Final Semester!

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.

Posted in Bruce Posts | Comments Off on Final Semester!

Ephesus and Miletus

Ephesus (Fun Facts)

Established in the 10th Century BC, it came under Roman rule 129bc. Due to the continuous silting of the coastline of the Mediterranean it was finally abandoned in the 15th century.

Interestingly, most of the city lay underground and in ruins until some German archeologists began an excavation project in 1863-1868. Due to two world wars, the projects halted several times, and now under the Turkish government tourism is beginning to blossom in this historic area.

Read Acts 19 for the recounting of the major uprising that took place led by the idol makers against ‘the way’ which was undermining their revenue.

Ephesus was famed for the Temple of Artemis (completed around 550 BC), one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Among many other monumental buildings are the Library of Celsus, and a theatre capable of holding 25,000 spectators. The streets are lined with various temples, even those built by Roman authorities for themselves who claimed divinity. One such Emperor, Domitian, who exiled John from the city to the island of Patmos (Revelation), built a a monument dedicated to his greatness in which all other gods were placed under him, as his face and name stood ‘high and above’ all other gods. This is probably the reference Paul is making about Christ as he encouraged the believers in Ephesus who lived among quite hostile neighbors.

The history of Artemis is quite fascinating. The Roman goddess Diana, of fertility is related. Temple prostitution, degradation of women, and all kinds of horrific practices of mutilation were normative in this City. Gnosticism was so dominant in this time, that what happened in the flesh or material world was of secondary consequence not only to the pagan worshipers but began to seep into Christianity as well. Paul, through his letters, and the work of the Church in this culture sought to root believers in both the invisible and visible worlds, to live at once in the reality of God – what we do in the flesh, how we treat one another, how we honor our neighbor, this matters, because God is not just a pagan invisible god, but in Christ we see He is also visible, and this flesh is not bad and unimportant, but to be honored, re-created through Christ’s life and salvation. In essence, the pagan world looked to escape this world, but Christ shows by coming into it, Creation is restored, and rebirthed by the Spirit – Christians aren’t trying to escape, we already have heaven in our hearts, here and now!

It is Christ, not Caesar, or pagan gods that sits, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come.” (Eph 1:21).

This is the site of the 431AD Church council. It was surreal to walk among this place, knowing that folks like Cyril, and Nestorious, and many others debated, fought, and defended the heart of the Christian faith against many dangerous nuanced heresies that undermined either the full divinity of Jesus, or full humanity. So thankful I was able to take some courses which covered this founding creeds and histories of this era – what a blessing to have information come alive!

It is widely believed that the Apostle John lived most of his life in Ephesus, and because Christ commissioned him to take care of his mother Mary, that Mary too lived here. When Nerva became emperor John was pardoned and returned to Ephesus, where he lived the remainder of his days. Historians also maintain that John wrote his Gospel and three epistles in Ephesus.

Across from this incredible and unique library of it’s time, is a ‘pleasure house’ for sexual exploits. This was a fallen depraved city at it’s peak.

Historians say church here 3rd century built on John remains, then in 6th century emperor Justinian dedicated a basilica. Timothy was martyred on Pion Hill, today’s Panayır dağ. Others said to be buried there include Philip the Evangelist, Mary Magdalene
Tradition, probably based on New Testament inferences, made him first bishop of Ephesus, where he was allegedly martyred under the Roman emperor Nerva. I was able to get a photo of the hill, where Timothy was allegedly martyred.

Pion Hill, site of executions.

Several 5th century church councils took place here, the most famous in 431AD, where Christs full humanity and divinity, concurrently existing, as well as affirming the procession of the Holy Spirit from the Father, making the Spirit not less, but equal with the Son, who was already embraced as equal with the Father.

In 356BC the famed temple Artemis was burned down. On that very night, per legend, Alexander the Great was born. Artemis the goddess of fertility.. exacting revenge? Alexander would soon be visiting these lands.

So much bloodshed in these lands. Power struggles, wars. In 88BC from Ephesus, Mithridates ordered every Roman citizen in the province to be killed which led to the Asiatic Vespers, the slaughter of 80,000 Roman citizens in Asia, or any person who spoke with a Latin accent.

Mark Antony was welcomed by Ephesus for periods when he was proconsul and in 33 BC with Cleopatra when he gathered his fleet of 800 ships before the battle of Actium with Octavius


Miletus (fun facts)

Miletus was an ancient Greek city on the western coast of Anatolia, near the mouth of the Maeander River in ancient Caria. Like Ephesus, Miletus is long since silted up, now +8km inland. It was excavate late 1800- 1957. Before the 6th century BC Persian invasions, it was considered one of the wealthiest ancient Greek cities. It’s roots actually date to the Neolithic period – 12,000 to 6500BC!

Later half of 6th century bc (570-500) Thales, Anaximander and Anaximenes founded the famed Milesian school of philosophy. These men paved the way for natural explanations of phenomenon and origins of the world. The first to suggest the earth was a sphere (wait, not flat!?) and believed it to be suspended somehow in space. Some of their ideas were out there, but the more you read and understand the context of the day, the mental models, the sheer lack of knowledge available, the more you come to appreciate their courage and brilliance. Talk about going against the flow, and being differentiated against rigid, and unflinching systems!

Miletus also had its own oracle like the more famous one in Delphi from the 6th-7th Century BC.

In 334BC Alexander the Great defeats Persians and claims Miletus. In 323AD when Alex died, Miletus came under the control of Ptolemy. Read Daniel chapter 11 for what many theologians consider to be what happened with the four winds being Alexander’s four generals who gobbled up his kingdom.

Apostle Paul in AD 57 met the elders of the church of Ephesus near the close of his Third Missionary Journey, as recorded in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 20:15–38). It is believed that Paul stopped by the Great Harbor Monument and sat on its steps

The great ‘Harbor Monument’ in Miletus, about 50 miles south of Ephesus where Paul greets the elders from Ephesus and Luke recounts the tearful goodbye as Paul heads to his chains awaiting in Jerusalem. Acts 20.

Another mention of Miletus is in 2 Timothy 4:20 – Paul left Trophimus, one of his traveling companions, to recover from an illness.

Clark overlooking the Miletus amphitheater. The original theater was smaller, then the Romans built two more decks! We loved not having any restrictions and being able to roam underneath in the tunnels! To think the pre-Socratics sat here, those that are responsible for the birth of rational, scientific thought – and unfortunately, also some of their ideas seeped into Christian tradition as well which led to thinking God was unable to dynamically be, to relate, to change and somehow so transcendent that the incarnation becomes a farce.
The early disciples, the first and and second century church walked these streets, lambs among wolves. For 2 1/2 years Paul stayed here and served the growing community.
Gladiator events took place here, for how many was this their final moments.
The amphitheaters were built into the sides of mountains, so you can see how time and degradation works away at the massive stones.
All along the West coast of Turkey in certain sections are ‘kabob’ outdoor drive-in spots – we actually have no idea what we ate, but it was delicious. I think it was lamb.


So much history, not enough time! We left Deb and the kids at the hotel, drove around 7 hours in total, and 4-5hrs in the baking hot sun. It was a long, but incredible day we’ll never forget!

Next time we go to Turkey, we need to 4-5 days to tour the 6 other churches from John’s revelation. Now that I’ve visited Ephesus, and studied a little of Revelation, it’s clear to me that he was not speaking of the ‘end times’ or things yet to come, but rather the cosmic, and material battles the world is undergoing, up until the final culmination of time, the victory of the slain lamb of God, over the present travailing darkness and it’s puppet regimes. Stepping into the history of Roman antiquity, it’s quite astounding to think anyone could have dreamed at the time, that the kingdoms of this world do, in fact, become dust, and the kingdom of Christ marches on, through an entirely different worldview – one of victory through suffering, through love.

We are wise to put our trust not in nations, not in any particular culture. Time is transient, it has no mercy and will do it’s work on the hardest of rocks and marble. What seems impenetrable, will be broken down, only through embracing death, like our Savior, will we too claim the rights to His victory over it through our own death, and subsequent life. We know we are eternal beings, made in teh image of a good, and perfect Creator. Fight as we might against our own mortality, our energy will wain, and give way to a better, more perfect life.

Posted in Bruce Posts | Comments Off on Ephesus and Miletus

Marathon Project Complete!

It’s an amazing thing, collaboration. I read this book recently called, “Collective Genius” which recounted the principles of innovation throughout the past century. It was a surprisingly challenging book for me personally, a new way of leading that creates contexts, lays down personal agendas, for the good of what might rise up from within an energetic, creative team.

This marathon that took place on the weekend was, for me, a test out many of those principles. A spontaneous idea with a friend, gave birth to wild growing thing that took on life with each passing week. Though the event itself ended up looking quite different than what I had personally envisioned, I’m learning that’s more often than not, a very good thing. Innovation allows the context for others to bring their potential, their voice, and grow as a group. This should be natural for followers of Christ, but it’s not always the case. How often I’ve lead something only to find myself tightly controlling, or rather suffocating the potential I was entrusted with. Insecurities contort things in all sorts of strange ways! Servant leadership seeks the explorative growth of those journeying among us as we come alongside, and underneath.

The primary role of the innovative leader is to create an environment where diversity and creative conflict flourish, experimentation is encouraged, intelligent mis-steps tolerated and integrative decision making embrace.

Collective Genius – Hill

We saw so many beautiful hearts embrace the project, not only serving but adding their own personality and flavor to the event. It was an interesting volunteer group, folks from city government, Kyiv running clubs, local friends and our own Lighthouse team. We had about 150 registered runners, and an astounding 60 volunteers in total from what I heard. We see a lot of potential with the volunteer group, many of which are students and bonded from the experience – people are looking for a place to belong, for community and to be part of something meaningful in this world.

The project, as mentioned previously, had two elements to it. The running events, and the awareness projects (bathroom and educational resources) for special needs kids. While the lion’s share of the focus was on the races, we were able to continually remind everyone about the children in our area, and celebrate a collective collaboration towards their flourishing.

Some of the highlights for me was the children’s race, which went down the street, around our round-a-bout and back, about 500 meters in total. We didn’t have a lot of the children with disabilities, at least as many as I had hoped would come out, but we did have some and their parents ran along with with, hand in hand with the crowd cheering them on! I felt the joy of the Spirit in that moment – the children all received medals as well, and proudly sported them around the main street for all to see. I was able to share a 2 minute speech I had written in Russian, I had practiced for several days, but when it came to time to share it, I was surprisingly nervous and wasn’t too happy with my delivery – I really struggle sticking to my notes.

The town was excited to have a surprise musical guest, the Ukrainian winners of the Eurovision talent competition. For those that left early, I’m sure they were a little shocked to see all the posts on social media.. we don’t get many ‘celebrities’ here in our town. We also had a Kyiv TV channel come and report on the events.

Thankful nobody was hurt, and the day went off without a hitch for the most part. I heard of one runner that was upset that a car went around the police barricade and almost hit her – when I heard this I responded, “I’ll take almost hit” any day of the week. Thank you Jesus for your protection and blessing over this day!

While we didn’t get as many sponsors as our team had hoped, our Mir / Lighthouse partners really stepped up and encouraged us. Several of you contributed to the project on RazomGo for our $4,000 goal, and also donated on our site. Over 50 locally contributed, which is fantastic and several local business friends helped in different ways during the event too. Thank you Spirit for showing us the love of the Father, may we continue listening, and collaborating under your wings, ushering in new Jesus looking values and culture in every space, as your children, “as it is in heaven.” Amen.

We’re almost there, only $75 to go! Yes we take Paypal – https://razomgo.com/en/projects/inclusivecenter

Next step, to arrange for time this summer to renovate the bathroom. Because the funds channeled through our charity in Ukraine, we have to jump through many hoops to expense and document each step. Charities in Ukraine are not like in the West, they are means of controlling through and incredible amount of left over USSR bureaucratic tape. So deep breath, please rejoice with us when the project is finished later this summer!

Posted in Bruce Posts | Comments Off on Marathon Project Complete!

June Update

https://mailchi.mp/359906f6e8a9/its-going-up

Thanks to your generosity and a break in the rainy weather, construction on the new mission building has resumed. We thought you might enjoy some photos and rejoicing with us.

Ukrainian building code requires us to lay down massive first floor concrete slabs. I joke with the Ukrainians they build bomb shelters for houses.. they usually smile in agreement and reply with, “and this is not wise because?”

crane
The basement will have a pantry for Widows Care, and soundproof space for louder youth ministry and events. A benefit of these massive concrete slabs! Cinder-blocks (orange) for the exterior walls. Like Lego!
The basement will have a pantry for Widows Care, and soundproof space for louder youth ministry and events. A benefit of these massive concrete slab

After the concrete slabs, the cinder-blocks arrived on cue. Thankful for Oles who has been orchestrating the deliveries and negotiating on the every changing prices! We have enough funds to complete the structure, and roof Lord willing. Our goal is to be able to use the basement at least for pantry/storage before winter – our main Cafe building and personal garages are crammed full. I can’t wait to spread out!

If you are interested in coming over this summer or fall to help with construction, or becoming a sponsor on the inside of the building, please contact Bruce@mirministries.org

We did it! Our staff’s first mission initiative was successfully funded, half from Ukraine, half from western backers, a couple generous Mir friends!

This is a miracle for our team, they simply can’t believe their idea is coming to reality. They are already planning youth trips and have been taking 40km rides around the area mapping out stopping points and camping spots! So cool!

Pray for Dima, Lena, Vita, and Anya as they learn how to lead their own ministry, with their own bikes, reaching their own generation with the love of Christ.

Our two youngest, Abigail (9) and Claire (6.5). Claire is quick to remind everyone it’s six AND A HALF! Abigail just walked by and noticed she’s included in our update, and sighed, “Oh Daddy.”
Abigail has finished her little primary school in the neighboring village. We need to now make a decision where she will go to school next year. She’s quite fluent, and from what we have been told, lacks a foreign accent which is cool!
Tucker (17) has ventured off to the US this summer. He left last week, originally destined for Canada but was rejected at the border due to their ongoing lock-down. He’s currently in PA with Bronwyn. Who knows where he’ll end up, maybe your couch! He’s a talented graphic designer so hoping someone gives him opportunity to shine.
All staff on deck! Lighthouse has fully re-opened in May, and was packed full of students when I asked the staff to stop and pose for this photo yesterday. During this busy day we called on former Lighthouse baristas to join the fun, army of Baristas!
This past week Deb, Natasha, Oles traveled to Sumy, Ukraine near the Russian border to meet and train our newest Widows ministry partners. The Lord continues to expand this ministry and mobilize His Church!
View from the team’s window as they step back in time, always interesting things to see when you take the train through the country
Trains are still very popular in Slavic culture. When you see the quality of the roads, you’ll understand why. This is a typical cabin, sleeps 4. Ukraine is the size of Texas, so there are plenty of overnight options. Bring your own food!
Typically when starting a new site, our team gathers the local volunteers from various ministries, eats together, and establishes the principles and vision for the ministry. Food pantries can be challenging ministries to establish in high power structure cultures like Ukraine and Belarus. These leaders need our support as we come alongside not only their ministry, but their personal growth too!

We have a special page on our website dedicated to the story of the Widow around Ukraine and Belarus. These testimonies are updated each month, click to read!

This week I finished a course on Eastern Orthodox Theology. It was a lot of rather challenging but fascinating reading! I learned a lot, including the history of iconography; theology through art.

In this artwork above, can you see the visual elements the Prodigal Son story? This story, for the Orthodox, is what most clearly reflects the heart of God towards humanity. The Father is revealed through the skin and bones of the Jewish Messiah, the Logos is true Icon of God! Whatever image we have of God must be mitigated through the God’s self-revelation.

This makes God truly selfless, divesting, and good. What a gracious Savior He is!

If you would like to read a paper I wrote on Orthodox unique perspective on the Trinity, I will included it click here. It’s heavier reading, but if you stick with it, I promise it will challenge western constructs! The course nourished my soul, a brought surprising hope that the faith embedded all around me has such potential if illuminated by the Spirit.

I’m now embarking on my final 10 week course at Fuller with the hopes of finally graduating this September. Over three years of seminary coming to a close, so thankful for God’s provision and care, knowing each step of the way what I’ve needed for my personal growth and continued service in Slavic culture.

Thank you for prayer concerning next steps. I have some decisions to make for this fall’s direction and focus.

Deb is still in her spiritual director’s 2yr course with a cohort from Europe online. She’s enjoying it, but I think she’s a little jealous of the more intense interaction and learning environment I have. Her group is quite shy, maybe I should join it to stir things up!

We’re sad we can’t visit Canada this summer. Their covid restrictions are ridiculous. We feel bad for our friends and family there who, for over a year have been sequestered to their homes and not allowed to fellowship. Who’s living in freedom now Canada?! How the tides turn, and how quickly history is forgotten.
Made in His image – we are fearfully, wonderfully made!
Marathon is this Sunday, June 6th!

We have no idea how many will ultimately come. We have 200 ‘interested’ on our FB page, but only few dozen professional runners signed up. Ukrainians like to wait until the last minute in case something even better comes along!

We have raised, thanks in part to a few generous Mir contributions, over 60% of our $4,000 project goal. We are wanting to renovate the bathroom in our local school which will serve the +90 disabled children.

To donate, visit the page and help the % go up!

It’s been so cool to see our community sharing, and gathering funds via our crowdfunding platform RazomGo – so far $1,000 locally has been raised, which is a lot of money for our small town. The average salary, if you have a job, is down to  around $300month in our town (teachers, government workers).

These 9th graders initiated their own fundraising project raising over $100 for our wheelchair accessible bathroom project. That’s the equivalent of $1,000 by western standards!
Posted in Bruce Posts | Comments Off on June Update