where we have been since day one in our amazing BFA adventure. It’s not only hard work to pack and plan and unpack and rearrange everything. It’s emotionally tough too. But we can see God’s blessings and provisions even though it’s stressful and tiring.

I am reminded of the story of the Israelites as they left Egypt and headed toward the Promised Land. As they got ready to move into their new home, Joshua reminded them of all the things that God had done. But then he placed a challenge before them. I imagine him saying something like, “Let’s not go back. Let’s dedicate ourselves to the Lord’s plan.”

That’s one of the positive things about moving. It’s a good opportunity to leave the past behind. We can clean out the clutter left from the way things used to be. We have the opportunity to begin with a fresh start and a new commitment.

Eli will love being across the street from the Bahnhof (train station).

That’s what I hear in Joshua’s words, “Fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served… choose this day whom you will serve… But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:14-15). That is our commitment in our home too.

Keep us in your prayers as we make this transition. It has been a stressful spring. Now moving season is here and we are doing our best to keep up, only looking back to celebrate God’s faithfulness. We could still use your help if you are not a monthly sponsor. Your tax deductible donation is a way for you to see God’s faithfulness in your life as you contribute to the work God is doing through BFA and through missionary families around the world.

OK. Time to pack a few more boxes…

 

PS – Our German mailing address has changed! Now we’re at Bahnhofstraße 14, 79400, Kandern, Germany.

 

© 2013 intheforest.org
Our goal: to ensure that no missionary family would ever have to leave the field because of the financial, emotional or spiritual needs of their children. We serve families throughout Asia, Europe, Northern Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. To keep our costs as low as possible, BFA staff members do not receive any salary.