Next week I begin my final semester at Fuller. It’s been 3 1/2 yrs since I began this surprising journey. It’s become such a known rhythm in my life, the weekly reading, discussion groups, and guided learning, I’m honestly filled with mixed emotions. I’ve never been the most disciplined person, and having structure these past few years has been so formative.
I deeply enjoyed last semesters Eastern Orthodox Theology course. This last course I choose Interpretive Practices. It doesn’t look easy, but after so enjoying the New Testament and Early Church History courses I wanted to invest in my capacity to mine Scripture, understanding better the genres and how to approach each as a student of the Bible. This 10 week course looks to have us tackle a number of passages, in groups, giving us the tools to be very hands on as most of Fuller’s courses have been. I’ve really appreciated the adult learning practices, it’s unlocked not only how I truly learn and grow, but how to hold space for deeper learning in our community.
Speaking of community, we met for the first time together in quite a while this week. It’s cool to see various families hosting dinners, and gathering in different formats without a particular religious schedule. Yet, there are times when we do need, as the family of God to center around the table of Christ, break bread and allow the Spirit to refresh us in the main things. I led us in communion, and we took a look at the Apostle Paul’s interaction with the Spirit in following the leading of the Spirit. When I was in Miletus last week, the Spirit seemed to be speaking in my soul as well, thinking of how Paul in his intimacy with the Lord knew the mind of the Spirit, he knew where he needed to go, the overarching chains that awaited him in Jerusalem on his 3rd trip specifically, and though his friends warned him not to go back, out of good intention for his safety, they were out of step with what the Spirit was speaking to Paul. Some weren’t out of step, and affirmed the Spirit’s leading, but it’s interesting how God has a pathway forward for us, it’s our own, to be walked out in faith, with the Spirit. The gift we give one another is to come alongside, listen, encourage. No one is to hear God for us, we are His people, His sheep hear His voice, and that voice is the ministry of the Spirit who guides us in His way, His truth, His life.
I’m really encouraged by the progress on our building. I’ve been thinking we need to name this building. I keep calling it the ‘mission building’ generally so we all think outwardly, but I think that is too vague. We’ll be completing the 2nd floor flooring next week, then in a few weeks, the roof Lord willing. At that point, we’ll be out of funds, the first phase will be complete, and we’ll look to getting inside it this fall and hopefully use parts of it before winter. The Lord will need to provide, as He has each step.
We had some visitors this week upon our return from Turkey. Ron Jones, a new friend from Kyiv, actually from Carlisle, PA who started a business school which now serves students around Ukraine in three cities came and brought with him two pastors from a Nazarene Church. At first, I thought, “Oh great, some pastors that will struggle to understand what we are doing” but I was encouraged to hear their own struggles with institutional religion and ways in which they are breaking the western (and eastern) molds. After sharing our vision and journey a little, they seemed to really get it, and actually share how they are considering leaving their western denomination in order to fully engage culture more freely. They recognize the next generation is open to Jesus but not religion, hungry for community but not clubs. At one point the older pastor, whom I thought might be the most conservative, piped up in broken Russian style english, “The system is dead.” We all laughed, mostly because it sounded like Arnold the Terminator, but also because it’s just true. Increasingly, and thankfully, we find ourselves affirmed by fellow missional leaders that what God is up to, doesn’t look like what we’ve personally known in our generation, and it’s good.
Missing our older kids! Tucker is still in PA with Bronwyn, hasn’t found a job yet, and is going to head down to Florida this weekend to see his two older brothers along with Bronwyn. We’ll be extra jealous to see them all together, and holding baby Byron. Very proud of each of them and their maturing. The younger four hear are keeping us on our toes. We’re praying and believing for more friends for them, and several new doors are opening up to help them interact with some more their age in Kyiv, and perhaps a summer camp in July in Carpathians.