This may have been the longest (a month) since I posted to my blog since I started it some 15 years ago. I’ve found myself navigating a new city, country and rhythms, and not given a lot of time to personal process, but more ‘ministry’ updating. I’d like this to change, as the Lord is grinding away in my life, revealing, convicting, shifting my reality in such a way that I’d be amiss to leave such things out of what has otherwise been my personal, family, unfolding story space – whether I intended it to be this or not.
So, let me get an update out of the way so ‘ministry’ life enjoy a little continuity with my personal life for those that may enjoy context like I do https://mailchi.mp/c7f925bbaca3/there-back-ukraine-trip-update
On Sunday, we will gather the family (Deb and I, Clark, Noah, Abbey and Claire) and head to the airport for our flight to JFK. Tucker will hopefully meet us, and take us to our place at Eagle Rock in PA. We’re heading back for Bronwyn’s and Logan’s wedding. I can’t hardly believe it, typing it makes it even more surreal. Our first born daughter is getting married.
We had originally planned to return to the US in September, and planned our rental houses around this here in Cluj. Instead, we booked round trip tickets to fly over for the month of June, and will extend out our September return tickets sometime into the future. We are still uncertain what the immediate future holds for our family and ministry over here. We feel quite divided. After returning from Ukraine last week, the affirmation that the Spirit is at work and my heart is still very much there sort of leaves me second guessing any long term purpose here in Romania. We have been useful the several families and lives over our time here, holding physical and communal space for refugee friends, but what is next?
Some of our Ukrainians that first arrived at the start of the war are now planning to return to the Kyiv region in June. They are longing for home, and these particular ladies and families have apartments unharmed by the war. The problem is that the food, gasoline, and other infrastructure issues are quite unstable, so I’m not sure they really understand how unpredictable Ukraine is still. As much as we all would like, we simply can’t ‘wish’ Ukraine back to a place of livability. I feel for the elderly now abroad, particularly those who have no way to return even if they wanted, or have no home to return to. The anxiety, fear, pain they must be experiencing on a daily basis. You can run on adrenaline for a few months, but we’re into month 3 and see a different situation now among both hosting countries (attitudes, capabilities to sustain relief efforts) and those frankly tired of being in positions of helplessness – it’s debilitating to not participate in life, to work, to produce, and simply be living on handouts and the kindness of others for too long. It robs of dignity and and respect. It’s not just humbling, it’s inhumane. We are created in God’s image, I think, to co-create, to hold space, to serve others, to cultivate a little part of our world which gives us and other meaning. Rob the human of that opportunity, and you’ve robbed the person of their imago Dei.
So what’s next? Romania is truly a beautiful country, a mix of Euro-Slavic-Eastern blend. It reminded of of where Ukraine would be if left alone to flourish another 10 yrs.. at least before the war. It’s the poorest country in the EU, but if Ukraine were to join the EU, it would become the second poorest:) Clark and Noah have enjoyed living in the city, at least within 10 minutes of the center. They have friends, music lessons, and its been really cool to see them develop themselves in some new ways either socially or skillfully. The girls enjoy twice weekly gymnastics, if you call it that, more like some little monkeys going around these little stations, doing jumps, little kicks, or twirls. They take it quite seriously, and look forward to it each time.
We have been hosting weekly community style group in our home here. We’ve enjoyed it, some new friends, and old ones from Ukraine. We miss our Lighthouse community. There’s simply no way to replace the mileage under the hood with long invested relationships. When I was back in Ukraine, I had some conversations that were like a glass of cool water on a hot summer day. They deeply nourished me, reminded me of who I am. Friendships are rooting, they anchor us in our identity and allow us to fully chill, and just be. I wish we could simply fast forward these new friendships, but alas, relatedness is a slow speed, a journey with required milestones, some of those milestones include trust, vulnerability, and the pace that intentionally has that deeper place in mind. I’m pretty sure most of the west forgoes these relationships because they neither have the time nor vision for such meaningful friendships. It’s a blessing of eastern cultures, the journey is understood and usually welcomed.
Last week we went to see a space in the center of Cluj that a friend has rented.It’s in the bar/club district, and this old bar they’ve secured for two years is a place they hope to occupy with believers to shine for Christ in this sphere. Their vision is quite similar to Lighthouse, and this ragtag crew has had enough of religion, and been mostly ostracized from it anyway. They love engaging people, and work with gypsies and others on the fringes of society. They are still quite religious however themselves, not seeing the mental models still in place in their vision (e.g. they envision church services eventually in this space.. the default teleological end of us Christendom shaped believers). Love, not folks going through our protestant liturgies should be our end right? But they have a really good start, a vision to unpack, I’ve offered myself to them, and the learning I have compiled over my Fuller season would be so enjoyed by this group – how to hold this space for Jesus without sliding into religious forms and being right back where they started.. folks are tired of institutions, but institutionalism if not replaced by a missiological framework (missio Dei) will keep the church going in circles instead of being the revolutionary force that we are
Didn’t mean to start heading down that path. I need to write more, there is so much in my heart and mind. I feel, however, that my current ‘position’ as a charity director, and now one that has some resources to dream forward with, is not a position that is bringing me life. I am daily acting more as an ATM dispenser, channeling resources to Ukraine, to widows, to projects, refugees, and I’m honestly quite miserable doing it. It’s a honor to distribute, to bless, and steward finances, but I am a starter, a pioneer, and I die a thousand deaths when I’m stuck managing and maintaining. I found myself in this eerily familiar place as a business owner with Cypress, then EDsuite, then Lighthouse, I find myself again at this bridge with Mir as a charity. I am praying and working towards divesting myself and our family as the exclusive and even primary leaders for stewarding it forward. We have started adding some more friends with missional hearts to our Board, and beginning the formation of a leadership group of both Slavic staff/leaders and those partners in the West that have a heart to see the kingdom grow in our generaiton.
So what is next? We will journey in a purposeful transition. I will use my ‘change dynamics’ and divesting style of leadership to walk with others toward the next stage, with pace, discernment with others, and I pray, the clear leading and affirmation of the Spirit. I don’t have an end in sight per say, but I know I’ll be freshly dependent on the Lord for provision (how we will feed our family I’m not sure), but we have been there before! I’ll take the challenge of trusting God in this next season over being sequestered in a structure that isn’t for me. I am proud of Deb and her formation and learning into a Spiritual Director. I think it would be cool if we began to serve together in this area more in the future, perhaps as a spiritual formation ministry, with various types of mentoring, coaching, direction.. I’m looking now at a trauma course which I think would be quite useful to have in our toolkit in this new context. I’m not sure if we’ll live over here in Romania in the coming season, or the US, or if Ukraine will become stable enough to live inside again for our entire family?
One step at a time, each day I pray will have the grace and leading of Jesus. I hope my heart will become and remain sensitive enough as not to rush or be impulsive. I can sense a growing dissatisfaction with my current place in life, I realize part of this is due to the war, and the being quite clearly displaced and anchored.. but this feeling began months before the war, as I began concluding my Fuller journey. Our life is in segue mode, and I can’t say I’m enjoying it. I am, however, learning to be content with my fears, and uncertainty. It’s from this place the Lord will meet me, grow me, and Lord willing use us all for His glory.
I’m a looking forward to the time away, and anticipate a break from social media, and a place of listening the Spirit, enjoying our family, and perhaps blogging some more as I process this uneasy stage. Transitions are interesting. Rarely do we notice we are in one until it’s over and we look back. I’m learning how to sense them earlier, the looking back, the looking up, the things required before looking forward.