Witnessing with the Jaegers

This is part of an ongoing series that celebrates how families from the Church are living out their calling as Household Wells. This month’s focus is Witness. 

Asked about witnessing, Pete Jaeger keeps returning to this:

“As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give.” – Matthew 10:7-8

“The ‘heal the sick’ part is meeting physical needs in the community where you go, in order to be present to show you care, show you love, in order to reflect God’s love,” Pete said. “So I don’t see (witnessing just) as ‘I’m going to tell everybody about Jesus’, but to try to be there, show love, show compassion, like God showed to us.”

Witnessing “isn’t telling people they’re wrong or telling people they need to do something else,” Dannie Jaeger, Pete’s wife, said. “It’s just sharing what God has done for you.”

Pete and Dannie Jaeger are familiar faces to many at the Church: 

The couple started attending services here in 2000, shortly after they moved to Madison. So their four children – Renata, 23; Mae, 21; Christian, 19; and Jayquan, 17 – have grown up here.

Pete is an elder who routinely assists with Higher Ground. Dannie served on the church leadership board for six years, including a stint as chair. But, Dannie said, leadership didn’t come naturally to her; she grew into it after the family joined a lifeGroup in 2002.

“There was this viewpoint that, ‘The pastor is the leader, and you go to church to get things out of it,’” she said. “So just being in lifeGroup, I just remember Pastor Jeff saying, every week, ‘You know, every one of you is a leader.” 

“I am so glad that the people in our lifeGroup didn’t give up on us,” she said. “I just didn’t understand. I thought I was supposed to come to church, and (people there) were going to watch my kids, and then we’d go home.”

From that initial lifeGroup experience, the Jaegers pieced together a life of demonstrating God’s love by serving others. Much of it’s been directly linked to their children – booster club at school, youth groups at church, mission trips and lifeGroup service projects.

“Somebody’s having a baby and so we make meals for them or celebrate with them,”  Pete said. “Not sticking with one thing necessarily, but being involved with wherever we are in that season of life.”

“I think being in a Lifegroup relationship … is witnessing,” he said. “Because they’re encouraged, their kids see a community of adults who live in a way that honors Jesus the same way they do it.”

Those relationships help the Jaegers, too, through tough times of their own.

Dannie: “The household well concept I really connect with. Because I feel like if you’re a well, then you are filled up. So I feel like a component of witnessing is being in a physical, emotional and mental state where you can care for others, and you can share the joy and you can bring God’s love and light to people.”

Occasionally, those community connections have led to discussions of faith – such as when they had an exchange teacher from Spain stay with them for nine months.

“He’s agnostic, and we got down to some serious conversations about why we (believe what we believe),” Dannie said. “But he lived with us. He saw us go to church.”

Those conversations “take such a deep relationship,” she said.

Sometimes Pete and Dannie’s service hasn’t worked out the way they hoped.

The Jaegers were among the families who established the Church’s East Side site, which operated for six years before closing in August 2017.

“I couldn’t help but feel like, ‘Oh, we failed at this. We didn’t start the community over here,” Dannie said.

But the experience helped them to focus on trusting in God’s plan.

“(Now) I feel like I’m kind of OK with any circumstance, really. I know He’s in charge,” Dannie said. “I don’t ever have to question. He’s got it.”

“I’m just OK being me and showing who I am and what’s important to me, so that’s a nice place to be in,” she said. “But I think as far as revival and being challenged, that’s always a good thing, too, right? To always be just outside of that comfort zone.”

Reaching out. Serving others. Showing God’s love. Sharing faith.

It almost reminds a person of Matthew 10:7-8.

Or, perhaps, 1 Thessalonians 2:8 – “We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”