Recently, I was involved in a panel discussion with our high school, small group girls. This was a great privilege for me but also took me out of my comfort zone. The topic was “Intimacy with God.” What does it mean and not mean?  What is the importance of intimacy with Christ?

My initial thought was I can do this.  When the day came, I was so fearful of being in front of the girls… just plain scared!  My prayer throughout the day was for me to be vulnerable and transparent.

The first thing that God brought to my mind was King David. He was a man after God’s own heart. How am I like him and how do I differ from him? Do I seek God on a daily basis and spend time in his word? He asks us to go into a quiet place with no distractions. Well, that is kind of difficult with a two year old, but it is doable and important.  How are the girls living in dorms  able to get alone-time with they live with 20+ others?  All of these thoughts were running through my mind.  I just needed to communicate what I do on a daily basis to have intimacy with God, plan and simple.

Instead of studying His Word while thinking What’s in this for me?, I would rather ask What is he trying to say to me?  I want to be more of a listener rather than always expecting something in return.  It’s also important to speak to God about specifics not just general things. Because I know that God goes before us and He knows us intimately,  I have nothing to hide. Another component that I find to be the hardest is repenting of my sins. It’s tough to come before God and ask him to wipe my slate clean, especially when I don’t feel worthy enough.  God knows that we are not perfect.

Lastly, something important that was communicated through our time with the girls was not to compare ourselves with others. I know that I’m guiltly of that. When I see someone who has this vibrant light of Christ shining through them, I wish I was more like them.  Danger, danger!  We all are in our own intimate relationship, constantly growing at our own pace right where he wants us.

I really enjoy what we are doing here. God is teaching me more about my relationship with HIm. He has taken me from where I was and grown me into the woman I am today.  I’m so very grateful!

I Love My Job!

Nathan, Noah, Valerie and Rachel hang out in JBU’s student center.

Recently I had the privilege of representing Black Forest Academy(BFA) during a recruiting trip to the States. I truly had mixed emotions about going and leaving Elijah and Jonathan for 18 days, but I was so excited to see my family and visit universities to recruit faculty/staff for the 2013-2014 school year. I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that God was sending me; that didn’t make it easy, though. I cried at the airport. People probably thought I was crazy, but as a mother I felt like my heart was being ripped out. I knew Elijah was in good hands. After weeks of planning, I was on my way.

Emily, Canon, Julie, Valerie and Allie

My first call of duty was to surprise my younger sister for her birthday! My family knew I was coming, but my sister Emily thought I was coming 2 weeks later. I arrived on Thursday, and the plan was to surprise her at work on Friday. My Mom, Dad, sister Julie, niece Allie and nephew Canon were meeting Emily at work to take her to lunch. The look on her face was priceless when I walked in to her office.  Our surprise worked! I called it CryFest 2013! Tears of joy streamed down our faces as all three sisters were together, again.  I couldn’t have been happier (well, only if Eli and Jon were there). We spent a wonderful weekend together. I’m so amazed how God has blessed me with them.

The time came to head off to the eight universities I planned to visit throughout in Midwest!  Nervous and excited about the next 2 weeks, I literally felt like I was 18 again (only off by 20 years). It was so fun meeting the university coordinators, setting up my table, speaking with potential faculty/staff and playing the BFA videos that Jon created.  I prayed that God would bring the right students. It didn’t have to be hundreds, just the right ones. I found that there were a range of people interested, from those that have never heard of BFA to those that had a friend or family member at BFA. Here is a sample of some of the questions I was asked:

  • What kind of salaries does BFA pay? BFA doesn’t pay salaries. Each person at BFA is a missionary representing a mission organization. We all have to raise our own monthly support to serve at BFA.  After their faces turned white, I proceeded to tell them that the experience of support raising (Romans 15:20-29) was a challenging one, but it also brought me closer to Christ by fully relying on him to provide.
  • What faculty/staff positions are available? We have different positions open each year. This year we are still looking for a Financial Officer/Accountant, Resident Life staff(Dorm Parents and Resident Assistants), Administrative Support, English Language Learning, and High School, Elementary and Middle School teachers. Encouraging people to visit our staff opening page on the BFA website ( was usually the first step. 
  • Do I need to know German? Yes and no. It’s great if you know German, but it’s not a requirement. It’s encouraged that you start learning German before you come, but we offer several opportunities to learn German.
Valerie, Michael, Ross, Josh, Noah, Rachel, Nathan and David

One of the highlights of my trip was visiting Jonathan’s Alma Mater, John Brown University (JBU). Seven BFA graduates are attending there, five of them are freshmen and were in the class that Jon and I sponsored. The two other BFA grads are were in the dorm where Jon and I subbed on Monday nights to give the full-time staff a little break. We have a good connection with all of them, so I was able to coordinate lunch with all seven. Their dining choice was an “all you can eat” Chinese buffet. Hilarious and yet completely normal! We all had a great time reconnecting and hearing about their time in college.  God is going to do great things through them!

My time recruiting was both fulfilling and wonderful. I love my job! The two weeks flew by. Soon I was saying goodbye to my family to head back to Germany to reunite with Eli and Jon. Mixed emotions once again! I am thankful for God’s traveling mercies and that He went before me on this trip. I am also grateful for the countless people He put in my path, people that we are now praying for as they consider becoming a part of BFA and God’s work throughout the world.

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 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.



The Latest News


We love serving with this team!

December 2012 Newsletter

Hopefully among all the Christmas cards, packages and holiday wishes that have been flooding your mail box, you’ve also received our latest newsletter. If you didn’t get anything in the mail from us, you can click on the link above and see all the photos and news from Black Forest Academy and our mission work here in Germany. We need your help in the coming year. We have a big decision to make… but I don’t want to spoil the surprise. Please check it out for yourself and find out how you can get involved and have a global impact.

To our current supporters… thank you! We are so encouraged by you and the ways you continually bless us. We’d love use technology to share with your small group, to be a part of your special program or worship service, or to just catch up and say “hello!” Email us or send us a note on Facebook and we’ll make it happen. We couldn’t do this without you.

Look for a special video post coming up before the end of the year, and if you’re not yet a monthly supporter, this is a great time to join our team. Why? OK. The December 2012 Newsletter is waiting with all the answers… Enjoy!

Going By Fast

NOT fasting at the bahnhof

I was walking down the hallway when a group of three BFA students stopped and asked me if I would take their survey for spiritual formation class (or was it Worldviews?). OK. “Have you ever fasted?” asked the somewhat serious girl with the clipboard. She seemed to be leading the quest for answers.

“Yes, but it’s been awhile,” was my reply.

She followed with, “Why don’t you fast more often?”

I stood there and a flood of thoughts poured through my mind. The two guys looked at me while their coed questioner wrote on her clipboard. A lot of excuses were all that I could think of. It seemed like a minute passed. “I don’t know,” was all that I could say.

Learning: Fasting is one of those things Christians are supposed to do… regularly. It’s not just a shaman-like ritual for hermits. It’s lived out in the gospels and the first century church. Jesus fasted for 40 days before beginning His earthly ministry. I love Matthew 4:2 which gives us a very poignant view of Jesus’ humanity, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” Understatement. Before the early Christians sent out Saul and Barnabas, the community fasted (Acts 13:1-3 gives a few details). The 18th century church reformer John Wesley even considered fasting to be a sacrament.

Fasting is spiritual, but fasting is physical too. It is part trust, part prayer, part self-control, part listening, part worship, part obedience… it’s a real place where we can truly see that our physical body is intertwined with our spirit. This quote I copied a few years ago explains it well:

We run into problems when we make the soul all-important and the body totally insignificant. When we forget that our bodies matter, we live lopsided lives. We forget to rest. We forget that our very cells are holy and that the clearest word God’s ever spoken came to us as a body with red blood and breakable bones. The spiritual intersects profoundly with the physical. – Relevant Magazine [November, 2009]

Eli loves Sesame Street
You can fast from TV too

Responding: The student survey questions were an excellent reminder. I need to fast again! How convenient that it’s time for us to consider what God’s plan might be for the Griesses for the next school year. August marks our three-year anniversary in Germany and from the start we made a commitment to three to five years overseas. We are fasting and praying now knowing that we need to tell the team at Black Forest Academy our intent soon. It is a physical and spiritual decision that God holds in His hands.

It’s Wednesday night as I write this. As we close out this week of fasting (during lunch), would you consider fasting one meal between now and Monday night? Will you use that time to intercede on our behalf asking for God’s wisdom, guidance and provision? Please pray for BFA and our missionary families as well. Leave us a comment below if you want to share something afterwards. We’d love to hear from you if the Lord lays something on your heart. Thanks!

Well, I’m not sure how the survey assignment on fasting ever turned out for those three BFA kids. I hope they learned as much as I did.

Discipling, Teaching, Serving at Black Forest Academy

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