Our Journey with Jesus: Floyd and Joyce Grunau

May 27, 2024 | 18 minute read
The Alliance Canada

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I was travelling up the Mahakam River with Joyce and our five-year-old son when I started shaking. My fever was over 104⁰ F. Another malaria attack! We had left our home in Samarinda, East Kalimantan, Indonesia, about an hour before, going on a two-day trip into the jungle of Borneo to participate in a church conference. There would be no medical services available. The public taxi boat had around twenty passengers and could hardly turn around for just one sick person. What could we do? 

Growing Up 

Floyd (1943-1962): 

I was born on June 22, 1943, the fiftieth birthday of my grandfather, Edwin Schmidt. My parents, Rudy and Miriam, were Christian Mennonites attending Salem Church near our farm north of Waldheim, Saskatchewan. As a child, my dad had immigrated from present-day Ukraine during the Bolshevik Revolution. Our family was struggling financially and so decided to move into Saskatoon. Dad got a job in a stationery store. We had an old car but not enough money to buy gas. As a child, I didn’t realize how poor we were. 

My mother would faithfully read to my sister and me from a thick purple Bible storybook. These stories and Christian teaching got me to think about the selfish things I did. At the age of six, with help from Mom, I confessed my sins and invited Jesus into my life. I felt relief and joy. Mom suggested we celebrate by buying ice cream cones at the corner store (five cents each). I look back on that day as my entrance into the family of God when my spirit was reborn! 

In the city, our family attended a special conference on the deeper life at the Alliance Tabernacle. My parents continued to attend, fascinated with the teaching on the Holy Spirit and the emphasis on missions. I remember pre-service prayer meetings in the basement where we knelt on fluffy pillows to pray. 

My dad missed the farm, so after four years, we moved back. My many happy experiences included riding around the countryside on my new CCM bike! Sometimes in the evening, I would lie on my back outside in the dark and look up in wonder at the star-studded sky! How great God must be! I enjoyed school, especially playing softball, ice hockey, games, and running. I read most of the books in our church and school libraries. 

When I was twelve, I felt moved at a Christian camp to give God my whole life for whatever He had for me. One year, the Mennonite churches in our area sponsored mission meetings at the curling rink in Waldheim. I was impacted by the preaching of our first speaker, Oswald J. Smith. Fifty years later, I was invited to be the speaker at this same annual missions conference held in Salem Church. 

In 1958 my parents sold the farm, held an auction, and moved to Red Deer, Alberta, where we attended the Alliance church. What a culture shock for me at age fifteen, moving from a one-room country school of fifteen students to a high school of one thousand! I didn’t know how to relate to guys who boasted about getting drunk on the weekend. I enjoyed sports, and the coach wanted me to join the volleyball team, but my parents thought it would not be good to travel with “worldly” students. Looking back, I realized it would have been an excellent stretching experience for me. 

Our Alliance Youth Fellowship met each Friday and also for a youth prayer meeting each Tuesday. God gave me a strong desire to know Him better and study the Bible in greater depth. After high school, I worked for a year selling Fuller Brush products and took a couple of courses to qualify for university entrance. Then I was off to Canadian Bible College (CBC) in Regina. 

Joyce (1945-1962): 

I was born in the Maritimes to Lloyd and Kaye Matheson. My father had received Christ as a teenager, and my mother as a young married woman. While I was still young, we moved to Moncton, New Brunswick, where they grew in their faith through Gunningsville Baptist Church. 

When I was seven years old, I asked my mother if I was a Christian. Since I was learning about Jesus at church and Sunday school, I expected a Yes. Her answer troubled me; she said only I could know for sure. Shortly after, I asked her again, and she simply explained salvation. I confessed my sin and invited Jesus to forgive me and come to live in me. I still remember the feeling as a child of a burden being lifted off my shoulders. There was peace. 

One day walking home from school, I realized I was feeling happy but could not find a reason why. I decided it must be because I now had Jesus living in me. One Sunday, I was deeply stirred by the pastor’s sermon even though I did not understand it. Then I heard my mother say it was the best sermon our pastor had ever preached, and it was on the Holy Spirit. Her comment confirmed to me the Spirit was stirring my heart as I listened. I was not always a submissive, happy child, but I never doubted Jesus lived in me, and I wanted to learn to listen to Him. 

My father was transferred to Regina when I was ten; this became very significant for our family as we were introduced to the Alliance church. My father was a businessman, and my mother had been a nurse. I was the second of seven children. We were never expected to consider full-time ministry, just to be open to God. 

During my young teen years, I became active in ministry. I started with teaching Sunday school in English to children in the Alliance Chinese Church and being trained by Arlene Orthner, the wife of our pastor, Alf Orthner, to teach beginners in Vacation Bible School (VBS). Then came my involvement in Youth for Christ (YFC) leadership, quizzing, seeking to share my faith, and church youth group. I told God I would do whatever He wanted. 

My first year at teen camp was significant. Murray Downey came to represent Canadian Bible College. There was no appeal to commit to going, but God spoke to me very clearly. He showed me I was resisting going to Bible college because I would be embarrassed to tell those in my high school class applying to major universities. I repented and committed to obeying, not knowing where it might lead. 

In my teens, I learned from a YFC speaker how to have a meaningful daily time in God’s Word. He suggested we read until we came to something significant to us, then we were to stop and reflect on what it would look like to believe and follow through on that truth. This way, we would seek to build response to God into our lives, one truth at a time. Over the years, I added journaling and other practices, but this was invaluable to establishing a pattern of listening to God. 

Canadian Bible College (1962-1966) 

Floyd: 

I arrived at CBC in Regina, looking forward to learning from God. My life verse became Philippians 3:10, “That I may know him….” I enjoyed being involved in music ministries, singing in the CBC Chorale on CKCK-TV, as well as touring in male quartets after my first and second years. I had been praying since age fifteen for God to lead me to a girl who would become my wife. Soon I started noticing this red-haired girl named Joyce Matheson. She had a delightful sense of humour, a sharp intellect, and a passion for knowing and loving God. It took me a few months to fall in love and know Joyce was the girl God wanted me to marry! It took Joyce a little longer to decide, but by the next fall, we knew God had led us together! 

Joyce: 

My years at CBC brought a growing hunger for God. I had a fresh experience of the full forgiveness of God through reading We Would See Jesus by Roy Hession. I met Floyd during our first year, and by the second year, we were committed to one another. But what was God calling us to? Ministry at home or overseas? I felt it would confirm God’s call for us to be together if he called us to the same ministry, but as I prayed, I could not hear God. Finally, God showed me that I could not hear Him because I was not open. I felt I could trust God to serve Him in Canada, but I was not cut out for “roughing it” overseas. 

The revelation came during a Thanksgiving service at CBC. Rev. Landis shared how he was taken as a prisoner during World War II while ministering in the Philippines. He described being in the hold of a ship with rats running over his body. His face radiated with the light and joy of Christ as he shared his story. There was no call to missions, just thanksgiving. I could not get up from my seat. I turned to Floyd and said, “God is calling me to overseas ministry.” Floyd responded, “God is saying the same thing to me!” God also used Matthew 28:18-20 to answer my objections; if He has all the power in heaven and earth, and He would go with me and never leave me, how could I say I could not go? 

We were married on May 29, 1965, three weeks after I graduated with a Bachelor of Religious Education. Floyd added an extra year, graduating in 1966 with a Bachelor of Theology degree. That summer, we welcomed the birth of our first son Paul. 

Pastoral Ministry (1966-1969) 

Floyd: 

As prospective missionaries, we were required to serve in pastoral ministry for two years. I briefly served as a pastor in Mica Creek, B.C., and then had two years of ministry at the Alliance church in Oliver, B.C. I was a solo pastor, but I was encouraged by all the support I received from the church family. 

One highlight in Oliver was the birth of our second son Greg. Another was receiving our appointment to overseas ministry in Indonesia. We had applied “open” with Joyce leaning towards Africa and me towards Brazil; in the end, we had to check a world map to find out where Indonesia was!

The Dyack Chapter: First Term in Indonesia (1969-1973) 

Joyce: 

After waiting an extra five months, our visas came through shortly before Christmas in 1969. I boarded the plane with Floyd and our two sons, age three years and fifteen months. We were headed for our first four-year term in Indonesia. I was not your typical excited missionary; I expected this to be like medicine tasting bad but ultimately being good for you. 

In spite of how gracious missionaries were in welcoming us to Indonesia, it was difficult to celebrate Christmas away from extended family and in such unfamiliar circumstances. I missed the typical honeymoon stage where everything looks wonderful. 

We were the first new Alliance missionaries to arrive since the bloody attempted national Communist coup and the resulting counter-coup in 1965. We both enjoyed language study. We each studied two hours a day with a tutor and then were on our own to practice. This meant outside of my time with our tutor, I could study with our two boys playing in the same room, a skill learned in a large family. 

During language study, we got involved with the youth in a local church and also met some university students who were eager for us to teach in their “English for Everybody” club. This was not tasting like medicine! 

The National Church wanted us to stay on the island of Java and work with youth, but the Alliance Field Mission decided we needed to get to know the National Church base in Kalimantan (Borneo). We were assigned to Samarinda, East Kalimantan. 

Missionaries had been expelled from the area before the coup attempt. They had previously travelled up the rivers into the jungle and saw thousands of Dayaks, an unreached people group, turn from Animism to Jesus. The Dayaks had witnessed missionaries being captured by the Japanese during World War II and held them in high esteem. We were blessed to enter an area with a warm relationship between the Mission and the National Church. There had been great evangelism but less discipleship. 

Floyd: 

The only Alliance church in the city was composed mainly of youth who had come from jungle villages to attend high school in the city where we worked with the national pastor. We had youth activities and training open to all. We organized two small groups for guys and one for girls. This was an entirely new experience, as young people were used to simply listening to sermons. Now they could discuss God’s Word together, seeking to connect truth to their lives, and they responded! 

We learned the cultural value of people dropping by each other’s homes. It was an adjustment to have people come by at any hour, but it was an important time to minister to the needs of each person. I also organized a youth choir and we sang at special church programs, in a few nearby villages and on radio. We loved having them in our home. 

Because we were one of only two couples who were evangelical international workers in the city, we often were invited to participate in special events such as retreats, women’s gatherings, and National Church district conferences. The small Christian minority in the city felt a unity with one another. This provided many invitations to speak at their special events and to interact with others. 

I had the opportunity with national workers to go on a couple of evangelism trips to visit interior Animistic villages. It was a joy in one village to baptize three young men. On another trip in a different village, the district superintendent baptized thirty-nine former spirit worshippers! In 2015, I visited the same village where there is now a thriving church! 

Back to my malaria attack, what could we do? We could pray! Joyce laid her hands on me and prayed earnestly. In a little while, the shaking stopped; my fever started to go down. I did not have another attack the entire week of the trip! Thank you, Jesus, for Your healing touch!

 

Joyce: 

The most challenging part of this term was that our oldest son had to go far away to Bandung for grade one and part of grade two. He did not share how difficult this was emotionally for him until we were back in Canada. We are so glad that the mission has changed this policy. 

A lot of energy was consumed in seeking to understand the culture and these very gracious people whose politeness required sophisticated indirect communication. More energy was required for adjusting to the simple lifestyle of no city water, no electricity during the day, living in the heat near the equator, and small uninvited creatures who shared our home. But we learned and bonded with these wonderful people! I label my first term SURPRISED BY JOY! 

Further Education: Three Financial Miracle Years (1974-1977) 

Joyce: 

Floyd had wanted to get a Master of Divinity before going to Indonesia, but the mission encouraged us to wait. Now we were ready. After returning to Canada, we welcomed the birth of our third son Steven. We felt, if Floyd would be in school full-time, I needed to basically be at home to focus on our children. We sensed God urging us to trust Him for the finances without going into debt or asking anyone for funds. We had no idea how He would do this. God gave me Give us this day our daily bread as a theme, which included tuition and books. We asked God to provide finances for the first school year as a sign this was His idea. Every year the Lord provided in a different way! The final year was the tightest, but when Floyd graduated, we had no debts and a grand total of two hundred dollars in the bank to tide us over until he started a summer job while waiting for visas again. 

The home we were renting was promised to others, so we had no home, no job, and two sons who needed to start school in the fall. God opened a door for Floyd to serve as interim pastor at the Alliance church in Unionville, Ontario, “until our visas came.” How this congregation blessed us! While there, a two-week window opened where Indonesian visas were granted for missionaries. We stayed in Unionville for five months and returned to Indonesia in January 1978. 

The Jaffray Chapter: Second Term in Indonesia: (1978-1981) 

Floyd: 

Our new assignment was for both of us to teach at Jaffray School of Theology in Makassar. I experienced real joy in teaching courses and interacting with students; it was special to have Dayak youth from Samarinda show up at Jaffray. At different points over the four years, I served as academic dean, faculty advisor for student council, director of the internship program for the evangelism department, mission representative on the Jaffray School Board, and director of a male chorus. Some students later became pastors, evangelists, and area Bible school teachers. I am still in touch with a few of them. 

It was also a delight for me to work closely with Peter Anggu, the rector, to develop a master’s program. I served on the Missions Education Committee and enjoyed travelling to a few area Bible schools in Kalimantan and Timor to upgrade their teachers. I also organized the city English worship service and took my turn preaching. 

Joyce: 

I discovered I loved teaching these students. For the most part, they were respectful, privileged to be at school, and eager to grapple with issues. I eventually started developing a Christian Ed department by adding a new course each semester. One of the students’ favourites seemed to be The Christian Family, a new concept, which Floyd and I co-taught. As students later taught in area Bible schools, The Christian Family was often included. After we left, a professor with an MA in Christian Ed came from the Philippines and further developed the department, qualifying it for training teachers of the Christian religion in public schools. 

During this time, our youngest turned six. I had prayed earnestly, if it would damage him emotionally to go away to the Missionary Kids’ school, God would miraculously provide a school in our city for him. An American teacher’s arrival looked like our miraculous answer, but she was transferred shortly before school was to start. I had peace; God was in control. 

Five weeks after our son had gone to Bandung for grade one, I got a call that he was gravely ill with juvenile (type 1) diabetes. I was shocked and turned to the Psalms where I had been reading. There it was—Psalm 72:4,14, “May he…save the children of the needy…. He will rescue them…for precious is their blood in his sight.” All I knew about diabetes was it meant the blood was full of sugar. I sensed God saying, “You have no idea why I am allowing this, but do you know Me well enough to trust Me?” 

The evening I arrived in Bandung, our son was very close to a coma. No doctor there had experience with type 1 diabetes, and none of them stayed in the hospital overnight. During the night, he was hallucinating and could not sleep; I finally convinced a nurse to phone the doctor who prescribed a small amount of insulin. I realized I had always said I believed in the loving-kindness of God. Now I would find out. 

This was a traumatic experience for a six-year-old. Once he was strong enough to travel, I took him home to Regina, where Dr. Wong, a wonderful Christian pediatrician who specialized in diabetes, took care of him for two months. In Makassar, Beth Yarberry, a godly American woman working with her husband in universities, told Floyd she was opening a small international school just so our son could stay at home while I continued teaching at Jaffray. God’s intervention and guidance continued. 

Retooling in Canada (1982-1986) 

Floyd: 

After returning to Canada, I became missionary-in-residence at CBC for a year. Then I served as pastor of personal care at Hillsdale Alliance Church under senior pastor Dick Sipley. I loved pastoral care as well as heading up small groups and Evangelism Explosion training. 

During this time, I started studies in a doctoral program at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School near Chicago and received a Doctor of Ministry degree in 1986. 

The Manila Chapter: Third Term in the Philippines (1987-1992) 

Floyd: 

As we prayed about returning overseas, we needed to find a location where our son could live at home. I was invited to teach at Alliance Biblical Seminary (ABS) in Manila, the Philippines, where Faith Academy, an international school, was located. I was glad for the opportunity to teach mainly in pastoral studies. At ABS, we were blessed by international students from countries like Thailand, Singapore, Burma, and Indonesia. I again enjoyed teaching some Indonesian students who had been in our classes at Jaffray School. 

While teaching pastoral courses, I realized I wanted to practice what I taught. A Christian man sponsored me in the Rotary Club of Greenmeadows. It was a stretching experience to relate to these businessmen with their “green” jokes. God opened the door to begin a Bible study with a few Rotary members, then another Rotary Club asked me to lead their mixed group Bible study. We were able to bring these two groups together for worship in our home. What a joy to bring some of these people to Jesus and baptize them! Another missionary, Jack Herman, had contacts in his Rotary Club, and we brought our groups together for the beginning of a church fellowship. 

We stayed in Manila for five and a half years to allow our son to finish grade twelve. In 2002, we returned to visit Manila and spoke at this church plant now led by a Filipino pastor. 

Joyce: 

After two fulfilling terms, our years in Manila were the most challenging for me. I did not have the education required to teach at the post-graduate level. I was enriched by involvement with some of the seminary students and some Rotarian wives and couples. However, I was experiencing health issues, and we faced spiritual opposition from various sources. All this pushed us to worship, gaining spiritual strength through focusing on the character of God. Significant revelations came as I worshipped, exposing sin I was not aware of. 

One day, as I complained to God about having to confess so much to Him, I clearly sensed Him asking me, “Do you want me to stop?” It did not take long to respond, “No, don’t stop! The new freedom is worth it!” Although I loved Him, God also revealed that I was blocking enjoying His love by feeling unworthy. How freeing this was! It led me on a new ongoing journey of seeking to go deeper into His amazing love. 

Pastoral Ministries in Canada (1992-2000) 

Floyd: 

Arriving back in Canada, we spent one year as missionaries-in-residence at First Alliance Church in Calgary. God led us to North Vancouver, where I served as associate pastor at North Shore Alliance Church. It was now Joyce’s turn to get more education. She commuted to Trinity Western University to earn a Master of Theological Studies in Counselling. Living in the beauty of North Vancouver was amazing! Should we hike in the mountains or go for walks on the sea wall? I enjoyed my ministry as a pastor and thank God for the many opportunities to make a difference in people’s lives. 

Joyce: 

I had developed an interest in counselling through interactions with some Rotarians’ wives and wanted to be more prepared to help women. I eventually had my own practice. One day I asked God why I had this counselling practice developing. Although He led me to study counselling, He reminded me that I needed to hold this practice lightly. Floyd and I both sensed someday we would be back in cross-cultural ministry. It was in our blood. 

Intercultural Connections: Fourth Term in the Greater Toronto Area (2000-2016) 

Floyd: 

In our sixth year at North Shore Alliance, I received a phone call from Wally Albrecht, vice president of Alliance Global Ministries, asking us to consider coming to Toronto to help in training people for ministries to Muslims. Our spirits responded. Leaving North Shore Alliance was difficult, but God was at work. Finances were not quite in place; God opened the door to serve for the winter at the Alliance church in Spruce Grove, Alberta. 

As we drove into Toronto in April, we were taken aback at how fast the radio announcer described traffic flow! 

We felt we needed to learn more about loving Muslims. We attended some intensive courses in Colorado Springs and took an amazing tour of five Middle Eastern countries, talking to Christian leaders who had a heart for Muslims. What we heard over and over was emphatically expressed by one national pastor, “You must love Muslims! Don’t send us anyone who does not love Muslims!” 

The Alliance decided to open a seminary branch in Toronto named Canadian Theological Seminary (CTS) East. They brought in experts in Islam to teach related courses and offered other classes as well. We prepared and taught a course called “Mentored Field Experience.” It was my dream of the way to teach and learn realized, guiding students in integrating their personal journey with God, what they learned in other classes and their ministries to Muslims in Toronto. After a valiant effort, CTS East closed down for lack of students, unable to compete with established seminaries in the area. This was a great disappointment for me! What would we do now? 

We ramped up our own outreach to full-time. As we prayed, God gave us divine appointments. Then we heard from Jim Christie, an Alliance pastor in an area with a high immigrant population. Muslims were knocking on their church door asking to do community service so they could get a free bus pass from the city. The church wanted help! Together we organized a huge yard sale, giving away Jesus videos and advertising English as a Second Language (ESL) for the fall. We also established relationships with two Muslim couples volunteering at the church. 

Joyce: 

Several very conservative Muslim women came to ESL. We believed it was because of prayer. For a number of months, three of the church women from three ethnic backgrounds prayed every week outside the most conservative apartment building. Then they knocked on doors talking to people and inviting them to ESL. In class, we discussed Canadian, Christian, and Muslim special days. 

Over the years, our Christmas party for families became a much-anticipated event, with more and more men attending. We included international food, music, drama, a video section, a testimony, gifts for each child and family, and crafts for children. A presentation of some amazing aspects of the Christmas story was always highlighted. 

None of our ministries would have been possible without teams of dedicated volunteers from various churches committed to helping. In later years, our Christmas party included around ninety guests, mostly Muslims, and forty to forty-five Christian volunteers. 

Over time, we started a week of summer day camp. Together with Harriet Sherman, who had been trained in children’s camps at Unionville Alliance, we adapted their program to be sensitive for Muslim children. 

Our stories focused on one of the prophets, including Jesus. Eventually, we began in-home tutoring for children, bringing a Christian volunteer tutor into the home every week. When asked why this was a free community service, we responded, “We receive so much of God’s love through Jesus, we just want to pass it on.” Each summer, tutoring ended with a family party and barbecue. 

During these years, we also spoke in churches and provided training in loving Muslims, sometimes working together with other ministry networks. 

Through ESL, I met a refugee claimant woman, a young widow with minimal English, suffering from end-stage liver disease. God called me to be her advocate. For the next three years, I spent many hours taking her to medical appointments while working with lawyers and social services. Her four children were in her home country with her mother. We became very close. Finally, near death, she received a new liver! But her liver was attacked again. Working with one of her friends, we applied to personally sponsor her two older children to come to see her, but she passed away with the application still in process. 

I had been in burnout for the last year. Finally recognizing it, I could no longer push myself; I needed a break. This was 2008. 

As we came to Toronto, I had been asking God to make these harvest years! I had recently led a Muslim-background woman to Jesus and trusted for more, earnestly praying for the harvest. But it was not happening except for one woman I knew of. God reminded me I am not Lord of the Harvest; He is. If He was calling me to plant seeds, it would be my joy to plant them. 

Many were drawn to Jesus but not ready to cross the line. One of my greatest joys was praying in the name of Jesus with Muslim women. They were often in awe, silent, some teary-eyed, as they sensed the actual presence of God. 

Floyd: 

When I reached the age of sixty-five, we retired as international workers under Alliance Global Ministries. We were invited then to continue serving immigrants in Toronto under PALM Ministries. God supplied our needs enough to support one full-time person. Joyce had the major responsibility, and I served with her. I also worked as a chaplain in a senior home for a few years and continued providing spiritual direction for men. 

We returned to Samarinda and Jakarta in 2002 with Church Partnership Evangelism and in 2015 to lead spiritual retreats for pastors. In 2019, we conducted a two-day spiritual retreat for faculty and staff at Jaffray School. All joy!

Retirement in Calgary (2016-Present) 

Floyd: 

We sensed 2016 was the right time to bring our ministry to a close. SIM (Sudan Interior Mission) International agreed to take over the ministry of Intercultural Connections. We moved to Calgary to be near our two oldest sons and their families. One has been in business here, and the other on a pastoral team of a church. Our third son works for Canadian Foreign Affairs and presently lives in Ottawa with his family. We have thirteen beautiful grandchildren! 

I love serving Jesus in spiritual direction and singing in homes for seniors. We both lead a small group through our church. It’s our passion to keep going deeper into God’s love and passing it on to others as He opens doors.

This is an excerpt from the book, On Mission Volume 2. Download your free copy today.

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