Catching Up

Anyone else out there struggling to catch up?  Seems like every area of our life is a bit behind, January is half over.  I think some of it is a result of our new Ukrainian holiday format.  A couple days ago Ukraine celebrated ‘old new years’.. so here we are, heading quickly toward Febuary and things are just now settling into a ‘non holiday’ routine.  We’ll know next year to mentally ‘start’ Christmas around Jan 1, two weeks is about all I can handle! 

We had a few Christmas carolers come to our door, one of them was a drunk who did his best to sing a carol in our doorway.. inching inside out of the frigid cold.  I gave him a piece of cake and some candy, but he was looking for more alcohol.  It’s common here to have carolers come to your house, and bring rice.  The rice is thrown on your head or inside your door as a blessing.  I had a broom ready to hand it to them, and encourage them to bless us even more by cleaning it up:).. but no blessings of rice this year.

Clark turned 3yrs old last week, we couldn’t fine normal candles:)  Or cake for that matter.

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We’re continually pulled over by the road police.   I estimate I’ve been pulled over at least 10 times now, Deb was pulled over yesterday on her way back from picking up Cassie.  It’s so random, and each time they take our documents, look them over for 5 minutes, then let us go.  We haven’t received a ticket yet, I think our Texas registration confuses them, and they aren’t sure what to do.  There’s so much paperwork involved in an actual ticket, they often wait for a ‘gift’ to expedite the process.  We’ve had them tell us directly, “we can do this the easy way, or the hard way”.  So far the police have been very cordial, each time is an experience.  One time I was let off the hook because the policeman was a Chuck Norris fan, he saw the Texas plates and said, “Walker Texas Ranger”… and let me go.  How he saw that show, I have no idea, he didn’t speak any other english but he knew Chuck Norris.  They are cracking down on illegal visitors, those who haven’t properly bribed or jumped through the visa/ovir hoops.  Even though I have proper documentation, it’s still a scary feeling when they wave their baton for you to pull over..   Can you tell in this picture which truck is mine?  A Kiev truck versus a Rzshichiv country truck.  There aren’t any places to wash your truck.  I’ve been ordered by the police to uncover my license plate.. but 5 miles later it is covered again so I’ve given up.

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I never really updated you all on our dinner for the City officials.  It was really a neat time.  Each time I visit the Mayors office I’m greeted and hugged, it’s very neat to feel welcome and not a stranger anymore in the town.  We are in the process of developing the pictures from the event, and producing a special Calendar with the photos on each month (you know, like how Kinkos does it).  We’ll then go around one by one and chat, give them the gift, have some tea :).  Daniel and I were invited to the Mayors office a few days later where we were asked directly about our faith.  More specifically if we had any opposition to the Orthodox Church.  We had a nice discussion, and were able to share our heart for the town, for the young people, and how our desire is not to promote or oppose any one denomination or Church, but to offer hope through Jesus Christ, a purpose in God.  Although we can’t control every relationship, whether everyone chooses to fellowship or even like us, we can be a positive influence here as we serve the community and work together.  The Mayor was appreciative of our efforts, and actually encouraged us to continue helping and reaching out.   I left amazed from this meeting, that in only a few short months we have the green light to pursue whatever God leads (with wisdom), we’re definitely graced in favor with both God and men, a responsibility and privilege.  So what’s next?  Not sure.   I’m burdened to help in the schools here.  After visiting several of the community colleges, seeing 100’s of young people walking the halls, sitting in groups, wandering aimlessly, I was burdened in a fresh way to pray for more help.  The harvest is here and laborers much too few.  There is nothing happening in these schools for the gospel that I’m aware of.  Approximately 2,500 students.  How can I be a Christian and not do something?  But what?  Been thinking about trying to start some Ethics Classes, or perhaps a series in the school on Love & Sex, something that would appeal to a large audience, and not smack of typical sectarian religiosity.

In the meantime there’s lots to do within the church here.  As leaders we are working on a schedule for the week/year.  We are discussing topics for discipleship, learning how to work together.  The church doesn’t have a name here, we’ve desired to keep it simple and not be about promoting a ‘name’.  This is something that has caused some confusion though, and we’re reviewing this again.  Among the leaders, none of us desire to just ‘do church’.  We desire community, stripped down with the bare minimum necessary structure.  At the same time, we understand that by growing numerically, certain principles force you to bring in more structure.  I’m not opposed to structure, as long as it serves you, and you aren’t serving it.  How many of you go to church, sit in a pew, do your Christian weekly thing and feel fairly religious as you go about it?  Is that all God designed for you?  Why do we settle for such common and uninteresting forms of Christianity where a few lead and do all the ministry, and the rest watch like little children? We are called to equip one-another to do the work, there’s lots to do here and all hands must be on deck.  Like you, we desire an authentic Christian community, but at the same time realize some things just work (pragmatism slipping in), pray for us that we add the structure necessary for God to be more glorified through His church here.

Kids are healthy, our house is filled with joy on most days:).  Cassie is back, we’ll begin regular school and Russian Lessons in the next week.  Our coat room is almost finished, which should trim down the average ‘get ready to go outside’ time,, which is currently very unacceptable!

Here’s a small video (quicktime file) of my two hockey fans playing, mov00157.3GP 

Sincerely,

Bruce & Deb

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