“I am grateful for the full plate God has given me, and I try to handle it all with care,” Chris Graber, graduate student pursuing a Master of Arts in New Testament, said about his very busy life. Minister of the South Twin Cities Church of Christ in Rosemount, Minnesota, he balances his care of his family, his work with the church, a separate part-time job he does before his family awakens and his studies in FHU’s Graduate School of Theology.
That balancing act became much more difficult in April 2016 when his wife of almost 13 years, Evie, was diagnosed with an aggressive, incurable brain tumor. She had just given birth to their fifth son. Chris Graber shares responsibilities for the care, discipline and home schooling of their boys: Noah, 11; Javan, 9; Gideon, 7; Jude, 4; and Elisha, 1. Because of his busy lifestyle, the couple decided he would continue his master’s work at a slower pace. He began the program Spring 2012 and hopes to complete it next year.
A graduate of Bear Valley Bible Institute in Denver, as well as Bethel College in North Newton, Kansas, Graber has worked with the South Twin Cities congregation since 2007. He shares the pulpit with his father-in-law, Randy Martin, directs the education program and leads the youth group classes and activities. The congregation of approximately 120 individuals is comprised of “Christian families of all ages and dynamics,” he said.
Taking classes online has been a distinct advantage for Graber. “I can continue my work in ministry in Minnesota,” he said. Since class sessions are recorded, he has found it easy to review course content. He has noticed little difference between the online experience and face-to-face classes. “With the current online format, we can attend and participate in real time,” he said.
While the distance between West Tennessee and Minnesota could make the campus seem worlds away, past experiences have brought Graber to Henderson. As a high school student, he attended Makin’ Music when his sister, Kimberly Graber Barnes, was in the production, and he came to campus for a debate a few years ago.
This summer, however, a little of Freed-Hardeman visited him. Dr. Doug Burleson, professor in the FHU Graduate School of Theology, along with his wife, Kristi, and their four children, met the Graber family at the Mall of America. “That was the first time I had met one of my FHU instructors in person,” he said. “We have appreciated the prayers offered up by him and his family, and so many others over the past year and a half,” Graber said.
In addition, Burleson had several of his students produce a video to encourage Evie Graber just before her craniotomy. “We were greatly moved by this gesture,” Chris Graber said. “It was nice to finally meet these kind Christians face-to-face and get to know them on a more personal level. I discovered that not only do Dr. Burleson and I share a love for God and big families but also Diet Coke,” he said.
Evie Graber has now completed radiation and will be done with chemotherapy in December. “We know that God will grant her enough time on earth to accomplish what He desires, and we trust His will completely,” Chris Graber said. “Through it all, Evie has been able to continue her secretarial church work from home, along with home-schooling and caring for our sons. We are so thankful,” he added.
The Grabers try not to sacrifice things important to them, such as meals together, dates and family night once a week. They particularly enjoy Graber's Saturday morning pancakes. “Admittedly, it can get overwhelming, attempting to schedule my priorities properly,” he said, “but God knows I will always try, to His glory.”