St. Petersburg Recap

Socrates coined a phrase, called the Socratic paradox and it goes like this: “I know that all I know is that I do not know anything.”  Sometimes when we anticipate certain things and they don’t go as planned, we’re left with this same feeling.

Musicians from final night, and our fearless audio engineer Sergey with arms up in back! He and wife Sandra were amazing logistic event folks, pros at every level!

Outcomes can both exceed and underachieve our expectations on a daily basis. I rarely find results meet what were in my head and heart. St. Petersburg looked nothing like I had hoped for. The crowds were smaller, the two evenings quite different from one another.  While many individuals were deeply, visibly touched, it lacked the themes of unity and ’emerging’ generation from Kiev and Minsk.

Christ came after Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Had they been given the chance to hear His supreme reasoning and truth claims, I wonder if old Socrates would have been altered his statement to something like, “I know Christ is God, that is all.”

It was chilly! Beautiful night walks were dampened by ‘spa’ workers attempting to lure tourists inside. The city is gorgeous at night and immaculately kept.

After Lit St. Petersburg, I’m stepping back to the drawing board a bit, as I realize we can’t assume God is working in the same ways in every place.  To make assessments of an entire country, simply as a visitor is rather ridiculous.  Yet, the Lord sees and knows all and I believe leaves us with deeper impressions than simply what we see with our naked eyes.

I’m left with a few impressions that have been ruminating in my heart, concerning the very general spiritual conditions of the three major Cities we have been focused with lately.

Ukraine is a country of spiritually emerging hope.  You can’t see with your physical eyes alone. People continue to struggle especially in rural Ukraine where jobs are scarce and a future looks bleak, but hope is definitely rising.  We feel it.  Aslan is on the move in Ukraine.  He’s roaring through new youth movements and a willing unity.  The fields are white, and so is the opportunity to develop stronger, united fronts for Christ to the Russian speaking world.

Belarus, from our 3 months this past fall in the capital of Minsk, is a country of spiritual thirst, saddled under relentless and debilitating control.  Ironically, this suppression is only resulting in increased hunger for God, especially among the youth.  They crave reality, deeper experience in God than that religion offers.  Gathering youth together was like an infusion of intense healing, of refreshing glass of cold spiritual water to a parched people.

Russia, at least from our experience in St. Petersburg, a city of about 5 million, is an intensely rich and comfortable city.  Instead of feeling the hope of Ukraine, or thirst of Belarus, I felt only grief.  There’s an apathy that creeps in when at people come to a place of no longer needing God – this verse dropped in my heart during our first day:

‘You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.’  Rev 3:14

I’ve since talked to some YWAM friends, and from Steiger who also confirm the difficulties of this City.  In a sense, the hardness and lack of visible success has ignited something in my heart – like a battlefield has been found, one that won’t go down without more prayer, diligence and wisdom.  I’ve tasted something that needs to change, it needs our focus and power of God to overcome.

We met some key new allies who break this mold however, and believe God moved deeply in several people. The first night we had around 150, and the second night a bit more. We had our eyes, at least I did, on at least 700, it’s always more exciting to worship in a full auditorium. With plenty of room to spare, people spread out, and seem to tabernacle with focused intent particularly the first night with Yan and XDH leading, some not moving or checking their phones for a solid hour.

I enjoyed meeting this brother and sister from close to Moscow – who came to perform their music at the opening of the 2nd night. He composes, she sings, we’d love to have them come to Ukraine and be encouraged by the community here.

I couldn’t help but think of how God loves to fill hearts, not just rooms. It’s hard to not be discouraged however when there are empty seats remaining, and literally 50 meters outside a city of millions wanders aimlessly in the night.

Some of my favorite stories (they are still coming in) include a family that somehow found out about the event and traveled +100 miles. Also, as missionaries have been systematically removed from legally serving in Russia, we were encouraged to meet several brave souls who’s faith was GREATLY bolstered by our event. Pray for them.

Some of the instagram posts afterward are always neat to read, where people say things like, “I totally came by ‘accident’ and it was amazing!” Others in shock that such an event was taking place right under their noses, or could take place at all.

In each country, God is both advancing and subsequently being resisted in unique ways.  The resulting plan of advancement in Christ must be equally unique and spirit led.

We heard that several of the pastors leading churches in the city had specifically instructed their people not to attend. It’s a sad reality that in incubated environments such politics are involved.

I pray more churches, especially in major cities like Kiev, Minsk and St. Pete will grow in boldness outside of their regular scheduled programming, and in co-operation with others. I believe it’s happening, but it’s also not.

The platform of Lit. Worship events geared towards youth in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. After hosting one worship event this past year in each of the three countries, I’ve come away agreeing with Socrates, I know that I know nothing (besides Christ).  The experience of the events have revealed to me, or perhaps educated me in the reality that each country we visit is quite unique.  Unique challenges, economic conditions, political pressures and religious control.  We need fresh direction, vision, and aid of the Holy Spirit – it’s ok to not know, because He does.

Pray with us as we step back and re-think how to approach Russian events and outreach.  I feel worship is not what is needed, at least not yet. The Gospel’s teeth need to be felt before the love and grace of God is appreciated. For that perhaps God is building a stronger base of long term influence in the freedom we are enjoying in Ukraine.  We just finished praying this morning for God to lead us in Kiev, for upcoming partner meetings, for housing and the place God wants us to form up.

We have June in our sights as we begin to work on Lit Kiev, and extending this project to include classes and more teaching during the day in various formats and topics.  We are also focused on Minsk in the fall and starting to look at venues to follow up that amazing event.  Both will need lots of prayer, and support as we are moving into these again by faith.  For now, it’s prayer over Russia, all the seeds sown, and ask you to join us, because this is a huge field of harvest. It must include the power of the Holy Spirit in all we do to bring the much needed blessing of freedom in Christ.

Thank you all that prayed, gave and are growing with us as we attempt to impact the culture for Christ in the Russian speaking world. I feel the weight of learning and maximizing our efforts and investments, with renewed humility.  We believe Jesus is the answer to those without hope, the thirsty, and even the apathetic who are too comfortable in this life and ill-prepared for the next.

Sincerely,

Bruce & Deb

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LIT St. Petersburg Replay – Night 1

We’ve just finished our first night in St. Petersburg after a full day of setup and rehearsals.  Unlike Minsk, there was plenty of room in our large concert hall, but we still had around 150-200 come out for worship.  Those that came out, and especially those that stayed towards the end, were really digging in and I believe receiving from the Lord – it was really encouraging to see.

We’re anticipating and hopeful that more will come out tomorrow night as we’d love to really lift up the name of Christ in numbers – the city is bustling with life and activity, it’s discouraging to think of how many broken, hurting, and even hungry hearts are walking right past this conduit of blessing.  Pray for our team and tomorrow night!

To watch the full replay of tonight, including Collins, Charisah and Bronwyn opening, a local band, then XDH Minsk at the end, click here!

Thank you all that have been, and did pray with us tonight!  Time for sleep.

Bruce & Deb

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Live Stream & Lit Update!

Join LIVE from your mobile device or laptop!

Date: Feb 20 & 21
Local Time: 6-9pm
[10am EDT |  9am CST ]

Our prayer is that the evening will encourage not only those in attendance but all that click and join!  It’s always amazing to worship in multiple languages and get perspective on the depth and diversity in the Kingdom.

Plus, you can see a neat mix of American (Collins, Bronwyn, Charisah), Belorussian (Yan, Alina and band), and new Russian worship bands.  I’m not 100% sure of the quality, but I’m told we will have 3-camera switching, so I’m hopeful it will be a neat experience.

If you do see us sharing live on social media, please help us share the links around on Tuesday and Wednesday night!

To connect, visit here

On social media we have several videos and testimony type spots circulating.  You may or may not see them in English world, here’s a taste – practice your Russian!

Please pray for our artists, travel and logistics (one has already missed a flight), favor in Russia, unity among all believers and most of all, that the Holy Spirit will inflame the hearts of all.

Through the generosity of our donors, this event is 100% free for those attending.  We’re still short on our fundraising goal, contact me if you’d like to know more, or donate directly here if you feel led.  Thank you!

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Family Update & Prayer Requests

Thankful tonight as we make final preparations for St. Petersburg.. t-minus 8 days! If you haven’t checked out our new website, take a peak in English or Russian – https://litworship.org/.  Shout out to Vova, and Sveta for their fast work!  Social media is active, posters up this week on Nevski Prospect.

Thankful for the amazing creative people serving around us, and new friends we’re meeting it seems weekly.  It takes a wild variety of talent to bring ideas to reality, then to sustain and grow them.

Always enjoy having Steiger crew visit. This band of youth is hard to keep up with, they move quickly and even beginning to send Ukrainians into other countries on mission.

The process of stepping out in faith is not without challenges, but it can be so fun too!  Especially when things connect and a community begins to evolve.

We’re told the crew in St. Petersburg for example, which has been put together through just two exploratory trips led by Peter in Minsk, are united, hungry for more projects and come from a variety of creative and professional media backgrounds.

I haven’t been writing too much lately about specific challenges, but there are plenty. Been focusing more on positive things partly because I still feel like I’m in Belarus and the sense of caution that comes with writing within a totalitarian environment. It really has an effect!

I also recognize how many challenges our friends and supporters face as well, often much more burdensome than my own.  I read on facebook how some of you have lost a loved one, another sick in hospital, or been out of work forever.  I happen to have a blog and live in Ukraine – that doesn’t make my challenges heavier than yours.

Yet, we are living in a suffering culture, and bringing me back to reality tonight was a drunk fellow who decided to pay our Cafe a visit.  He wouldn’t leave, then demanded to see the manager. I happened to be there, and we talked for 30 minutes. Pray for him, his name is Yura, 50 yrs old, husband, father. The bottle is the answer to the sorrows of men here, and this new generation must experience the love of God to escape this pattern.

Oh, someone spray painted a satanic symbol on the side of our cafe. It’s not that noticeable, sort of made me chuckle and if anything, a bit encouraged by it.

With more travel, responsibility for teams and a growing ministry comes increased financial weight on our family. This past year I sold my business, and was able to become free of all debt, not to mention the stress related – thank you Jesus!  It was an amazing ride owning and running a business from across the world, but it was time to close that chapter.  We no longer have the flexibility we had and rely exclusively on your generosity to keep moving forward – a huge thank you for past, present and future gifts.

Been a while since I updated on our family.  It was my intention of this blog, because they are growing up too fast!

So… rapid fire update on the kids if you don’t mind!

Fun visit to Renewal Center with our YFM girls. They plan to host some fun events with the kids this month.

Broderic our eldest is in Canada, about to drive down to his new job in Florida with his Uncle’s new business.  Was really cool having him with us for YFM fall semester.  Too many girls in the program, he got out of dodge and plans to pursue his degree in the fall.

Bronywn is in Austria tonight leading worship.  She went to a YWAM friend this week and I hear having a blast. Yes Bronwyn, you have to come back, we going to St. Pete!

Brent and Tucker are making progress with their homeschooling – even if Brent’s time is mostly spent on his online driving course (when he’s not doing pull-ups).  They both eat too much.  We’re realizing we were too relaxed with our oldest two academically, so trying to improve their trajectory.  Not easy (on us or them!)… This is another reason to have lots of kids.

We are loving Wednesday nights again. This month theme, “Living Life to the Max.” How Christ is the beginning and way to true life.

Clark and Noah are homeschooling for the first time.  They spent the previous 5 years in Ukrainian school.  It was a good experience, but it’s time they jumped into western academics to get on pace.

Abbey and Claire should be our grandkids, but their not.  We feel it on most days – way too much energy for the amount we have to offer.  They are nightly entertainment and terrific dancers.

Deb.  She has succeeded to train each of her kids to massage feet, head, arms.. we even have a massage table setup in the living room and homemade timed coupons are often the gift of choice in our family.  A true test of her motherhood skills lies in the adoration of her kids.  I simply love how much her kids love her.

Visited Eagle’s Church in Kiev this weekend. It’s only 2yrs old, and building a good reputation among the next generation. Pastor is from Kazakhstan, quite a character.

She’s putting these quotes up in the kitchen all the time, they are fresh reminders of grace, of unwavering and exuberant love in Christ. I’ve watched her grow in the very things she promotes – the girl encourages those around her to find rest in Jesus alone, and it’s challenging.

I thought my wife would adore me and think I was awesome for decades, but the tides turn don’t they men?

How about I finish with a bullet list for prayer?  

  • I’ve been asked to share in Havana, Cuba in March at an underground event. Emerging youth professionals, business and creative types.  Several from Ukraine have been asked, because of the post-communist context.  I’m praying about this, would you pray for me?
  • YWAM has invited us to share this April at their Russian conference in Far East Vladivostock.  It’s with our friend Elsa – it’s SO far and not cheap, pray please.
  • YFM students here with us, they’ve started some new clubs, meetings, and beginning to connect on deeper level with college students.  Pray for fruit, health, unity.
  • We are connecting for coffee with the fashion designers we met last week.  Neat couple, and hoping to partner in someway that allows a few of our YFM girls to intern/serve them this spring.  Could be a really cool thing for everyone.
  • March 6 we have an important meeting among potential partners for Kiev Creative Platform.  They include Steiger, YWAM, OM, Christian Vision, HFO, and more.  I believe God is strategically positioning things for a united network to journey through this together, and he’s using our family and charity/supporters as a major conduit of this effort.  A lot of hunger and willingness to lay aside party lines for the good of the next generation.  This could be an amazing model to show other major cities how to work together, and possibly through this group start more platforms.  Wisdom, really asking for this.
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Fashion Design?

I’m amazed at how quickly the Ukrainian emerging church is seeing how they can use their profession and natural talents for mission.

Tonight, some of us are visiting Kiev at the invitation of some friends to meet a couple that has their own clothing line.  This young couple has not only become quite famous here in Ukraine, but is even producing fashion shows in Kiev, and now even invited to Paris.

Their heart is to promote Christ through their business, and use their platform for His fame.  I’m taking some of the YFM students with me, and have heard that they too are very interested in combining forces in a creative space in Kiev.

You can check them out here – https://www.komashnya.com or on instagram @komashnya

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