Stories in the Missional Journey of Bruce & Deborah Crowe

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What’s next?

Thinking ahead, planning. These are things that require predictability. Without knowing with a degree of certainty how your days, and weeks will unfold, planning seems to be a waste of energy and time.

With the war in Ukraine now reaching 50 consecutive days, one approaches planning with a degree of skepticism, if not hopelessness. For westerners, whose lives have been bench-marked by the clock, calendar and alarm bells, living an unfolding organic life is a foreign experience. What’s next is what’s next. We can plan, we can attempt to execute said plan, but there comes a point when the forced outcomes are just too much work, and the disappointment of failing to meet those objectives is real.

I don’t know what’s next. Russian troops exited rather hastily from the Kyiv region, only to re-group, re-arm in the Donbass region for what looks like a strategic push to ‘liberate’ the coveted industrial heartland of Ukraine. Evacuations have been ongoing for the past two weeks from this area. Many villages are now abandoned, with the exception of babushkas who refuse to leave. What will come to these folks in direct line with the incoming battle? Does Ukraine stand a chance, the sheer numbers of Russia’s army, air power, military resources.. logically would suggest this will be a war of attrition, with Ukraine suffering the brunt of this fabricated hostility.

What if this war drags on for another year? What if an ongoing war is exactly what dictators relish and embrace as means of securing their teetering, fragile power? What then? In a scenario like this, where war becomes the new normal for months ahead, what’s next for:

  • Refugee women and children scattered abroad.
  • Elderly trapped in war zones.
  • Our home town in central Ukraine and the friends and communities in the rest of Ukraine? How do they survive, work, eat?
  • Missionary families uprooted around and inside Ukraine?
  • For the rest of the world? Do they simply keep watching the news, or eventually just turn away?
  • Charities that serve Slavic culture, does the mission change, adapt, innovate? It seems almost all charities I know have become swallowed up in humanitarian efforts, and addressing human suffering.

What’s next for our family? We have to get visas here in Romania. We have only 45 days left by law, before we have to leave. We have a pathway for getting 1 year permits, this is our plan. Plans, but so much depends on what’s next. Or does it?

As I consider what’s next for our family, and consider the rational potentialities with this war, I’m reminded of the surprising ways of God. Many-a-kings had their best counseled plans upended. The tides of this evil could very well be turned, a new pathway emerge for Ukraine, even Russia. We are so focused on physical military might that we can forget there is an agenda, a way of the Spirit in motion in this world, a war behind the wars. What’s next could surprise us, send us back to the drawing board.

Perhaps the best place to be is in prayer, in silence, listening, and navigating by faith, not by sight. I vacillate between trying to discern spiritual things and considering intellectually the variables. We really can’t ‘not’ use our minds, our minds are our friends if renewed, washed and regenerated by the Spirit. Surely we can come alongside the Spirit with our question of what’s next, and be participating in the unfolding reality that is in the heart of God. None of us know this perfectly, neither do I believe everything is perfectly set – we’re invited to pray, to join in this unfolding reality. One thing I do know, is that the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy, so whenever the kingdom of Jesus is advancing, these things will be seen and experienced.

Until then, we live for today, laying down our what’s next, and trusting the goodness of our Savior to reveal the light we desperately need on this darkened path.

Converging Realities

Last night, we gathered for our second Friday evening together with area Ukrainian refugees. The meeting takes place a floor above a church sanctuary for the bible college “Christ for Romania.” Last Friday, our meeting space was quiet, but this time, there was a music / worship event below.

It was quite surreal to hear the deep muffled bass, shouting, and celebratory atmosphere rising up to greet our quite different reality. As the 15-20 of us gathered in an intimate circle, each taking turns engaging some open questions concerning the state of our soul, our emotional health, areas of struggle currently or request for prayer, the two diametrically opposed realities were difficult to process.

Believers, engaging different realities. One (below) lost in the goodness of a victorious risen savior, the other (above) identifying with the suffering Servant on the Cross, embracing us in our pain. Two realities, one building.

In the corner of our room wasn’t a lively band and revved up stage ambience, but rather a wooden cross with Christ upon it. One of our ladies, with streams of tears rolling down her face, was recalling the journey of her son, now serving on the front-lines, had called her and asked her to pray as Russian forces were gearing up for a major offensive. Her son, Sasha, had been through so much, from drug addiction, to recovery, rejecting his faith, to now repenting and reconciling with those like his dear mama that he has brought so much suffering to. As the mama shared, we could feel this story, this journey, now consummating in a strange mix of pride for her son who voluntarily is fighting for his country, and yet a mama who fears his life won’t now have the opportunity to enjoy the better parts of that inward and outward freedom.

Then the shouts, the praises, eliminating from under our feet. Two realities, each expressing our stories, the places in life, legitimate, but strangely in-congruent.

How does God, by His Spirit, process all of these realities at the same time? How can God both grieve and rejoice at the same time? Are the believers beneath us and among us (in countries like Romania) oblivious to the carnage, the death, suffering and disillusionment around them that they could simply close their eyes, raise their hands and have it removed so easily from their reality?

Isn’t love, it’s very nature, to lift up the other before we lift up ourselves? Should there be praise and victory in our lips families are suffering on a cross of injustice? Are these judgments too harsh, am I too close to this war to make any sense of these realities literally stacked upon one another?

Surely, the body of Christ is fragmented, well beyond its intent. Without wars, in the best of times, the bride of Christ, particularly in the West has never been so divided into tribes and streams of expression. As a global force, united, we can accomplish so much more than when we drive in our own lanes. We know this. More healing, more praise. More celebration and witness, more lament and solidarity. Doing these in unison surely has the greater impact in our hearts and this broken world.

There is a time for weeping, and a time for rejoicing scripture says. I wonder if in our independence, we’ve forgotten these could and perhaps should be done in unison, by the leading of the Spirit. What if the Spirit is willing to guide us into these deeper reflections of unity, but we’re too interested in our particular outcomes?

In closing our meeting, as we, by the grace of God were able to push out the noise and enjoy a very meaningful time together, we recalled the moments that brought sunshine in our hearts. One older grandma shared how before the war, she had a wonderful summer lined up – her children were returning to work in the garden soon, travel to bring the kids in the summer, and she would bake, and gather them around the table, a true grandma’s heart! We all smiled inside, even as she shared it with tears, we knew what she was saying. Our best plans, our hopes, those moments of love, peace and when all is right in the world, have been shattered as far as loved ones have been scattered. But we do remember them, the feelings of hope, they are powerful, and the praises of those moments we all agreed, will again fill our own hearts and mouths.

But not yet. Jesus, unite your people, humanity, around the thick, solid, lamenting part of us. It’s meaty, it’s raw, it’s challenging, it’s where your Spirit is working. I’m sure the Spirit touched lives last night in the first floor’s victorious moments, but isn’t it interesting in charismatic circles it always seems to be in the quiet, humble, broken moments that God does His best formational work. When I walked past the sanctuary, I saw their event was over, and some were lingering in their seats with heads bowed, eyes closed…. thank you Jesus for working in all our hearts, somehow you do process it all, and this what makes you who you are.

April 8th, 2022

Ukraine With the war focus shifting to Eastern Ukraine it’s more than just words. A couple of hours ago, rockets bombed the train station in Kramatorsk, where 100’s were awaiting evacuation. Minimum 30 dead, several children. Our friends were there just minutes before the destruction, these photos are real. The rocket has spray painted in Russian ‘for the children.’ Our family has been to this town and area, our widows ministry serves in this area, it’s beautiful with a lot of history. It’s near Slavyansk.

Confirmation of event w more details shows actually 50 have died from that explosion and many more injured.

Last night we started receiving fresh inquiries for refuge at our houses south of Kyiv from fleeing families from Dnepro, and Melitopol. These are considered next targets after Mariupol (and the whole of the Donbas). Many friends are actively shuttling aid in, and families out. Those that were determined to stick it out now see what may be in store for them by the Russian army of them stay, so yet another fresh wave of 10’s of thousands of refugees are headed west. For the Russian army to target trains and evacuating families is so grievous! The live feed stories are very gruesome.

The one photo included is of burned Bibles, from Irpin. These weren’t just any Bibles, but from a ministry that had historical copies and a library. Irpin has always been a central ‘Christian’ base of many non profit and mission organizations. Soldiers gathered and destroyed as much as they could. Heart breaks for many families and friends now discovering their loved ones silence over the last 2-3 weeks was because their family members were murdered, cold blooded, found in the streets or in the discovered graves. Real people.

We’ve just returned from a two day retreat, it was a much needed moment to gather ourselves. As I now see the flurry of social media through fresh eyes, I’m conscious of the need to pray for those actively driving, tirelessly taking in aid, and those serving beyond healthy limits. Humans only have so much strength, wisdom, and emotional capacity. Crisis, as one friend commented, should naturally transition to recovery. Yet, this war has many caught in a loop of crisis management, unending emergency mode. No-one can sustain such impossible rhythms. We pray for peace, an end to the suffering – we also pray for these brave, and kind-hearted folks, many churches, missionaries, and organizations to know when they must intentionally stop and care for themselves or will break.

We meet tonight with refugees in Cluj for the 2nd week for our “Evening Together.” We have planned more small group discussions. I heard some are baking, so that’s a good sign! However, one of our dear ladies staying with just heard news her son may have been killed – he’s been missing for past few days and information has emerged that doesn’t look good. Grief. I hope our gatherings can build friendships and hope even in such despairing times. We are also trying to help place some friends in jobs that are a good fit here locally. Our Lighthouse Cafe – Ukraine is wrapping up its first full week open again south of Kyiv. Ukrainians have donated over $200 so far for the elderly/refugees in our area – in exchange for free coffee and tea. Thank you friends!

Thank you for remaining open-hearted and tracking, as much as you are able, with the atrocities taking place. The worse thing that could happen is that we all become numb to inhumanity, I think we loose a little piece of ourselves when we close our eyes. It certainly has us all asking what in life we deeply, truly value, doesn’t it?

Lighthouse Re-opens

Today, after being closed since December 31, our Cafe is open south of Kyiv, serving our town with free coffee, tea and some snacks. Seeing our close friends rally to form a barista+cleaning team, serving our community, in the the context of all this uprooted-ness, brings many fresh emotions.

This weekend was hard. Hard to stop, breath and reflect. I know it’s important to face reality, feel your feelings.. but since this all began, it feels safer to work, stay busy, avoiding the deeper disillusionment within the soul, and felt within others. This morning I met with Aléksa Ayshpur and we stared at our ‘to-do’ list. It felt contrived, all good things, but what is necessary, now? We, after all, are as unsure of the present-future as much as those whom we are serving. It’s an odd, new sensation to be afraid to stop – but we know intrinsically it’s deep benefits.

Embracing limitations, fragility, letting go, all acts of trust – there’s some freedom and rest there, we feel it’s coming. Are we ready for a silent retreat? I think it’s time. Beginning to realize for this season, less is more, being present will be the challenge for so many moving forward, including myself. Otherwise, we are but shells of ourselves, shadows moving about serving shadows.

Thank you friends at Lighthouse Cafe – Ukraine – we miss you, we miss normal, serving in the same space, making jokes, dreaming. I pray it can be a place for being present, for friends and families to reconnect and find solidarity and hope. We are believing for the same open, welcoming spaces to emerge and awaken the soul here in Romania too.

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