Lessons of Hope
At age five, doctors diagnosed Jeff Grillo with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease. At 21, tests revealed he had developed two forms of malignant cancer, one with a 90 percent death rate.
Grillo had no medical insurance; eight weeks of chemotherapy saved his life, but wiped him out financially. He opted against declaring bankruptcy, which left him with debt that took him more than a decade to repay.
But Grillo refuses to dwell on his blindness or the chronic pain that still besets his body following cancer treatment and later heart valve problems. He has become associate rabbi of Rock of Israel, a Messianic Assemblies of God congregation in Hickory, North Carolina. He launched his own YouTube channel with videos designed to impart hope amid trials.
He also has authored a pair of motivational books, The Excuse Assassin and Power In Perseverance, that detail his challenges and how he has overcome limitations. Grillo wants others to see that Romans 8:28 holds true even in the face of calamity. His mission is to share that hope with others.
“Do I want to take the world’s view that I’m just very unfortunate or accept the biblical view that there’s something else going on here?” Grillo asks. “God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness. We shouldn’t allow our challenges to get the best of us.”
A common question that the 46-year-old Grillo hears is how can he continue to preach and teach that God heals while he’s blind?
“What you don’t see is the miraculous part of my story,” Grillo says. “I should be dead.”
Modern medicine did save his life, even if it left him in pain and with a chemo-damaged body.
“It doesn’t matter what your circumstances or challenges are in life,” Grillo asserts. “There’s something to be learned from it, a valuable life lesson critical to becoming who you were meant to be in the body of Messiah.”
For every obstacle, including those seemingly insurmountable, he’s found a way around or through it. After studying at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, he embarked on a career in radio and Internet communications. Though he hasn’t been able to read printed text for decades, technology empowers him to “read” through audio books.
“If a person wants to do something, there’s a way the obstacles and crises in our lives can be overcome,” Grillo says. “Ultimately we all need to be completely dependent on Jesus. God really can use anybody. It’s all by faith that we walk with him.”
The Rock of Israel Messianic AG congregation started two years ago. Before that, Cliff Maynard, a Messianic rabbi, led a Bible study in Grillo’s living room. Today the congregation has moved to its own building. Average attendance is 55.
“Jeff wants to do something for God in the capacity God has given him, to be able to help others overcome their disability,” Maynard says. “Jeff is extremely kind, passionate about people, loyal, and loves God. He wants to win people to Messiah.”
To that end, Grillo carries out essential functions in the congregation, including much of the church’s media. He creates a weekly study, both in writing and from the pulpit.