August 29, 2016

Every evening we enjoyed this sunset - ahhh.

Every evening we enjoyed this sunset – ahhh.

Last week Deb and I went, without kids, to Greece for a week vacation.  Bronwyn and Brent watched the crew while we slept, ate, walked, talked, and repeated 7 times!

Besides the rest and gorgeous weather, a highlight was visiting some ancient ruins.   One was on the island of Delos.  Click here if you are interested in history – this tiny island was home to a bustling port of 30k, 10k of which were slaves +2,500yrs ago.  What makes it so unique, as a world heritage official site, is the preservation of streets, market places, statues, amphitheater – sitting in the middle of the Aegean Sea it literally sat, for a 1000yrs unspoiled.

IMG_1306The birthplace of Apollo & Athena, a polytheistic and multicultural melting pot that even included one of the oldest remaining Jewish synogogues as well, predating Christ by 300-400yrs.

History was a major theme during our time away.  I grew up in Canada, went to school in the US – our ideas of history date back a whopping 200yrs.

To visit places of antiquity, take in the immovable scenery, touch the same stones – connects you in ways textbooks can’t.

There are over 500 Greek Islands.   Many make it their summer destination each year and visit new ones.  It was incredibly windy, the entire time – Ukrainians would have a fit trying to stay away from the breeze 😉

IMG_1349On the way home we had a 3hr layover in Athens.   We wanted to try and at least see the city center, namely the Acroppolis, even if it meant driving past – but the airline workers and most of which I read online said, “minimum 5hrs needed.”   Athens is about 40min by car from the airport, so we decided to grab a taxi and go for it.

We are so glad we did!  God provided, and I don’t say this lightly, a young man named Anatoli (Tony) who was excited to try and make it happen for us.  He lived only blocks from the Parthenon, and knew the city like the back of his hand.

14124936_10153767842046080_2485905520352962017_oThankfully it was nighttime, the streets were mostly cleared but for scores of tourists wandering about Athens.  Our first stop was the most moving for me.

Tony drove around the tiny streets, up over and around some blockades I’m fairly certain were to keep cars out – until he stopped about 3 meters from a massive rock jettisoning out of the ground.  He said, “Get out.  Paul here.”  I excitedly jumped out and noticed the engraved speech from Paul (Acts 17) on his visit to Athens.

What it looked like during the time of Christ.

What it looked like during the time of Christ.

The Acropolis of Athens by Leo von Klenze.

For 5000yrs, this collection of massive rocks became the place of gathering, of worship and ideas.  What hit me immediately was the myriad of young people, possibly 100’s (it was dark) gathered on this particular historic rock.   It continues to draw, like a magnet.  Paul chose this place to lay down the gauntlet of Jesus Christ, the Monotheistic God who has come to destroy sin on His back and set searching hearts free.

IMG_1301You see, what blows my mind and strengthens my faith as we consider in particular the Roman and Greek history – is that what stood for centuries in columns of immovable and impressive cement fixtures – was rendered irrelevant and unnecessary by Christ and His disciples in one lifetime.  The Gospel’s power grabbed hold of civilizations arm and swung it into light – nations were transformed.  Looking backward, we see the mission of God – the plight of man, the grappling in ignorance, then, in an instant, the coming of the Son.  When Jesus comes, in His authority and salvation, change happens!

Theater where 5k would gather for entertainment on Delos.

Theater where 5k would gather for entertainment on Delos.

We are His triumph, the surrendered people of God.  We are marching still, through history.  We posses the same power to persuade the heart of men in the Gospel.  We have the power to transform cultures and destroy all that speculates against the Truth of Jesus Christ.  I came back energized by the Gospel through it’s power displayed before my eyes.

This is our hearts desire for Ukraine.  We’re not building massive temples or statues, but vehicles where the love of God can be experienced.  Vehicles like a Cafe, or park.  This is not easy, for there’s a battle and the hearts of men are so easily focused on the wrong things.  Every nation wants to be great, wants to be ‘free’.  Without Christ, we are an enslaved people.  No amount of flags, no amount of national pride or independence will free us from our greatest enemy – sin.   In the words of Erasmus of Rotterdam: “Flee to His wounds and you will be safe.”

Halfpipe ready! Where's that liability form?

Halfpipe ready! Where’s that liability form?

We have lots to do.  The park is still in full swing – the halfpipe has been completed and is amazing!  Shane, Josh and Nazar did an incredible job – this was from scratch folks, no pre-made kit.  We now need to quickly get some safety gear as kids are already starting to use it and if you know skateboarding, it’s just a matter of time before someone gets hurt.  What have we built!?  🙂

I do think we need to consider a campaign to raise $ for equipment and some boards to sign out, especially for the young kids.  We have gone over budget on the park unsurprisingly but can’t afford to just open without some thoughtful rules and requirements.   It’s going to be a huge draw and meeting place.   Our own Acropolis!

Besides the park, we are getting our kids ready for school like everyone else.   The starting of the school year in Ukraine is a bit like a series of false starts at an Olympic Race (By the way we saw the first olympic stadium too!).  It sort of starts, then is stops, you give some gifts to teachers, starts again, need documents… oh and the search for the official uniform each year because your boys grow too many inches.

We have students returning this week as well, some already texting and excited to visit – I’ve missed many of the young boys God has surrounded us with.  The girls were able to do internships this summer and all of them grew in their faith – we are praising God for this and now plan to encourage further growth through some leadership opportunities.  Pray for us, for them!

Ok time for work, vacation is over.   Oh by the way really enjoying the audio book “Bonhoeffer” if you also enjoy history.   On Thursday I’m taking Bronwyn to Germany for school, have rented a car and hope to visit Wittenberg as well as Herrnhut.    Reformation and Moravians, it’s history month!

Bruce & Deb

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One Lands. One Departs.

Tucker and Brent back together, after their first ever break.

Tucker and Brent back together, after their first ever break.

I enjoy seeing my kids return.  Still learning to love the arrows being sent 🙂

Brent has been working in Canada this summer with his oldest brother Broderic.  It was a joy to hug him again today and feel a piece of our family fit back into place.

His voice has deepened, he’s more confident, and gained a few pounds from Nana’s cooking.

The trips to Kiev take about 1hr each way without traffic.  They provide a nice time of reflection and prayer (when I’m not dodging horses, wagons, grandmothers).

While in Kiev I was able to meet a friend for lunch unexpectedly.  He has served as YWAM’s Eastern European leader and serves in leadership with Loren Cunningham (it’s founder) directly.  I cherish conversations that are meaty, and get to the root of our motivations and mission.  I also really love talking with fellow pioneers, folks used to the tension that come from working around those focused on the local in-gathered church and the gospel movements that birth them.

Bronwyn, or eldest daughter is leaving for YWAM Nuremburg, Germany for DTS in 10 days!  A course called, “Marriage of the Arts” – she’ll be gone for 6 months and includes a 2 month outreach in another country.

Here’s a link to the school if you are interested – http://ywamnuremberg.com/    We are excited to see how God uses this gifted girl in the coming years.   I’ve asked her to write up a little background on what God is doing in her life, the decision to attend this school, and keep our home church/partners in the loop.  She won’t be fundraising for the school part, thankfully we can provide this for her, but the outreach will be a test of her faith and will appreciate any help from our friends and family later this year.

My baby girl - managed to scare off all male interests to date. Not been easy.

My baby girl – managed to scare off all male interests to date. Not been easy.

Broderic is about to start at Augustine College in a couple of weeks over in Ottawa, Canada.  The college is taught by a small group of PhD’s with a passion for defending the Gospel (Apologetics) in humanistic / agnostic settings.  This school is quite costly (mostly for living) and he’s been working several jobs trying to save up – proud of you young man! http://www.augustinecollege.org/

8yrs going, this trampoline continues to draw dozens of new faces each summer. 3 tarp replacements, +50 springs, Sam's Club record for sure.

8yrs going, this trampoline continues to draw dozens of new faces each summer. 3 tarp replacements, +50 springs, Sam’s Club record for sure.

If you would, please pray with us about this fall and a particular meeting coming up with our partners and friends from Belarus at the end of September.

He has connected with us, providentially I believe, with some really neat existing and emerging leaders of the body of Christ in Belarus.  God is stirring something quite significant in my heart, it won’t go away, and it is going to stretch our faith beyond the starting of this Cafe and ministry.

We are planning to gather with one agenda, to meet with Jesus and hear His voice.  We know He is working, opening the hearts of this next generation, and is doing much of this outside of traditional church structures.   Focused, targeted ministries, from ice cream stands to coffee shops, businesses, skateboard ministries, and everything in between – more mobilization coming, especially in the FSU.

What does a move of the Holy Spirit look like?  What role does He want us to play?  How can the bride of Christ in the FSU (Former Soviet Union) grow in number, in beauty and in mission?  What steps can we start taking this fall?

We all have similar desires to use music and creative arts to provide environments for the Gospel to awaken hearts.  These guys and gals are incredibly talented and willing.   Our family feels a kindred connection, we are supposed to move ahead together somehow – they are also pioneers, and taking risks already, willing to take more for Jesus.

Our friends there already traveled to 7 cities to host worship nights this past spring, and would have continued but did not have enough money for gas – they are individually living on $200-400 per month in a major city along with the rest of the people of Minsk suffering from a collapsed economy.   God sees their willing hearts, and He also sees the harvest – we must lift up our eyes together and get into this field more actively.

We need your prayer, we need God so sharpen our ears, soften our hearts and most of all we need his power.   He will provide all the many needs for what is next, but without His power it won’t produce life:

“The history of missions is the history of answered prayer. From Pentecost to the Haystack meeting in New England and from the days when Robert Morrison landed in China to the martyrdom of John and Betty Stam, prayer has been the source of power and the secret of spiritual triumph.”
Samuel Zwemer

We are signing off for a week and we rest up for a crazy September ahead!  Love and blessings from Ukraine.

Bruce & Deb

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Goodbye Natasha! Hello Josh!

IMG_1210Tonight we held an impromptu worship and prayer evening at the Cafe.  It’s neat to rally various worshipers of Christ on demand and seek Him together.  I needed it.  It’s been a difficult week with many problems.  Sometimes problems seems to pounce and come at you in waves.

Entering the prayer time I was feeling pretty empty from various battles.  I was reminded of Psalm 51 in David’s prayer, “A broken and contrite heart you will not despise.”  In times of emptiness, whether from sin or simply beaten down in the battle of life – we can cherish this promise too.

We are always accepted in Christ when we come broken, humble and acknowledging our need for our Savior.

Sometimes we think we need to earn His acceptance.  Bring out the sacrifice, the bulls and rams.  Let’s pat ourselves on the back with some good ole self righteousness before we come into His presence!  Thankfully the instructions are quite the opposite.  If we come broken, hungry, thirsty and we’ll always find the open arms of the Father.

It’s a bittersweet time as we say goodbye to Natasha from Minsk.  She volunteered her time this summer to work with us specifically with the interns.  The 3 girls, along with Natasha just returned from a week together in Western Ukraine’s beautiful Carpathian mountains.  They had an amazing time and some really cool stories of God’s grace.

IMG_1213We were able to pray and send Natasha, along with her freshly sprained ankle back to Minsk.  Incoming, we have Josh Neibert from Crossroads (our home church in Texas) here for the next 6-7 weeks.  Josh is 18 and already fairly traveled among our Crossroads mission locations.  He’ll be serving primarily with youth and currently helping Shane build the halfpipe  – started this morning!

It's been cool to have the "Big House" this summer free to host families, teams and interns! So many cool mixes of nationalities and languages this summer.

It’s been cool to have the “Big House” this summer free to host families, teams and interns! So many cool mixes of nationalities and languages this summer.

We’ve had Andrei & Ira here from Minsk all week.  Andrei c0-pastors in Minsk at CFN Church, both he and Ira are graduates of the bible school there.  It’s been neat to get to know them some more – they don’t speak any English, so it’s been a real solid test of our Russian.  We love their heart and what God is doing in their lives.

The Minsk connection has been a blessing in our little town.  I look forward to seeing how continued networking can infuse more life and friendships among both nationalities.  The church is greatly encouraged when believers unite in mission together.   Deb and I both feel God is doing something special among the Belarussian believers – they have a desire and maturity that is going to bless many more nations beyond Ukraine.

 

Some areas to pray for us:

  • Legal issue: we are taking Pasha to court again for the robberies at our house this past year.  We gave mercy at the last proceeding, but this mercy was repaid with another attempted break-in last month (we have camera footage outside).  Please pray for him, and us as we make difficult decisions towards justice, and safety for our family.
  • Another issue: we had a man come to the cafe a few nights ago and harass our female workers.  It centered around some Russian language on our signage/menu and he took issue (an understatement), yelling at the girls for over 20 minutes and provoking them to tears and argument.  He refused to leave the front counter space of our Cafe, making a spectacle of himself.  We have it on video.  I was called to help, and asked him to leave – thankfully he did but then the next day reported our Cafe to the authorities – claiming he was instead insulted and treated poorly.   We have several witnesses and video to prove otherwise and were already thinking to have our lawyer help us keep him legally from coming again to our peaceful cafe – he threatened to return with ‘more’ patriots.  Anyway, we want to be a people of peace, and the whole situation needs prayer and wisdom please!
  • Park: please pray for our remaining stages of this park.  It’s coming along but so slowly. It’s hard for my American brain to understand why everything here has to be so bulky – the answer for everything in Ukraine is cement, and more cement.  I just want to have some swings and grass..  Pray for patience and help as we’re about $2k over budget, but it’s going to be really a great park and a real attraction for many students and young parents/kids!

Lots of stuff coming up as September hits.  Widows ministry continues, a big pizza party being planned for incoming 1st and 2nd year students, and we’re looking to hire more staff for the fall.   God fill us with your power, your presence, your joy!  We need to believe Him for spiritual victories, and focus on the eternity ahead.   May we learn from the difficulties and become more useful instruments in His hands because of them.

Bruce & Deb

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August Update

Skatepark News!

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 3.55.09 PMWe are excited to announce the 11×16 asphalt pad is finally complete.  It took about a month of ground prep and a lot of manual labor, but we have the smoothest blacktop around!

Next step is building a perimeter fence.  We are already over budget (surprise) so we are attempting to this on our own.

We need to be able to keep stray animals out of the play area – and if you’ve visited our town, you know there are various packs roaming about.   We also need to be able to keep human critters in so the parents can relax and enjoy their ice cream or coffee!

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Vova is about 70% finished building a large wooden lighthouse which kids can climb and slide down – will be interesting to see!

Shane is ordering frame and cover for the half-pipe and we’ll be assembling ourselves in Rz.   We want to leave a large portion of the pad open for roller-blade and future growth.

We don’t have budget for sod/grass, but I’m moving forward with the hope we can lay down a large area in the kids zone so the park can be used right away.  Still hoping for a Sept opening, hope against hope!

Summer Interns Update!

interns2We’ve been really happy with the three girls the Lord has allowed us to invest in.  They have spent many mornings with us in study of God’s word, prayer and worship.  With very little backdrop of the bible, we’ve walked through the Gospel of John, and taking steps back into Israels history – the covenant God made with Abraham, the exodus and Passover memorial, through the prophets echoing of the restoration of God’s Kingdom to come.   By the time we get to the end of John, and the Crucifixion we see a glimpse of the beauty of God’s plan, His redemption and Kingdom begun on earth through a new redeemed people from every nation and tongue – His Church!

It was especially cool to have groups and visitors from all over flow through the ‘Big House’ this summer.  This kind of exposure for young hearts is immeasurable and it was neat to work as a team with various believers in the area, and the team from Minsk.  The Kingdom of God is vast, and this summer the interns got to taste some of the mission heart of our Global God.

interns As I type this, they are en route as a team of 6 to the beautiful mountains in western Ukraine.  Through a generous sponsor, we were able to help pay for a retreat where they will spend 4 days enjoying God’s creation, praying, and filling up with vision Lord willing for their coming new year.  God blessed us with two young men from Minsk team who stayed back and are helping to lead this team with Natasha who has been serving with us this summer.    Pray they have an amazing and SAFE time!

The camp was great, everyone served well and many young lives were loved.  Here’s a quick picture of it!

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Family Update!

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We are really enjoying the two youngest girls Abbey and Claire.  They are playing together more and being so silly.

Brent is coming back in 9 days from his working/play stint in Canada.  Yesterday he went to Canada’s wonderland, a huge six flags type park for the first time.

Broderic is about to start his first intense college course at Augustine College in Ottawa.  He’s feeling a lot of pressure, working on the farm and for our development company on the side.  Life is full out for him I think now.  We sure do miss him.

Bronwyn is considering some last minute college options herself.  Please pray for her this week as we together seek His best for our eldest daughter.  We would hate to lose her this fall, she’s an amazing help and influence for the young students here – but we want to see her maximize this year for the Lord and her own character building.

Tucker is a solid dude, he has a close friend Igor who comes from Kiev on the weekends.  They are like two peas in a pod.  He’s still loving computers and anything soccer, and his little dog.

Clark and Noah are roaming about the village daily.  Noah rarely has much more than shorts on – he’s fun and creative, silly and obnoxious to his siblings.  Clark is becoming quite an athlete and competes with his older brothers in just about anything.   I wish we had more athletic options for him here – we actually looked the other day at sending him to a sports boarding school in Barcelona, Spain.  It would cost $40k Euro – we all had a laugh at that one.

Deb and I are anticipating some changes in the near future.  We have opened up our hearts to the Lord in working more in Minsk for longer stretches. We have connected on some deeper levels with the ministry there and bonded with their leaders.  We’re starting to court a Pioneering ministry in the US that has 100’s of like minded ministries that range from businesses to charities, to schools to cafe’s – ministry partners and support for those that seek to impact culture outside of traditional local church structures.  It has been so refreshing to realize we are not alone in our particular calling to plant things outside of the church, for the growth and expansion of it.

It is extremely difficult to live and move inside Belarus and Russia right now for any religious purposes.  We have the opportunity to be invited by a Belarusan entity for an extended period, and become a board member of it – we are walking through this process now.  Also we have been invited to Russia again this fall to teach at YWAM – with the new laws in place, this is a matter of legitimate prayer and we appreciate your support in that.

Studio Update!

Anya and Elena from Minsk, amazing singers and very creative talents.

Anya and Elena from Minsk, amazing singers and very creative talents.

We haven’t spoken too much about this, but we’re in our 2nd month here at Lighthouse Studio and have begun recording!  Tomorrow we have a young lady, a songwriter coming to record an hour worship ‘session’ which we’ll video as well.  Dima has been amazing, learning the in and outs of studio recording on the fly, but also brings many years of playing, singing and technical know how to the table.

A few weeks ago we met some studio guys from the war torn area of Donetsk, where their studio was actually destroyed. They were excited to hear of our new work, and as brothers in Christ look forward to seeing how we can partner.   Our heart is to simply see Jesus take these rooms and equipment and be glorified.   More on this soon!

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Dima who is managing the Lighthouse Studio!

We are preparing for the students return this September, and also more guests coming!  Andrei and his family from Minsk, as well as Josh from Crossroads in Texas will be joining and serving with us for a season.   God continues to encourage us with Russian speaking friends in and around our home, in little Rz, Ukraine – and I believe our Russian as been improving along the way because of it,  thanks be to God!

Thanks for checking in – Bruce & Deborah

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