All posts by Jonathan

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

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.]


The Imago Dei

VIDEO POST: I have been taking a summer class focusing on the development of moral structures and the way we shape what is right and what is wrong. Even as a believer, issues of justice, compassion, law and grace are not always black and white. But there is one foundational issue that should differentiate the response of a Christ-follower when dealing with the moral/ethical issues that arise as we interact with people. It’s the imago Dei.

Imago Dei is Latin (Latin like the Middle Ages, not Mexico) for the image of God. This concept comes from scripture verses like Genesis 1:26-27 and Colossians 3:5-11. We are all made in the image of God our creator… not just ya’ll that go to church, but all ya’ll. Everyone matters. We all have God’s fingerprint on us with the ability to be moral agents in a broken, immoral world. We have the power to chose to do good even when it is much easier to be prideful, afraid, unkind or complacent.

Martin Luther the 15th century reformer said, “Homo simul justus et peccator” (more Latin). Man is at the same time saint and sinner. One of our primary goals should be to help people bring out more of the saint by sharing God’s love and hope with them. We can allow the Holy Spirit to transform us to be more and more like Christ so that we have the courage to go and make a positive impact in the world. The imago Dei should be the source of our calling and mission in the world. Everyone matters.

So when I encounter difficult, abrasive people that I just don’t get along with, when I look at people that I dearly love like my family and friends, when I see the faces of the kids at Black Forest Academy, I want to see the image of God and the inherent value that each of us has… not because of anything we’ve done, but because of God’s love for His creation. The faces in this short video are a great reminder for us of the imago Dei and the work that remains in the world so that someday every person will be able to recognize their priceless worth in the eyes of their Creator.

Faces of the Year – 2012 Black Forest Academy from Black Forest Academy Videos on Vimeo.


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 <>.

[2] Photos appear courtesy of Homes of Life. More can be seen on their website photo gallery. <>.


Spring Break! UPDATE

VIDEO POST: We just wanted to share a “slide show” with you to demonstrate what was accomplished during BFA’s spring break. This is for a team of students from Kandern, Germany who helped build a home in Romania over spring break. More information can be found at

Josh, a strong wrestler and cross-country runner with a kind heart

Spring Break! Give It Up!

Michael with a few of his new friends

Yessss. Spring break! For some people, it brings to mind the stereotypical, hedonistic, high school or college party-fests. For some it’s a special road trip to the beach or the mountains. Maybe it means family, friends and time that somehow seemed to escape us the other 51 weeks. For some it is an opportunity to give up their break in order to impact a corner of the world. Give up spring break?… to impact the world?

That’s the goal at Black Forest Academy. Give God a week of your life, go to a place that would never make the spring break list with Cancun, South Padre, or Miami Beach and watch what He can do. This year six teams of students and chaperones were sent out to three continents. That’s over 100 ambassadors of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) answering the call and making a small sacrifice to make a big difference.

Amanda with a simple way to have fun

We’re grateful to see more and more of this in our churches, youth groups and schools. There are projects in your corner of the world that are worthy of a week’s sacrifice too. As Christians we are called to go to “Jerusalem and all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). A lot of good that can be done in a few days no matter where we go. Our critics say these mission trips do more harm than good. We do need to be careful that we partner with locals in the culture, think incarnation rather than vacation, and focus on what the Holy Spirit is doing rather than what we are experiencing. If we strive with a humble, servant’s heart to share God’s love for one week, that’s hard to criticize!

Josh, a strong wrestler and cross-country runner with a kind heart

Now please hear what I am saying. It’s not wrong to take a vacation, to enjoy an ocean breeze or a mountain view, or to just relax for a few days. (The Griesses are resting this spring break. PTL!) But it is a mistake to ignore God when He calls you to go Dakar, Senegal and you choose Daytona, Florida. It may not make sense to pick Lima, Peru over Puerto Vallarta. Your spring break destination of a lifetime may be Hawaii, but your spring break destination to change someone’s eternity may be the inner city just an hour away. You may not need to give up your plans, but be willing.

So give it up for spring break! Maybe God is asking you to give up all or part of your summer vacation. Maybe next year that dream trip will instead be a trip to rebuild someone’s broken dreams. You can still go to Florida, Texas, Colorado or California too. You can stay home and recoup if that’s what God is leading you to do. But wherever you plan to go, be willing to give it up for something greater. The best part is that God promises to go with you whatever destination you choose. Your final destination however? That one He’ll choose.