Lift Up Your Eyes

Stories in the Missional Journey of Bruce & Deborah Crowe

Page 2 of 199

April 8th, 2022

Ukraine With the war focus shifting to Eastern Ukraine it’s more than just words. A couple of hours ago, rockets bombed the train station in Kramatorsk, where 100’s were awaiting evacuation. Minimum 30 dead, several children. Our friends were there just minutes before the destruction, these photos are real. The rocket has spray painted in Russian ‘for the children.’ Our family has been to this town and area, our widows ministry serves in this area, it’s beautiful with a lot of history. It’s near Slavyansk.

Confirmation of event w more details shows actually 50 have died from that explosion and many more injured.

Last night we started receiving fresh inquiries for refuge at our houses south of Kyiv from fleeing families from Dnepro, and Melitopol. These are considered next targets after Mariupol (and the whole of the Donbas). Many friends are actively shuttling aid in, and families out. Those that were determined to stick it out now see what may be in store for them by the Russian army of them stay, so yet another fresh wave of 10’s of thousands of refugees are headed west. For the Russian army to target trains and evacuating families is so grievous! The live feed stories are very gruesome.

The one photo included is of burned Bibles, from Irpin. These weren’t just any Bibles, but from a ministry that had historical copies and a library. Irpin has always been a central ‘Christian’ base of many non profit and mission organizations. Soldiers gathered and destroyed as much as they could. Heart breaks for many families and friends now discovering their loved ones silence over the last 2-3 weeks was because their family members were murdered, cold blooded, found in the streets or in the discovered graves. Real people.

We’ve just returned from a two day retreat, it was a much needed moment to gather ourselves. As I now see the flurry of social media through fresh eyes, I’m conscious of the need to pray for those actively driving, tirelessly taking in aid, and those serving beyond healthy limits. Humans only have so much strength, wisdom, and emotional capacity. Crisis, as one friend commented, should naturally transition to recovery. Yet, this war has many caught in a loop of crisis management, unending emergency mode. No-one can sustain such impossible rhythms. We pray for peace, an end to the suffering – we also pray for these brave, and kind-hearted folks, many churches, missionaries, and organizations to know when they must intentionally stop and care for themselves or will break.

We meet tonight with refugees in Cluj for the 2nd week for our “Evening Together.” We have planned more small group discussions. I heard some are baking, so that’s a good sign! However, one of our dear ladies staying with just heard news her son may have been killed – he’s been missing for past few days and information has emerged that doesn’t look good. Grief. I hope our gatherings can build friendships and hope even in such despairing times. We are also trying to help place some friends in jobs that are a good fit here locally. Our Lighthouse Cafe – Ukraine is wrapping up its first full week open again south of Kyiv. Ukrainians have donated over $200 so far for the elderly/refugees in our area – in exchange for free coffee and tea. Thank you friends!

Thank you for remaining open-hearted and tracking, as much as you are able, with the atrocities taking place. The worse thing that could happen is that we all become numb to inhumanity, I think we loose a little piece of ourselves when we close our eyes. It certainly has us all asking what in life we deeply, truly value, doesn’t it?

Lighthouse Re-opens

Today, after being closed since December 31, our Cafe is open south of Kyiv, serving our town with free coffee, tea and some snacks. Seeing our close friends rally to form a barista+cleaning team, serving our community, in the the context of all this uprooted-ness, brings many fresh emotions.

This weekend was hard. Hard to stop, breath and reflect. I know it’s important to face reality, feel your feelings.. but since this all began, it feels safer to work, stay busy, avoiding the deeper disillusionment within the soul, and felt within others. This morning I met with Aléksa Ayshpur and we stared at our ‘to-do’ list. It felt contrived, all good things, but what is necessary, now? We, after all, are as unsure of the present-future as much as those whom we are serving. It’s an odd, new sensation to be afraid to stop – but we know intrinsically it’s deep benefits.

Embracing limitations, fragility, letting go, all acts of trust – there’s some freedom and rest there, we feel it’s coming. Are we ready for a silent retreat? I think it’s time. Beginning to realize for this season, less is more, being present will be the challenge for so many moving forward, including myself. Otherwise, we are but shells of ourselves, shadows moving about serving shadows.

Thank you friends at Lighthouse Cafe – Ukraine – we miss you, we miss normal, serving in the same space, making jokes, dreaming. I pray it can be a place for being present, for friends and families to reconnect and find solidarity and hope. We are believing for the same open, welcoming spaces to emerge and awaken the soul here in Romania too.

Update – March 24 

Hello friends. We moved into our new temporary home yesterday here in Cluj, Central Romania. Oh how the heart longs for some rhythms, and I’m hopeful they will come soon. 

As most of you know, it’s now been one month since Russia first instigated its war against the emerging, flourishing Slavic culture in  Ukraine. I haven’t watched the news, we’re among it. Our social media channels, like everyone over here, ablaze.  Grief and anger, loss and a seemingly undying optimism that in the end, evil will not, cannot win. 

I was reading the other day this famous scripture from the prophet Isaiah. He aptly expresses the cry being echoed from the hearts of all believing Ukrainians in this hour: 

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence—
as when fire kindles brushwood
and the fire causes water to boil—
to make your name known to your adversaries,
so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

ISaiah 64:1-2

I don’t want to be guilty of sensationalism, of making things seem even worse than they really are. Yet, I honestly don’t think that’s even possible. The things we see from friends, folks we know, and the stories we hear with our own ears, if anything, are things that you aren’t even being told. I don’t know what the media in the west is sharing, but in this update I simply want to pass on a snapshot of my stories today, from the past 24hrs, vetted, known, real, unadulterated. I don’t blame you if you don’t want to read, or engage emotionally – we’re not wired, us finite humans, to wrap our hearts around suffering beyond our capacity to help. We can barely deal with the loss of one loved one, let alone neighborhoods, villages wiped out. 

Oppressors dominating and crushing the other have taken place throughout history. There is nothing necessarily new here. What’s new is that we have a front row seat, feeling the suffering in real-time. I suppose a glimmer of hope in this mess is that real-time response, from the outpouring of aid into Ukraine, around bordering countries, and the whole world. 
Just 100 years ago, Ukraine could have been wiped from the map without many knowing, a simple footnote in some history book. Crushing belligerence is now on display for all to see, to bear witness to; as evil shakes off it’s pretend socialistic and nationalistic clothing, we now turn our attention to the antidote.. a Creator God that entered this messed up world with us, and felt it’s angry teeth to the point of death. This is what Christ did, his coming mediated not only the loving, divesting, good love of our Father God, but simultaneously mediated humanities propensity to kill what it is most afraid of. 
I struggle to sit and write an update. Each day is so full, unpredictable. Then, like tonight, when I do, it just gushes out and I’m sure nobody will ready this novel! 
Thank you for your generous support, for the new churches and friends connecting and saying “how can we help?”  – I am doing my best to circle back and correspond. I hope to update our Emergency Fund page this weekend, we are essentially ramping up to give even more AID and FUEL (for vans) in Ukraine among our network of friends, and also going deeper here in Romania with Refuge Care in simple, but super meaningful ways toward healing, story, community and employment opportunities for Ukrainians. 

The following are explanations of the photos I have selected for your. Thank you for all the prayer, and caring for not only our family but those we love and know inside and now outside of Ukraine. 

(Photo) Grandfather Kohan Mykolayovich from village called Nemyrinttsi. He donated his two pigs, slaughtered, women volunteers canned 620 tins of pork, sent to front for hungry soldiers (Vira Perozhak).
(Photo) A hospital in Zaporizhia which is receiving wounded civilians from Mariupol (Roman Sheremeta).

(Photo) Shopping complex north east Kyiv area called the Podil district. This is 7 miles from the US embassy where we would go often for documents (Aris Messinis). 

(Photo) Valerie (yellow circled face), a trusted friend, serves with Steiger Ukraine and is coordinating a network of humanitarian aid, 15 vans, from a warehouse in western Ukraine. They are also evacuating (1500 so far) and delivering tons of aid to the most hostile zones. We have begun sponsoring their team for fuel costs, and with your help we can do more. They are using $2-3k per day just in fuel. 

(Photo) At our refuge house here in Romania, our neighbors continue to bless and open their hearts to our friends. They donated a second fridge. 

(Photo) Today for lunch we met with Ukrainian Pastors Sergey and Hellen Shalukhin. They are from the now Russian occupied town in the Kherson region where they shared their story of having only 15 minutes to grab all they could and take their kids west. Hearts torn as they can’t get back in to family and friends they love. They were able to evacuate over 30 women and children here in Cluj, where we found them at a camp in the mountains last week. We are planning Saturday to bring our communities together, and explore ways forward to serve the 1000 or so Ukrainians now in this region. They explained that the Russians are trying to change currency to the ruble, and lock down communication much like they do in Russia by force – but it’s meeting harsh resistance among the civilian population in these controlled areas. 

Yesterday we received a message for help from a special needs orphanage in northern Ukraine near Belarus. They are without food, medicine, and in a very difficult situation. Thankfully, Deb engaged the message, because I wasn’t going to click on it. She was able to reach out to Belarusian friends, who connected the orphanage to believers near the border there who are now working to bring aid. Pray for Belarusian believers, they are in a very difficult situation, much like we see in Russia. Their phone and social media channels are monitored, and doing or saying anything considered pro-western will land you and your family in a world of hurt. 

In Russia, you are given 15yr prison sentences if you use the terms “war” or violate their speech laws concerning the “war” in Ukraine. Social media is shut down, if you have VPN, you can still get some, but not all access to western narratives. Schools are now forced to indoctrinate children on the “peace” that Russia is bringing to the world. Every missionary (except two!) we know in Russia has left, and even those who tried to leave ran into difficulty, seen as foreign agents.

In regions Northeast of Kyiv, we have talked to villagers in now Russian occupied territories that escaped who haven’t heard from loved ones or neighbors. They witnessed dead bodies in the streets. They hid in large metal water tanks to avoid getting hid with bullets. In some of these villages, there were Chechnyan fighters, renowned for being vicious and much worse than the Russian soldiers. They moved in after the front pushed forward, with large trucks, loaded up all the food, looted stores, houses, and essentially plundered the towns leaving nothing for the trapped civilians. The cell phones of civilians captured were confiscated, but one man hid and kept his – texting days later from Belarus where they were taken!

Gracious, time for bed.

To support aid and refugee care with us,

For the Broken

Last night I arrived back to the city of Cluj and finally found a hotel that wasn’t booked up with refugees, or so I thought. Walking to the elevator, a little boy greeted me in Ukrainian. I smiled, only to look up and see his mother, tear filled, weary soul. She explained some of her harrowing journey from Kyiv. Suitcases and child in tote, she was literally about to collapse. In the morning, I went down to breakfast, the room was filled with Ukrainian language, our home has come to me here. I looked to the right, a man with a head wound wrapped in gauze watching clips of war from his phone while his wife ate, staring off into the distance. I usually don’t take my bible with me in public places, but I took it to breakfast this morning.

As I looked around, listening, taking in my surroundings, I thought, “God, where can you possibly be in all of this?” What can I possibly read this morning that relates to this brokenness? I reached down, opened to this Psalm, and was gently reminded of our Creator’s gentle disposition. I recalled the many ways in which I’ve seen, each day (without exaggeration) the surprising ways of God at work among the broken and oppressed.

Yesterday, Elsa and I were at our end and exhausted all our contacts trying to help some friends that we love at a particular border 8 hours away. The Coffee shop owner overheard us, and we found out they were believers, like Lighthouse Cafe! They had connections at another Coffee shop just 20 minutes from our friends. Within minutes a car was on the way to pick them up, house and feed them. When we reach our end, sometimes that is where God is waiting, ready. When the war broke out, Deb and I were driving in the US – I felt so helpless, overwhelmed, and I prayed, “God, there’s nothing I can do, I have no answers.” In that moment, I heard a whisper in my soul, “Now I can work, if you let me.” I have seen more miracles, more outrageously impossible things in this past week than in my entire life. Truly, God is for the broken.

May the mending ways of God continue to unfold. Maybe we’re supposed to embrace that helpless place of dependence more readily, without needing a war to upend our senses and security? I’m convinced our own grief over evil in this life are reflections of our Creator’s own experience. The world is not the way it should be. We are deeply loved. I’m thankful I took scripture to breakfast. I needed this more than eggs.

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