The last several years, we’ve been able to visit North America and stay in one place long enough to rest, recover a bit and return to Ukraine. This trip however, at least for myself, it’s been pretty full out.
After finishing my week in California, I met Deb in Dallas and we spent 3 action packed days in Longview with friends and our home church.
We had a lovely evening with some of our new MIR board members and supporters – a solid time of prayer for both our family but also some strategic events and areas needing victory.
We were also greatly blessed to meet some new friends this trip, namely Jim and Ann Mills. They have been serving as missionaries for the past 40yrs (yes, say it with me, four zero!) in Belgium. It’s hard to put into words the depth of encouragement they were to us. As both musicians/artistic people (but also incredible thinkers, he’s got a PhD on the side in theology) they have been instigating creative ministries, schools, events and investing in next generation leaders for four decades.
The result? Not a fully orbed ministry with all the bells and whistles you’d typically expect – but rather a network around the globe of meaningful relationships, history and kingdom impact. I sense that MIR, and our family will continue working in this general direction, to instigate, but hold loosely. To start but not control. To allow the Holy Spirit, as much as we are gifted in, bring hope and love to the Slavic cultures by encouraging others to step up and trust Jesus themselves. I’m less interested with building anything organizational, but invest in timeless principles and eternal things.
I marveled at their depth, humility and sense of humor. They ministered not only to Deb and I, but to all who were around them this past weekend – missionaries not in name only, but heartbeat of Christ. I am blessed to know them and now have the ear and heart of such a mentor.
Some of our Mir leaders crew and Mills family.As I type this entry, I’m now outside Charlotte, North Carolina at a huge Christian camp facility in the mountains called Ridgeport or something. CRM (https://www.crmleaders.org/) is hosting their ‘every four years’ conference for pioneering missional leaders. Over 700 are here, including a lot of families and kids. Around 100 of them are from overseas. We know the Ukrainian delegates from Cherkassy, good friends that helped us get a vision for starting a cafe and the many logistics it required.
While at Fuller I men inspiring fellow pioneer Christiana. She’s here with her husband Derek, the worship leader for the conference. We’re here only until tomorrow, just a quick hop over on our way back to Canada to rejoin our family.
Missing my girls incredibly… I miss the crazy boys, but something about a dad and his little girls. Once we return, we’re only there for a couple days, sharing to a group of men, then driving 8hrs to Life Center church to share in PA. Then we’ll start packing for our August 20 return.
I’m exhausted. Filled. Optimistic. Ready to rest. This has been a really fast paced quick pit stop trip but God has been working and forming my heart in good ways.
Thankful for my parents holding down the fort with all those kids the past week, I owe them big-time.
Thank you also Bradshaws for hosting us in Texas, and letting us (mostly Brent) eat all your food. Send us a bill! 🙂
To pause, reflect, ponder. Who has time, especially in the west?
Being back in the matrix of the US brings back memories of stress and strain. Life is lived at a different pace and resulting quality. You can see it on peoples faces. They are tired, their souls are weary.
Creating space for our soul to breath, to wait on the Lord, is a gift.
I’ve been considering the word ‘behold’ in scripture. It’s been unfortunately replaced in most translations but in Greek specifically speaks to our responsibility to stop, reflect, consider and apply. It’s usually preceding something very important, like when an angel shows up to proclaim, “Behold, I bring you great news”.. we’d be well to stop, reflect and consider what is about to be spoken.
To behold, to step back and take a deep breath and receive, is a choice.
Interesting how the enemy of our soul will do anything to keep us from our source of strength and peace, including portraying prayer as a laborious religious thing. For many years in my own life, prayer was something that made me feel good for the wrong reasons – it made me ‘feel’ spiritual when in reality, I wasn’t spiritual at all.
To pray is to come to God as a hungry, thirsty, and tired soul and simply be.
“With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation,” said Isaiah as he proclaimed prophetically the coming Savior, 2,700 years ago. I don’t know about you, but I want to stay near my source, the unending fount of spiritual renewal.
Like I faithfully nourish my body several times a day, I need to pause, reflect, and behold Jesus. As Dallas Willard says, “Our greatest need is spiritual formation” and yet how many of us “purposefully interact with the grace of God?”
What brings you grace? A walk through a forest, a quiet moment on the edge of your bed? We need to silence the demanding and relentless voices of our world. Come up to the well, open your heart and receive the love of God in a fresh way. Then do it again tomorrow.
Some reflections from my week so far at Fuller in Pasadena, California.
Today we spent the morning at a monastery dedicated to providing ‘space’ for those needing to listen and receive. It reminded me how blessed we are in Ukraine to live in a slower pace where silence is the ‘pause’ is more readily available – but we still need to take it.
This week, in addition to some lectures and group tasks, we’ve been blessed to hear from over 25 of the students in the cohort. We each had to present a 10 minute timed history of our personal salvation experience, current ministry context and hopes.
I, like always, became oblivious of the time and didn’t even get to current ministry context beyond a quick clip on Lighthouse. It was a good lesson in how spaced out I get and how I need to, one of these days, actually try and read from a script. It’s how Spurgeon did it! I’ll never do it.
I’m excited to be sharing on this more next Sunday, August 5t at Crossroads Church in Longview, Texas. I hope to see you there!
Missing my sweet Deb and family, cramming in 8hr classroom days here with 4 more to go! Side note, went for a walk yesterday and found an ice rink, was fun to sit and watch some little kids (mostly Asian) learn to play!
Plus it was free air conditioning, it’s 80-90’s here in day. No thanks.
Deb and kids doing well. So fun to see them tonight on video. Claire tried to give me her blanket through the screen, and I almost convinced her I was eating her snacks.
We are planning a Saturday afternoon drive to the coast with some of our friends. It’s the only free time I believe we’ll have to just chill and enjoy one another outside of classroom.
We’ve just arrived in Canada. The weather is lovely and it’s great to see my parents and start to see trickles of our extended family. We’ve arrived right at the start of wheat season.
Ukraine and Canada have this is common – large open fields of gold, combines harvesting, tractors and trucks roaming about. Being raised on a farm has some significant advantages, like always having a summer job.
My boys have benefited from this over the past several years – currently Brent and Tucker are working each day, doing whatever is asked from them, from cleaning large bins, to driving tractors. Tucker, 14, received was thrown into the deep end today and had to drive a tractor and wagon about 45 minutes away on the highway.
Deb and the kids have been enjoying my parents pool and the many blessings of staying with grandparents – like not having to cook! It’s no small thing for my super wife to have a break. She’s been going strong with raising babies and teenagers for 20 years strong. With only 2 left under six years old, we see the ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ and really enjoying our little girls Abbey and Claire.
Just prior leaving Ukraine, we had some leadership meetings that I believe will be very important for us to continue developing in the fall.
We are planning to run an Alpha Course in Ukrainian via the Lighthouse Cafe, as well as begin offering a Music Course with our friends at Visible College in Memphis, TN to a select group of university students (a piloting an accredited program online for music production), and we’ve just begun producing our next music production. Besides this, we’re planning to expand our widows efforts to some new areas, and mobilize more teams to bring the Gospel to the un-reached in rural areas. So much work, we do pray for more laborers, for God to call and for churches to send.
When we return we also have a wedding of one of our students, and a baptism too! We are praying for a place to rent in Kiev as well, possibly just a house to start for our family to be part time in the city, and to host a creative student home group – we love what God is doing among the youth in Ukraine and deeper discipleship is on our hearts.
So lots coming up, but before that, we’ve got a very busy next 3 weeks!
On Tuesday of next week I’ll be flying to Pasadena, California for ten days of seminar classes with Fuller. I’ve been racing to complete pre-seminar reading and papers as this past few weeks put me behind a bit. I’m really being challenged (in a good way) by the material we are studying, and God is gripping my heart in some new ways.
I’m not a big reader normally, I enjoy studying and I enjoy history, but having to be disciplined to read almost a book per week is requiring more mental horsepower than I’m used to. Eventually I want to share the books I’ve read which many I highly suggest – I also want to put some of my papers and assignments online as they may be a blessing for some of you depending on the topics and what you are going through in your own journey. I’m finding less time to blog, but I’m writing more than ever – I pray everything I’m learning finds it’s way both in and thru my heart to those in my sphere of influence.
I’m seeing that I haven’t been as purposeful in my growth trajectory as a long time believer.. I’ve had too many seasons of coasting, busy with ‘good things’ but not seeing enough markings of the Holy Spirit and victorious triumphs in my heart. This course is showing me in a fresh, inspiring way, that God is much bigger, more powerful and willing to work in my life than I give Him credit for. It’s intimidating at times, it’s “not easy to want to change” (Willard 2013), but we all want to be moving towards Christ. Our soul is terribly restless when not cared for, ‘eh?’ (Canada 2018).
He’s willing, but I haven’t been. I’ve needed this type of structure to get me into healthy rhythms of growth again. It’s a strange sensation to be both inspired and exhausted at the same time though, and I do appreciate prayer to find that happy balance.
I’m doing one course on Missiology and another on Character Development through the end of the fall. By God’s grace I finished my first semester with a 94%.. I think they were being gracious the first semester and going to start turning up the heat though.
This next week we’ll be meeting with the cohort of 30 or so fellow classmates from all over the world – in my small group I have a New York Times reporter, a missions director leading anti child-trafficking ministry, a fellow missionary who runs a cafe and student ministry in Cambodia, and a sharp young lady completing her .PhD. God has us all journeying together, we all have similar stories how none of us really thought we’d ever be back in ‘school’, yet here we are, trusting God that He has us in a place of specific learning for His ultimate purposes we are trusting.
After California (I’m going by myself), I rendez-vous with Deb, Brent and Tucker in Dallas, and we make our way to our old hometown of Longview, Texas. There we will connect with our sending church and dear friends. We’ll be hosting a supporters dinner and worship night on Saturday, August 5th, then I’ll be sharing to Crossroads Community Church that Sunday.
We’ll then head back to Canada, regroup and have a week of rest.. our only week ‘off’ during this trip – then to Pennsylvania with our friends at Life Center church on August 15th.
We will head home to Ukraine on August 20. Phew.
We do hope to see as many of you as possible. Time is so quickly moving on us in general, the older you get, the more real that becomes. Life moves on, this part of the world feels less and less like ‘home’ to Deb and I. We recognize less people, and we’re less part of peoples lives so even returning back as a family feels less of an event in general for everyone.
We are praying for ways to encourage you, to share something of Christ, He’s so good to us, to you, and to not be able to at least rejoice together for a brief moment seems a shame. So reach out, find us if we’re near.
Bruce & Deb