Russia Trip Recap

We’ve known Elsa for a few years, from Vladivostok. She joined us this past fall at YFM in Minsk.

Deb and I just returned last night after 24hrs of travel, 3 flights, and a whole lot of sitting!  I was thankful they let me in Ukraine as I had forgotten my residence permit at home.  Ended up being detained for about 20 minutes in a room with several customs officers.  They were nice guys, doing their job, but finally gave in and let me in – it was that, or find me a bed because I wasn’t going anywhere 🙂

Typical Russian bus in Vladivostok. $.50 per ride 🙂

Being literally on the sea of Japan is about as far East as Russia gets.  The Asian influence is everywhere, from the faces to the restaurant selections.  We grabbed some food one night at Burger King (Ukraine doesn’t have BK so it’s a bit of treat), and it hit me… we were in an American fast food joint, run by Russians, surrounded by Chinese 🙂

The YWAM conference is held annually, in different Russian cities each year.  Usually, it’s Moscow, St. Pete and other larger Cities closer to, well, civilization.  But this year, Vladivostok was up, and about 30 missionaries made the trek from Russia as well as China and a few other places.  Russia, over the past few years, has really cracked down on all western religious activity.  This, along with some other changing dynamics inside YWAM itself with their DTS (discipleship training school) has been in noticeable decline.  Their bases around various parts of the former Soviet Union were once bustling with national and international students and staff missionaries, they are now in hunker down survival mode, if existing anymore at all.

It was cool though to see pockets of emerging community in Vladivostok, even a fellow Canadian from Edmonton, 20yr old young guy as green as they come!  I was able to meet as well some extremely well traveled missionaries from Armenia/Georgia area who know many of the same folks we know in Belarus and around the Russian world.  One guy shared some really valuable insights on the struggles inside political religious systems that I really appreciated, things make a little more sense now – particularly why the established church has become so rigid and seemingly antagonistic to the emerging generation.

Groups were given tasks to create a business plan then present to the entire group.

Many of the traditional missionaries inside the FSU have been forced to either leave, or change their mission – some, including a really neat contact I made this trip, have moved to business fully.

This one gentleman, who’s name shall remain protected, has lived for 19yrs in Russia, now in Moscow, once leader of YWAM Russia.  He’s about my age, and God is using him in some neat ways.  He’s fluent in Russian, and wrote a book on ‘how to deal with westerners in business’, along those lines.  The Russians love him, and it, his book has gained popularity in political and business circles and on social media has a growing following.

He’s considering hosting some seminars around this idea of western training, as the differences are so significant, and the opportunities for building bridges and connections for the Gospel’s influence are real.  We’re in discussion about working together, something to pray about as we also consider establishing this base in Kiev and impacting culture and business.  This fits interestingly this graduate course I’m taking, and wouldn’t surprise me if somehow our trajectory weaves into this sphere of government/business – I love working with youth, but they are typically poor and we need to find some economic engines to help pay the bills – we don’t have the luxury of weekly offerings.

One night, worship was hosted in a popular night club.. these FSU youth are loving to gather outside church buildings and finding the most worldly places they can find 🙂

Before I went, I was thinking and stressing a little about how we will ultimately sustain our project in Kiev.  It’s one thing to start, it’s another to sustain especially in this terrible economy & among unemployed youth. The Lord took me to a verse, I’m pretty sure He was encouraging me to chill and trust:

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go.” Isa 48:17

Profit isn’t just about money, but it’s not ‘not’ about money either. He provides, He directs, He can teach us how to be fishers of men, but also how to do business.  We’re not rushing into getting more property or space, but praying to see the hand of God provide – teach us Lord, lead us Jesus!

So the YWAM conference was a great time as well to spend with Deb.  We didn’t expect this, but we were able to have two, that’s right, two dates!  What was interesting was after the dinner together, we weren’t in a rush to get back to the kids – they were a million miles away, it felt like we were on vacation for a few brief hours, and it was amazing.

To make the date even better, I lost my phone by leaving it in the taxi. We took taxi’s everywhere, they have this Russian version of Uber that is super affordable and convenient over the old slow buses.  Just hours before we were to return to Ukraine, the person who took the phone (and spent the day pondering what to do with it), called the emergency phone/message I had placed on it through iPhone ‘findmyiphone’ service (isn’t technology incredible?).. the message we put on it said in Russian, “call for big reward!”.. They did, and we got it back, for $30 – what our friends suggested as big reward – everyone was happy – except Deb, who I know secretly wishes it would be stolen again.

I taught about ‘living an invest-able life’ and how our ideas are only as invest-able as we are (to people willing to take risks or give us money to start stuff).  We made it really interactive at the end they built their own business plans in teams, and competed by presenting them in less than 3 minutes to the group.  It was very direct, challenging the youth especially to go to bed, live in the real world and position themselves to be invested into. I

I’m learning, in my own course as well, that I need to do a better job listening (before setting objectives or teaching), and for adults, learning is a lot different than for children.  I always wondered why I didn’t like sitting in church listening to lecture format after +10yrs in church – now it’s makes sense, most adults don’t learn this way, it’s not an opinion, it’s proven theory in the area of adult education.  We need buy in, we need stuff that helps and is applicable immediately, we need our experience to be taken into consideration and assessed before just given information, no matter how good the information is.  The entire academic western model of ‘sage on the stage’ limits us in learning, does more to affirm the teacher than truly educate or disciple adults.  We need, as leaders to be ‘guides on the side’.  More later.

Maybe I should start putting my papers on my blog as links, not sure how many pastor friends I’d have left. 🙂  I’ve already been writing quite a bit, and thinking more than a little.

Thankful for Adrienne and the YFM girls for watching the kids, everyone that was here when we left, was here when we returned!  The Minsk girls are leaving tomorrow, they’ve been all over Ukraine on mission, from Kiev serving at events, to Rz building relationships with our youth and working as baristas, to Western Ukraine working on missional farm, Northern Ukraine orphanage camp -I pray they look back and see the work of grace in their hearts as well.  We’re happy for a break, it’s been 6 months of responsibility beyond just our family and normal ministry world.

Bruce & Deb

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Loving the Sun & Other Things.

Two very silly girls.

Writing from my new office.  With Broderic and Bronwyn now in the US, a bit of space opened up in our house.  We shuffled the little girls to another room and opened up the western facing bedroom, fresh coat of paint, old desk, done!  We have missed the sun.  It seems to hibernate all winter, rarely coming out to encourage us.

The past few weeks I’ve been buried in seminary tasks, reading, and some writing.  I fell behind almost immediately because I wasn’t aware how the online system worked – I don’t like learning new systems, but the content itself has been rewarding.

Life throws some pretty radical curves at us, doesn’t it?  Just when you think you’ve mapped things out a bit, change.  Never imagined being back in school, the thought terrified me.  I wasn’t a great student, I’m hands on and not a linear, didactic learner. I’m encouraged the the Lord has me in a relevant place of learning – among existing leaders, in a cohort that is fully andragogy (adult) learning based. It’s quite fascinating.

My classmates for the next few years, Lord willing.

Students are from all over the world, but also places in life and careers.  One guy writes for New York Times, another from InterVarsity.  Several are missionaries non unlike ourselves running various business and missional efforts that are quite interesting!  Cool map eh?

I haven’t really talked about how this all came about.  It’s really quite amazing, and one of the few ‘miracle’ type events in my life I can fully attribute to God inserting His hand. When you sense God in something, you tend to relax with a peace but also really don’t want to screw it up! 🙂

Easter Dinner in Kiev with our friends Andrei & Olya Murzin – they helped us settle on moving to Ukraine +10yrs ago!

The first quarter of this MAGL course at Fuller is all about taking inventory, learning how we learn, and how our life experiences have shaped us.  By the end of this quarter I submit my ‘learning plan’ which I will then follow for the remainder of the Master of Arts in Global Leadership program.

This July our family, thanks to family in Canada, will be coming over for a month.  During that stay I will need to attend a week seminar with the crew from this Cohort – it will be really cool to meet them all.

I’m just getting into a rhythm in the day of reading/writing, balancing Lighthouse and missionary stuff but now have to leave for Russia on Monday for a week.  What’s cool though is the program realizes we’re all leading active lives and allows us to move ahead and plan for such things.

One of the areas I’m most excited to grow in is leadership development, particularly in the context of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia where there seems to a real emergence of non-traditional church communities. I’m increasingly out of touch with the west, what’s happening with Trump, and the many issues of race, church, gender equality. To be effective in what God is growing us in here to the Russian speaking world, we need to have our pulse on global issues (not just American), but be wrestling through our own relevant challenges as well. To do that, with others in similar context (westerners no longer in the west), theologically and philosophically I’m thinking will be pretty cool!

Pray for me, this requires more discipline that I’m used to having with my time.  I’m now looking at areas to cut, like social media, which is sort of a life-line but also distraction.   Pray for Deb also, this impacts her as much as anyone as I’m left to juggle more things.  I do sense His grace and favor on us for this season, for our marriage as well – but we do appreciate prayer!

Speaking of the lovely Deb, thanks to very generous and dear friends in Texas, will be coming with me to Vladivostock on Monday.  I’m almost finished preparing – I will be sharing on pioneering business and ministry to a group of gathered YWAM + partners in the Russian speaking world.

I’m excited to challenge these guys actually, a lot of eager learners looking for non-traditional ways of impacting culture. God cares about the heart, and I do hope the He uses me to inspire them to look beyond ideas and money.  One session I’m really looking forward to sharing on is called, “Living an investable life”.  I don’t think investable is a word, but that’s ok!

Registration table as this week we hosted 50 students for pizza day – great connections!

Loving the weather, wishing for more time in the day to enjoy it.

Please pray for:

  • YWAM Russia Trip & Confernce Next Week
  • Lighthouse team (new lunch menu launched this week, really hoping we can improve our financial situation this way, still very challenging).
  • YFM team finishes up next weekend, for safe returns!
  • Next weekend we are piloting a Weekend of Prayer/Worship at the ‘Big House’.. opening up to those who want to come from the city, or area and in/out join us for continuous 50hrs of prayer!
  • Bronwyn has a new job, likes it so far, now needs car.. welcome to America!
  • Pray for our kids while we are away, kind of a crazy schedule of babysitters as our older two are in language lessons in Kiev during week.
  • Kiev platform, we had 2nd meeting last week, only a couple showed up for prayer but was encouraging time – inspired me to host this weekend thing. Please keep praying for a place, timing, and His hand!
  • Emerging leaders and development.. this is one area the MAGL course has already stoked in me, to be more proactive in learning with those around me as an effective way to disciple.  We’re trained to think of leaders as the ‘sage on the stage’, but that’s more of a teacher-child type of learning – I want to be a better ‘guide on the side’ in my leadership role as I grow in Christ and others.
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What is Busy?

busy

ˈbɪzi/
adjective
1. having a great deal to do.
2. full of activity.

 

I’m reading this book on leadership.  I’m not a big reader.  In fact, I’m a rather small one.  I lean in on the, “I’m too busy” excuse.

This African proverb caught my attention:

“A gazelle wakes up every morning knowing that it will have to run faster than the fastest lion, in order to stay alive. A lion wakes up knowing it will have to run faster than the slowest gazelle, in order to stay alive. Whether you are a gazelle or a lion, you wake up every morning knowing that you will have to run faster to stay alive.

For the past week, I’ve been buried in the details of closing down the remaining pieces of my web company.  It’s been an odd mixture of feelings.  The closing of a chapter, a stressful and very ‘busy’ chapter.  I ran fast, I worked hard, but it came a cost.

The pace of living in the former Soviet Union knows nothing of the furious western drive.  For all it’s warts and wrinkles, the culture here values relationships over money – the result is a more sincere, deeper communal experience.

Being busy is great, we just need to be busy with the things that most edify and strengthen us along the way.  It’s not a badge of honor in itself.

I’m legitimately excited, after 10yrs of dueling time zones, to be in just one culture.

The blessing of having foreign business income to fuel mission and our family is over.  It plowed the way for our family to settle into Ukraine with housing, the Lighthouse Cafe, and an emerging family of new believers trusting in Jesus.

As I let go of one plow, I notice the Lord has fitted me with another.  As director for Mir Ministries, we’re now overseeing additional commercial assets in the Russian speaking world and more projects to bring Jesus to a hungry generation.  God doesn’t waste any of our experiences.  I’m thankful for that.

It felt on most days the experience of running business was keeping me from ‘spiritual’ things, and yet, it was possibly the most forming spiritual experience of my life. I see young people shy away from responsibility, from stress, and from busy – I think that is a mistake. These things shape us into more useful tools, especially as we turn to Christ in weakness.

I’m thankful for the looming ‘extra bandwidth’ to tackle new challenges and grow in new ways.  We’ll be less comfortable financially, depending exclusively on our home church and charity, but it feels right.

I’ve just started at Fuller Seminary, and embarking on a Master of Arts in Global Leadership (MAGL). Working on this part time and the various ministries in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia will be a challenge. I’m enthused to grow as a leader and serve more effectively inside the emerging church.

Please pray for our family and next season – I’m not sure how it can all work together, but I sense Him in it.

As the dusk settles over our forest, from this freshly re-purposed perch (girls bedroom turned office), I’m reminded just how unceasingly the world turns.  It never stops, it never rests – but we can.  That beautiful sunset was created for enjoyment, for me.

We rest on Thee, our Shield and our Defender;
  We go not forth alone against the foe;
Strong in Thy strength, safe in Thy keeping tender.
  We rest on Thee, and in Thy Name we go. ** last song sung by Nate Saint and Jim Elliot before they entered the jungle in 1956 to reach the Waorni tribe in Ecuador.
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Birthdays and Pancakes

#7 turns 6. Abbey is a sweet, happy-go lucky girl who has been a real treat.

Deb decided to make pancakes for the birthday ‘lunch’ – but she forgot to check for syrup. Ukraine doesn’t make maple syrup, so we have a secret stash. The stash ran out.

No worries. Brown sugar, water, maple flavoring, good to go! Sort of.

Abigail Jane Crowe turned 6 today, and we are thankful for her cheerful rays of sunshine each day. Today it was warmer out, the piles of snow are clearing away.

Went for a little walk at sunset, that’s why this picture was taken, and turned out so well. Nothing like the lighting for photography at sunset.

Pastor Alex and his leadership team from YGS Church in Kiev – a fairly new plant focusing on youth.

This weekend we hosted a team of leaders from YGS Church in Kiev.  We have visited there several times, and through our Steiger friends connected with their pastor Alex.

Several of their youth are friends with our own kids, and now some of our Club 180 youth go to services on the weekend there as well. They, along with other groups are ‘reserving’ the big house (Deb’s parents house) for 2-3 days of prayer and planning.

It seems Kiev folks really enjoy getting out of the city and coming to Rz – it helps that we have an amazing guest house with 20 beds, and it’s free!  Folks have started blessing us with a little money which we use for blessing Dima & Lena who live in the basement floor and do an amazing job caring for the house and prepping for teams.

Collins heads to Belarus tomorrow. Mir (our charity) is sending him to serve with CCX college ministry there on their week of mission. Pray for him and the teams that are taking risk to share the love of Jesus.

Our YFM girls (and Brent) are in Chernigiv (northern Ukraine) this week serving with Hope for Orphans kids camp. It will be really challenging and I believe life changing for them.

Also pray this week for Kiev summer plans and a space we could rent long term for coffee shop and creative space.  I feel God’s going to do it, possibly soon. Wisdom needed as we enter these uncharted waters.

Our Mir Board restructure is 99% complete and we are working on budgets for 2018/19.  It’s a new experience for many of us, but within the board are some very mission and life experienced individuals. God is so kind.  The new board includes a mix of our own Lighthouse/Crowe group and merges with the most active families and individuals from the legacy group (Brunk family and friends).  I’m excited to see how this will work!

I just overheard Abigail ask Deb, “How do babies come out of your belly?”

Grateful for this restful day, and our sweet Abbey.

Bruce & Deb

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Family News

My gorgeous daughter and her new dreads inspired me. We’ll miss our brown pony.

So America, look out.

Our spunky, lip pierced, Jesus loving, newly dreaded 19yr old is heading your way next week.  Bronwyn will be landing in the Orlando, FL area to work this summer with her brother, staying at her grandparents.

Bronwyn beginning her goodbyes – See you later Collins ;(

This isn’t just a summer thing though- she’s in process of applying to an art school in the sunshine state. It was super cool to have her in Minsk with us this past fall and rejoin the family for a season after her African safari. I think she reconnected with some of her ‘roots.’  Hair joke, sorry.

I need to keep this light, because inside, this daddy is holding back the tears. These things sneak up on you, right?

I thought I would be better at firing off these arrows.  It’s Deb, who’s admittedly more anxious than I to empty the nest, who keeps us anchored in parenting reality – they do need to leave.  I think “The Walton’s” was my dad’s hope- that we’d all stay ‘home’ and wish each other goodnight. I get it now.

The only thing I’m excited about at the moment is sharing less of my potato chips.  Bronwyn inherited my weakness for them – she’s a gifted snack thief.

We will miss her piano playing and watching her little sisters adore her.  Whoa, tears welling up, I best move on.

Claire was inspired (by what we aren’t sure) to visit Tuckers room, find his passport, and rip the most important pages.

This past year I’ve been writing primarily around missions activity, and promoting projects, fundraising (which is particularly a favorite of mine).  I’ve missed connecting with friends across the pond on a more personal level.

Deb and I were talking the other day about how dramatically the world via the internet has changed things over the past 10 yrs.  When we moved here, our ‘blog’ was cutting edge, the iPhone was just announced by Steve Jobs, and President Obama was taking office.  Yeah, I think a lot has changed for everyone.

For missionaries like us, who rely exclusively on communication to ‘connect’ and provide meaningful spiritual and financial resources, today’s glut of information overload is a real challenge.

Up until a few years ago, sending out a newsletter, email, or blog update was fairly unique.  Today we’re bombarded with social media 24/7 – everyone posting anything. I was noticing a friend (a few hours north of us), who runs an orphanage and their only ministry vehicle is dead – they need a new van. Their post for this incredible need was sandwiched between marketing ads and “7yrs ago today” photos.

Like the printed newsletter 30yrs ago, social media is becoming an ineffective conduit for missionaries to fuel mission.  We need wisdom.

Meet Leera, sharp next generation Ukrainian leader running her own Temp Agency. She’s from war-torn Donetsk. I’m praying about how we can help her grow her business in the context of missions.

There’s just too much information to wade through.

I’m exhausted after the unending scroll of facebook and I know you are too.  Instagram is completely run by the emerging generation under 30. They left facebook a while ago (normal when parents show up).  Yet, even Instagram is now dominated by the ultra A.D.D. format of 5 second daily snapshots.

To insert legitimate prayer requests, or promote missional activity in these spheres is increasingly inappropriate and counterproductive.  People are looking for dopamine hits and here we are, reminding them of spiritual realities – unfriend.

How did I start this post about Bronwyn leaving and end up here?  Our family, like yours, is changing.  Deb and I are entering mid 40’s, actually Deb is already there 😉  As you get older, you increasingly treasure meaningful connection.  Shallow ‘likes’ and voyeur like spectating of each-other’s lives is lame.

Wes & Kim Janzen, Kiev Symphony Orchestra & Choir conductors – Missionaries from BC Canada!

I’m getting back to blogging to update those who continue to care, love and support our journey. I need to be more personal and vulnerable.

I want to apologize if some of our promoting and ‘ministry’ stuff has left you less interested and even disconnected. Our blog still gets cool readership levels, over 60 will read it within 24hrs.  Of those, a majority we’ve known for many years. That relationship means more to us than a donation or a like on fb.

I’m realizing I want to write for those that have been more wise than I and have already made healthy disconnects from the use of technology. So if you notice some more edgy updates, frustrations, or more gory details of broken society, this is why.

If you have any suggestions, thoughts, please write me!  I want to know how to best stay connected.

Prayer Request March/April:

– Bronwyn: she leaves Tuesday, for her re-entry into the foreign land that is America – I think there will be some genuine culture shock coming her way.

– YWAM Trip Russia: UPDATE!!! We received a generous donation from a Texas friend who will help Deb come with me to Vladivostock!  We only need $200 more if you would like to contribute, click here.

****any additional funds we receive for this trip, we’d like to buy some chairs for the Lighthouse Cafe, after 5yrs of daily use we have several needing replacing. 

– Fuller Seminary Begun!  I have begun a graduate course (MAGL Masters Global Leadership).  It’s 90% online and about 15hrs per week for the next few years.  How I was accepted is an incredible story and I praise Him for putting this on my heart and flinging wide these doors. Pray for me please.

– Spring/Summer Trips & Mission: We have a lot of changes taking place. I think it’s just the beginning! As International Director with our charity Mir Ministries, we have a new board and exciting new plans for advancing Jesus Christ in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. Deep breath. Please pray for all of us and unity as we move forward into this next chapter.  So thankful for the oversight & experience surrounding our families in Kiev & Minsk!l

– July 15-August 15 we hope to be in Canada/US (required for my program).  My family in Canada has offered to help bring the family, but we’re not sure if we’ll be able to pull it off yet. Regardless who comes, we would love to potentially visit you in person and enjoy your fellowship.  Invite us!

Was cool to see Kiril, our Club 180 youth on a Steiger Video during a conference in Kiev! He’s an orphan that is serving God and really neat dude.  Lighthouse fruit on display in big ole Kiev – sweet!

Things we’ve been studying/learning:

– Rhythm of ‘working’ to enter regular spiritual rest – how the Sabbath ultimate goal was to help bring our souls to genuine peace and rest (from works) with Christ.  (Heb 4).

– Books: Leadership Elipse (Fryling), Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places (Peterson), Life You Always Wanted (Ortberg).

– If you want something substantive, thought provoking & completely antagonistic towards today’s humanistic dialogue, check out Dr. Jordan Peterson on Youtube.

With love,

Bruce & Deborah Crowe

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