For Peter and Cheryl Greif, a trip to Zambia changed their life–a trip of spiritual awakening that would create a ripple effect impacting everyone they love.
For Cheryl, the decision to travel across the world did not come lightly. Her daughters, Alyson and Brittan, were 2 and 3 years old at the time and her husband Peter, a pilot with Southwest Airlines, traveled extensively. But Cheryl described her spiritual walk as “luke warm” and that she was going through the motions. “I knew there was more to this faith journey,” she says.
In 2009, Every Orphan’s Hope (EOH) Founder and President, Gary Schneider, spoke at Cheryl’s church, Preston Ridge Baptist Church in Frisco, TX. Gary spoke about Orphan Sunday, an annual event that mobilizes churches and orphan-care advocates around the world to defend the fatherless. Cheryl was inspired. “It was like a lightbulb went off and I knew that is what I needed to do!”
Cheryl’s husband Peter was emotionally supportive but informed Cheryl that she had to raise the money. “You’re not taking it out of our savings,” he told her.
Cheryl stepped onto Zambian ground for the first time in the summer of 2010. She recalls, “It felt like home. I knew this was where I belonged. I knew it. I felt it in my heart.” She continues, “Paul Lueders (a former EOH staff member) and I were walking one day, and he said, ‘Well, is it what you thought?’ And I said, ‘It isn’t anything like what I thought. I feel like I am home.’ And Paul said, ‘Well, maybe you’re closer to God.’ And I said, ‘Yeah, I do feel closer to God, but this is something different. I feel like this is where I’m supposed to be.’”
Cheryl returned with countless stories of vulnerable children coming to know the Lord, and personal accounts of God moving in ways she had never experienced before. “She told me things that only a spouse could believe,” says Peter. “And I remember, she said, ‘I went there; I loved God. I came home; I was in love with God.’”
Cheryl’s stories accompanied with her enthusiasm and re-kindled love for Christ, stirred Peter’s heart. It also created some pressure for him to go to Zambia with Cheryl the following year. Cheryl began fundraising for a return trip as soon as she got home, so funds for her were secured by March. But Peter decided to go at the last minute, so funds weren’t there. “Well, we can use savings!” he suggested. Cheryl and Peter laugh at the recollection. “Actually, God was good and the people in our church, friends and family, funded Peter,” says Cheryl.
During the summer of 2011, Peter and Cheryl went to Zambia together, Peter as a builder and Cheryl as the Program Manager for Every Orphan’s Hope. Cheryl distanced herself from Peter, wanting him to have his own experience, she but constantly prayed for him. After a couple of weeks, Peter began feeling convicted for going on the trip as a builder; to him, that was the easy route. “I know I’m good with my hands; I’m always working on small projects at the house, so it was just eating at me knowing that I wasn’t going to grow in construction.”
So, Peter faced his fears and decided to move out of construction and teach at Camp Hope. Cheryl was elated. Peter recalls, “She jumped up and down because she was praying that I would change my mind the whole time.”
When Peter and Cheryl came home, they decided to lead their next trip together. Yes, there would be a next trip…but would it be their last?
In March of 2012, Cheryl stepped down from Every Orphan’s Hope. “God made it abundantly clear to me, through prayer, that I was going to be a full-time mom, homeschool, and pour into my family,” she says. “That was hard for me because I love the ministry and I love Zambia. I really didn’t understand it. I prayed and I talked to my pastor about it, and I cried out to God…I didn’t understand why He was saying Stop.”
Peter interjects, “While God was moving her to step down from her leadership role with EOH, He was moving me to be more of a leader in our family…to step up.”
So Peter and Cheryl went to Zambia together as leaders in the summer of 2012. Cheryl knew it would be her last trip. “Hugging those kids goodbye, especially Dorcas and Lisa, my two sponsored girls, was so hard. I struggled letting go of the ministry. Dorcas said, ‘I want to see you soon,’ and every time before this last year, I would say, ‘I will see you next year’, but this time I said, ‘I will try. We have to see.’ That was hard. It broke me inside.”
“But as soon as Cheryl stepped down from Every Orphan’s Hope,” recalls Peter, “God spoke to me about moving to Zambia!”
“And, I just about jumped out of my skin!” Cheryl says, laughing at the recollection.
On a Sunday morning in October, Cheryl woke up with a migraine. She decided to go to the early service so that she could teach her pre-K class. Normally, Peter would sleep in and stay with the girls, but this Sunday, he had said, “When you get back, leave the car running in the driveway and I’m going to go to the late service.”
At church, Gary sat down next to Peter and after the sermon, Peter asked Gary to lunch.
“Why? You want to go to Zambia?” says Gary.
“Why? You got a job?” Peter responds.
An offer was made. The Greifs began to pray for God’s direction, and in early November, Cheryl begins reading Experiencing God. She recalls, “I felt totally convicted because we were being disobedient. We were making all sorts of excuses: What about malaria? What if one of the girls gets sick? And what about our older daughter, Danielle, who lives in Missouri? What about this? What about that?…
“So, Peter walked through the door and I put the book down and said, ‘You’ve got to read this.’”
“I was a little nervous opening the book,” Peter remembers.
He said, “What if I don’t feel what you felt when you read it?”
“It doesn’t matter; I just need you to read this so we can discuss it.”
Peter reads the first two chapters, then walks outside to Cheryl and says, “We’re going.”
From there, things have moved quickly for the Greifs. They revealed the news to their family, many of whom live in Baltimore, and while there were some tears, there was also an overwhelming sense of peace…and a tinge of humor. Brittan, who is now 6, said, “Now I can’t marry Caden,” which is her little friend across the street.
Peter traveled with Gary to Zambia earlier this year to determine his and Cheryl’s role as missionaries for Every Orphan’s Hope. Part of their role will be overseeing maintenance/repairs of the My Father’s House orphan homes. They will also be coordinating short-term missionary teams and interns on the ground to assist with Camp Hope.
Peter and Cheryl are selling everything, including their house, to raise the necessary funds to live in Zambia. Their goal is to raise $100,000 a year, which will cover living expenses and give them a budget to complete their tasks (house repairs, Camp Hope, etc.). By raising support, they’re creating a network of prayer warriors and allowing the body of Christ to make a Kingdom impact. Peter adds, “We’re jumping out on faith and raising support to highlight how amazing God is.”
When friends ask the Greifs how long they will live in Zambia, Peter and Cheryl respond with faith: “We’re going to wait and see where God leads us. Right now, He wants us in Zambia.”
To donate to Peter and Cheryl Greif, click here, and select Peter and Cheryl Greif Daily Bread.
– Britney Mott, Director of Communications