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.]

handmade workmanship

We Are All the Works of Your Hand

Bowls, mugs, plates, tea pots EVERYWHERE! Recently, some of the ladies in our small group took a trip to Poland.  We called it a woman’s retreat. Our goals were to see lots and lots of Polish pottery and get to know one another in the process. The car ride was about eight hours one way, so we had plenty of time to chat.  What a wonderful, refreshing time this was for me. During our long weekend, we reflected on scriptures that pertained to “clay”,  the “potter” and “being molded.” Very fitting!
One of my favorite parts of the trip was our tour through a factory.  It had grown from 20 workers to over 200 in just a few years. Each piece of pottery is truly handmade. We tried to count how many people touched each piece… maybe 15-20 people before it goes to the shelf. It’s amazing how many hands touch each piece, from the guy who places the clay on the wheel to the women who stamps it, to the people that place the handle on the mugs. It’s also amazing how many people touch our own lives.  Isaiah 64:8 says, “But now, Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the works of your hand.”
During our tour, we noticed a pile of broken pieces of pottery. We were told that if the pottery hadn’t been painted that they could re-use it.  Just like the pottery, at times we can be broken… but the Master Potter can renew our faith by walking closer to Christ. From Jeremiah 18:2-6:

“Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. Then the word of the Lord came to me “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?”, declares the Lord. “Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

No two pieces of pottery were the same.  No two people are the same. He molds each and every one of us.  We saw one gentleman that put a clump of clay on the wheel.  He kept both hands on the wheel when it was spinning.  If he took his hands off or looked away, the shape of the clay would be misshapen.  The same is true about our walk with Christ. It is important for us to keep our eyes on him.


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. <>.


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!



Roundabouts and Revolving Doors

What are your plans for 2012? You know you’ve been looking ahead and wondering what the year might be like. What if it were full of roundabouts and revolving doors?

Have you ever been through a season in life when everything was changing? Maybe your kids moved up to a new school, a family member died, you changed jobs, there were financial problems, your friends moved out of state, etc. Change is an inescapable part of life and whether good or bad change brings  loss of some kind. For many families serving overseas, change is a constant. Relationships, homes, mailing addresses, and even languages keep changing.

If you are a Christ-follower, Jesus has called you to follow Him wherever He may lead you. Once He was “going along the road one day, someone said to him, ‘I will follow you wherever you go.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'” This brief exchange from Luke 9 gives us a little insight into the trust required amidst change and the demanding nature of discipleship.

Looking ahead to 2012, we have made the decision to commit ourselves to serving another school year at Black Forest Academy. Many staff members have to return to the US or Canada in May for a year or for good because of decreased support, family problems, or immigration regulations. The revolving doors are already spinning and the roundabouts are full of traffic. It’s a tough season for many missionary families and their kids.

Mike Koerber, director of mobilization for TeachBeyond said, “One of our greatest needs is for staff at BFA. Because of the [German] totalization treaty, we are looking for about 50 staff members for 2012-2013.” Yep, 50. Imagine if your company or school had to replace 50 people! Koerber continued, “This is the largest turn-over Black Forest has ever seen. We are seeing significant progress in recruiting, but that is still quite a large number of positions to fill.”

Well, the Griesses are staying for another year. We need to be here to provide stability and support for the students, their families and our fellow staff members whom we love and lock arms with everyday. We need your help and continued support. If you aren’t already, would you become a part of our team and help us be a stabilizing part of this missionary community?

We also need you to pray. “Pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers” (Luke 10:2). Is the Lord calling you or someone you know to BFA? Perhaps it would be a one-year sabbatical for you. Maybe you are being called to long-term missionary service. Either way, “the laborers are few” and the revolving doors and roundabouts keep going around. What is the Lord asking you to do in 2012?

Discipling, Teaching, Serving at Black Forest Academy