The Raitz Family Needs Your Help to Adopt and Bring home Winona Mae!!

The Raitz Family has some some HUGE news! IMG_3316

We’re trying…praying…hoping… believing that we are going to Adopt Winona Mae from China! That’s our name for her. It’s after Tracie’s two grandmothers. She actually wanted to name both girls that, but Bekah and Madison won out then. Now it’s time for Winona Mae. Her name as of right now is An Fu Le and she is a beautiful 17 month old baby with PKU from China! She’s very tiny for her age.

The Story 

Ok, let me back up! We have four kids. Our life is pretty full. We planted and now lead a growing and exciting church. Our kids are in sports. Have homework and activities. Both Tracie and I work many hours every week for our Church. In the midst of all of that, we believe that God has called us to adopt a child with PKU.

The Calling

God put a calling on my heart almost ten years ago! I was flying home from a mission trip to Mexico. It was a year after Zach was born and his PKU still rocked me to my core. Actually, I could hardly deal with it. I was journaling and I was thinking about the children I saw on that mission trip and the thought that kept sticking with me was…what if Zach was born there? He just wouldn’t make it. That night, God put the call to adopt on my heart. Tracie has always wanted too add to our family and together through a ton of prayer, we have decided to take this step.IMG_3305

It’s taken ten years, but we have found a baby girl in China with PKU and we have been pre-approved by China to pursue her adoption. She’s been on a PKU diet but she is behind a bit developmentally. She is in an orphanage with 800 other children and just doesn’t get a lot of stimulation or individual attention. That’s why we need your help to bring her home!

There is a lot to be done before we can bring Winona Mae home! Paperwork, interviews and and honestly, the biggest part is raising $30,000. And then, we no longer have anything for babies! No cribs, strollers, toys, pack n plays, clothes, etc.

Yes, $30,000!

I know, I know, I know. That’s a lot of money! But, there are a ton of fees. There is airfare. Tracie and I will need to spend 2 weeks in China. There is paperwork costs. There are more fees. There is her paperwork fees. And so much more.

But, it will be worth it! We will add to our family, which the Raitz kids are totally EXCITED about it! And, we will give a loving home with a  great family to a child who desperately needs it. Plus, we already have two kids with PKU! So, she will have a ton of support with her own PKU!

And the cool part so far is… everyone we’ve told so far is totally excited! Our parents, our siblings, our kids, our friends, and circle! We’ve even had people already tell us they will help us raise the money! We’ve had friends who said they will contribute. We’ve had friends ready to help get her room ready! It’s pretty exciting!

We’ve already decided that we are going to try to sell everything we possibly can to help raise as much money as we can. We’re going to be hosting some fundraising events and we will even have a T-Shirt that people can buy.

So, will you consider helping us Bring Winona Mae home? 

Any amount and gift is a HUGE BLESSING!

Here’s what you can to do help us bring Winona Mae home:

  1. You can head HERE to give. This is a Go Fund Me account and will help keep our donations organized!
  2. Share this blog post on your Facebook page.
  3. Share our Go fund Me page on your Facebook page.
  4. Pray. Yes, that should have been number one, but please pray. Pray for the smoothness. Pray for favor with the Chinese government. Pray for God’s favor on raising these funds. Pray for our family.

Ok, I can’t thank you in advance! Thank you for praying! Thank you for giving! Thank you for sharing our Go Fund Me page on your own social media pages!

Let’s bring Winona Mae home!!!!!

Excited to Encourage 2nd Graders to Choose Kindness over Bullying today at Beal City School

It’s been awhile, about a year and a half, but today I’m encouraging 2nd graders to

Choose Kindness over Bullying.

Let me back up. Before I planted Thrive Church, I started a non profit called Live Now Leadership and I spoke in schools to encourage students to Choose Kindness over Bullying. But, with the rapid growth of the church, I just haven’t been able to head out and speak in schools. I’ve missed it.

So, we were at Madie’s parent teacher conference and as we were taking with her teacher it came up that I use to speak to students. She jumped on it quickly and asked if I would speak to all the 2nd graders at Madie’s school.

Helping kids, students and adults treat each other with kindness and respect is actually a HUGE passion of area of mine! My heart breaks when people mis-treat each other.

Just imagine if Parents would be passionate about teaching their kids to treat each other with unprecendeted amounts of kindness and respect. Imagine if parents treated their families and their peers with that kind of kindness. Imagine if 2nd graders understood the importance and began to treat others with kindness…the world would change!

This wasn’t a tough decision at all.

So, this morning I’m headed into Madie’s school and I get to help out. I can’t wait!

And bonus, my kids have heard me speak on this so many times that they’ve been helping get my talk together this morning! I love that!

Thanks for praying for me around 8ish this morning!

Week three of ‘Everybody’s is Amazing and Nobody’s Happy’

We have been in a great teaching series at Thrive called…

‘Everything is Amazing and Nobody’s Happy’

To watch past talks, head hereeverbody





A funny thing happened this last Sunday. I was posting about this series and I accidentally typed...Everybody is Amazing and nobody’s happy. One of Thrivers pointed that out and how at Thrive, that’s really true! No matter your story, no matter your past, no matter where you come from, we believe you’re amazing and we want you to be a part of our Church family!

And, since I wasn’t scheduled to teach, Dave Shephard…Thrive’s Creative Director filled in and did a great job! Check out his message down below and his great blog here.

Sunday Night Reflections…I may never complain again

It’s Sunday night! It’s been quite a week! Awesome to Exhausting and everything in between.

The longer I’m a Pastor, it’s amazing to me how quickly I can experience the complete range of crazy emotions in a super short amount of time.

Here are some of my Sunday Night Reflections. 

1. I SHOULD never complain again. I spent most of the week in Ecuador on a Compassion Vision Trip and after experiencing a level of poverty I have never seen or experienced before in my life, I should NEVER COMPLAIN EVER AGAIN! IMG_0565

I am blessed and I am rich and I have nothing  to complain about. After standing in homes that were the size of a bathroom and had no running water, I have nothing to complain about!

2. I LOVED traveling with Bekah. Because of some extreme generosity, Bekah was given the chance to travel with me to Ecuador. It was a life changing trip and I can’t even begin to tell you how special it was to be with her all week. We had incredible conversations and we both had an incredible experience.

3. I am FIRED up! GOD ignited my heart this week. He renewed my passion to reach Central MI for Jesus. He broke my heart for the plight of the poor. He kicked me in the pants to do more for the Kingdom. He reminded me that He loved me! I am fired up!

4. I LOVE MY CHURCH! Today was so good! Because I wasn’t teaching today, I could engage in more conversations and hang out with volunteers. I hung out in Thrive Kidz and it was awesome! I just love my church. I, for the life of me can’t figure why some folks choose to only be a part of Church once a month!?! It’s just crazy to me!

5. I love when Parents serve with their Teens! I counted three sets of parents who IMG_0736serve with their teens this morning at Thrive! That blows my mind and is completely awesome! Oh, wait, as I think about it, it’s actually 5!

6. My heart broke when I heard someone left Thrive Church. I don’t think people realize that Pastors actually hurt when people leave their churches. Thrive has had it’s fair share of people who have left and every time I find out, my heart breaks.

Especially when they just stop showing up and never respond to any messages. It honestly hurts. But, you do everything you can do and keep praying for them.

7. I love my Thrive staff team! I work with some absolutely amazing people. I was gone all week and my team did an incredible job preparing for Sunday and our upcoming projects!

8. I can’t figure out why more people don’t sponsor kids through Compassion.  After seeing the work of Compassion first hand and meeting sponsor kids and adults who were sponsor kids, it’s such an easy way to literally save children from a life of poverty or even premature death.

9. My wife’s a rock star! She busts her butt all week long. She kills it with Zach and Madie’s diet. She works hard on Sunday’s. She takes care of a family of 6.

And, right now, she’s hobbling around the house because she hurt her back setting up Thrive Kidz and its hard to see her in pain! We’ve really got to build up our Thrive Kidz set up team.

When the kids were little, it was the same thing. I love talking to families sometimes who use their kids being young as a reason they skip out on Church or volunteering. Gosh, when our kids were little we went to a church where it took Tracie 20 minutes to drop off all 4 kids in the kids ministry and since I worked there, I could never help.

She’s a rock star. I’m so proud of her. And, today, we actually sat together in church! Huge for us!

10. I dream of having every one who calls Thrive their home church together on a Sunday. Maybe it’s the wrong dream. But the synergy and the energy and the momentum that comes when everyone shows up is just awesome! You can feel it in the air. I’ve learned over the course of 2 years, it’s a tough dream to have. I’ve read in a few places that the average church attender is not 1.5 times a month.

So, it’s a tough dream. But, I’ll keep working and dreaming and praying!

Planting and Leading a Church has been the toughest endeavor of my life. But, I feel so blessed to be Thrive’s Pastor and I’m so excited for what’s ahead!

I really believe the best is yet to come!


Church for the rest of us…An invite to check out Thrive this morning

What are you doing today at 9 or 1015am this morning? Why don’t you head to Thrive Church?IMG_4409

Seriously, we’re a church for people who don’t like church and we would love for you to experience Thrive. There are no perfect people allowed, so don’t worry about that. You don’t have to dress up. Just be you.

Ok, if you already have a Church home, then stop reading! No really! If you have a church family…a church home, then this post is not really for you.

BUT and it’s a big BUT

If you’ve been searching for a Church home, I really do think you would love Thrive. We started Thrive to be a church for the rest of us. There really isn’t any pomp and circumstance or holding onto traditions that were important 30 years ago. I’m the pastor and I wear jeans and a sweatshirt. We talk about real stuff and how we can take the truth of the Bible and apply it to our daily lives. The band rocks. Your kids will love our kids program. And it’s just really fun, it’s really simple and we’re real.

So, if you’re skeptical. If you’ve given up on Church and you are willing to give it one more chance. Then, you’re invited to check out Thrive today at either 9 or 1015 at Celebration Cinema.

See you soon!

3 Life Changing Moments I experienced this week in Ecuador

Ok, the title of this post is absolutely ridiculous! Why? Because I experienced way more than 3 amazing moments! The entire week was life changing! And, to be honest. I’m a mess. I just posted a photo album of the trip and I’m having a hard time typing through the tears. But, here goes.

3 Moments I will NEVER forget. 

1. Meeting our Compassion sponsored child, Yacel. Our family sponsors three children from Ecuador. Miguel, Ruth Ester and Yacel. I will never forget that moment. NEVER! I pray that our entire family has an opportunity to head back to Ecuador to meet all three. IMG_0597

Ok, I’m about to share something I’m not proud of, but here goes. For years, I didn’t understand the gravity and how important it was to sponsor a child! I just didn’t. I’m ashamed of that! It will never happen again! Every letter you sent your child is a precious treasure to them. They look at your pictures! They pray for you! And, your $38 a month literally releases them from poverty! More on that and the work of Compassion and Stadia later.

2. Watching Greg Nettle, his daughter and their sponsored child cut the ribbon to the Church his family planted! Here’s the thing, Greg Nettle is the real deal! Every time I am able to be around him, I am inspired at a whole new level! When he says he’s all in for church planting and making sure every child has a church, he’s ALL IN! IMG_0619

He raised money to plant this church by climbing a freaking mountain! People sponsored him by the foot and he was able to plant a church! How stinking incredible is that? If that’s not enough, his high school daughter and a group of friends raised enough money as well to plant a church! Are you kidding me?!?

And, here’s how powerful all this is! This Church has literally brought HOPE to this community. It also doubles as Child Development Center and it has an Infant Survival Program as well! Lives are being saved from death and the light of Christ is shining in this community!

3. Watching Wes Stafford’s sponsored kids hug him with the kind of hug that would cause anyone to cry!IMG_0695

Here’s the story. 20 years ago, Wes and his wife sponsored twin girls. For 20 years they sent letters, care packages and visited them when they could. The twins are now adults  and because of the sponsorship, the child development center and the church, their lives were saved. They were released from poverty.

I was sitting in the church listening the Pastor of the church through the translator and I just happened to turn around and I saw these women race to Wes. He barely had time to stand because they attacked him with the most incredible hug. Tears were flowing. And then, when some of us realized what was happening, we started to cry!

It was the most amazing moment! I can’t even express how powerful it was to sit in a  church that didn’t exist 35 years ago. How powerful it was to realize that these women were just girls when they were sponsored and their lives were saved. How powerful it was to learn that thousands of kids have been sponsored in this area and because of the light of Christ, the entire area has been changed!

Here’s what I know…

I’m tired. I’m fed up. I’m done living the way I have been. What way is that? Not caring enough about the plight of the poor both at home and around the world! I spent so much time confessing the sin of not using the resources God’s blessed me with for His kingdom. I’m done.

It’s time to get serious. It’s time to get focused. It’s time to help other people experience moments like this so they will receive the gift of a Holy Discontent from God and do something for His Kingdom.

I would urge you to please check out the work of Compassion and Stadia. Pray about how you can get involved to release children from poverty in Jesus name and make sure every child has a church!

A Brothel Closed Down Because of a Church!!! ONLY GOD!!!

Yesterday we visited a former brothel. It was a pretty simple building that was used for horrific acts against women. Satan used to dwell there. Darkness won there. The light was shut out.IMG_0632

Let me back up. We were on a tiny island with 1000 residents. Took about 25 minutes by boat to get there. No running water. Virtually no electricity. Houses bit on stilts because of constant flooding. Garbage all over the place. Half starved dogs running around. Little kids with no shoes, barely any clothes and running through the mud.

We went to visit a Compassion sponsored family and we went to a building that looked like it had a bar in the back. When we asked what used to be there, we were told a brothel. There were 6 tiny rooms on the right side where men would pay for woman and disgustingly enough girls. Like I said, the darkness was winning.


A Church brought the light and hope of Jesus to that island. Remember how important the church is? Because of Jesus…the Church is the Hope of the World! It’s the most transformative and important organization in the world!

And, because of this Church, the brothel closed down! It went away! It failed! Women were freed. The Church brought light to this very dark place. Now, the brothel is used for families. Jesus is winning.

How powerful is that? The light came into the darkness.

And, here’s the powerful story behind this Church. Greg Nettle (the President of Stadia) climbed a mountain to raise the funds to build this church. People sponsored him by the foot and he was able to raise the $87,000 needed to plant this Church and Child Development Center.


Talk about selflessness! Talk about Kingdom vision! Talk about a passion for Every Child to Have a Church!

His story and his daughter’s, which I’ll post about next have really got me thinking about how much I can do to help get more churches started in Ecuador!!

This trip has been life changing. My heart has been wrecked. My heart has been opened. I’m ready to do more.

 *I wanted to attach pictures, but the wifi is giving me some problems.