We made it back into Ukraine, or I should say, out of Canada finally! That’s not what I meant to say though.
We did it = Our $2,500 pledge was matched AND exceeded by an additional $2,500! This has allowed us to continue finishing our basement level foundation before winter. The race is on! Thank you so much for your generosity.
I’ve included a timeline of photos below so you can see our progress. To date, we’ve raised $21,000 towards our $50,000 goal. I am VERY enthused about this new missions building. I normally don’t enjoy building projects, especially in Ukraine as they can take so many unexpected turns & delays, but we feel the pleasure of God in the construction of this expanded missional space.
Lord willing, it will serve as:
Youth Mentoring Courses
RazomGo Innovation Workspace
Prayer & Meditation Room
Small Reception Hall
Volunteer Weekend! This past weekend, our leaders from 6 regions around Ukraine came to our guest house for a refreshing time of rest, mentoring and prayer. We had one couple from the Eastern war-zone region of Donetsk. The Lord is building His church in Ukraine and Belarus. These are brand new forms of unity for many of the volunteers who aren’t often encouraged to serve outside their church.
Our theme was Jesus Our Shepherd and we considered the ways in which Jesus is currently shepherding our hearts individually and areas we need Him to! We’ve received many neat testimonies and are now planning to creatively host something similar within Belarus – please pray for this!
Wow, quality of some of these screenshots are terrible (from our recent newsletter this week). But I don’t have time to make pretty – and I think most of you already get our email so this is just for posterity 🙂 I really wish I could find the time to step back and write on some of the things the Lord is teaching me, and working in me. I spent all extra time reading and writing in my Fuller class, and next year Lord willing I will be able to post some of that, and maybe translate too. Thankful for this season of formation, learning, and new ways of being, relating to folks and this world God has made.
Today I listened to some Bob Dylan; times, they are a changing!
Nations are being tested, and not just dictatorships but long lasting democracies as global new realities press upon seemingly timeless (to us) social, economic and religious structures. We’ve had the rare opportunity this past month to be in 3 countries, each reacting to the Covid pandemic differently, and we’ve been able to talk to believers and churches that have been navigating their unique communities as well.
One positive thing we have heard and witnessed, is that the forced change of rhythm has forced leaders and followers alike, to re-think the church’s mission and find new ways growing in faith, outside of the traditional models. As one pastor told me, one of the silver linings, even though this particular church is struggling financially, is that they, along with many churches in the world are asking themselves for the first time: “What does it look like to follow the Spirit now, together, in our new context?” This is such a great question, and one that we are navigating as well as missionaries who rely heavily on the generosity from more prosperous nations. We so often develop unhealthy rhythms and dependencies without even realizing it, but perhaps this shake is resetting our faith and enabling us to listen more deeply beneath the noise? While some of us may wonder if we’ll ever go ‘back’ to the way things were, I’m finding just as many people filled with a growing hunger and anticipation. Important and necessary changes are taking place from within our communities of faith (changing mental models and perspectives) and exploration of new missional models are surfacing and being appreciated as the church, as we all seek to come alongside the active work of the Holy Spirit in our world.
I’d like to encourage, and challenge you with a rather shocking statistic I’ve been pondering from Finnish theologian Veli-Matt Kärkkäinen, and his book “Christian Theology in the Pluralistic World”:
(PAST) In 1900, four out of every five Christians lived in North America & Europe.
(PRESENT) Today, the majority of Christians now live in the ‘Global South & East’ (South America, Africa, Asia).
(FUTURE) By 2050, only 1 out of 5 of the world’s 3 billion Christians population will be non-hispanic white.
At first glance, the focus of these realities paints a discouraging picture of Christianity’s changes in post-Christian North America and Europe. The white European believer has lost their longstanding position of influence, we’ve been the ones writing the books, setting the rules of engagement, taking the Gospel missionally to the ‘other’. The power structures in the West are deconstructing through the influences of pluralism, globalism. Every nation is now within every nation, increasingly. Christianity in the West has been treading water, and if not for immigration and the Christian numbers it brings with it, the Christian ‘losses’ in the West would be even more startling. The European white Christianity is fading into history, and it’s narrative of facing some difficult realities.
This may seem initially as a depressing thing, especially if you are white. We’ve been the ones to ‘go into all the world’ for the past 200 yrs, the powerful to the weak, the chosen to the ‘other’.. yet, very soon, even in our lifetime, at least in terms of sheer numbers, western Christianity will soon be the ‘other.’ But is this a bad thing? I don’t think so. There’s something truly invigorating taking place for all believers. The lamb that was slain is on the march throughout the world in surprising ways and the Church is growing, even awakening like no other time in history! The most impressive part of these trends is the massive explosions of growth in non western countries.
It really shouldn’t surprise us! Jesus came for the poor, the broken and disenfranchised, and in many of the less dominant cultures, and economically depressed places, Jesus is truly wonderful liberating news in places where real suffering is felt, and hope is truly lost. The light of Christ is shining brightly and reshaping culture, bringing the Kingdom of God to earth in places like Brazil and China. Seeds of missional investment over the past few centuries have taken root, and in some cases in spite of the coercive colonial flavor of those efforts. We should rejoice, pray for our brother and sisters who are gaining in number, where the darkness is being pushed back – we are one bride, one faith, serving one victorious King who’s reign pushes through temporal time and space, into all eternity. There are no political, national, racial, or cultural divisions among the people of God – in His body was the whole of humanity, all nations!
Consider these realities, and the post-Christian world that is revealing itself in the West. Consider the ways we can unite and join the active work of the Spirit! We have some new ideas how to connect our global friends into some new forms of learning community as we navigate these exciting times. I will be writing again soon, inquiring of your interest to join us in discovering some of these online and in person formats of doing church. It’s an exciting time to be a believer, and navigate this fear-filled world as the people of the Way. We have a neat emerging group of missional friends from US, Canada, Ukraine, Russia, Ukraine, Belarus .. and I know there are a few more countries out there!
Email me and let me know if you too are interested in pioneering something new with us from where you live! If you are interested in reading more about the shifting religious and missional trends in global mission, there are some GREAT books I can recommend as well, email me!
II) FAMILY NEWS (by Deb)
This most exciting and precious thing that happened this past month, actually this year, was the experience of seeing the first of our children make a covenant with another person for life. During this season of fear and pandemic, and our own health problems, we were unsure of our ability to be a part of this memorable occasion. I am so, so thankful for the whole week we got to be together. The ceremony itself unfolded with nervousness, a few tears, laughter, great weather, beautiful scenery, and best of all, the presence of God. It started in the regular way – Claire and Abbey walking down, spreading rose petals to gentle music (and dumping what was left in the basket at the front), and the bridesmaid procession began. All of a sudden the music switched to ZZ Top “Sharp Dressed Man.” Confused and unsure, people were looking around for the problem and …. in rides Broderic on a boat. It was great.
The chill, Californian, Pastor Williams led the ceremony and spoke the truth of the Trinity and marriage in a meaningful and relevant manner. Broderic and Kristin declared their love vulnerably to each other and before us. There was a lot of joy and celebrating as all of us joined in the awkward, yet lighthearted, dancing at the reception. Welcome Kristin to our family! The meeting and joining of families, the celebrating, the gathering of relatives, friends, the generosity that was shown by many, was a tangible depiction of the Kingdom of God. It was the first time my brother, sister, all of their familes, and our whole family were all together, sharing the same house. The singing, laughter, and serving together will be memories cherished for the rest of my life.
The first part of September, before the wedding, we arrived in Canada and were quarantined for the duration of our stay. Thankfully, we were right on the lake and could take long walks down the beach. It was a good time to pause, reflect on what is going on in our hearts, minds, bodies. Bruce’s health has been better. He is taking medication to help normalize the rhythm of his heart, eating better, exercising, and listening more closely to his body as it gives clues about stress or being inactive for too long.
The last week of September we spent in Texas with our sending church and long-time friends. It is thought-provoking to realize how much time has passed and look back at the faithfulness of God through the years. He is so good and so kind. On Saturday, Bruce hosted an Art of Mentoring workshop. Full of profitable material from his schooling at Fuller, he was able to share the things that have helped shaped our minds and ministry this past year. One observation we made from this experience; it is worth investing in yourself. Not only do you compile resources to share with others, you become a resource yourself to those around you – filled with hope, ideas, joy, growth, etc.
We got stuck in Canada, trying to fly home to Ukraine. They wouldn’t let us board the airplane, convinced that we would not be allowed into the country. So, we’re back here for now, returning Lord willing October 11th. Bruce posed the question to all of us: Was this planned by God? However all these things work together, we’re learning to trust. Trust that he sees us, hears us, loves us down to the ugly parts of us, and is working in and with us.
Finally, as we prepare to head back across the ocean to Ukraine, we’ve been reminded once again just how special it is to have friends, supporters and family on this journey of life. To the few we were able to meet in person on this trip, welcome aboard!
III) LIGHTHOUSE BUILDING PROJECT(URGENT REQUEST) Our builders have informed us, now that our giant hole has been dug and basement foundation laid for our new mission building (widows pantry, expanded youth center/multipurpose room, and prayer center), that we must complete the basement walls and fill in the dirt before winter to avoid the potential shifting foundation at Lighthouse Cafe building as it’s only 4 meters away. This was a surprise to us, as we had planned to simply build as donations came in, without any sense of urgency. However, the autumn rains are upon us and we’re now asking for help to get the basement finished quickly to avoid these potential big problems.
We are in need of $5,000 to complete this step, and need it immediately!
With these funds we will purchase remaining cement, blocks/bricks, waterproofing materials, and pay for the labor which will take about a month.. just in time before Winter, when we’ll take a break till Spring.
Would you consider a donation of any size towards saving our Lighthouse foundation, and completing this important step on the new mission building?
To date, we’ve raised $12,000 towards the $50,000 goal of construction the entire shell of the building. It is our hope to invite and host a series of small construction teams from the US/Canada and possibly Europe as well if this covid situation stabilizes. Our team and town are very excited about the potential fo this building to continue bringing Jesus Kingdom in tangible ways to our neighbors.
Yes all gifts are tax deductible! *Directs to Grace City Church, all other projects via our 501c3 Mir Ministries please.
Our heart continues to grieve and pray for peaceful resolution to the challenges inside the border of Belarus. President Lukashenko has held firm through the protests, and most recently sanctions from EU, Canada and the UK. As foreign nations call into question his ‘legitimacy’ and the fake elections, his response is essentially, “I never asked your opinion in the first place.” He has Russian economic help now, as well as promised military support knowing that nobody wants to insert themselves into his mess. With that, the protestors, which I believe represent a large majority now of Belorussians, are like fish in a bowl, and their chances of genuine change are very small without divine intervention. Those who have stood up and marched on the streets know they have been ‘outted’ themselves in a sense, and returning to their normal way of life is no longer an option as the KGB take notes, names, and slowly will make their rounds incriminating those opposed to his leadership.
Many of our friends have already left Belarus, for places like Poland, Spain, and Ukraine. Still, most of our friends and leaders have remained, they love their country and believe strongly that God has a plan, purpose and can be trusted through this most recent ordeal. I have heard some neat stories of increased creativity and boldness among churches that otherwise have been fearful and insulated from culture.
PRAISE!! The Lord provided an avenue for us to replenish our Widows Care ministry resources inside the country, no small miracle.
Please continue to pray for:
Our newest Widows Care leaders inside Belarus
Seniors inside Belarus as colder months move in, and life becomes even more challenging.
The Church of Jesus, as she gains boldness, yet continues to need delicate wisdom.
For our own participation in the many new creative means to share Christ and love in this moment.
V) WIDOWS & AT-RISK YOUTH
Covid hasn’t kept our ministries from continuing to reach the fringes of Slavic culture this summer. While we haven’t been able to host as many group events, our +300 widows are continuing to be loved in very practical ways.
Teams continue to take food packages during one-to-one visitation, and also small bible studies are regular in Ukraine and Belarus. This past month in Ukraine our Lighthouse team was able to rent a hall more conducive for groups (outgrowing our Cafe), and they shared in a hot meal, fellowship (many hadn’t seen one another in months!) and videos were sent to us of traditional Ukrainian singing as well. So sweet! We miss our Babushkas!
When we return next week, Deb, Natasha, Oles and our + 25 volunteers will gather for prayer, and a weekend conference. We are unable to meet in Belarus (or visit as foreigners), please pray for our widows volunteers! They give so much of their heart, time and what limited resources they have – they are truly the heroes of the faith.. but they also have limitations and need to learn how to care for our their own soul, and families.
Thank you World Challenge for the entrusted resources to empower Slavic believers to be the very hands and feet of Jesus to their generation!
VI) RAZOM-GO CROWDFUNDING
Aleksa (we have a real live Aleksa, not an Amazon computer!) has been working so hard with our crowdfunding project. Her team is growing, as well as many new connections in society. Each week, it’s a joy to stumble upon social media links to projects that are SO cool, and they are using our platform to promote and raise funds within Ukraine and now even in the US through their own sphere of influence, family and friends.
Below is a photo of a social project for orphan graduates. Social Pasta is a franchise fast food chain that trains orphans before they hit the streets and lose their way, gives them meaningful skills and employment. This is just an example of some of the projects our team is working with – together we are creating culture, and the best part of it is that it’s Slavic initiatives, their dreams, ideas, and even funding.
If covid lifts, we have a vision to host a ’Shark Tank” type event with some investors and business friends from the US and Ukrainian. This could really spark even more interest and opportunity to build relationships and change lives. If you are interested in investing in some startups, we have many smaller projects (less than $1,000) that we can connect you directly to so that you could become their angel investor, or even strike your own deal and own a piece of their business – it’s the Wild West in Ukraine right now and a perfect time to partner.
NEED: We are looking for 3 sponsors. A sponsorship at www.razomgo.com is $1,000 per YEAR.
Donations or sponsorship funds will go directly to our teams travel for outreach, hosting training events to teach young adults how to create business plans, creatively communicate and fundraise. Yes, they are tax deductible! Together, with the guide of the Spirit, we are building a middle class by empowering believers the tools they need to become salt and light in all spheres of Slavic culture. If you sponsor us, we will put your church or business logo (if you wish) on our website footer (example below), and you can show your world how you too are engaged in economic development and effective charitable activity inside Ukraine and Belarus. We are also open to hosting minimum 6 months intern/missionaries to serve with our growing RazomGo marketing & project management teams. Contact email@example.com if you would like to learn more or have any questions about sponsoring or offering your serving with our crowdfunding team!
VII) LIGHTHOUSE CAFE
While traveling the US/Canada we were filled with joy to see the team at Lighthouse hosting youth outreach for incoming new college (high school age) students. We had 79 youth come out to our Club 180 kick-off! There is such an open heart among the youth to be loved, enter faith community and learn about themselves and our Savior God. Each year we pray God gives us hearts ready to be nourished by the Word of Life and experience new life. Some of our staff at Lighthouse first attended this outreach space as teenagers. They are now following Jesus and growing with us in community! It’s a slow process, but a powerful one. We believe God is making generation changers in our little group. It’s not always easy, but we we love it!
End of October we will host a YWAM team on outreach, God keeps sending us His resources even in the middle of this ‘pandemic.’
NEED: Last month, our church sponsor for the past 5 years had to cut their missions budget due to financial constraints. This is an immediate $700 monthly sponsorship we will feel immediately at Lighthouse. These funds helped us keep the Cafe warm through the winter, helped fund Club 180 events, after school music club, and staff stipends. Would your church, or business be willing to becoming our primary ministry sponsor at Lighthouse Cafe for the coming year, or even 3 months to finish this year?
For the past two weeks, I’ve suffered from a surprising physical ailment that not only rendered me incapacitated, but forced me to into some needed depths of focus and renewal. It began over the course of my finals, crunching away on papers up in my office, I began to feel tight chested and struggled to get my deep breath. One time I felt so faint, that I had to lay on the floor to avoid crashing into the bookshelves. I didn’t know what was going on, it was just the beginning.
For the next few nights, I would go to bed, but as soon as my body would begin to relax and really rest, my heart would begin to palpitate. Usually this hasn’t been a big problem, it’s a pretty common thing in my family, and usually means I need to cut back on the caffeine. This time however, it persisted so strongly that as soon as I began to drift off, I would startle myself back awake, usually gasping for air. Sometimes, the lack of oxygen feeling was so intense that it felt like when you are swimming under the water and are in that panic when you can’t reach the top quick enough. This caused me to begin sleeping on the couch, upright, as it was the only way I could find sleep.
At first, in talking with one of our Board directors, who is a seasoned surgeon, we tried the breathing route, getting an inhaler mask (nebulizor) which is really more for constricted airways, like asthma which I’ve had small bouts with in the past. That didn’t seem to work. After about a week of struggling with this, panic set in, and compounded everything. I believe it was stress, poor nutrition and lack of exercise that was the root of all these problems that acted like the perfect storm over the past several months. What was usually a nighttime problem was now beginning to seize up on my days, and for a few days I truly couldn’t rest, or breath properly. I felt my body very tense, and though I was trying to rest, the mind was actively filling me with dread of what was truly happening inside my lungs and heart. I needed to go to Kyiv to a proper hospital, but where? We’re not in the US or Canada were you can pretty much guarantee a standard procedure on most medical emergencies. Here, I’d bet you could go to 10 clinics and come out with 10 solutions and medications. The other day a friend when to our local clinic and with a prescription to the local pharmacy – the lady behind the counter shook her head and disagreed with the doctor’s prescription and gave her instead what she suggested.
I decided, after informing our Board and some close friends for prayer, to go to Kyiv and visit the American Medical Center. I’ve been there before, they speak english well, language isn’t something you want to be guessing with when it comes to your heart right!? I didn’t have insurance, so I was just hoping things would work out, and at this point, I started to think it really wasn’t even going to matter. I felt fairly helpless, and hopeless. The more I read about my symptoms the more I was convinced that I had had a heart attack – one of the signs of this is dread, so that convinced me even more!
My first round of testing didn’t show anything urgent, but I did find high blood pressure and cholesterol. I wasn’t surprised, and this was something the Lord was already working on me for the past several months, I felt his warnings at times when I’d eat a bag of chips or sit for 5-6 hours straight without getting up, or drinking anything. I knew I was stressing and pushing my body too hard, but it’s how I’ve lived for the past 20yrs… I’m no longer 20 however, and I was starting to break. Anyway, I took a 24hr heart monitor (halter) and stayed over night in Kyiv by myself. It’s a solid 3-4 hour trip to just go in and out of the city and I was determined to get answers. I came back the following day and the reported to me that the halter didn’t work! They said I’d have to do it again!
With Deb in the city with me this time, I did the 24hr monitoring again. I had a wonderful sleep that night, almost sleeping the entire night without an episode. I thought, “great, they will think I’m crazy, my heart is acting normal with this thing on!”. I returned the halter to the clinic. After a few hours the doctor contacted me and informed me that they found a heart arrhythmia and that I needed to see a cardiologist, but that couldn’t happen until the next day. We decided to return home, which I think was a mistake in my condition. We started back home, Deb driving behind me in her car (my truck was at a mechanic, always multitasking.. )
It was the most surreal trip of my life. First of all, I was struggling to breath, and the trip became very difficult. A few times I had to slow down, worried that I might faint or crash into another car. As I got about 20 minutes to my house, I just broke. These weren’t tears I’ve cried before. I was convinced that I was not going to make it, I had reached my physical end and after a solid week of struggling didn’t feel any hope towards healing. I began to think of my wife, my children, and began praying for them like I’ve never prayed – it was the kind of depth of prayer that moved my heart (I think both my hearts!). I was letting go, and embracing surrender, and my faith was emerging into something fresh again, but at the moment, it just felt like a deep, deep valley.
As I reached my house, I turned off the truck and continued to weep. I couldn’t open the door, or think to stand up. I then heard Claire on the deck, she was yelling, happy to see me and ran down to meet me. I thought, “Oh Lord, don’t let her find me here dead!” I really felt like was dying. I managed to get out of the truck, walk to meet her and sat on the steps of my house where I hugged this little beautiful thing like it was the last time. I realize as I type this it sounds so dramatic, but I want to record this, it was such a meaningful moment for me. Claire knew something was going on, she hugged me back and I heard her say, “Daddy, you are crying because you are so happy to see me?” “Yes Claire, I am so happy to see you!”. After a while I was able to see straight, I was breathing normally, and went to the house.
That evening, I had the worst bout of breathing and around 3am I really felt as thought I was dying again – it was the longest night, the most scariest night of my life. Some of the drugs were having an effect on me, causing me to both be sleepy but also I was so light headed that I began to feel as though I was leaving my body. My heart was doing its crazy thing, and I was afraid to fall asleep, being almost certain I was not going to wake up. For almost a whole I week I was thinking of nothing but my breathing, like I was manually regulating my body and it was wearing me out, literally. I had another close encounter with the Lord, as I began to see a storm, waves and a boat. The disciples thrashing around yet Jesus sound a sleep. This picture wafted through my soul and I spoke out loud, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, in the storm” … I kept repeating this, over and over, quietly, as a prayer, as a plea, are you with me?
The next morning I awoke. I couldn’t hardly believe I was still alive. It was hard to describe to Deb, as it is to type. We all have ‘close calls’, and I’m sure some of you that might read this have had similar experiences of ‘letting go’ and feeling all hope it lost. I have always believed, cognitively that to die is gain, to leave this world is to enter a better reality, an eternal one. I’ve bravely held on to this as we’ve navigated through Ukraine seasons, and a missional life for Jesus. All that ‘bravery’ was lost, it dissipated like a early morning mist in this trial of the past few weeks. I have been lumbering through my life, caring little about my personal, and holistic well being, with the attitude of “Jesus, take me when you want, I’ll be happy to leave this world!” I have come through a storm of sorts that has shaken me to the core, a core that has revealed that I DO want to live, that I am not finished, and the next life can wait!
That day I returned to Kyiv, and God gave me a really cool cardiologist that took interest, and care of me. He performed stress tests, sonograms and more blood work. He was able to immediately recognize and get to know my particular rhythm issue, and prescribe some meds that immediately knocked it out – I haven’t had any sleeping or problems for now almost 3 days. I still have some breathing issues, but I believe the root of stress was driving all of this, stress on a body that needed to be honored, cared for and who’s limitations are now more clearly defined. I can’t sit for more than a few hours on a computer anymore, not because I can’t, but because it’s not good for me. I’m now walking 2-5km per day, and eating as well as my wife (which is not an easy task!). I haven’t had chips (favorite lifetime snack!) for over week, or coffee. The transition into a more holistic lifestyle as an act of worship is a challenging one for me, a new mental model, but one that I am committed to.
When I was on the stress test treadmill thing, I heard in my Spirit, “I love all of you, your body too.” I almost started crying in that moment, but thought that would be a little strange! Our creator knows our frame, our molecules and vessels. He knows how they all work together, a divine and mysterious symphony. I see that now, or rather, feel it. I can’t read and develop my mind as an investment into my calling to love others and at the same time abuse my body, or neglect it’s most basic needs. We are woven together, our body, mind, spirit, into one magnificent soul. Is my soul healthy? Is yours? What will it take for us to delete the false dichotimany of our flesh being unworthy of attention? I realize we’ll get a new body, and this one is truly fading away – mortality will put on immortality! At the same time, God has designed for us an experience in this short moment of time we have on earth – I want to live more wholly, embrace my children and grandchildren and when the Lord determines to take me, it’s not because I’ve been abusing it, but rather it truly is my time.
To live is to breath. To be present, caring for ourselves in the moments we are given, as we care about and for those around us. Our spiritual lives, as well as our physical are no independently functioning, we are are the vine, breathing and alive only as much as we are held together. He is with me in the storms, He sustains, upholds and I have little to fear but the loss of His dear presence. His promise, that He will never leave, Lord help our unbelief, and prepare us each to die well, without regret.
I’m so thankful for those God gave us to support in prayer. I’m full of fresh gratitude for my wife, who graciously lived with, alongside, and supported me these past two weeks. She took on many of my responsibilities and is so strong. We are now trying to regroup, pack for Canada this Friday, and our month long journey which I had long given up on believing would happen. Thank you for continued prayer, I have one month on this heart rhythm medication, and in the meantime strengthening my heart and lowering blood pressure/cholesterol. I am cutting back on my Fuller course load as well, I had doubled up for the past 6 months when Covid hit, but then life got rolling again, new building project, and some new ministries sprung out and I really got in over my head. I’m learning how to do less, do it better, and care for my body, for my family, the Lord, and myself. Thank you for the lessons, dear Lord.
Posted inBruce Posts|Comments Off on To Breath is to Live