Article on our family and work in Ukraine

A few weeks ago we had the pleasure of speaking with Dima, a journalist from Kiev. He was in our town interviewing business and cultural shapers. His work is focused on de-centralization and implementation of standard European business, political and social structures.

Here’s the article –

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Beautiful souls. Funny faces. Culture makers.

Sometimes in life, the small things can be the big things. I remember our first leadership weekend in the fall of 2018. We invited a handful of friends that we felt a kindred connection with from our time in Belarus to travel to our little town to join a small group of Ukrainians. The common denominator was their missional heart for the culture outside of traditional religion, their creativity and what we considered to be characteristics of an emerging leader.

How could we come alongside them?

In Slavic culture, positional authority is very strong, and the young rarely are given liberty or encouraged to start things, or handle resources. Community, which is a strength embedded deeply in the social framework of the former Soviet Union, is surprisingly a challenge inside the limited reflections of faith communities. Loneliness, isolation, and swimming upstream against the constructions of unchanging religious culture wears on the energetic visionary here.

We saw a safe place for exploring ideas, encouraging one another in the faith, and growing deep in international, missional community. We used our guest house (Deb’s parents house which was gifted to us, affectionately known throughout the lands as ‘the big house’). We bought 15 mattresses, and slowly over the year began to furnish it with the help of Deb’s brother’s family and whatever we could scrape together to create a haven.

We hosted several weekends in 2019, focusing on several of my own learning themes at Fuller. Themes such as the missional heart of God, sustainable and healthy spiritual rhythms, and culture creation were taught using adult learning theory. Instead of a sage on the stage, we have been practicing different theories of learning, essentially facilitating interactive, and often short bursts of interactive dialogue in small groups. We’ve been going deeper than cognitive learning, and opening their hearts to their own unique learning process as young adults as they handle the material, learn about themselves and the loving Creator that made us each so unique. It’s an intentional time, maximized, a lot of laughter and moments of affirming love.

As we tackle difficult themes, and humbly look at our weaknesses as much as learn about our individual strengths. I believe this group has been diving more deeply into the experience of what God intends for our communities of faith; transparency. The kind of stuff that sends the false ego running, and brave souls to the foot of Jesus. These leaders represent youth ministries, creative platforms, art-museum sphere, musicians, orphan and widow ministries, and are uniting for God’s greater purpose. There’s a sense of much ahead.

Stepping off the hamster wheel of productivity is difficult, especially for the young and successful. We feel we’re coming along the Spirit, tending to their current scenarios, but giving them also a lifelong vision for spiritual formation as we try to model these things in our own imperfect journey. We’re embracing the roles of mentors, although it’s still a new season for us, it’s an inspiring one to think of the influence we can have as a community upon the whole of culture.

The weekend was a privilege. This was the agreed upon word from our leaders team at our debrief today. We felt the Holy Spirit, each of us, guiding, ministering, and truly with us the entire time. We have a holy sense of having entered a stream of sorts, that this group is ready to go to higher heights, and deeper depths in their sphere of influence. We need your prayer please to steward this well moving forward. It’s new territory for me, divesting and empowering others of something I hold pretty closely – but it’s time.

We pulled back two years ago from continuing to charge ahead with growing projects, sensing we needed to create community and a hub for health. We are SO glad we did. It has been slow, but fruit is blooming, and I see the wheels of momentum turning toward some significant kingdom horsepower. An army of united kingdom leaders, young, creative, and not just running around doing things, but learning how to be the new creation God has made them – in loving fellowship with the Trinity, and others.

Emerging from our prayer and discussions, we realize some new trellis is needed for this growing vine. We tread carefully, not wanting to create yet another organization, but tend to the garden with wisdom that is may bear more fruit. We are seeing our vision more clearly, and amazed that we don’t have to try and inspire others towards it, but God is moving within hearts to take various parts of it and run.

We see ourselves hosting more specific learning spaces this year, for different callings (eg. creative, crowdfunding, mercy-ministries). We see an end of the year gathering again bringing us all back together. We just really love the community that is emerging. It’s a thing of beauty.

I think we’ll look back on this weekend at the end of year and recognize it as a significant step forward in this continued God has called us into. Lord, let your will be done.

Thank you ALL who prayed with and for us this weekend. We’re now finishing up with some one-one meetings this week, then Deb is off with two ladies to Belarus to visit our widows care sites and discern how to best serve this growing network of volunteers. Pray for their trip!

Our final meal we celebrate with a nice Ukrainian meal at our local (and new) banquet hall in Rzyschiv.
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Weekend Prep. The Last Straw.

Box of 100 Wheat Drinking Straws!

This week we finally received our shipment of wheat straws along with the packaging. It had a difficult time passing into Ukraine through customs, without surprise! We had fun all sitting around the kitchen table in assembly line fashion for an hour trying to figure out just how to package them in the most efficient manner. Even Abigail was part of the fun as box folder and inspector.

We posted our activity on Instagram and Facebook and didn’t realize our online store was actually live.. we had two orders within minutes! Small problem, we don’t know what we are doing. So that was fun. Long story short, we mailed our first packages of straws to friends in US and Canada, from Ukraine, we have 100 boxes now in Florida with Broderic, and we hope to launch officially soon!

Check out the pretty stamps and where they make you put the address? It cost the same to ship from Ukraine as from within the US.. but now to see if it arrives 🙂

This week we’ve been preparing as a team for incoming friends from Belarus and parts of Ukraine. 27 registered for this weekends leadership training. As these are growing and developing with more content (thank you Fuller!) we are now bringing alongside some emerging leaders (Vadim, Aleksa, Natasha, Lena) in more responsible roles for logistics and teaching of the content.

Last night we spent 4 hours going over some of the material, surveys, and lessons, and allowing them to pick and choose what they felt comfortable leading. Because the material is really interactive, it’s a great way to allow them to both learn the material themselves more deeply, but also better understand and appreciate the sheer amount of work that goes into feeding, serving, design learning space for a large group like this. I love their enthusiasm!

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking, reading and processing the concept of differentiation (as has Deb in her own world of material). It’s been so rewarding, freeing, but super challenging. I’ll be sharing this weekend about the nature of chronically anxious systems (families, churches, orgs) and the symptoms. We’ll be looking into the nature of resistance (to change), how being differentiated is essential to pioneering and helping fearful, reactionary souls adapt and grow. Our post-modern world, like the time of the 14-15th century explorers has changed so rapidly beneath our feet that folks are excessively tribal, seeking stability and a sense of certainty through belonging (who’s in, who’s out).

For the visionary explorer, the rewards of risk are greater than the accepted status quo; The pursuit of what could be just around the corner is greater than the necessary growth that must occur to get there.

Jesus was the ultimate example of being differentiated. He knew where He came from, who He was, and where He was going. He was comfortable with the temporary discomfort of others. He was strong and loving enough to speak the truth, and not fall into the trappings of empathy which often only consoles the unhealthy in need of difficult statements that might help them to actually take responsibility for themselves and grow. He wasn’t in a competition for the most likes, and was the proverbial calm in the tempest of religious hatred and jealousy as He shook the structure through deliberate ‘being’ of Himself. The structure didn’t take kindly to Jesus, and the anxiously fearful within it reacted, blaming and looking for a quick fix as well. Crucify Him!

Can we be like Jesus in this anxious world? The sheer nerve of Jesus is astounding to me.

I’m looking forward to tonight as the different friends arrive. We have a really cool mix this weekend with some new folks as well. We invite those that have long term vision for cultural impact, and are hungry to grow in deeper ways in a learning community. Please pray for us this weekend!

Last week I was interviewed, along with some business folk in our town from a journalist from Kiev. He works with a Swiss government program that is monitoring and aiding government reforms in Ukraine to help with growth in various sectors. I found myself talking about Economic Development, an area I spent 10yrs serving in with our web company in my previous life. It was really neat to discuss the different things happening in our town. One gentleman (by the window) has just developed a solar panel lamp-post which they install turnkey for $400. They crowdfunded the first 6 for our town, and they are already shining in our dark winter night. He told us he is on a waiting list for RazomGo crowdfunding platform to try and take his idea to more communities.. I was like, wait, you mean OUR RazomGo? We’d never met, and he didn’t know that’s our platform! Small world. I’m looking forward to the article, and what the journalist writes.

Deep breath. Here we go.

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One Day. One Day Only.

It’s been a year since we had all of our children under one roof. This year, Broderic and Bronwyn’s itinerary wasn’t able to overlap much. For one day (today) we were able to enjoy having everyone together.

It just happened to coincide with Clark’s 14th birthday. Monday Lighthouse is closed. We pulled some strings and held a little private party.

Bitter sweet.

Happy birthday Mr. Clark (hat on). 14 looks good on you.

I wanted to mark the occasion with a family photo of course, and a post. Something tells me as these young adults find their way and build their lives, these moments will become increasingly rare.

We rejoice in their adaptation to western culture and yet preserving the things that we all hold dear. Through the mercy of helping family they are working hard and landing on their feet. Examples for Brent and Tucker as these next arrows prepare to fly. Broderic is working full time at Disney in Orlando and continuing his studies online with University of Florida. Bronywn is helping lead a Harrisburg cohort of musicians with Visible Music College while also working and continuing her Bachelors.

Neither have any debt, they’re breaking the system!

To the world. Bring influence and love to this hurting world. Listen, and continue to learn. You make this father & mother proud.

I wouldn’t mind if some of these arrows flung around and served with us one day. For now, they are being formed, growing where they should be. Now I know how my own father feels. He still asks me when I will return home, 25 years later.

Bronwyn (aka the ‘bronner’) is beloved by her little sisters.

I hope to update more soon – We have a leaders weekend coming up soon January 24-26 with +25 young believers coming to collaborate and grow personally and as a missional community. Making some important changes at Lighthouse the past few months. Change is always difficult, and part of a healthy life rhythm. We must stay agile, holding things that are unessential, loosely.

Praying for discernment here out of the gate in 2020. When to sit, when to stand, when to walk, and when to run. Right now, I feel we are to wait on the Lord more intentionally, to wait for the fruit that remains. Abide. More being in our doing.

Bruce & Deb

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