Interns start and Russia law sends freedom back 50yrs.

Our crew finishing bible study and getting ready to eat!

Our crew finishing bible study and getting ready to eat!  Brent the cameraman.

As the summer heat wave begins (again) in Ukraine, it marks the start of something cool for our ministry.  When we began last fall to meet with students and share weekly about the love of God, we had no idea if any would come.   They did!  We then wondered if any would continue through the course of the year.  They did! We then started to believe God for summer Interns – students that made up the core of our youth, that would be willing to study more intensely (daily) the truths of the Gospel, and serve together with us at Lighthouse Ukraine.

Well, we are so thankful for 3 young ladies that have been more like daughters to Deb and I this year.  They came to Minsk with us a few months ago and God continues to work in their lives.  This morning was our first morning, the days sort of look like this (remember we are also learning on the fly over here);

  1. Breakfast 8:30
  2. Worship & Prayer 9:00am
  3. Study (Gospel of John) 10-11am
  4. Devotional (We have many guests we are excited to use for this coming in next few weeks)
  5. Lunch (prepared by interns)
  6. Afternoon preparation for Kids project in August, and Widows Outreach Event

They also will be reading some devotionals working shifts in the afternoons/evenings to earn some spending money.

I was hoping for some of our area boys that came all year to Club 180, but all of them returned home for the summer to work and live quite far away.  We are super thankful for the parents of the girls, whom we’ve had the pleasure of meeting, who gave permission

Please pray for Natasha, Sveta, and Olya.  They are living during the week at ‘the big house’, Deb’s parents house down the road from us – it’s a perfect spot for groups and friends coming in and out this summer.

Bronwyn and Deb will both be involved, but we are super thankful to God for sending us Natasha from Minsk for the next 2 months.  She is here specifically to love the girls, and invest into their spiritual lives.  She is the ‘dorm mom’ down at the house, and helping us to organize a team coming in August from Minsk to work with kids in our area.  More details coming soon!

It’s a double blessing for our family because we not only enjoy more partnering with our friends (school and church) in Minsk, but Russian is being heard daily now by our ears too!

I can’t comment too much on this (because the Police STILL haven’t come after 3 days!), but we have caught on camera the person who tried to break-in to our house 3 nights ago.  Our security system worked great, alerted me out of my sleep and I actually ended up chasing him through the forest a while before I realized I was 40, or 41 can’t remember.  Anyway, so discouraging as we know who it is.   We’ve lost so much this past year – the emotional stress has outweighed the material losses.

Our studio completed its first week with Dima on staff.  He’s made so much progress, and is so clean!!  He’s already recording (his wife for practice) and I believe in the next few weeks we’ll be ready to host some others.  We’re both incredibly excited to see Ukrainians come and record, inspiring more original writing and also opening up a new avenue for connecting with students this fall.   We need more equipment if you want to contribute towards that – in the $2,000 range to really be set for charging for services and attempting to make it sustain.

IMG_0796The park is coming along nicely.  I should say the ‘land’ is coming along, the half house is down – took about 4 dump trucks to haul it off.  I’m really pleased with how the land has opened up – it’s going to be a really nice area for the pad and kids play area.  Negotiating hard with our Armenian friend and trying to stay on budget – he is daily offering ‘suggestions’ and it’s getting tiring – BUT I could not have made such progress without him and his country of native workers at his disposal.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 4.37.43 PMLastly, most of you have heard about, hopefully, the law signed by Putin this past week severely limited religious liberty in Russia.  It was already quite strict and difficult to get permits and ‘expand’ publicly the Kingdom of God in Russia – much like it is in Belarus.  However, the new laws turn back the clock.  A couple points in the new law:

  • Illegal to invite anyone to religious events (non-orthodox).
  • Illegal to read/study bible, worship or pray with others in your home.
  • Illegal to be in country doing ANY religious activity as a foreigner without specific permission from government (which is unattainable if non-orthodox).
  • Illegal to teach your children (I have read variations of this in several places) or ‘proselytize’ them towards anything non-orthodox.
  • Will make it even easier for government to stifle public protests of any kind.

The US government responded yesterday with this:

http://www.uscirf.gov/news-room/press-releases/russia-uscirf-condemns-enactment-anti-terrorism-laws

Enjoyed some Kayaking yesterday with Tom and his kids - and Vlad with his son Matthew joined - it's been a rough season for their family - was nice to see father & son happy.

Enjoyed some Kayaking yesterday with Tom and his kids – and Vlad with his son Matthew joined – it’s been a rough season for their family – was nice to see father & son happy.

The ‘motivation’ is anti-terrorism, or so it would seem.  However the claws of this law reach far into the nations integration of any western human right freedoms, including the expression of faith.  Bear in mind, the Orthodox church has never had a Luther type reformation.  The power structure is strong, used for political control – it’s not an evangelistic, love motivated religion.  It’s a relic of historical precepts, as a whole filled with corruption and deceit.  We know God has sons and daughters inside the system, and we pray for the Orthodox church to come alive with the freedom in the Gospel.  If it doesn’t, this leaves the work of the Kingdom exclusively to the under ground church – spies and neighbors reporting the slightest grievance to the new law will send countless to prison, many religious organizations fined, and almost certainly foreign missionaries branded law-breakers and expelled (possibly for life).

While ‘the church’ at large reacts with an emoji of sadness “praying for the church in Russia”, for Deb and I, this is the staging of some very real challenges for our family and the Kingdom of God at large.  It’s a battle, spiritually there are all kinds of forces and territories in play for the hearts of men.   What we see with our physical eyes with printed law is but a reverberation of the greater invisible reality.

We feel called to the Russian speaking population, in and outside of Russia.  We’re currently looking into some long term Belorussian visa permits for longer stays in Minsk on projects.  We will seek God’s wisdom, and grace to move ahead with various invitations to go and encourage/teach from friends inside the motherland.  It adds new intensity to prayer, and trusting God.  We know a growing number of friends and missionaries in Russia, and we realize in Ukraine we are enjoying an incredible measure of freedom.  It’s time to seize that freedom for seeking God and proclaiming him openly – as quickly as those freedoms came only a few short years ago, they can disappear in the night.   We need only to look to Russia.

For those of you in the west, enjoying the fruits of those who’ve marched ahead with boldness in the face of great personal risk and suffering – pray with us for God’s Kingdom to foil the attempts of men.  Salvation is a free gift to humanity, unrestrained by those afraid of it’s power.

Thank you for your support!

Bruce & Deborah

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