All posts by Jonathan

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

New High Score!

Many of the kids here at Black Forest Academy are gamers when they have free time… which isn’t often. A lot of them will hang out playing Minecraft in the yearbook room after school. When we dorm sub at HBR, some of the guys are usually playing multi-person games on the Wii or PlayStation… until study hours anyway.

Valerie and I aren’t really gamers, unless you count Settlers of Catan or Scrabble. But recently we each set a new high score! I scored in the middle 400s and Valerie scored over 600! Pretty good, huh? Unfortunately these were scores from the Holmes-Rahe Stress Scale. Hans Selye who coined the term stress (meaning anxiety) describes it as, “The non-specific response of the body to any demand for change”. Change = our life in the past few years.

Recently a friend of a friend who is serving on the mission field in Thailand explained how we often feel here in Germany:

I’d heard about the stages of culture shock – honeymoon, crisis, recovery, adjustment – but sometimes it’s hard to recognize the hurricane for the debris and the wind that’s nailing you in the face. And, when you are still struggling with some of the same issues two years later, it’s hard not to think you must be the broken one. (Click here to read the entire blog post)

I’ll be honest. After almost two years, there are still many days when we struggle. Currently there are three specific issues that are significantly adding to the stress of our life on the mission field.

Our beloved Kia Carnival after the acciDENT

1) We had a low-speed, single-vehicle accident in our van on the snow and ice. No one was injured and praise the Lord the guard rail withstood the impact. Unfortunately the body damage is more than we can afford and our basic liability insurance will not cover the repairs. Even though the van is still drivable and mechanically sound, we’ve decided to sell it for as much as we can and start over with a simple used car that can last us for the rest of our time here. We currently have about $1750 USD set aside, but would like to add a few more dollars to move up the “reliability” scale.

2) Our home here in Germany was recently put on the market by our landlord. She has been great to us, but it’s time for her to make a change too. That means we will be “showing” the house occasionally as well as having to keep our eyes and ears open for another place to rent if this sells. We’ve been really blessed to have a comfortable “home” here, even after Eli moved in.

3) All of this is leading up to a US trip this summer that will cost around $2,900 USD for our airfare. We used miles and some missionary funds to cover the trip in October. Air travel was much cheaper then. We’ve been saving up since returning to Germany, but we’re not anywhere near the amount required.

So please pray. Stand with us in faith. God’s resources are beyond measure and He has the ability to make the impossible possible. Every month we see that and live that truth first hand because of your faithfulness and generosity. If you’d like to assist financially, consider a $250 special gift toward an efficient, reliable car, or $100-$500 toward airfare costs. We’re just going to be humble and lay those needs out there in faith.

A friend visiting from the states said, “I don’t know how you guys do this!” after experiencing a stressful morning just trying to get a shippment from German customs. The only explanation we have: God. Only His sovereignty, His grace and His peace that surpasses understanding can sustain us. Your prayers and support are a huge part of that. In turmoil, when things are changing and nothing makes sense, we know that God, who provides good and perfect gifts, does not change (James 1:17). He never gets stressed out. His Holmes-Rahe Stress score will always be zero.




PS – If you would like to contribute a special tax-deductible gift to help us purchase a more reliable vehicle or to assist with our travel expenses, please visit our DONATE page. Email us if you have questions. Thank you in advance for any above and beyond donations to help meet these needs!


Griesse family - Christmas 2011

Merry Christmas!


Griesse family - Christmas 2011Happy holidays from the Griesse family! You are part of our Christmas celebration this year. It’s a celebration of joy and gratitude for what God is doing here in Germany and around the world through schools like Black Forest Academy, mission organizations like TeachBeyond and faithful mission supporters… people on our team like YOU! Thank you!

God has blessed us and continued to give us opportunities to disciple and teach young men and young women who are now spending the holiday break in one of 53 countries represented by this year’s student body. Each one has the potential to be a light of hope, love and peace. Many are going to be with their families who serve in places where poverty, injustice and fear are the norm.

John 10:10 tells us of an adversary who wants nothing more than to destroy peace, suffocate our hope and kill any joy that we might experience in life. But Jesus came that we might “have life and have it abundantly.” For us that is the joy of Christmas… abundant life through the humble birth of Jesus

However, the story doesn’t end there in Bethlehem! There is a song called Wake Up! It’s Christmas Morning by Rob Mathes that’s a great reminder of the true meaning of Christmas. (You can listen to it by clicking on the song title) Brothers and sisters, it’s time to “wake up. There’s work to be done.” Will you stand with us in the work that needs to be done? It’s easy to make a year-end gift, or to contact us to learn more about what God is doing through this ministry. This work cannot be done without your prayers and support.

May this season be full of “awakenings” and full of the love of Emmanuel, God with us. Merry Christmas.


Wake Up, It’s Christmas Morning



5, 4, 3, 2, 1… Update!

Michael, Jonathan and Eli in Siloam Springs

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!  What an amazing couple of weeks it’s been. As many of you know, we have been in Arkansas and Missouri sharing about our ministry to missionary kids (MKs) at Black Forest Academy and encouraging you to answer God’s calling on your life. The days have been full and fulfilling!

While seeing friends and family has been our primary goal, our effort to increase our mission support has been a very close second. Since our arrival we’ve been able to share stories of God’s faithfulness from around the world and we’ve also added some new supporters to our team. We have truly been amazed by your generosity and hospitality! Wow. Here is an update of our progress and God’s provision:

5 – 3 needed – $50/month sponsors

4 - 3 needed - $75/month sponsors

3 - 2 needed - $100/month sponsors

2 - 2 needed - $150/month sponsors

1 – $250/month sponsor (Done!)

As you can see we’ve made some great progress, but we still have a ways to go. Although we may not get all of the remaining sponsors before we fly home, if we can add just $300 more per month, our trip would be a wonderful success.

Tina, Valerie, Michelle and Eli

Consider becoming part of our team or making a one-time year-end gift. Your tax-deductible donation can start as a monthly contribution right away or you can schedule them to begin later in 2012. You can give using a check, electronic funds transfer, or even with a debit card. Simply visiting our DONATE page, printing out the Support Pledge Form, and send it in or call TeachBeyond at 8888-334-0055 to get started.

We won’t be here in the states much longer, but you can always sign up for our eNewsletter in the column on the right, contact us via email at, or call our voice mail service at (636) 344-0436. Thank you for your love and encouragement. Sorry that we’ve missed some of you on this trip. We hope to be back next year. Keep praying and pursuing God’s calling on your life. Reclaim the world that surrounds you. You are Christ’s ambassador in a broken, hurting world!


BFA Opening Ceremony

Happy New Year, BFA!


BFA Opening Ceremony

VIDEO POST: August 23 marks the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year. Remember the students, their parents and the BFA faculty and staff during this transition. Pray also for the service and the global impact of this community. There are more than 40 countries represented by families who are serving the world in ways that are just as diverse or unique as the students. We can’t wait to see what God will do. Thanks for your support and for being a part of this “new year” celebration!

Welcome to a new year at Black Forest Academy!

– The BFA Communications Team

Extreme Couponing

Extreme CouponingWith the constant changes in the economy, the decreasing value of the dollar and the high cost of fuel, many people have become consumed with saving money on groceries and house hold goods. The Learning Channel, or TLC’s Extreme Couponing a reality show that every episode tells the story of two or three different coupon fanatics. The people featured come from all walks of life, but they are all very serious and singularly focused on saving as much money as possible at the register. I don’t just mean hundreds of dollars. I mean thousands, like over $3,000 worth of merchandise for $0.06. Seriously.

The climax of each episode is when the coupon users are “paying” for their purchase; these are transactions that sometimes take more than 30 minutes! (They routinely crash the store’s computer!) In that final moment, all the preparation, the collecting, the cutting out, the organizing the counting, the research… all the hard work usually pays off. But there is always a moment of doubt.

Seeing an episode reminded me a lot of what our faith in Christ must be like. Hearing the cashier say, “Your entire $1,736.57 purchase today is free!” got me thinking that this must be similar to what it will be like when we stand before God as a follower of Christ. The Father says, “You have a debt that you cannot possibly pay, but my Son has taken your place and paid the debt.” Wow. That’s what I call savings!

In Romans 8:12-17 Paul says, “So then, brothers, we are debtors,” but he continues to our status after the purchase is complete. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ.”

Here’s where the original simile breaks down though… jump back to the cash register and Extreme Couponing‘s moment of truth. Your planning and work is done. The coupons are ready, in order and the entire purchase has been scanned. It’s time to see if all the hard work has paid off. Instead of Jesus being a “coupon” (forgive me, Lord!), He comes to the register and says, “Put your coupons away. They are all worthless.” In fact in this metaphor, He would probably say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. There are no discounts or registers because the entire price has been paid. You own the entire store. It’s open 24/7 for you and there is nothing you could have done to earn this.”

“[But God], immense in mercy and with an incredible love, embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.” That is a small excerpt from Ephesians 2:1-10 in The Message.

So perhaps the next time you pull out your discount card or your stack of coupons, remember the price that has been paid for you through God’s incredible love… not just a bargain. He wants to give you the entire store! When you are ready, He’ll be waiting, always open, no coupon required.