Cover Story

Anneke DeGraaf

Anneke’s work for her Dad began early in life. By her early teens, she was helping with the office work for his financial counseling ministry. When her Dad, Pete DeGraaf, made the decision three years ago to run for state representative, Anneke transitioned from serving in his home based office to working in the Kansas state capitol. From serving as her Dad’s Campaign Manager to Administrative Assistant, Anneke has faithfully followed her call to help her father as he follows his call to influence politics.

From learning firsthand how laws are passed to finding her way around the capitol building, Anneke’s new life in the political world brought many adjustments.

Anneke admits this work has challenged her on deeper levels as well. Sometimes it’s hard to prioritize a busy schedule. Sometimes the legislature rejects a bill that her Dad has worked hard to support. Sometimes politicians who claim to support her Dad change their minds just before a vote. She has had to learn to forgive and continue to work with those politicians who often seem to betray the ideals they claimed to support. She says that working at the capitol has challenged her to trust God with both the victories and defeats of politics.

Despite its challenges, Anneke has also discovered rewards in the tasks God has given her. She has witnessed her Dad’s hard work turn into success. In the area of abortion, for example, Kansas has shifted from one of the most liberal states to one of the strictest – all in the past year. The hard-working men and women behind this transition find tremendous satisfaction in passing bills that ultimately save lives.

Working closely with her father has also given Anneke the reward of learning from him. She describes him as a zealous, hard-working man. “He works, and works, and works,” she says. “And then he works some more.” He has also taught her to trust God with everything from the food on the table to the bills in the legislature. His example has shown her how to wholeheartedly seek and follow God’s call.

You are the youngest child and only daughter of four. Briefly describe your homeschool experience.

I think the biggest thing is that my Dad was home because of his ministry, and we always had people coming in and out of our house because of his counseling. We had to be flexible. We didn’t really have a set school time. Each of us kids basically did our school by ourselves.

Some of the counselees not only needed financial help but also needed help in their homes. My Mom would go help them, and my brothers and I would go along with her. And sometimes my Dad would go on business trips or lead seminars, and we went with him.

Tell about your Dad’s counseling ministry, Shepherd’s Staff Ministries, and your involvement in it.

Shepherd’s Staff Ministries started around 20 years ago as an offshoot of Crown Financial Ministries. It helps people deal with their debt… It’s not a debt-consolidating ministry, but it does help people prioritize their lives and set up a budget.

Usually, though, finances are not the problem but the result of other problems – often marriage related. So my Dad gets to do a lot of marriage counseling too.

When I was younger I would help in the office by doing three-hole punches, collating pieces of paper, and stuff like that. But when I was older, I started doing more database work, putting forms into computers, and setting up appointments. I would also help coordinate volunteers who came over.

How did your Dad get involved in politics?

My parents were committee members for our township about fifteen years before he became a representative. Being a committeeman or woman in our county just means that you might have to go to a meeting maybe once a year. Other than that, we weren’t really involved in politics.

For about a year, we had been helping fight a Casino that will be built about seven miles from our house. And then our representative died. My Dad was in California at the time, and people started calling him, saying, “Can you be our representative? You would be great.”

My Dad said, “I don’t think so, but I know some men who should.” He started calling some men who he thought would do a better job and were at a better place in life. But either they said, “No,” or their wives said, “No.”

After that, he really felt God was saying, “Why are you asking all these people to do something you’re not willing to do?”

He asked my Mom about it. Just a few days earlier, my Mom had heard a friend say that many men don’t do what God has called them to do because their wives won’t support them in it. So when Dad came and asked my Mom, she said, “Yes, I’ll help you do this.”

So Dad came home from California and started campaigning for the committeemen and women’s votes. And that’s how he got elected the first time.

When your Dad decided to jump into the political world, what did that mean for your family life?

Our family life has changed a lot. Every other year we campaign from summer through fall. Campaign season is very, very busy… Your adrenaline is always running. You won’t take a vacation during that time.

Then from January to May or so, we’re in the legislature in Topeka.

By the time you graduated high school, you were working for your Dad at the state capitol. What did this job entail?

My job at the capitol is being his Second Administrative Assistant. The state hires a secretary for him to share with another representative. But that secretary just answers phone calls and sometimes does the calendar. But there’s so much more that has to be done: going through mail, being able to answer questions over the phone, filing, database entry…. I also go to the receptions. On average, there are usually three receptions and one dinner that we could go to each day.

After high school graduation, you kept a strong focus on serving God by helping your Dad. Why is serving your earthly father so important to you?

I feel that [serving my Father] is what I should do at this point until God has told me otherwise. I think the Bible indicates that daughters should help their families and should be “pillars” in the house. So one way I can help my family is by helping my Dad in whatever vision he sees for himself and his family. When I was 14 or 15, I felt God telling me to go work for my Dad. I haven’t really heard that since, but I’ll continue to do it until God tells me to do something else.

How would you encourage girls who want to help their Dads in whatever God has called them to do.

I would say the biggest thing is to ask. Just say, “What could I be doing that would honor you?” And also take him at his word if he says, “You are honoring me.” Don’t doubt him when he says, “You’re already doing what I want you to be doing.”… It honors them when we ask for their wisdom and direction.

How has working at the capitol changed your perspective on politicians?

Politicians are actually real people. They live normal lives, they have grandchildren, they like going on vacation, and they work hard. Being a politician isn’t about having authority. They have a lot of honor and respect and pomp, but they don’t have much authority. I now have a lot more respect for politicians just because they’re willing to give up that five months out of the year to work at the capitol.

How has working at the capitol changed your perspective on politics?

Politics are not straightforward…. It’s not about democrat versus republican. It’s really about a Biblical worldview and a secular worldview. Who is your savior? Is the government supposed to supply you and help with all your woes? Or is God? Where is your Biblical basis? Do you even have a Biblical basis?

How do you go about impacting the people you work with… even those politicians you fundamentally disagree with?

Be conscious of being a light. Really choose not to put on a plastic face. Be truthful when you’re having a bad day.

Also, choose to enjoy the moment. Be joyful in where God has placed you. That is a choice because you can get discouraged and think, “I’m tired of being here.” This is where God has placed you, so have joy in being where you have been placed. Choose to be joyful.

In politics you experience victories but also a lot of defeats. What keeps you going through the defeats?

The biggest thing is remembering the reason we’re there. We’re there because God has called us to be there to stave off the evil of the world. Through passing laws, we are able to curb some of the behaviors that are ungodly.

The things that get us through are remembering that this is not our home, Christ is the provider, and He will give us strength to go on. We are here another day to fight. It’s a battleground, and we have to just say, “We know we’re going to win the war. We lost this battle, but we can try to win the next.”

Other things that get us through are people saying, “Thank you.” The six thank you cards we got during our first session are all posted on our desks so that we can see them and be reminded that people are thankful for what we’re doing.

When we asked Anneke what practical things her peers could do to influence politics, she mentioned three things. 1) Volunteer – even if you don’t want a high-profile political job, take time to help out a politician you support. 2) Say “Thank you” – Politicians listen when you thank them, so let them know what they’re doing that you appreciate. 3) Vote, vote, vote!

These seem like small tasks when compared with the weighty responsibilities people like Pete DeGraaf are shouldering. They are doing their part. What is stopping us from doing ours?

This is how Anneke put it: In life there is God’s part, other people’s part, and our part. We can trust God to do His part. We can’t force people to do their part. Our job is simply to do our part with all our might.

This month Generation Impact wants to thank all our fathers who are doing their God-given part and teaching us to do ours.

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