“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith… let us run with endurance the race God has set before us” (Hebrews 12:1).

A year ago, we had the opportunity to attend my maternal grandmother’s 90th birthday party. A year later, we spent a weekend celebrating my wife Amy’s paternal grandmother’s 90th birthday.

My grandma spent her life in New Jersey, the daughter of Italian Catholic immigrants who came to America for the opportunity it promised. Through her parents’ discovery of a personal faith in Jesus, my grandma learned and lived out the same faith. Amy’s grandma was the daughter of Swiss-German immigrants who came to America in hopes of practicing their protestant faith, settling in Berne, Indiana.

I love history and understanding my ethnic cultural heritage, but this is second tier to my gratitude for the spiritual heritage our grandparents and parents have given us. As much as I love being Italian and hearing stories about my family’s history, it holds no comparison to how thankful I am that my family has lived out a personal relationship with Jesus.

You know what my favorite memory of my grandma will always be? The thought of her sitting on the chair in her bedroom praying for me every day. You know what my favorite memory from our weekend with Amy’s grandma? When she shared a bookmark she made for each of us reminding us that she prays for us every day.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews talks about Christ-followers being surrounded by a “cloud of witnesses.” I immediately think about my grandma who prayed for me everyday and for Amy’s grandma who continues to do this. I think about the fact that it is no coincidence that all of their grandchildren are following Christ today and serving His Church. I am full of gratitude for this incredible heritage that I have been given and I am humbled as I think about my son and daughter who will also have a story to tell of grandparents and parents who prayed for and surrounded them.

Daniel Riemenschneider