Yesterday marked a truly blessed day. I say that with sobriety and joy, not being religious folks. God blessed the day. We started with our official meeting with the city council, which is made up primarily of businessmen and government workers that control property in and around RZ. The Mayor had initially invited us, and we received a call in the morning from the second in command here Nadya confirming our appointment to present our ideas before them.
It did not start out well at all! First of all, the Mayor and Nadya were not even in RZ!! The group was assembling and looking at us like we did not belong. The leader of the group actually started yelling at Svetlana, full volume, it was only the beginning! They yelled at us, “why are you here? what do you want!” After 15 minutes of confusion, we finally managed to talk to the group, convince them that we were just wanting 10 minutes to share our vision and heart. They said we could, but would have to wait until the official proceedings were over.
We sat through 90 minutes of shouting, arguing and everything in between. Have you ever been in the middle of a very tense situation and just wanted to get out of there? That was my poor translator Svetlana.. her eyes were as big as saucers and the tension was building every minute. People were coming in to complain about various regulations, land disputes, corruption, and the object was to simply out yell the other guy. I was not blessed with a loud voice, so my chances at out-winning an argument Ukrainian style are not good. After the final person had finished their complaint, we were up.
Laptop and projector prepared and running, we stood up and smiled. I introduced Deb (how can you be mean around her!) began to share about who we were, the foreigner community in RZ, our collective heart for investing into the community through business, community service, and outreach. It was cool to have their undivided, quiet (miracle) attention for 15 minutes as we shared about our desire for a Family Center downtown, why it would be a great thing, and what we would do in it. I showed pictures of Bridge 281 in Texas, a similar style cafe we would want to build and it made an impact. I was about 2-3 slides away from the end and the group started talking to one another. At first I was a bit frustrated, they were ignoring me! But then realized they were talking about land, and ways to help us!
I could barely finish the presentation, God had worked, softened hearts. Even the main guy who was the loudest of them all was asking ‘how much land would you need’, and, ‘what do you think about the park area’.. we had questions like, “would you make the property nice, maybe a park for kids?”. Another lady said, “they need to be downtown, that is where the young people are.” It was amazing guys. I rejoice in God for the way He showed up. We came their immediate enemy, but left feeling they were not opposed to us and wanted to get on-board. The next step is that they are meeting with the mayor and will make some recommendations for possible land purchase that the city owns.
A few reasons this was such a huge deal for us-
– This is a group we will not avoid, they approve/stop all activity downtown. They now know our hearts, even if we don’t go with a property they suggest, they know our vision and we answered their questions.
– More relationships, we aren’t here ‘just’ to do stuff, but build relationships that will produce fruit for the Kingdom.
– We saw God work for us, I did not avoid the topic of Christianity and our faith. We read scripture to them and they know that as westerners, our faith is an important part of our motivation for this project. They asked me specifically if I was ‘with’ a religious organization, it was cool to be able to answer honestly, ‘no, I’m a business owner from Texas’. This is a huge step I believe in normalizing Christianity, we are real people, we want to help spread hope and love to a culture that needs God.
It was a great day. It ended as great as it started. We finished at our house with ‘Men’s Night’, we do this every other week and have had a pretty good cross section of guys showing up. We play ping pong, some games, and someone gives a devotion or we watch a movie. Last night my basement was PACKED! We had 25 guys, at least 8 unbelievers, young students and they heard the gospel message. My father in law Neil shared his testimony, and he had them glued for 30 minutes. They heard about how he lived a life of no purpose, drugs, loneliness etc.. and how God found Him and saved him. God is so good, I praise Him for pouring out His love on us, and hope just when we are about to give up.
[Neil sharing with Dan translating to 25 guys in our basement]
Keep praying, God is at work, and we are excited for the next steps downtown, and as He continues to draw young men to Himself!
Bruce & Deb