First week in the books!

First week of YFM – orientation and began course on Character & Nature of God.

Our two oldest, Broderic and Bronwyn. Kind of strange having them in class, but very thankful for their unique personalities and desire for God.

We’ve all settled into our new homes, apartments, dorms.  We’re scattered around the city a bit, but it’s all working out well.  It’s a beautiful area, very organized road system – each morning I’m amazed at the amount of traffic that moves along in a quite timely fashion.  It’s quite different than the chaos I’m used to.

We’re enjoying the Russian language and feel this is a tremendous opportunity to expand our learning.

We are keeping this blog very generic for the next 3 months, just with some photos and more cultural things that we’re learning.  If you are interested in our business and ministry in Belarus, we have an email newsletter that we’d love for you to receive.  Simply contact me if you don’t already get it.

Bruce & Deb

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Worship Weekend & Preparations!

#LIT_Kiev Report

What a cool weekend! Around 200 gathered over two evenings for our “LIT Worship” event in Kiev. Mir Ministries sponsored the event financially from funds we raised together this summer.  We have another worship event planned for October 21 in Minsk!

Tucker, Broderic and Brent. So cool to have the men back!

We’ve been hosting various worship gatherings at Lighthouse in our little town of Rzhyschiv for the past 2yrs.  Times of refreshing, of open ended pauses, prayer, declaration.  It will continue this fall under Dima & Lena’s leadership on a monthly basis.

Sometimes 20 show up, sometimes +60 and we can’t physically fit another person.  It’s almost all youth, from several villages.  Each evening has been so unique.  Those that come, most come out of hunger and want, not a sense of duty or obedience.  I think that plays a huge role in expectation and result.  If you anticipate in faith to hear from the Lord, to meet with Him in a special way, well, He doesn’t disappoint.

We’ve specifically felt led to create space for the Holy Spirit, that often awkward silence where those singing along to memorized chorus are forced to take inventory.  God wants us to be healthy there in that quiet place, He meets us in those moments.

For me, corporate worship times are most powerful when they aren’t rehearsed to the ‘letter’ (or I should say chord). Where Christ exalting and heartfelt lyrics to melody are vehicles of posturing our hearts in prayer, they are taking us somewhere – where we can both cry out to the Lord and hear His loving voice.

Yan and the XDH band joined with our Steiger Ukraine partners to host two main worship times.  We also had YGS Church, Collins, Bronwyn, & Elsa join in for some sets.

I love seeing this generation, the 15-25y olds gathering in Ukraine and Belarus.  They are seriously hungry for more.  Religion has left the heart wanting, but the heart of faith is alive – like a heat seeking missile I see this generation open but active.

I think of this Quote from Augustine:

‘Thou hast made us for thyself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in thee.’

We are the weathered boat in a tireless storm. Yet, He has a harbor prepared for us, His name is Jesus.  We can, at any moment, access the safe shores of rest and inner calm.  I spend too much time in the open waters, I need repairs, I need restoration.  The Lord has been speaking this to me all week.  Worship, alone, with others, is like the wind that guides our sails to the places we need to be.  Home.

I woke up this morning to the Jason Upton song, “Home to me”.   There’s nothing my heart longs for more than this place.  We taste His presence and nearness in moments, but soon, we will forever rest in this Harbor.  I feel God pushing us to create more worship, in more places.  He’s brought us Mir Ministries, XDH in Minsk, the DNA of worship is in place, partners emerging with similar vision – let’s do this.

Things are moving at a hectic pace as we head into our final week in Ukraine.  It’s harder to sit down and write when your to-do list seems to be increasing exponentially.  Yet, as time move from present to past, so our memory of the things God has done.  Writing, posting- a stake in the ground, a testimony that Jesus is alive, working in and around us.

Final Preparations

We have a few challenges along the way, as always.  Broderic & Bronwyn visas were not accepted last week by the consulate.  We have an appointment to re-apply tomorrow. We are hopeful, but time is very short.  There are some other hurdles in front of us that I won’t name as we need to keep things generic publicly as we move into this next season, but they are real, and we really appreciate prayer.

We’ve been gathering each Tuesday with our Lighthouse team.  I’m growing to appreciate them more as we head in different directions.  I love their hearts, their willingness, please pray for Lighthouse.  Tonight we will have our first Club 180 youth meeting of the new school year.  We’re prepping for our ‘free pizza’ day for incoming students on the 13th – which is always fun.

Olya is also one of our best Lighthouse workers – she is a barista and pizza chef and works after school.

I look back at many unassuming simple connections made with students. Like Olya, whom I first met at our first Club 180.

She was stranded in Rz without a ride home to her village, but to me was just a group of kids on the side of the road. I drove past her then felt the Lord tug my heart to circle around and ask her and the guys she was with if they needed anything. We gave her a simple ride home.

From there she began a journey of faith, started coming every Wednesday night and wrestling through her own faith. 2yrs later the transformation, the love for others and Christ – she’s like a daughter to Deb and I. We are going to miss her and several other students this fall.

Elsa from Vladivostok is with us still, she decided to come at our invitation to YFM.  She, along with two other guys from Belarus are interested in starting Coffee Shops.  They have connected and excited how their visions are so similar, and I intend to spend several days a week helping them form a business plan, outline their vision, and together prayerfully look for sponsors to help us build more platforms like Lighthouse.  We feel the Lord has divinely connected us for this season.

We found a house to live in for 3 months! I can’t say too much about this, but I am really excited how it turned out.  It’s about 30 minutes from the campus, which is more than we planned, but it has a yard, trampoline, and plenty of beds for our family.  We are still looking for boys/girls apartments but have a few good options.

Deb is amazing.  My poor wife is not only caring for 8 kids again (the older ones returned and shocking us again with how much they eat!), not only is packing and preparing for a move – but has happily (somehow) taken on the reading/schedule for YFM and organizing all of that.  I’ve had to urge her on a few times because she is enjoying reading the books too much, she is such an academic style learner – thankful for her because I am NOT.

Kids all returned from the Dentist yesterday, cavities, and all kinds of fun stuff.  It took them 10hrs to leave the house, and have 3 appointments, and return to the house.  Be thankful America.  Deb and the kids returned just in time for a house full of guests, worship and prayer.  Nice way to end my birthday, I turned 43.

Asking for prayer for:

  • Visas Broderic & Bronwyn
  • Final Interviews YFM – we have a couple late applicants, both older guys (late 20s).
  • Finances for the students, all of them are extremely challenged financially to the point that $500 for the school year would be a large step of faith.   Thankfully we have sponsorship fund (thank you givers!), but we had aimed for a bit more. It’s healthy that they all trust the Lord and I’m impressed by their faith to come, some neat stories.  If you feel led to sponsor a student with any size gift, click here! 
  • Remember to sign up for our private newsletter if you don’t already get it, just email me (bruce@liftupyoureyes.org) or fb message me.  It’s the best source for transparent updates.
  • Health – we seem to really get sick more often here.  Every week somebody is ill, then spreads it around.

Sincerely,

Bruce & Deb

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Family Update – August 20, 2017

Catholic Church, one of MANY in downtown Vilnius, Lithuania.

Deb & I just returned from Lithuania.  We were trying to get away for a few days, but having problems finding a babysitter.  Our older kids all working in North America this summer.  Grocery bill has been significantly less, but less freedom…

Last minute, Elsa, a YWAM friend from Vladivostock came to visit and was happy to take up the challenge.  So off we went, it was a wonderful break.  Lithuania is just north of Ukraine, west of Belarus.

Vilnius, the capital City, is a beautiful, historical City full of natural and architectural beauty.  Many shops, cafes, and narrow cobblestone streets.

It was fun to rent a small car and cruise around the narrow streets fit for horses – think Bourne Identity – I tried to drive like him but it was hard with so many tourists.

You can drive the entire length of the country in about 4hrs, so we headed to the northern tip, the Baltic Sea for a few days.  The countryside was full of tractors, fields, harvesting was fully underway.  I couldn’t help but think of my dad, harvesting with his grandsons (my boys) this summer.

Lithuanian Harvest Fields, looks like Canada eh?

Speaking of our older kids, they all return in the next 2 weeks.  Brent returns tomorrow, then Collins (not our kid, but still family!), then Broderic next week, followed by Bronwyn, then Adrienne (YFM student).  It’s about to get real as we head into the final weeks left in Ukraine.

We are continuing to prep for YFM this fall.  Ordering final materials, receiving final applications (we’re up to 10 registered students), and communicating regularly with Minsk regarding possible rental properties and decisions.

We’ve found housing for girls, and we think we’ve found two good apartments for our family… they don’t make apartments large enough for a family our size, so we’ll need two.  We’re unsure how we’ll divide up our family, but I told Deb she gets Claire and Abbey.

Deb was the life Skype video girl for Larissa, a close friend of the bride who got married last year and now lives in America.

We were happy to witness the marriage yesterday of a special sister in Christ, Sveta.  She’s such a neat girl. We couldn’t quite figure out why she wasn’t married all these years – she just patiently (or so it seemed to us) was waiting, and trusting God would provide.

Well, He did provide.  God provided tremendous heat as well, middle of August, middle of day, middle of a grassy knoll… but all survived.

Side note – I will be updating more specific prayer request, and some quite serious challenges that lay before us this fall by email – if you don’t get our emails and would like to, send me a note with your address.  We leave Lord willing Sept 12-14 for Belarus.

September 2nd & 3rd, we’re hosting worship evenings for youth in the center of Kiev! Pray for this!

As mentioned in previous post, we are sponsoring a really cool worship event this September 2-3 in Kiev.  God was in the connections, the dates, and I give Him thanks.

I love when you see God’s fingerprints on stuff.  It is time to lead youth in deeper expressions of corporate prayer and worship.

It’s a big step for the ministry in Minsk as well, as they cross borders and begin to engage in mission more.  We’ll be fishing one last time for any YFM students at the event, I’m asking the Lord for 2-3 more guys.

We are also potentially (this is a faith step), going to take on a couple padawans for planting new Cafe’s in their respective countries.  God has drawn them to us over the past month, they were already on our hearts as we knew their desire was a similar Lighthouse platform.  They each came to us, literally to our homes, with the request for us to consider helping them.  They are open, willing, and serious believers.  We’ve asked them to pray about coming to YFM this fall, not as normal students (they are each already leaders in their respective worlds), but as a time to build business plan, strategy, and together approach investors for new Coffee Shops.  I feel God all over this, He’s doing it, I’m along for the ride.  Pray for us.

Speaking of God being involved in stuff, we are also engaging more directly the topic of starting a Music College this Spring in Belarus.  This is in connection with our friend already mentioned in previous posts.  There are a lot of hoops to jump through, and in the natural seems impossible.. the kind of stuff God could be doing.

At some point, you stop trying to juggle, and you just say come Lord Jesus, have your way.

A key word in my heart lately has been ‘divest’.. and it can be a negative word if you are trying to take power, or rights from someone.  However, as believers, when we look to ‘divest’ responsibility, which can actually be opportunity for others, to release them into their calling – this can be a powerful thing.

So often, I think, we are so hungry for approval ourselves, or legitimacy, identity.. that we hold onto roles and things that make us feel validated.  We may be leading out front, or serving behind the scenes.. but if our heart is to advance the Kingdom of God, to see His love come down and change lives, if that’s really our motivation, we will embrace a self-divesting and empowering of others.

The joy of doing this will outweigh the very real joy of ‘doing’ things ourselves.  I want to be a conduit, it may look like delegation, or even laziness like I don’t want to ‘be the guy’ for certain things, but in actuality, it’s quite hard to let go sometimes, particularly when you thing it would be more enjoyable than what you are currently saddled with. Self divesting.. empowering others, be a conduit of God’s grace and resources.

Hold things loosely, find identity in Christ alone, rest in that and run your race for the good of Christ’s Kingdom.  This is something I need to grow in.  It’s scary at times, because many things you need to entrust to others quicker than you’d like, you feel a sense of protection and need to control. Yet, discipleship is more than intellectual infusion of ideas, it’s about trying, failing, allowing others the opportunity to grow this way too.

Hey leaders, don’t hog the lessons of faith and failure to yourself.  Give others a shot.

Pray for:

  1. God to draw 100’s of youth to the worship evenings in Kiev!
  2. YFM remaining housing, logistics, travel, favor, financial needs.
  3. Lighthouse team prep, wisdom, ministry planning for fall.

Thanks for checking in!

Bruce

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September 2-3. Going to be Lit!

This is our first hosted worship event in Kiev.  International weekend, bringing in Yan and the crew from Minsk.  So excited to release worship across the City and engage the heart of the next generation!

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Widows Update – August 2017

What a joy these ladies are.  They range in age from 40, to 95.  Our team is continuing to monthly visit, pray with and keep them in community.  Each time we meet together, which we try to do every few months, they open up even more and show their personality, as well as their faith.

Our prayer time yesterday was really cool.  They gathered in groups, many holding hands, and praying for quite a long time.  I circled the room laying hands on many of them, and more than once one of them interrupted my prayer to ask me to pray for specific things.

There were a few moments during our time where several were moved to tears, and many others with watery eyes.  Tender, open to love, and hope in Jesus.  I shared about hope, about the power of memories (looking back) but the incredible future when hope is in Christ.

I was a bus driver this time, and ventured into places my van should never have gone.  Think small mountains, pathways not used by cars for years.. but we had to get close enough to some of their houses because they can barely walk.  I was floored by how some of them are living, once again, incubated in my nice ‘american’ style house, so easy to become unaware of the conditions around us.

Several of the ladies like to tease me.  My funny accent.  I’m strange to them, but they sure do love hugs and talking about their gardens.  Some of them speak such an old mix of Ukrainian and Russian it’s hard to understand much.  I laughed at one of them, she was so short, she could stand in my van and wanted to stand behind me and just keep chatting.  She had sparkles in her eyes, I think she was, and is still a rascal 🙂

We want to expand this ministry into Minsk in the fall.  We need some sponsors to help us, we have a little funds but not enough to help more than a couple widows each month.  If anyone would like to sponsor fully at $40/mo or half at $20/mo, know that every penny goes to food, these ladies know how to stretch everything, they are survivors and EXTREMELY thankful.

Blessings to you!

Bruce & Deb

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