Lift Up Your Eyes

Stories in the Missional Journey of Bruce & Deborah Crowe

Plans. Changed.

Bags packed. Early morning. Yesterday was our return flight back to Ukraine. I wasn’t sure if the truck would start at -20C, but she started up nicely and we were off to Baltimore Washington International Airport, a 3 hour drive from the blue mountains in PA.

Thumbs down…. we can’t return to Ukraine.. yet. We are willing, but not yet able with Covid positive test results.

Deb, who has been battling a cough and fatigue for the past week was not doing well. We knew covid had worked its way through our family over Christmas, but it had been several weeks so we felt we were good. Plus, as permanent residents of Ukraine, as stated clearly on Delta’s website and the Embassy in Ukraine, we did not need to furnish any PCR tests, but simply quarantine upon our return or take a test within 72hrs of returning.

We parked Bill’s Texas truck, a donated blessing for our time here in the US in long term parking per his instructions for pickup (he was flying someone to drive it back to Texas for us). Making our way to the bus, the drive to the terminal and Delta desk. After providing all of our documentation, the kind lady asked for our PCR or Antigen tests… to which we provided the documentation and permanent resident cards that should have relieved us of this requirement. “Sorry sir, my system says you need to provide a test.” We were early enough to get a test at the airport, so we raced to the testing facility.

In line, we had to download an app, fill in everyone’s personal data. You know when you are in a rush, your mind doesn’t always work too well… thankfully Deb remains quite calm… though she was truly half alert from feeling ill. Noah was also hunkered over a pile of suitcases like a wounded soldier. What a site this crew of misfits at the airport.

We managed to make our way inside the testing rooms, and had to sign four more paper applications for the four tests (kids under 12 exempt). This pushes me over the edge – Why, oh why on earth do we use technology like digital apps for collecting information and STILL require paper.. double entry drives me insane. As a former project manager for 15yrs, the whole purpose of digital anything is to consolidate, make things easier, not waste even more time – connect your systems, go digital or paper, not both people! I digress.

Inside the rooms, the swabs, noses, there’s something quite unnatural about foreign objects reaching up and touching your brain. It’s done, we have 10 minutes to get our results, and hightail it back to Delta check-in. We miss that flight, we miss the other connections (3 flights) to Atlanta, then Amsterdam, to home in Kyiv. As we were waiting, I realized I had hastily signed documents that included the cost. I went back to the desk to inquire, $250 per test! $1,000 of testing that takes 15 minutes.. that’s $66 per minute… $1.00 per second!

Abbey (10yrs) is a well traveled, sweet girl that loves to do laps in the pool with her dad. She’s a good swimmer, and at basketball a remarkable shot!

Then, another thing hit me.. did we just pay $1,000 and still won’t be able to go.. if just one of these tests positive, we’re back to square one, minus $1,000! I felt sicker than Deb. As I mentioned this to the ladies at the desk, the doctor happened to be there, she overheard and said, “You mean you all had Covid over Christmas?”… “Why didn’t you tell us?… you’re tests most likely still be positive”…. I referred them to their application forms, there were no questions about having Covid. They gave me the number to their manager if I wanted to complain, but said it wouldn’t help.

Deb and Noah’s tests came back positive, so we sat, sitting in the hallway, defeated. Then, one of the ladies came out of the office and called my name. She asked, “Mr. Crowe, are you an American citizen? The tests are covered now by the government, I need to give you a refund in full.” They had of our personal information, our social security numbers, home address, passports.. and yet somehow, we were viewed as foreigners, and charged incorrectly.

Relief! But now what? We gathered in the hallway, prayed as a family for wisdom, and guidance. We had prayed the day before with friends and supporters on Zoom for clear open and closed doors. We had peace on that call, and that same peace now flooded our hearts – we are willing, but currently not able to return. What next? Food. We hobbled and pushed our luggage to the food court at the airport, and watched our flight depart over some salad and pizza. The kids were delighted, not to be staying in the US, but to be eating such yummy food. I like that about kids, life is right in front of them.

The second half of our day was in reverse, back to the truck, 3hrs back to PA, back to the snow, back to Tucker who had just returned from work (he got a job at Fedex just 10 minutes away from our place here). We crashed, and poor Deb hit the couch, not to arise from it until morning. We are back, a little disoriented.

We are now praying for wisdom for the next 3 weeks – our tickets were rescheduled without cost for Feb 12. This gives us time for everyone to test negative Lord willing, and I will need to dive into my Fuller doctoral work, which is interestingly on Slavic (Russian) history and power dynamics for leadership development strategy for this part of the world. We have been working on getting large letter Bibles into Ukraine and Belarus this week for the widow’s ministry.

I’m also wanting to give praise to God for another interesting things – before we left Ukraine, I felt an urge to work with the international bank in Kyiv to get funds in country without being present to withdraw, something that is not an easy process and required 3 failed attempts with one of our Ukrainian leaders – then finally literally days before we left, it worked! Keeping the widows ministry moving, the volunteers visiting, is a vital thing for so many we serve -we were returning with funds for 2 months for the feeding program which serves +500 widows, especially essential for them in winter when they can’t afford to heat their homes let alone eat. So, this week, we will test that transfer process and pray that it works again and the ministry can continue uninterrupted. There was no urgent reason to setup up this transfer process at the time, so it’s encouraging to me that when God urges us to do something, we can trust that His wisdom and providential care is at work beyond our capacity.

Praying for spirit-led redemption on our extra 3 weeks, to meet with those we couldn’t, to be available in whatever way would please the Father, Son and Spirit.

We also pray for peace, for mercy on this situation with Russia, Ukraine and the West. Talking with many Ukrainians, and some Belarusians this week. Life is pretty normal there, they are so distrusting of media most folks are quite pragmatic and honestly, fatalistic in the sense that they are caught in a situation that is out of their control. Life is hard in Ukraine, so folks don’t have time for speculating… heating your home and feeding your family is where your focus needs to lie, especially in the villages.

Kýrie, eléison

Today was our last day in the US. Tomorrow, Deb and I with six kids in tow, begin our return journey to Ukraine. I took the girls with me to run some last minute errands while my amazing wife continued to pack and do mounds of laundry.

Watching Claire pick out her very own running shoes, well, that pretty much made my day. The youngest in a family of eight rarely gets to pick much of anything. Her seven year old eyes danced through the selections, locking quickly on the very most sparkly silver sneakers. My heart smiled at the way they immediately inspired her to dance and point her toes out like a ballerina.

We stopped at Wendy’s, realizing the girls had never tried a frosty. This time both of their eyes expanding to behold the cup of frozen glory.

Photo provided for all Slavic friends – soft serve is quite rare unless you are in the big cities in Ukraine.

In the background, they were playing 80s music. One right after the other I was in my early childhood glory, reminiscing as my own kids were making their own. As my mind danced between the goodness of God in our journey and the looming reality check of returning to Ukraine in the midst of turmoil and instability, on came Mr. Mister.

I don’t know much about the band Mr. Mister, but I had their cassette tape as a budding teen. There was only one song that I really liked, and would play over, and over. Remember how long it took to rewind tapes? We had so much time back then! Anyway, the song title was simply, “Kýrie.” Now for those of you that listened to music back then, the infectious tune is now attempting to play in your mind.

80’s dudes – let’s go back to that hair together!

For those unfortunate souls that don’t know what I’m talking about, take a few minutes and get up to speed – click here to play.

I had no idea what Kyrie meant, and didn’t care. When the chorus came around, I may as well have been singing about cucumbers, I dug it. Isn’t it amazing how our minds can recall lyrics, even if we haven’t heard them for decades? Well, sitting in Wendy’s with my girls, I’m singing along like I’m Mr. Lead singer.

When I was young, I thought of growing old,
Of what my life would mean to me.
Would I have followed down my chosen road,
Or only wished what I could be?

Kyrie Eleison down the road that I must travel
Kyrie Eleison through the darkness of the night
Kyrie Eleison where I’m going, will you follow?
Kyrie Eleison on a highway in the night

Mr. Mister 1985

Kyrie is the transliteration of the Greek word for Lord. Throughout Scripture, Jesus of Nazareth was considered the one, true King or κύριος. This declaration was not simply made, it meant crossing hairs with Rome, who enforced the dominion of Caesar as κύριος with fierce consequence.

Eleison, or ἐλέησον in Greek is the word for mercy. Together, we have “Lord, have mercy” essentially. For anyone who’s been raised in Eastern Orthodox or Western liturgical faith expressions, you didn’t need this language lesson. You always knew what Mr. Mister was singing! For the rest of us, well, cucumbers.

Lord, have mercy, or Kyrie Eleison is THE most commonly voiced prayer of the Church throughout her history. You’ll find it saturated throughout various liturgical prayers and expressions. It’s at once a declaration and confession that indeed, Christ, we believe (as it passes our lips)is King over God’s universe. It’s simultaneously a heart cry plea of trust, a beckoning and humble request for mercy from the one who is need.

Two words that summarize what paragraphs simply can’t. Lord, have mercy. More of a sigh at times than even a particular request. Sometimes we don’t even know the outcome we want, or need. Lord have mercy when things don’t make sense to our tired souls. Mercy, when there seems to be no way out of our mess. Mercy as recognition that on our own, we are but fading grass, and fleeting breath. It’s a prayer of praise, and trust, of declaration and surrender.

Tonight I looked back and Mr. Mister’s lyrics. It made me smile. Mercy for the road we are each to travel, for the times when the light of clarity and peace have vanished. Lord have mercy for the places we are going, and will go. Why aren’t we singing this song in our churches? 🙂

We join the echoing prayers of the saints throughout history, and Mr. Mister, Lord have mercy on Ukraine, and on this entire situation with Russia. Have mercy on our brothers and sisters in Russia, and in Belarus, that have only shades of the kind of expression and freedom we enjoy in the West. Remember the true enemy of our souls pulling the strings. Lord have mercy on the innocent victims of aggression, the widows, the orphans, the poor who find themselves stuck in a continuous cycle of instability.

Kyrie Eleison on you as well, in your time of trial.

It was a perfect conclusion to our time here in the US. Some sparkly shoes on my sweet Claire, and a reminder that Jesus reigns, in Ukraine and Wendy’s.

Final photo of the beauty that is Pennsylvania and our new US home base when we travel back. Come visit us friends if you are in the area, and if you need a place to stay, contact Tucker who is staying back and working here in PA.
Our sweet three daughters.
We so appreciated the prayer last night on Zoom with our friends and partners. Thank you too for thinking of Ukraine, our family and friends who serve in this time!

Last Day Together

The weather warmed up, it felt like a spring day in the final days of 2021. With just a few hrs before Bronwyn departed, we climbed up our backyard, into the steep forested mountain, and took some photos. It had been 3 years or so since we had a decent family shot.

Lord willing, we will see each other again fall 2022. We are trying to be more intentional about planning connections, and space for building heritage. Our Creator has shown us to be a family within Himself.. and we honor our image when we gather in loving unity, rejoicing in the stories emerging in our lives.

My parents have arrived, speaking of family. We look forward to some final 2021 days by the fire, sharing stories, and giving thanks for His kindness – also eating some good food!