Belarus Gathering – LIT 2019

Oleg & Joana from Sloviansk opened up our conference – they did a wonderful job and I’ve heard from so many folks just how refreshing it was – they a young couple we are eager to invest more in as the Spirit directs.

As quickly as they fell upon the beautiful City of Brest, Belarus, they have boarded their buses, trains and ubers and dispersed back to their hometowns. Around 700 young people from around Belarus gathered over this picture perfect fall weekend. Our guest musicians from Life Center in Harrisburg, PA were a wonderful blessing, encouraging the locals with testimonies, and fresh hope to charge ahead with Jesus, despite the restrictions and struggles they are facing.

Two legacy groups… XDH (Christ for the Nations, Belarus) and LCW (Life Center Worship), meaningful histories and families behind both of these ministries. To the next generation of creative artists an culture shapers!

This year, we hosted a full day of break-out sessions, and allowed for more relationship connections. The previous LIT events were wonderful moments of worship, but for all the effort and investment, we felt it was a wasted potential to not build upon the effort and open hearts to cross denominational barriers. To see young 18-25yr old believers gathered in unity around Jesus, rising above particular doctrinal issues, was a thing of beauty, and I believe a massive victory towards the future of an expanding living faith in Belarus.

Great to have Yan back leading with XDH after 2 years – he’s now married and living in Minn.

We had baptist youth pastors involved, holding hands with pentecostals – the 1% ‘evangelical’ cannot afford to be divided, and the young believers in Belarus are dissatisfied with tribal church structures. One of my favorite moments during the day included small group prayer, all around the auditorium. A holy moment to be sure as the focus turned not towards a stage but towards one another, caring, encouraging, praying for Belarus. One young person shared, “During prayer, I realized that I can pray for my City, and that these prayers can make a difference.” It’s this ‘breaking of the box”, of the religious confines of what Christianity looks like for a generation hungry for more that delights our hearts. To see eyes opened, hearts awakened, it makes it all worth it.

All the breakout sessions were full, cool. We do need to work on making these more interactive and using some of the cool tools I’m receiving from Fuller – so many better ways to learn!

Our teams are now all back in Minsk, boarding planes and Deb and I are headed back home tomorrow. Excited to see our kids, at least I am! Deb has enjoyed the break. We have a week to get reset, Deb preparing for Far East Russia week teaching at YWAM. Our next. big project in Eastern Ukraine with university student outreach – Leadership and creative seminars. We want to come alongside young future leaders, teaching them how to take steps building new places of community outside the vestiges of dry religion. Hearts are hungry and so many believers ignorant just how easy it is to love, create meaningful places of belonging and natural relationships in the world that God so loves.

Great job by Vikente & Natasha and the dozens of volunteers that worked hard for months to pull this latest LIT event off. Alevtina and several others from the XDN team really serve with excellence and mission. It’s the coolest thing to see youth energized and accomplishing things like this event, it gives them much needed confidence and vision for joining the Spirit’s work in a difficult place for the gospel.

Thankful, pondering, Lord water those seeds that were sown. Join with us in praying for this!

Get your t-shirts! Neat to see the brand take root and become an annual event, so much potential moving forward as we listen and discern together. Fun to track social media and see some of the impact in real time. Follow the movement on instagram @litworship

Our prayer is for deeper, meaningful artistic community to emerge. For ongoing spiritual formation, joining God’s missional heart in new spaces around Belarus and Ukraine.

Belonging (community) precedes believing – St. Patrick.

Thank you for all who gave to LIT. In actuality, only a handful of extremely generous families made this happen. I don’t want to pretend 100’s are behind events. Often, it’s just one or two people that God speaks to, seeds are sown, and a generation is influenced for Christ. It’s so wild how God works. Who knows the ultimate outcome of investments like this – I believe they are eternal.

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“Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’[c] is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.”

Ever pass by this scripture in Matthew 5:22 and wonder why Jesus makes such a big deal about name calling? In many translations of the bible, this interesting little Aramaic insult is kept in its original form. It was a accusation of contempt towards someone during the time of Christ, and we’re told by historians it meant empty-headed, useless or simply a fool. Jesus wasn’t honing in however on a particular word, as if avoiding R-A-C-A itself was the issue.

Jesus always went for the heart, the secret place of our motivations. He still does.

Jesus taught that murder originates in the heart as hatred. Hatred assumes a moral superiority on the part of the hater which works to validate oppressive and destructive actions against the supposed inferior character. This is why Jesus said it’s impossible to love God and hate your brother. How can you believe you are superior to another sinner and still confess to know the God of grace? Isn’t murder an expression of superiority? I am superior to you, my beliefs, my needs, justify your extinction.

Hatred, like murder, is rooted in pride; an embracing of a false reality in a superior self. It’s the slippery slide that leads us into all sorts of evil. Paul gives us some warnings to help us jump off this slide.

Therefore, putting aside all [a]malice and all deceit and [b]hypocrisy and [c]envy and all [d]slander.. 1 Peter 2:1 (NASB)

These four words help us unpack hatred, they are helpful and telling synonyms to personally consider. We have all been guilty of experiencing and practicing some of these destructive actions towards one another whether we’ve stopped to process our ultimate motivations or not.

  • Malice (bad intentions. maligning malevolently.)
  • Guile (astute, artful deception. you’ve thought it through.)
  • Slander (character assassination. misleading others to think poorly about another.)
  • Envy (resenting jealousy. energized bitterness.)

Jesus warning was towards forgetting our own broken condition as sinners. Let us beware of thinking too highly of ourselves, there is no grace there! The next time we are tempted to aim our words towards the belittling of another, or sowing discord, remember God sees this motivation as attempted murder. The Kingdom, Jesus reminds us, is like a servant that was forgiven insurmountable debts, but then used their freedom to confiscate small debts from others. The merciless person will receive no mercy (Matt 5:7).

To name call is to essentially confess, “I need no grace.” At least that’s the way Jesus sees it.

Name calling is more than playground ‘sticks and stones’ and we know this. In the words of Kierkegaard, when we labeling others, we’re attempting to dismiss them. We want to dismiss their humanity, their value and worth in an attempt to exalt our own. He sees beyond our many justifications to the depths of our hearts, and will not hold this unpunished. Can His warning be any more fierce than the fires of judgment and hell? Cease the posture of a superior judge, there’s room for only One there.

Our hearts are complicated, tricky things. To love is to divest, to lay down, and give yourself for the good of others. This is the love of God towards us which was revealed in Jesus – it cost Him everything to reveal the nature of His love perfectly. When we stop believing the love of God over our own lives, or perhaps because we have never truly entered it, we by nature resort to all sorts of protective measures to secure our own value and worth. We need to rest in our weakness as we embrace God’s acceptance over our lives, not fight to find worth in the dejection of others.

“When people are empty of Christ, a thousand and one other things come and fill them up. Be filled with Christ!” St. Porphyrios

Our unity under Christ is a powerful testimony to the world. It’s a unity not in uniformity, but in self-effacing participation of the Trinity’s own diverse, united celebration of love. We’re not called to be right, but to love. The cold reality is that when we resort to name calling, we self-injure and imprison ourselves in the ugly characteristic of pride. The person(s) we might hope to devalue and bring down to size in the eyes of others, remain often untouched by our attempts. It is the accuser that is accused, the attempted murderer that is sentenced.

The next time we read the warnings of “Raca”… let us take to heart the humility of Christ, who both warns us of the crime of hate, and carried in Himself the excruciating pain of it. Let us enter the love of Christ by participating in it, loving our enemies, and especially those in the household of faith (Gal 6:10).

Christ, who is the Gospel of God, transcends politics, cultures, and worldviews. His Kingdom reigns forever. Spirit help us all to come under your loving reign!

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September 13, 2019

How about a block of photos for an update?

  • Delivering sewing machines and materials to partner ministries.
  • Final paper submitted and have 2 week break on studies. Brain says yes.
  • Kids have been sleeping in the backyard in tents. Free campsite!
  • Harvested field of sunflowers.. one little fella remained.
  • Submitted docs for resident renewal.. Ukraine has embraced 21st century!
  • Box of… hmm, what could they be? New business idea that really sucks.
  • Week of prayer over our town, ministry, incoming students.
  • Friends.

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Opening Bell | Fresh Season.

Across Ukraine students attend an opening ceremonies that looks like something out of the Oscars. Well, Ukrainian style, outdoors, and not quite as organized. This year two it’s only our two youngest, Abbey and Claire that are attending public school. The others, well, we continue pioneering standards for the no-schooling movement (see Deb for details).

It also marks the beginning of a new year for some of our Lighthouse ministries, including youth, children, and this year our new sewing room. Neat to see how that has emerged and the Lord has kindly provided both material and the hearts to run it.

Skatepark is taking a beating, which is great!

We will be meeting over the next few weeks to pray together, and discern how the Spirit might be guiding us. I’m looking forward to providing some clearer on-ramps for those who desire to deepen their faith, and express it more intentionally in their contexts.

The sewing material and machines finally arrived! Deb and Natasha organizing and prepping to share with some orphanages (shoes, socks, dresses, material, stuffed animals).

Most pressing is the extension of my residence permit, once you turn 45 you need to get a new one.. and my birthday is this week. The time this will take is unknown, which means it could take a while. Without this document, I won’t be able to leave the country.. We have a busy October coming up which requires travel to Belarus and Russia.

Some of this year’s reading. It’s challenging to get hard copies of all of them but I much prefer paper! Benner book has been our favorite. Read at your false-self’s peril.

I just finished my semesters final paper, 30 pages, worth 50% of my grade. There was some wonderful reading this summer, and putting it all into a final document has been rewarding, and exhausting. The title of my paper is “Trinitarian Existentialism.” It might sound confusing, but it’s really just about knowing God within the context of His own revealed personhood (Father, Son, Spirit) and how that might inform our faith
& practice. I’m pretty excited about all I’m learning, and unlearning. This semester “Leading a missional community” couldn’t have come at a more relevant time for us. I’m excited to explore deeper forms of community for the world around us.

We’ve been looking at possible purchase of a house in Pennsylvania. Since our last trip there, and selling our house in Texas, we started to sense a changing season ahead, and one that I think correlates to growing older, prepping to create a homestead, or a US ‘base’ for our children and their families. We have no plans or desires to return to the US full time, but perhaps part time through the year. Deb and I see how a central place might serve to, well, serve our family in this next chapter. Anyway, it’s a consideration that fits within an ever changing vision/outlook how the Lord might be shaping us for future things. Would you pray over this with us?

Deb’s birthday last week. We were suffering from extreme jetlag – so we did smores in the middle of the night instead of a meal and cake 🙂

Thanks for checking in. We are still absorbing and processing the many visits during our travels this trip. It’s neat how we didn’t plan as many stops this time, and less travel, but the conversations and meetings we did have were really cool – the kind you really can’t plan on your own. Thankful!

I’ll be sending out a more private update to our partners & friends. If you are not our MIR monthly (or so) email update, feel free to request a copy by emailing me at or message me on social media.

For those who are interested, our Mir Charity projects, which serve not only Ukraine but Belarus, are needing some help to meet this years project budgets. The most pressing is about $2,000 in total to cover our upcoming Worship Conference in Belarus this October. We are anticipating 1,000 youth, musicians, and guests from US/Ukraine. Thank you for your consideration and partnership – for a tax deductible receipt, click here to securely donate online!

As a side personal request, I have been invited to Far East Russia to teach at YWAM base again. I want Deb to come with me and teach 1/2 the course during the day (on prayer) so can also teach evening course on leadership development as an outreach. The tickets are $800, and a brutal 30hr (3 flights) due to air restrictions between Russia and Ukraine – We do not have the funds for this, we just bought a truck for winter and zapped our cash. Send the Deb please! Click here if you don’t need a tax deduction, or here if you do. If you can’t give, pray for this, thanks!

Bruce & Deb

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