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Family Update

Everyone is healthy and back on Ukraine time zone thankfully.  The biggest adjustment out of the gate is only having 5 kids.  It sounds funny for small families to ‘only’ have 5, but you really do get used to having more.  Meal times require less food, traveling is faster (and less squishy), but also dynamics of not having older ones to help makes it different too.

Some of the ‘childs left behind’

Having less kids can actually be more of a challenge as it makes more work for the parents.. we feel our age much more when directly next to the energizer bunny toddlers. What. We’re. We. Thinking.  🙂  Deb and I joke about this regularly.  The older kids really scored with youthful energetic parents… poor Abbey and Claire, they get “Come here and sit on my lap.”

The kids really love having interns and visitors all around.  They soak up the social.  I love seeing them interact with different personalities.  Each kid seems to attach to various guests in our house or at the Cafe.  It’s community, it’s love, and I think keeps their hearts engaged with us (vs sitting at home while parents do ‘ministry’).

I love this about Ukraine and our world right now, a growing, emerging missional community.  I pray that we experience the same thing in Minsk this fall.  The dynamics of City life, Minsk being over 2 million, will bring some obvious rhythm and social changes for a larger family.

Lighthouse Update

The summer has seen a decent increase in sales, which doesn’t always translate to profit unfortunately (we sell some things at cost), but does mean there’s a healthy amount of foot traffic.  Pizza continues to be pretty popular but I’m not satisfied with it’s quality.  We’re trying new dough, it’s tricky to find consistent, predictable ingredients, especially that you don’t have to make constant trips to Kiev for.

I need to get a guest book for the Cafe, it’s truly remarkable the nations, tribes and tongues that enter through the doors of Lighthouse.  Some are friends, some are friends of friends, some totally random stories of folks who exploring Ukraine with only a backpack.

I love reading the Google reviews, folks are as much shocked that there’s a cool place in this remote village than the pizza or ice cream is pretty good.  All outsiders appreciate the affordable, if not cheap prices.

This is not the case for the struggling families, our neighbors here locally.  Lighthouse continues to be very pricey, a $1.00 large latte is not something they do often, it’s still an ‘event’ to go and sit down with a friend and enjoy the place.

A pizza, for a local, is mostly reserved for special occasions – many come and buy one to celebrate with a friend.

One of the coolest things I enjoy is randomly stopping in myself and seeing regularly families eating together.  This was something that didn’t happen the first year, and definitely not a regular occurrence in our town with the limited selection of dingy bars.  While 95% of the folks eat at home every day, you’ll see a little family regularly enjoying the Cafe with a pizza filling up the center of the table.

I’m still surprised to find believers that consider this type of outreach less than spiritual.  They hear Cafe and think, ‘but how do you tell them about Jesus?’, as if providing a place like this isn’t spiritual, or that telling a stranger directly about Jesus is the only way the Gospel prepares the heart.  We’ve been unfortunately trained to think of people as projects, we want them to pray prayers, make decisions, and sit in churches.

God is teaching us something more powerful I think, that bringing the Kingdom (as it is in heaven) is about bringing the Light of the Gospel in everything.  If it’s business, bring Kingdom DNA, bring ethics, kindness, love.  Love values others, values marriages, family, it says, “hey, I want to bless you because you are made in the image of God.”  This may look to the religious as un-spiritual activity, but it’s not, it’s the essence of being salt and light, impacting and touching culture vs incubated sub-cultures.

My favorite church ‘slogan’ as we traveled around the US was this, “Experiencing God’s love and giving it away.”  This church, from my experience, is realizing both.  That’s what the world needs.  A people, in every sphere, that know Him intimately, and express Him naturally in every day life.

Week 1 Interns. We now have 15-17 for the remaining 2 weeks. Some of these new believers are YFM candidates.

I love what Lighthouse is, and is becoming. I love that we’re training Ukrainians in business, giving interns invaluable life skills, mining their talents, providing a cool place for our town to enjoy.

We’re investing into our community, families, and relationships.  We’re ‘with’ our town, it’s not a mission per say, we are with people, and I think they feel this.

That doesn’t mean we don’t, as led by the Holy Spirit step out and do public or personal evangelism, but it does mean that we don’t jeopardize the platform we have established by undermining the bridges being built, and love realized.  Christians need to think long term more, we’re trying to be generational thinkers – it’s harder, and often forces us into new forms, but I think will produce more eternal fruit.

Thank you Crossroads Church for having this vision with us, for monthly sponsoring the Lighthouse, infusing it with the financial resources it needs to continue serving our community and  allowing other ministries like our Widows Feeding Program, Kids Park (still needs grass), Club 180 and Studio to function.

I think Cafe’s, in varying formats, are incredible vehicles for importing the Kingdom in relevant, culturally engaging ways.  I believe next year we will be either helping, or planting ourselves some more.  We have willing partners, and many ministries interested and asking for help across the Russian speaking world.  Even today a friend from Far East Russia asked to meet about helping them plant one.

This past week I taught a YWAM class via Skype on Business, youth here are hungry to learn new skills that will touch hearts that need the Gospel on a regular basis.  They are not excited about sitting in continuous Christian meetings.  Who is?

Pray for us, we want to move with the Holy Spirit.

YFM Update

Anya in Minsk is helping with PR/Social.

We are continuing to form up the Fall schedule as well as begin looking for apartments for students and our family.  It’s hard to believe that in less than 2 months we’ll start something that was just a vision same time last year.

We’re just now starting to target and tell the story of YFM via social media to the Russian and Ukrainian speaking world.  We have 3-4 students from outside Belarus coming (agWe have a cool team formed up for this which includes Vikente, Anya and Vova.  Please pray for our team, our efforts to find the kind of hearts hungry for growing in the Lord, and wisdom among us leaders as we interview.

I’m really grateful for the lineup of speakers coming to Minsk this fall!  In addition to several area leaders that will invest into the students, we have a neat mix of mission-minded teachers from outside of Belarus as well.

Before: main YFM classroom this fall. Stay tuned for the After photo!

In preparation for the mission phase in the Spring, Peter and I are considering an exploratory trip to Spain in the fall. There is a huge Russian speaking community there, over +10ok I’m told, and largely un-reached.

We have 26 correspondence students from Belarus already in Spain.  The thought is to scout out a ministry base for the students to serve in, maybe a pilot coffee shop for 3 months that we could build upon after the mission phase.

I never thought in a million years I’d be turning my gaze to the West.  The reality is however, the demographics are changing quickly all across Europe.  A mass exodus has been taking place over the last 5yrs in particular among the Russian/Belorussian.  Now, the “Russian speaking world” is all around us.  Pray for this trip would you?  Imagine teams this spring being sent out, not westerners, but comprised of Russian and Ukrainian speaking youth sharing the Kingdom to their generation.  Cool.

We even received a request last week to pray about Cuba and helping there as communism is breaking up quickly, and emerging hungry youth everywhere there.  I try to stay focused on the present, but this is a hard task for me.

I see the potential for a new wave of “ywam” type of bases with our YFM format.  I think it’s an incredibly agile, low cost and opportune discipleship path for this new generation but instead of youth leading youth on mission, we who have experience and resources create sustainable platforms for them to launch into.  We must ‘flow’ with God, stay near His heart, where He is, there will be resources.

Thank you for those who have helped us grow our Scholarship Fund! We’re at 60% of our $20k goal – still needing $8k to meet our goal.  To learn more about the MIR Student Fund, click here or to directly donate online at any level click here! 

Summer Interns Update

Worship each morning at the “big house”.

This has been so cool!  Have any of you read Bonhoeffer?  During the time of the Nazi tak over in Germany, the church of Germany was under a heap of pressure to conform.  Bonhoeffer, instead of conforming, retreated into the countryside for a season to continue discipleship of new believers.  They lived together, ate together, studied and prayed together.

While we aren’t in such hostile conditions, it feels a little bit like that may have felt like.  Maybe not as intense.  The students, of which there are 5, along with a variety of staff, helpers, and incoming visitors through the week, are getting up for morning worship, learning new songs, learning even what it means to meditate and sing Christ centered truth.  Some are truly open and God is doing amazing things.  It’s cool to look on Instagram and see them posting something about God, almost boasting in His love.

Instagram from an intern who just joined us.

Only a couple of the students are our regular Club 180 students, a few of them joined up last minute and started coming when we were in US.  God, nonetheless is grounding their faith and near to them.

Today, as I type, they are all in Kiev for the day, their first excursion out of our little town.  Andrea, from the US was excited to explore after spending the first 2 weeks incubated in rural Ukraine.  We have a team of 5 from Minsk arriving tonight by bus, and others planning to swing through next week.  In total we have 17 now at the ‘big house’.   It’s like a mini YFM.

At the end of July, the team has been invited to help lead a kids camp north of Kiev.  The Kelly’s, from Texas/Australia run a Christian camp among many other things, and the week was in need of some counselors and activity workers.  Perfect mission for our little team!  God is good.  These kids, I’m told, come from extremely impoverished situations, and some are orphaned.  Pray for the kids, our team please July 24-28th!

Other Praise Reports

[Ken, Vikente, Inessa, Peter in Minsk this week outside campus]

**We met with Ken Steorts from Skillet (co-found) in Minsk this week.  Really cool, humble guy with a passion to train up Christian musicians.  We feel this is a God connection, and together with Peter from XDH base in Minsk, we are praying about a ‘Pilot Program’ in the Spring with visible.edu.  With the studio, practice rooms, professional musicians already swarming around the base in Minsk, this, we feel, could only be the hand of God joining us at some level.  We are in prayer about this for the next few weeks, and really appreciate prayer too!  The connections could provide incoming teachers, seminars, concerts, and really help to globalize even more the ministry there – it’s a neat network of like minded kingdom thinkers.

**The recently released Russian Worship Album ‘Immerse’ (click here to purchase iTunes!) is doing really well, with +1000k likes/downloads in Russian social media.  We aren’t sure how many iTunes downloads because it takes 30 days before you get that information.  It’s already opened some doors for us this fall with some combined worship events with other ministries.  Cool!  More worship, more places, this is the heart of God.

As I’m writing this blog, knock knock, drive thru window for water in our kitchen.

**An entirely new crop of kids are on our trampoline daily.  This trampoline, amazing, 9yrs strong.  The front yard of our house looks like a used bicycle shop, lying everywhere.  If you want to be a missionary, buy or bring a trampoline.

**Dima, from our studio (lives in Khargalyk) traveled with me to Minsk.  Was his first time there.  It was neat to hear what God is doing in his life and how God is giving him a pastoral heart for the kids on the 2nd floor.  He admitted he didn’t quite understand the vision at first of working with kids on guitar/drums as a net to bring them to Christ – but now is fully on board as he sees some now growing in Christ.  He and his wife and daughter will be living down at the big house for the final two weeks of July.   Dima is a huge reason why we can even think about leaving for Minsk in the fall – God cares about His church, the emerging hearts responding to the Gospel.  Comforting we can trust Him!

**I’ve started a series of devotionals called, “Illuminate” with the desire to encourage Christ-centered messages for the Russian/Ukrainian world.  Dasha in Minsk is helping me pump them out!  Once I hit 10 or so, I’m thinking of printing them in a booklet for YFM.  I see so much legalism, a Christianity without a freeing Christ kills mission.  Pray for me, writing is a discipline and for those of you that know me, this is a weakness :/  You can read them here on this blog, there are 3 so far.

Prayer Request: Misha, from the band Nuteki (based out of Minsk), is touring around Russia right now sharing their music and Christ-centered message.  They are facing a lot of challenges, but seeing incredible favor and results.

You can encourage them by praying this week, and if led by donating directly here.

Thank you supporting friends and family!

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Bruce & Deb