The teams have left. It’s been a wild past few weeks preparing, praying and finally completing a week of intense activity. As the days unfold, I believe God will reveal more of the eternal impact of the past week – in the meantime I wanted to share some of the gratitude that fills both Deb and I’s heart.
Every evening was unique. That wasn’t the surprise. Thursday evening was the most worshipful experience (in a corporate gathering) I’ve encountered in the past 10yrs. It went well beyond songs, sounds and atmosphere. God spoke to many hearts that night, at the same time, with a particular theme. We only found this out afterwards the next day. The Lord gave me a picture of light dispelling darkness that touched me deeply – His Kingdom rule moving into homes, and those homes contagiously impacting homes next to them with the Light of Jesus Christ. It spread very quickly, not all homes were lit – but those that were fanned out like a flame across the landscape. There was a great sense of royalty in our gathering – I don’t know how else to explain it, the King surprised many hearts.
Another surprise was Friday night. We had a strong number of male students, first time Cafe visitors mostly from the drum lessons. Vikente and Tim did an amazing job teaching the basics of drumming, however something even greater took place during the 3 days of classes. The boys saw something in the teachers, they came Friday night I believe by the drawing of the Lord in them. Even though we had concerts on the first floor where most of the students and Cafe guests remained, these guys came up for worship. We’ve had visitors before, it’s always a bit awkward to sing praises with folks looking on and wondering ‘what in the world am I experiencing?’. However, the spirit of God surprised us Friday night by moving on in particular, one students heart. The gospel was shared very briefly and we continued to sing – this young man bowed in prayer, and began confessing Christ as Lord. No altar call, no manipulation of emotion, simply God overwhelming a heart ready for faith. Please pray for the students that experienced Friday night, including this young man as we connect this week and encourage the steps taken.
Our concerts on the main floor became quite evangelistic. Collins led the way with some of his own songs – and we were able to utilize a lot of talent both locally and from our team. The atmosphere at times became really interesting – as choruses and testimonies were shared naturally through the evening. Many seeds sown, and many photos all over facebook and VK with new students posing and customers commenting on the experience. I hadn’t planned downstairs to be as genuinely worshipful – but there were times when God surprised us through the week with something special as His grace, love and hope were on display.
We’re grateful for body of Christ around the world – He’s redeemed folks from every tribe, tongue and race. The Local Church needs to be exposed to this reality regularly – and this week some area believers were impacted and faith strengthened. It’s an honor, particularly of the western church (because we have more money) to ambassador the reality of God’s work in other nations. Even the Minsk team, which is only a 1/2 day drive away, affirmed the faith of the local believers that “God is alive and working in the earth!”. I believe one day soon the Lord will afford Ukrainian believers the same honor in other nations.
Ears to Hear!
I love beautiful sounds. There’s something about the human voice joining in passionate anthem. Add the creativity of musical instruments and the emotional places we experience are difficult to explain. Music is simply powerful. God created both the ability to create sound and the ability to hear it! I am thankful that we can receive truth audibly. I’m also thankful for the joys of feeling truth in the context of worship music – it’s a powerful instrument that breaks down walls and impacts the soul.
We have started to make a recording studio on the 2nd floor! More details soon, but a huge thanks to Peter Blosser from our home church in Texas – he not only served to help set things up with Collins, but bought and donated a lot of stuff… humbled and excited to see this progress! We do currently need to purchase (as our next step) sound absorption for the walls and some other technical sound proofing things – it will cost $500 if anyone out there would like to contribute and keep this moving! Collins will be working over the next few weeks getting things setup and functional – so cool he’s hear to progress things and has a passion for this.
Lastly, this week reminded me in fresh ways that we currently see God, but through ‘a glass dimly’ (1 Cor 13:12). One day, we’ll bust through that reflection and enter eternity where everything will be in HD living color. Until then, God hasn’t left us in the dark. When we pray, hang out with friends we love, or think upon the treasures of the Gospel, we see reflections ‘beyond’ the glass. We are sojourners, in a cold broken world, who are coming upon a house. We see smoke coming out of the chimney, we hear some muffled music, laughter, and see some opaque shapes moving inside the rooms. We know there is life there, we know it’s warm, and we’re meant to go inside. We can’t wait, our hearts leap for thought of finally arriving ‘home’. God could have left us in the dark, with a road map and pat on the back. He’s given us His Holy Spirit, who encourages us to keep walking, and fills us with hope in believing – I’m thankful for that tinted window and real tastes and ‘evidence of things hoped for’ here and now! (if you need some encouragement, please download the song ‘through the glass’ by Justin Jarvis on iTunes, grab a pillow, lay on the floor, turn out the lights, and give it a listen).
Friends & Partners
We had a lot of help this week. From Shane and Jem both cooking some meals, translating and serving in classes, to Jon Valentine from NYC who became an important Taxi driver for us, to a surprise guest of Collin’s (Dennis) who loved on several kids including the ones Friday night that came upstairs (and translated for me, the guy has Ukrainian parents!). We also had a friend from Kiev come down, Perez from Nigeria and help translate. Natasha made some great Borsch and Kolya helped organize some important things for the team like our evening dinners.
I am so proud of our Lighthouse Cafe team. We had the busiest week EVER for the Cafe with our team and another team in town. The Cafe was tested beyond it’s previous limits and served incredibly. Alyosha, Natasha, Sveta (Lana), and three student helpers were amazing Yana, Sasha and Nazar. You guys rocked! God did many things in their hearts too as they witnessed evenings of Christian concerts and flurry of activity around them.
I am a husband to an amazing woman. Somehow our kids remained fed and clothed this past week. Deb was able to come to every evening. I love her relaxed spirit, and ability to make others around her comfortable. Kids, love your mama.
For those of you that have known us, it may seem surprising that we now encourage short term ‘mission trips’. We’ve struggled for many years (well before moving to Ukraine!) to know how to really utilize incoming foreigners and even questioned their validity in the disciple making mandate. We now see, at least from our own context, the powerful Kingdom punch expressed in Kingdom integration – focused on relationship building, love and prayer. God uses unique people to reach unique people. I love being surprised by testimonies of God using folks in all sorts of unique ways during the week!
The gospel is to be embodied in all of our cultural shapes and sizes. True humility (not judging others), with the love of God is our weapon. Everyone can love, everyone can care. It’s the universal language – meeting the universal need. When believers gather from different cultures and background, with the common purpose to care – it’s much less important ‘what’ is done. We are thankful that we can both love with our incoming teams AND provide legitimate opportunities in particular for students. I believe the Kingdom was encouraged, and God’s work advanced this week in the hearts of His saints, and those hearts preparing to receive His grace.
As the days unfold, we’re believing God to lead us to the hearts that have been most touched and follow up with opportunities for fellowship and growing in God. I’ve already been in touch with a few, and been in prayer with some folks over the seeds sown. Pray with us!
We’re anticipating a video from the Texas team sometime in the near future. We’ll post it for archives.
Thank you for your support and prayer – now to look at tickets for Vladivostok in two weeks!
Bruce & Deb
That was a long one, great to hear all about the week. We will be praying for the souls touched and yourselves as you move forward, battles will have to be won but the Lord is your strength. Love you all…