Faithfulness Multiplied

For years, Russell Graeter avoided a relationship with God. Every time the doors were open to the church, which Graeter’s wife MaryAnn faithfully attended, Russell stayed home. But MaryAnn never gave up on winning her husband to Christ and prayed for him every day.

“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.”

Graeter says biblical generosity had always been part of the couple’s marriage, even before he followed the Lord. He admits his early intentions for giving were misplaced. “At first, I tithed for an evil purpose,” Graeter says. “MaryAnn told me, ‘If you give ten percent, God will give you back more than you can imagine.’ And I thought, ‘Boy, this’ll be a way to end this. I’ll do it and it won’t happen and we can forget this whole thing.’”

The couple started tithing in 1947 when they were married. Today, three-quarters of a century after his tithing experiment began, Graeter is still giving, now with the right motives, and God is multiplying his gifts. Since MaryAnn’s death in 2019, Graeter has focused on making larger contributions in her honor through his donor advised fund. Graeter’s most recent gift was directed to an International Mission Board (IMB) refugee center in Northern Africa.

“When Mr. Graeter asked about the budget needed for the project, he shared that he had $150,000 to distribute over a three-year period,” explains Holly Blakey, WatersEdge director of donor relations. “When I received the numbers from IMB, the figures matched, which means his gift will completely fund the refugee center. That’s God at work!”

Even without his beloved MaryAnn, Graeter intends to keep giving as long as he’s able, and even after he’s gone. The thing that keeps him here? Graeter thinks God is not done with him yet, so at 95 he continues to give.

“It’s sort of like giving away what you never owned. It all belongs to God,” he says.

Reprinted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Generosity Magazine, a WatersEdge publication. Read the full story at