Currently Browsing: Featured

Chapter 62: Church, Community, Christ

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Matthew 18:20

I want to begin this with an admission, I care what others think of me.  I fear being misunderstood, I desire to be heard.  It is enough to give me pause and, honestly, this has stopped me from writing A LOT over the last 6 years.  We are not who we were when we began this long journey and it is far from over. Lord forgive me.

Everything has changed.

Nothing has changed.


Before Poland, we attended Life Church in Oklahoma City.  I served on the hospitality team and we had a Life Group we were actively attending.  When we moved, I missed it.  I craved big church and our small church wasn’t cutting it.  After our contract ended with our initial sending church, we co-created a house church with our friends (Tony and Rhonda rocked it!).  It became our family and the greater missionary presence in the city became our Church.  When we returned to the States and arrived in Portland, we realized it was not a weight station to pass through but a safe haven for recovery (more on that another day).  Our pursuit to find our local Church began, our transition was not so smooth.  Stepping into event centers, we were getting lost in the crowd.  When we made first contact we were met with little response to the question, “where do you place a family of 6?”  If a small group is 6-12 people, our family was a square peg in a round hole.

It’s hard for us to really connect in this season of our life.  How can you connect with so many people in meaningful community?  Sitting in a sanctuary I find myself asking, ‘Is this the best use of a groups resources (staff, rent, electric, etc)?  Why does every church have  2-4 songs, announcements and prayer, a sermon and then end?’

This last year was hard enough working in a different city than I lived in for the first half of the year, adjusting to Charlie (lack of sleep, four kids, time management), finding a church in our area that we resonated with….and lets not get into such a young large family attempting to attend a church!

But let’s…Here is a sample Sunday for our family:

-Make sure everyone is dressed

-Ask if anyone needs a bathroom break

-Double check all are dressed and confirm no needs for the bathroom

-Get everyone strapped into the car, triple check for bathroom requirements, double check diaper bag is prepped

-Get to Church Parking Lot

-Get into Church(recheck bathroom needs)

-Get all four kids checked in before service starts(inevitably at least 2 of 4 Sunday’s, the Service has already begun)

-Hear worship music and attempt to find a place where we can sit (easy access to get children, almost always a priority)

-2-4 Songs, Prayer, Message, Dismissal

-Attempt to quickly make eye contact with someone, get halfway into a good conversation and then excuse one or both parents to then go get kids so that volunteers can be relieved of duties

-Lose initial people you were talking to, attempt to make small talk once more only to run after children so they don’t raid the snack bar or run into the street.



You ever argue with someone, only to realize you were for or against the same thing?  That was Michelle and I.  We both sat down and attempted to share our feelings of dissonance with the American/Western Church model.  We both argued our cases with much frustration (Example…is it a red apple or is the apple red? Same statement just worded differently).  I felt fruitless in my attempts to sway the conversation and with seemingly no forward motion happening, I stomped off(as any mature adult would do!).    God prompted, so Michelle purposed that we loop our kids into the conversation and hear their thoughts on the topic.

Bracing for the impact of what we expect is a return to the rigorous grind of Sunday Services, we asked Loralie and Jack to tell us what they thought God would like us to do for church.  No prompting, leading, or swaying. We briefly mentioned that we understand that we all missed Poland, we want to follow God’s leading and direction, and we desire good spiritual health for all of us.

Then we listened.

Loralie suggested we invite our friends over to have church in our home.  We could talk about Jesus, maybe eat food or snacks, and she could take the kids downstairs and be in charge so the adults could talk.  Jack excitedly added that we could share Jesus with all our friends and invite them over to our house, a church like we had with the Adams family in Poland.  Michelle and I looked at each other at the same moment both exclaiming, “this is what I was talking about!!!”  All of us are on the same page.

We also believe that God has established our roots with local mission minded believers here in Portland, to help us connect to the Church(big C!).  This network of believers is constructed of a diverse group from multiple backgrounds and affiliations.


I struggle with sharing where we are right now and the calling we hear because we are not where we were supposed to be, according to the plan.  We are clearly not in Vancouver (Canada or Washington).  What if God moves us again?  What if I fail?  What if… The list goes on.

But God.

He has called my family on a journey that takes my family outside the realm of “normal.”  Nothing about the path we have taken easily labels us as such.  Our Van, the house we live in, the job I have, any of our kids being alive (Michelle wasn’t supposed to be able to have children, that Doctor was sure proven wrong!), going to Poland, leaving Poland…nothing normal.  Here we are again, another branch off of normal.

We believe God is leading us to start a small group and to begin more actively seeking out partners for this.  We will not be actively seeking financial support, fund raising, or a partnership with a non-profit.  If God prompts, reach out so we can talk.  At this time we feel that a certain level of disconnect is necessary.  We believe that God has given our family a unique path to help us connect with those placed in our lives.  He has given our family countless testimonies of His goodness, His provision, and His faithfulness.  This is our family’s journey, our own story.  If this resonates with you, lets connect!

This means we will not be active members of a “Church.”   I know that as an American, if I am “abroad” then I am on the right track.   However, if I am “home” and back in the States, some will view our family as back sliding out of the church.  And that is OK!  Our main concern is following God on this adventure that is life.


For the creation of our small group.  That we would find the right families to partner with and to know our identity for this group. (who we are, what we are for, whom do we serve)

For financial peace.  We are no longer connected with our past sending churches, so our income has decreased.  The government shut down will have an unknown impact on our food stamps that we receive.  It is not a question of IF/WILL God provide, but wisdom in how to handle our finances.

For our children.  Loralie as a leader in her classroom and friends group, Jack with attitude and social interactions, Dottie as she learns to play with others, and Charlie as she has been teething A LOT lately.

For parenting.  For wisdom, strategy, and discernment in parenting our children.

For Michelle.  Being a stay at home mom is no easy feat.  She is a true champion.  For peace, strength and energy.

For Brad.    Balancing home/work/life and better managing time after work.


Chapter 61: New New Beginnings Again

Read at your own risk as this gets pretty long! (but fun!)



I sat around the table the other night realizing that our three oldest kids are the same age differences that my sisters and I (Brad) are.  How did my parents survive?? Let alone us kids?!  How can Michelle and I do this with four?!  Life is full.  I wouldn’t change a thing.


Not only is life full, but our season in life is changing.  I can officially announce our partnership with CenterPoint Church will be concluding at the end of 2018.  From the very beginning of our journey to Poland in 2012, CenterPoint has been a critical piece of our family’s foundation.  We would like to thank you for EVERYTHING that you have done for us through prayer support, financial contribution, helping raise support for a van (and fully paid off at that!) a means of employment, as a loving family, and a church home.  You have been there for us when we left for Poland first time, when we had two more children, when we stepped into the unknown and stayed in Poland, when we opened our coffee shop, when we left our coffee shop, and when we returned stateside.  You are an example of what it means to be a church.  You don’t just show up and then walk away, you reside.

Well, are you ready?  Every time my family enters a new transition I wonder if I am.  As Pastor Jon and I talked about the conclusion of our partnership and what lies ahead for the Graves family, I recounted how awesome God has been on this crazy adventure our family has been on.  Since my Starbuck’s days, God has reminded me of His promise as Provider, Healer, and Leader of our family.  We believe He has clearly brought our family to Gresham, Oregon to work with Mark at Intent Coffee.  It is so clear that God has allowed us to be here for a time of healing, restoration, and rejuvenation.  It doesn’t mean anything has changed, and yet everything has changed.  Here we are doing the same thing that we have been for the last six years, but now we are in our passport country speaking our native language.  To some this may seem like we are no longer Missionaries. Some will say we never were and others, like myself, don’t care what our title is, just that we are in pursuit of God.

So, what lies ahead?  We believe God is asking us not to partner with another organization at this time.  We will continue to pursue God’s direction and leading for our family’s direction, as we have been from the beginning.  As in Poland, our areas of focus will be around the kids, their school and Brad’s work at the coffee shop and in the coffee community.  This season will be another step out into “the waters.”

Portland is a widely non-religious, post-church people. In need of love, acceptance, and His presence (don’t we all?!) we plan to merely show up. Being an example and praying for healing for our neighborhoods and people who may need hope. We also have adopted the mentality that “less is more” with regards to time and lifestyle. We do not believe we should fill our time with events or pouring into the community but giving space to just be. We believe that to create a lifestyle of living with God that is sustainable for our four kid’s foundation and relationship with Jesus that time spent together is most important. As we spend time together as a family, we form an unbreakable bond with each other and with Jesus, our friend and co-partner in life. As we build a healthy connection we grow like branches into our community. Loralie, Jack, Dottie and Charlie are brave warriors who are now and, one day, will be out in this world on their own. We believe God has huge dreams for each child and we want to do our best as parents to guide them as they grow! And as they grow, they go into the world! (We will not keep them from the world but prepare them in it to stand out! We love our kids, we love what their future holds and that we do not need to fear what will come because we have hope that they, each, were created with a purpose on this earth.

Here is a quick update on the family!

Jack is flourishing in school. Although Jack has spent tears over the last 1.5 years missing Poland, his friends and family there we are thankful for how he has grown since.  A year ago, we were told by a teacher that Jack wouldn’t successfully complete Kindergarten.  We are happy to report that he is half way through First Grade and thriving.  Jack has surpassed every expectation set before him!  He has a way to go, but for a 7-year-old boy…he is doing just fine!  Hah!

Loralie has been pushing her limits as a Third-Grader.  She has been accepted into a Talented and Gifted math class that I am sure would make my Cousin Amy proud!  The new school the kids are in has been a place of love, peace and promise.  We are so thankful to have a public school that challenges the status quo and embraces the children as their own.  This school may rank lowest in Portland….er Oregon?  But you wouldn’t know it from the level of service these teachers and staff put into these kids!


Dottie is talking more clearly every day and consistently bringing joy to our family.  She is a ball of energy and has so much love to give.  We cannot wait to see her continue to grow and develop as she will be turning THREE in just a few more months!


Charlie just celebrated her First birthday!  Wowzers!  1 year has already passed.  If that doesn’t blow you away, she is now walking on her own all over the house and climbing the stairs! Charlie is the ham of the family. Smiling nearly all the time, smacking people in the face, blowing kisses and cheeky as ever.



Thank you for reading our words faithfully, listening to our hopes for our children and supporting the very real needs we have had. We are not without gratitude and deep thanks for your emails of encouragement, monetary donation and hugs of support in our times of need.


To conclude, we invite you to continue to support our family’s needs, ministry adventures, and outreach.  Our family’s ministry support will no longer be able to go through CenterPoint after December 31st, 2018.  If you believe God is asking you to partner with our family after this time, we will still be accepting gifts through Pay Pal, Venmo, Cash App, or via snail mail.  As always, our family strongly relies on God’s provision. (We do loads of dinners and events based out of our house that impacts our local community!)  He has asked us to trust Him during this time of transition, so of course we will!


He is always faithful.

Chapter 60: Thankfulness

Rejoice in the Lord always, Again I will say, rejoice!

Philippians 4:4 NKJV

Rejoicing is not always easy.

Life is not always easy.

Michelle shared this not too long ago:


“Back in November, when I was heavily pregnant and we were still living with my brother-in-law and sister’s apartment. I heard God tell me to take a photo of this room and call it “thankfulness.” I was, to be honest, losing hope.

I felt like Mary. I had just left the country I loved (Poland) out of very difficult and traumatic circumstances. Our last year in Poland was tumultuous, actually. It was home. It was where Brad and I grew and became even more humble, honest, hard working humans. We sacrificed a lot by being there. But saw so many miracles. We experienced God in ways we only read about in the book of Acts. We learned heart ache, betrayal, loss, hunger, anger, resentment, unforgiveness, lies, dreams being crushed. The list goes on, really. There were times we thought it was too much to breathe. It was a very hard time.

In the middle of our pain and sorrow we learned to focus on thankfulness and cultivating an attitude of praise. Deciding to be grateful for it all. We learned, slowly, how to let go. One by one we forgave those who hurt us. We prayed for those who needed healing. We stuck it through. Literally the only thing we never let go of was hope in a love bigger than us.

Fast forward to November as I say on the living room floor by myself. I found my thoughts going over the pain and loss of the last five years and cried so hard my cheeks burned. But when I cried I didn’t feel that gut wrenching pain from wounds that never healed. The sorrow I felt was for “home.” Somewhere to feel we belonged. After months of being on the road and having no space to ourselves it was hard to imagine our own home other than our flat in Kraków. So I cried.

That’s when I heard God say “go take a photo of your kids’ room. In a short while your world won’t look like this and you’ll want to look back on this and say ‘thank you’ to me.”

So here I am 8.5 months later, in our own home (because of some crazy people who love God and us and wanted to partner with us in this crazy new ministry/life). The kids have their favorite pictures hung on the walls of their rooms. The backyard has a trampoline we all spent four years praying for. Dottie squeals with delight in the paddling pool.

And all I can think about is this picture and how I feel so so thankful.

Thank you for partnering with us these five years. Thank you for your monetary support as we never forgot to be grateful. Thank you for praying for us in the night and hugging us when we visited your home or church or coffee shop. Thank you for thinking of us. No one really knows how many prayers were answered because of your kindness to our family.

God is so kind. And I am a blubbering grateful human because of Him.”



This last year has been a wild roller coaster…isn’t that how our family’s life seems to be?!  Hah!  I feel like I have written this statement on more than one occasion.  It has been used to describe some incredible highs like moving to Poland, the birth of 2 children(since you joined us on the journey), opening a cafe, new jobs, healings, and awesome miracles.  It has also been used to describe some crazy lows in life like a severely burned arm, car crashes, leaving Poland, leaving friends, tiny homes, constant transition, and financial stress.

But God.  He is the full package, all inclusive.  Resting at the bottom in the lows, God was(and is!) there.  Soaring to each one of the highs, God was(and is!) there.  Because no matter what part of the ride we are on, God is there.  He isn’t looking ahead or distracted by what was behind, He is watching us with an unquenchable joy.

Most of you joined us during our time in Poland.  We filled these newsletters with our grand adventures abroad serving God in a far off place.

We were Missionaries.

When God called us back stateside we thought everything was going to be different.  We heard rumors that our time as missionaries had ended, and that since we were not moving to Canada, we had returned to “normal life.”  I have talked with our sending church’s Pastor Jon about how nothing feels different.  Our families perspective on life has been forever changed.  The only thing that has changed?  Our mailing address…and the size of our family.

We “returned” from Poland to a culture that was not familiar to us.  What were these oversized trucks that don’t fit into normal parking spaces, supermarkets that have more varieties and brands of cereal than they have customers in a day, the eye contact, the inquiries into “how are you today?” with disinterest at any response given, and….pajamas in public?  We realize that our adventure is far from over.  Because…

We are missionaries.

Because we all are.  I still work with coffee.  We still serve.  We still show up.  We thank God during all parts of the ride.  We are on the ride, the grand adventure that is life.  That in itself is enough to bring forth praise, thanksgiving, and much rejoicing.

This culture is just as foreign to me as any other.

This upcoming month Jack and Loralie will be attending a new public school.  Davis Elementary is not the highly ranked and offers a diversity rivaling that of the UN.  We are excited to get them plugged in and meet our new neighbors.  The school is only a 5 minute walk from our home!

I am continuing to work with Intent Coffee Roasting and am loving every minute of it.  It is still the healthiest work environment I have ever been in and the shared vision of what a coffee shop can/should be is really exciting!

Michelle is looking forward to the return of school, but rocks the role of Mom.  She leads the kiddos fearlessly, setting an example that is noticed by all who meet her.  I am thankful that God has blessed me with such an amazing partner in life!

We have been settling into our new house nicely.  We are winning the war against the ants, enjoying a yard with a trampoline and kiddy pool, and  we have space.  So much to thank a generous God!

Please join us in prayer as we:

~search for a new church home and community to be apart of.  We believe we have found the right one, but are praying for wisdom.

~adjust to a new School, new neighbors, new friends.  We are excited to get plugged into our neighborhood and city.

~prioritize our time, needs, and resources.

~establish our home as safe space for our kids friends, small groups, and other ministry opportunities.


Chapter 59: One year later

Some of you may have noticed.  It’s been awhile.

June 26th we arrived at the Krakow Airport with a grand adventure ahead of us.  We didn’t anticipate just how adventurous it was going to be.  We knew, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God was leading us towards something.  At the time we were confident it was a call to Vancouver BC with weigh stations in OKC, Colorado, and Portland.  When we prayed about our future, we knew God was promising a vehicle, a job, and a house.  We had no idea exactly how He was going to do this.

As you have read before, God provided a Van, debt free.

Again, God provided a job.  When we realized that Vancouver was either a not yet or a means to get us to Portland, God opened the door for me to work with a coffee friend in Portland.  I now have a job that allows me to work in coffee, in one of the healthiest work environments I have ever had the privilege of being apart of.  I did everything I could to get my foot in the door in Canada.  I even traveled up to Vancouver and interviewed at various coffee roasters and shops for any potential job listing.  Little did i know just how hard it was for an American to get a job in Canada…or the cost of living for Vancouver!

And now, God is providing a house!

When we first moved to Portland we enrolled the kids into school near our temporary apartment in Beaverton on the West side of town.  At the time I was traveling downtown to help with coffee, so it worked perfectly.  After Charlie’s birth, my coffee job moved out to Gresham on the far East Side of Portland.  This has my daily commute at 1.5 hours a day, round trip!  A few months back we really felt God leading us to move out to the  Gresham area.  The major problem? We don’t qualify for a house big enough for our family of 6!  Our lender and realtor dropped this news with the understanding that we only qualifying for roughly a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house.  When we found this out, we did the best we could…we surrendered it to God, we waited patiently, we trusted.

Two weeks later we received a phone call from friends and prayer partners that God told them to buy us a house.  Two weeks after that, an offer was placed and accepted on a house.  This house is big enough for our family, with room for us to grow into!  If all goes according to plan with inspection, appraisal, and financial acceptance we will close on the house June 26th.

Life is a crazy adventure.  In one year God completely transformed our lives.  Leaving Poland with 13 bags, no job, no vehicle, no home…only hope.  One year later we find ourselves in Portland with a moving truck, a job, a van, a home…filled with joy!

God never promised that the journey would be easy, and it wasn’t.  Instead, we trusted in His provision, timing, and protection.

Please join us in prayer as we:

~search for a new church home and community to be apart of.

~wait for the inspection, appraisal, and final closing of the house to be completed

~search for our place in the Rockwood/Gresham community.

~adjust to a more permanent home and another move, new School, new neighbors, new friends.  It has been a long journey!

~seek out purchases for moving into a home and putting the final “home” touches on this house (appliances, yard equipment, trampoline, etc)


Today is the day!  We have an appointment at the Hospital at 4pm PST for Michelle to be induced.  We will likely only update after delivery, and after Michelle has had some rest.  Keep our family in your prayers as we go through one more transition this year…i think number 2040239840?  Or something like that.  After we get more settled we will have a registry set up for those last extra items.


Much love from the Graves family!

« Previous Entries