Days of our lives.

Drunk man on park bench at noon the other day.

The other day I walked by an man half asleep, mostly drunk (above). The image, for me, was a stark contrast to gorgeous autumn day. It’s still very common to find men stumbling through the day here. My heart always sinks. What lies, what loss.

Who intends to waste the most precious gift of life? There is a temptation I think to always begin wasting our lives at any time during our journey through life.

I wonder if it begins when we believe that our present is somehow detached from our future. That our actions today won’t effect our lives tomorrow.

“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.”  Annie Dillard

Like you, our family is evolving. Two oldest flew the coup this past year, our little girls Abbey and Claire (above) in Ukrainian school. Deb is stepping into a new season of expectation, exploring her own unique gifts. I am learning how to ‘let go’ and lead in ways that are difficult for me.

The Holy Spirit is showing us our role in spiritual formation. To grow in ‘purposeful interaction with the grace of God’ – Willard. We’re finding some new healthy rhythms, including Sabbath soul rest, and more intentional vulnerability with one another daily. We’re enjoying the results! The more we live presently, in the ‘now’, the less fear we possess regarding the future. If we don’t waste our days, we can be sure our lives will count.

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A New Chapter – Mir Leaders Weekend

This past weekend was a special moment for our family & mission to the Russian & Ukrainian speaking world. A core of selected next generation leaders gathered at our base in Rzyschiv, Ukraine for a time of listening, learning and fellowship.

The purpose?

To begin assembling an international missional community, under the guidance of Mir Ministries, that will come alongside the work of the Holy Spirit in disciple making movement.

Missio Dei (Mission of God) – The Sending Creator

We spent our first session rallying under the mission of God – to make disciples of all nations. Though the modes and means of mission change over time, the mission has not.  There’s no such thing as an ‘un-sent’ Christian. We’re on mission, co-laboring with Christ, empowered by the Holy Spirit, to grow the family of God.

The ‘fellowship’  and resulting ecclesiology of any healthy, biblical community must be informed by missiology. 

The church doesn’t have a mission, the mission has the church!

I’ll quote a close friend and mentor here, “The church and mission are inseparable.”

Small groups working through Spiritual Formation topics and comparing how we each attend to the grace of God in our lives.

No amount of lights, fog, electric guitars and amped-up events will be enough to lure the hearts of this next generation. We need to be salt and light, setting up camp in cultural spaces – let’s take the gospel to the world as our primary mission.

Several furniture & decor trips to Kiev last week in preparation for the new worship room.
Assembling couches after room was painted night before – it was a very long day and thankful for all the helpers!

God provided some extra funding which allowed us to sponsor the travel of our incoming leaders from Belarus, as well as purchase some furniture for the ‘Big House’ larger 2nd floor worship room. Sveta and Lena painted, Deb, Brent and I raced to assemble some couches and create the beginnings of a really cool space!  In two weeks we’re hosting a weekend of prayer/worship as well at the Big House – God be glorified and refresh all who come! 

Widows Teams praying and learning from one another.

Our respective Widows Care teams were able to finally meet one another.  It was a joy to hear them share stories, challenges and dream about growing this ministry in 2019. One powerful moment was during prayer, when Rafael felt that everyone should get on their knees – everyone in unison, without questioning this, adhered. 

The hush of the Holy Spirit fell on us, and several of the leaders were moved to tears, including me as we sensed the intense care of Christ over this ministry ‘to the helpless.’  I saw in my mind’s eye sandals/feet flow through our circled gathering – we left this prayer time with a tremendous sense that Christ has heard our prayer for wisdom and help, that this was His ministry, not ours – that He will sustain, guide and lead us.  It was the most powerful time of the weekend for me personally as it was so unexpected.

Pray for our widows teams, and the 80 widows we are currently serving each month.  We are believing God grow this to 200 widows in 2019 and expanding our teams, mobilizing the church on mission in areas of construction and medical care as well.

Wonderful evening of waiting on the Lord, un-hurried, agenda of the Holy Spirit.

The other times of gathering were around creative arts and worship.  While we have outreaches and events this fall coming up, we’re looking to this leadership core to begin praying, and stepping out in faith as well in new areas.  Our mission with Mir is to surround next generation leaders with the wisdom, community, and resources they need to step into the things of God. This feels right, not that we lead from out front, but from underneath, raising up, giving opportunity for indigenous gifts and callings to emerge.

Calm before the storm.. these weekends are a lot of work! I think the next one needs to be fasting! Thank you to friends Yevtoshenko and Paxa’s for saving us with a few wonderful meals!

We are excited already for our next weekend, which will be Lord willing in Belarus this November during the Lit Worship Event in Minsk.  This group will be growing, pray for us that we move with the Holy Spirit – that our gatherings produce the kind of fruit that impacts each heart involved first, then extends to the ‘tip of the arrow’ projects and ministries that emerge.

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To Root & Abide

For us, much of this (contextually) relates in the context of marriage. Stepping out of each others shadow, learning healthy independence, embracing the risk of genuine sacrificial love, letting go of long held fears. Journeying to new places in Christ can be scary. Journeying to new geographic places scary too! I hope it resonates and encourages you in spirit.

To follow the adventure leading Creator is never random. We can trust that we’re not being led into ambiguity or valleys for their own sake or some non-redemptive process.

There’s a danger, I think, in our journey of faith to become overly introspective, losing track of the grounding, relational purposes of God. As he takes us into uncharted places (in reality or metaphorically), his intentional, relational purposes won’t change, because his character has been clearly revealed in Jesus.

He wants us to become his dwelling place, and increasingly so.

Whatever God has done in the past, is doing today, or do in the future, will never stray from His focused passion to reside intimately in us, and us in him.  Doesn’t that comfort you? It does me.

Col 2:7 ‘Keep your roots deep in him, build your lives on him.

Paul does something interesting, he mixes metaphors between a fruit tree and a constructed building.

Rooted relates to the eternal, powerful seeds already sown in us through the good news in Jesus, that they take root, spread deep and wide.. grounding us for the building of something! For what? The habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph 2:21-22, Eph 3:17).

In Eph 3:13-14 Paul affirms this more, using again the rooted and grounding metaphor. This time, the rooting is ‘in love’. That we would ‘know the love of Jesus.’ Why is it so important that we know this love? He concludes, that we could be ‘filled to the fullness’ of Him. Rooting, again is about being this container, or tabernacle of the presence of God. Ephesians and Colossians passages are both saying essentially, “Dig in, I want to fill you”.

We can trust the processes of God because His unchanging intent is to use them to increasingly abide in us. Our focus is on the rooting our faith in the person of Jesus, diving deep into Him with our whole heart, mind, soul.

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Update from Minsk

Vik & Natasha Wedding. Natasha babysat our girls each week in Minsk during YFM – Vik drummer for XDH band and super creative.

Back in Ukraine for a about a week when Deb and I took the short flight to neighboring Minsk, Belarus. Joining the wedding festivities of Vikente & Natasha, we anticipated simply enjoying friends at the wedding on our brief two day visit.

While we did get to hug several necks and enjoy some gorgeous weather (the illusive sun actually came out!), both Deb and I were surprised to ‘feel’ a sense of anticipation, of God at work in this nation – unexpected, moving.  What is God doing?

When we left Belarus last winter after our 3 month stay in Belarus, it felt as though we ‘finished’ a chapter, something the Lord had asked us to to. To be honest, we left fairly discouraged – discouraged by the lack of faith among incubated, even suffocating religion. To see so many young believers, so talented, yet so curiously satisfied with meeting and ‘doing’ church services, left us dumbfounded.

Great to see Anya, our YFM graduate from last year – she’s been serving in youth prisons and camps. So cool to see a missional heart emerging!

The past two days kickstarted something fresh in our hearts again. Not only did Deb and I both independently feel the Holy Spirit in several conversations (with non church going friends in particular) but a sense that something is about to break out, or break in –  so ripe, hearts prepared.

We need to be praying for Belarus, and possess a posture of readiness as a family, ministry. We’ve experienced revolution in Ukraine, we know what it feels like to ‘wake up’ the next day to a new reality.

The Holy Spirit is awakening us to a needed posture, and filling us with His desires.  Ironically, foreigners can now stay for up to 30 days visa free. This fits perfectly in line with our refreshed desire to stay connected to what God is doing there – we are praying about timing but fully intend to re-enter as the Lord leads.

There’s a keen interest, openness, even hunger among Belorussians – it’s a hunger for hope. From the waiters at restaurants, to uber driver’s, each of our conversations as we ran around the city was engaging, filled with possibilities – it was significantly difficult to leave these conversations – In just 24hrs we could have started a home group of 4-5 people, without any intentional trying – just by embodying hope and talking to folks.

Hope is drawing this next generation in Russian speaking world – like moth to flame, an irresistible longing.

Everyone loves Collins. Should be a TV show.

As believers embracing the loving nature of the Father in Christ, we have a purpose and hope lit within our hearts. When we’re around fellow light bearers, it seems easily muted, or forgotten just how illuminating it is.

Peter is super connected in Russian speaking world and excited to be working more closely on new projects. Shouldn’t drive while talking, at least with me.. thus the public shaming ha.

This is why I’m less excited to hang out with believers than those who haven’t tasted the hope in Jesus.  There’s something incredibly moving, motivating in my own faith when others start buzzing around the light in my heart.  This doesn’t mean that fellowship in a worshipping community isn’t life giving, but the primary unifying element ‘of’ community, I think, should be disciple making.

Christ sends and goes with us into the world to make disciples, entrusting us with the seeds of faith in every heart, nurturing to maturity in Christ.

Sometimes the church acts like the mission is to ‘go into all the world and meet’.. or ‘make services’..  That was not commanded – Paul only mentions the necessity of gathering regularly once, and contextually had nothing to do with faithfulness to a specific Sunday meeting but being bold in public witness during times of persecution.

Point being, we will gather as we are on-mission making disciples together. That’s what families do. If we’re gathering as an act of obedience, we’re obeying a command never issued. Make disciples, and the body will gather in united force, in many modes and culturally relevant methods.

Christianity is a revolution of heart, a wildfire of relational, contagious, infectious influence.

As we engage the hopeless, loving them for their value’s sake, and not for some intended finish line, we ourselves are filled to overflowing. This is the ‘light yoke’ and overwhelming life-giving burden of Christ.  The burden of Christ crushes in weight as it lifts our spirits to unearthly passion.

I think this is what Jesus meant when he declined the disciples lunch menu in Samaria. “I have food you don’t know about.” To release hope into the heart of the hopeless, whether they fully respond to the beckoning call of surrender or not, is most satisfying. It’s the will of the Father that His heart fill us.  Need more of this food!

We finished our time with lunch with Peter, Mir’s Belarusian director, hearts stirred.  Beyond the many logistics and increased works in this country, the Lord is stirring our hearts – a most important revelation.

It wasn’t the projects we’re planning or new chapters beginning that most moved our hearts – it was the sense that Aslan is in fact on the move – through prayer, fasting, and careful listening, you can hear this call to prepare, something is ushering in Belarus.

This doesn’t mean it will get easier – please pray for Belarus with us.

Dozens upon dozens of soviet style apartment complexes neatly organized around the City in 9 regions – over 1 million in Minsk, extremely young City filled with university students.

Bruce & Deb

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