New, old and slightly worn thoughts

This trip kicked up a lot of dust. As it settles, I’d like to share a few things we’re learning, being affirmed in and probably a few things I’ve said already.

Church

The Church is alive, she is not losing ground.  Forms are being re-imagined by the leading of the Holy Spirit, shaped and positioning for harvest in a vastly different world. Date the model, marry the mission. The western church model in Protestantism must re-grid and get to work in the trenches of life. The eastern world would be wise to think fresh, borrow little from forms of the past and stick to eternal principles. Idolize form too tightly and you’ll go down with the titanic of religion. The Spirit brings life, and life likes to break out.

What God is doing in Ukraine is not unique, though we have the opportunity to uniquely explore alongside first generation believers. There are hundreds, thousands of pioneering efforts like Lighthouse emerging everywhere. We are not alone.

Friendship

I’ve rediscovered that within vulnerability lies the treasure of friendship. The potential is all around me, but I have to want it. Life lets us down, people let us down, but the joy of deep human connection is richly satisfying. Laughter is healing, and motivating. I have been surprised this trip with new, emerging friendships.

Learning

Learning is a posture. The more I read, study and collaborate with others WITH a learning posture, the more contagious learning becomes. When we learn with a motivation other than to grow ourselves, we’re not really learning. I need structure and accountability in my learning – without which my interaction with the grace of God is severely hampered. When you’re laughing, you’re learning.

Marriage

This is a fierce commitment. It is tested in seasons. One spouses strengths can inadvertently overshadow and inhibit growth in the other. We need to be intentional with helping each other grow. Our commitment to transparency in all things, leads to exceeding joy and passion – though the road there can be crushing – the aroma is worth it. A great marriage is made up of two broken people committed to rediscovering love.

Love

To be deeply committed to the highest interest of others, from the inside out. I’ve considered emotional ‘love’ to be something that safely resides in the context of marriage only. I’m beginning to actualize a new love for others, both for men and woman. God has granted me a fresh glimpse into the magnificence of the human soul. My capacity and desire to interact with this risky love is a curious and hopeful new course in my life. To love well, honorably, restrained only by the wisdom of Christ – is this possible? I’m starting to believe it is.

Leadership

The most impressive leaders don’t ‘try’ to be leaders. They enable and serve through influence, motivated by love. They champion the gifts of others, making space and possibility of expression. They are differentiated (amazing little clip here watch)

More dust will settle. We received more encouragement, even prophetic ‘words’ this trip than ever before – much processing to do in prayer. Returning filled and challenged.

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Culture in Jeans

It’s a fascinating thing to leave your native culture and revisit for brief stints. Your culture is like a favorite pair of jeans. They fit perfectly, snug in all the right places.

Leaving your culture of origin requires adapting to a new one, at least to some degree if you have any hope of flourishing in it.

Something takes place over the years; your shape begins to change.

Others won’t be able to tell. You may look a bit different on the outside, but the general assumption is that you’re the same on the inside. After all, who really changes? However, a very definite rewiring of the brain has begun for those that are being formed in the cauldron of another culture. It’s more than mere perspective shift.

The way we form sentences, begin and end conversations, and act in public alters. Your concepts of friendship, of love, what is considered funny or offensive. The other day a good friend of mine from Texas mentioned I no longer use articles in my online text messages. I’ve dropped the ‘a’ and ‘the’ whenever possible. It’s Russian thing. I think in short, literal sentence and draw upon 1/3 less vocabulary – it tends to shape your approach to many things – Russians GET TO THE POINT.  Please forgive my directness 🙂 I find now the English language wasteful, superfluous, unnecessarily vague in most conversations.

After ten years in Ukraine, our visits back to Canada and the US have become something of a joke for Deb and I. For the first few years, it was very confusing.  We were thrilled to be back, like gasping for native air.

Over the years, things have shifted, and we long for returning to Ukraine. Deb and I chuckle now at how out of place we feel and function in North America. We’ve stopped trying to put both legs in the formerly comfy jeans. We miss them, we remember them, they just don’t fit anymore.

We were designed by God to flourish in one culture.

I believe this to be true. I’m not suggesting we’ve fully integrated, we still struggle with language and must go deeper to fully inculturate. Culture is real, the worldviews which emanate from our cultural shapes are vastly different. Our meaningful questions in life are as different as the answers to them. This is partly why international diplomacy and current political tensions are so fascinating, and frustrating.

Nobody knows their own cultural shape until they attempt to integrate into another.

Integration takes years, even a lifetime. For those foreign missionaries returning home, be aware of this reality. For those returning from extended military duty overseas, remember this. Give us grace, and let us be confused. When we’re staring at self-checkouts at Target and completely oblivious how to use them, help us. When we’re processing out loud, don’t judge us – we’re just trying to put an old pair of jeans on.

As believers, I believe the process of growing in Christ shapes us too. We become fitted for the Kingdom. This world becomes increasingly foreign and we begin to long for the pure air of another culture. Thankfully, His Kingdom has come now, and we can begin our inculturation  of righteousness, peace and joy by the mercies of Jesus.

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Final Week Recap North America Recap

Cool to share to +100 men of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Bloomfield. A strong, teaching based church that is producing fruit for Christ in a very difficult, liberal part of the world.

En route back to Canada we detoured thru North Carolina to visit a new friend, and end up meeting old friends from Ukraine at the CRM Conference.  This group of missional pioneers has grown over the past few years to represent quite an international network of resources and encouragement.  From books, training, coaching, as well as missionary support/pastoral care, I respect the leaders and heart to champion the emerging church around the world.

Swimming in Lake Ontario with some of the boys Noah, Clark and Tucker. So clean compared to Dnepro River.

Arriving back in Canada, we had only a few days to hug the kids, enjoy some family meals and swimming – then hit the road for 16hrs of driving to Harrisburg, PA and back.  Life Center, and in particular the Stock family has been an infusion of love, support and influence on our lives and ministry.  Their laid back approach to leadership, their focus on spiritual life that breeds freedom and joy is contagious.  We were met with a suite at the nearby hotel, complete with a fridge full of food and drink, as well as a coupon for the restaurant next door.

My girls, Bronwyn (19), Abbey (6) and Claire (almost 4). Together for a few hrs only!

Due to some changes in Bronwyn’s world this past week, she was able to board a plane and visit us in Harrisburg!  Such a joy to love on our eldest daughter, proud of her love for Christ, and the deep roots growing in her faith – the kind that come through difficulty, and her embracing of life’s challenges as nothing less than opportunity to be formed in character for the journey ahead.  Our girls came with us, so for a brief moment, daddy had all his ladies in one spot – tears in the goodbyes.

In Harrisburg, the continued “God is doing something cool” theme was affirmed in times of prayer with the leadership, as well as visiting with friends who continue to believe God is leading them closer to journeying with us in Ukraine.

Ukraine friends from Cherakassy (3hrs south of us) were in North Carolina representing missional movements with CRM.

We also had a young lady come up after the service and like in Texas, shared how God is stirring her heart to connect and possibly serve. Please pray for the emerging core community around us, that we will faithfully nourish one another with encouragement, love and wisdom collectively.  It’s a journey of faith we know very well when God calls, and yet His journey isn’t always revealed as our desired path.

Spent the afternoon with Adrienne’s family in Elizabethtown, PA

Now back in Canada, with only 2 days left, we will be sharing tomorrow at Emmanuel Church, our only Canadian church that supports us and our work in Ukraine.  I agreed to play piano tomorrow during worship, something I haven’t done in years, and in Canada perhaps 15yrs?  I have to admit, I said yes for selfish reasons – I SO MISS playing daily in Ukraine for my devotional time – for me, it’s an easy way for my heart to connect with the grace of God – something about a few soft chords to awaken my soul and move my heart to a more intimate place – even if for but a few minutes, I am parched for some emoting worship moments thru this instrument.

Thank you Mom and Dad – They have succeeded in creating a ‘basecamp’ for our entire family and the many grandkids. Generous, servants, and fun.

Deb is going to take the lead this time, we’re working on some new dynamics there and I’m excited she’s willing – we need both our voices to share what God is doing.

Meaningful prayer time with leaders from Life Center Church. Thank you Christ for your body!

We embark on Monday morning back to Ukraine.  Mixed feelings, but mostly gratitude.  I intend to post more of my heart in this next post – this is for the kids, God continually connects, refreshes, and encourages us in the journey through unexpected people and times. We can count on Christ for this.

Meet the Myers family. They believe God is calling them to join us in the near future – pray for them, we need them.

Deb, so beautiful. She’s getting the ‘you can’t be her mom’ comments regularly this trip.

Widows ministry budgets and plan looming – pray for me! It’s due next week.  Also several critical decision for the property in Minsk and needing the favor of Christ as we migrate legacy ministries to new places and also calibrate for what God has in store this new season.

Bruce & Deb

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Last Message @ Crossroads

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