Editor’s Note: This article is a condensed version of a longer article that originally appeared here on the website of WatersEdge.
When it came to tithing, Russell Graeter was a miser. But through the decades, God used the love of his life to transform his heart and radically impact ministry.
Thirteen is an unlucky number for some, but not 95-year-old Russell Graeter. To the Texas-born engineer, 13 represents the number of salvations celebrated by a Pittsburgh church plant that Graeter supported through a gift he made to the North American Mission Board in memory of his late wife, MaryAnn.
“That’s 13 more people that are going to heaven,” Graeter says through tears of joy. “It was worth it.”
Graeter hasn’t always felt so strongly about reaching the lost. For years, he avoided a relationship with God. Every time the doors to the couple’s church were open, MaryAnn attended but Graeter stayed home. MaryAnn’s passion for evangelism inspired her to hand out tracts and share the Gospel with anyone that would listen. She never gave up on winning her husband to Christ and prayed for him every day for decades.
“Every night she’d read me the Bible,” Graeter says. “She was a dear person and spent so much time trying to get me to become a Christian — time I wasted.”
Eventually, the day came when Graeter was ready to surrender his life to Jesus, but he struggled to leave his former self behind.
“When I told the pastor I wanted to be a Christian, I didn’t give up some of the bad things that I did and instead rationalized them away,” he recalls. “It took me until 1985 to finally turn from that sin and walk the other way. I think God helped me, because I never looked back from that moment on.”
Through the years, Graeter became a more and more cheerful giver to ministries that furthered the spread of the gospel in North America and around the world through the International Mission Board.
Holly Blakey, WatersEdge director of donor relations, loves working with Graeter and seeing God change lives through his generosity.
“He traditionally gives large gifts, mostly directed to the North American Mission Board’s (NAMB) church-planting efforts,” Blakey says. Graeter asked Blakey to work with NAMB to research the cities where the Gospel was most needed, which is where he directs his giving.
So far, Graeter has given to city funds in Pittsburgh, Denver, Boston and Salt Lake City. The funds are distributed widely to church-planting missionaries and their ministries and have resulted in hundreds of salvations and baptisms.
This story originally appeared on the website of WatersEdge Services, which supports hundreds of Christian causes in Oklahoma, across the United States and around the world. You can read the full article here.
Published July 13, 2021