News from Ukraine, Bruce starts a new podcast, and a lessons from a bee.
Greetings friends & partners,
The war continues to drag on, especially in the East. Ukraine is mounting a counter-offensive, but to what long term purpose? Armed with weapons and the US provided HIMARS rocket system, Ukrainian soldiers seem to be stalling any significant Russian advance, blowing up bridges, weapon depots, and critical supplies to the front.
As much as we’d like to believe Ukraine is turning the tide of this occupation, the reality is it’s becoming more of a war of attrition. From my perspective, the West is bleeding the Russian army through the very real blood of Ukrainians who are willing to die before surrendering another inch of their homeland.
When I talk with Ukrainians, their response is essentially the same, “What choice do we have?” They have witnessed what Russian occupation looks like. There’s no going back.
Yesterday, by way of latest news, we were told that Ukrainian tanks were on the move passing through Kyiv regions en route to the Belarus border. Is Putin about to re-invade from the North? This week we received some requests for new refugees in Romania, it seems men in the army are telling their families to evacuate as if something is brewing. Also, the nuclear power plant U.N. nuclear chief warned that Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in Ukraine “is completely out of control” – Russia is using it as a staging ground and for weapons storage because they know Ukraine can’t fire back. So there’s that! (Article yesterday click here).
Lastly, as of today, the Ukrainian banks in the Kherson occupied regions will cease receiving funds. We have 26 widows and 11 volunteers we’ve been supporting since the beginning of the war. Barring a miracle, we will no longer be able to support them monetarily. The costs have sky rocketed there, and the Russians are implementing the Ruble fully now.
Changing gears, let’s talk about areas we are focused on, and where 90% of our time and resources are going as a ministry in this season. We thank you for giving, praying, supporting. We rely on monthly gifts, and this summer our giving levels have returned to pre-war amounts. We’re now spread out however, and doing a LOT more than we did before so we we need wisdom as we head into the fall and winter months when our expenses typically escalate.
GOOD NEWS!!! This week our windows arrived for our new mission building, so in the next month we’ll the space to start storing up food and essential supplies. We just completed a van load of aid from Romania, and will plan another one as soon.
Our ministry focus right now is in three areas:
- Widow’s Construction: repairing war damaged homes in previously occupied areas.
- Refugee Care: with a focus more on our own friends, inviting them for some rest and soul care. Less is more. We are planning an October retreat in Western Ukraine Lord willing.
- Story-Telling: through the new podcast, videos and stories produced by Aleksa and her team, we want to keep things human, engaging, and hopefully bring influence in more spaces.
PROGRESS: We have completed now 16 construction projects, and have 11 more on tap for August.
Beyond fixing war damaged houses among the elderly, we are assisting a young single mom who’s an orphan. Her apartment is still standing and structurally sounds, but windows and doors were blown open by shelling and interior walls broken. Here video is below.
I’d also like you to meet Valentyna. She’s 65 years old and represents, like so many of the elderly caught in this war, a typical story we continue to run into. Her husband died more than 10 years ago. She worked for many years in sales in a small shop. She had 2 sons, one of them died, and the other is in Russian occupied Eastern Ukraine but she doesn’t know where he is or what happened to him.
A shell landed in her yard, destroying her windows, door and fence. With your help, we are able to help widows like Valentyna and many more!
Thought you might enjoy seeing inside my world. I live in Ukrainian Excel documents (below).
Here’s the active August widow’s construction projects underway; the city names, streets, project lead, budget breakdown and hrvnya ($) estimate. In the past week the Ukrainian currency went from 27:1 (where it’s been for the past 5 years) to 36:1, but unofficially it’s trading over 40 on the streets. The systems are cracking, inflation taking effect, this will be a difficult winter.
Aleska and Masha have been working hard to release our new projects page on our Mir Ministries website. Much prettier than the excel document, and in English just for you!
Now you can finally see all our active campaigns, videos and donate all in one area. VISIT PROJECTS
Bill and I met Onisim (yes, I now know an Onisim like in the New Testament!) in March before our family moved to Cluj.
He’s currently running a Christian camp, but has been led by the Spirit to secure some property in the center of the bar district in our city.
I wanted to help share his story and make a video for him. The SAME DAY I finished shooting the video, one of our church partners in the US contacted us and inquired about sending a construction team, and asked me to send them any project info… well as a matter of fact! It was an encouragement to me that these creative efforts will work to connect the kingdom.
More open spaces to be the church within the culture, in the world Jesus loves!
Check out my new podcast! Listen in each week with interesting guests, conversations from a variety of cultural and faith perspectives.
This past week I’ve interviewed Olena a Ukrainian trauma psychologist who is working with refugees in Romania, and our dear friend Lena who is managing Lighthouse and just arrived to visit us (her first time out of Ukraine since beginning of war).
Next week I’m interviewing some friends inside Russia.
Podcast Website – Click Here
Spotify: click here
iTunes: click here
Amazon: click here
YouTube: click here
Facebook Podcast Page: click here
Here’s a sneak peak for friends on the Podcast which has video with Onisim:
Lessons from a bee
I’ve been struggling with anger, as well as some depression. Two emotions quite foreign, for the most part, to my journey so far. July was a trying month. I found myself lacking any sense of meaningful vision, purpose, direction. This feeling of being overwhelmed and disappointed with myself led me to a kind of debilitating apathy, a letting go of the steering wheel.. and not the Jesus take the wheel surrender, but rather I’m finished, I quit, kind of apathy.
It was honestly a little scary.
13.6 million displaced, struggling, befuddled, broken human beings from this evil war. A war that has rocked the reality and faith of friends, including charity/missional folks like myself. God sent a tiny group of international families to labor among Slavic people in Ukraine over the past few decades, and this is what we get? Those we have invested in, many have scattered to the four winds. Now charities, churches, missionaries, they are all running around, someseemingly in circles, some focused on kids, others the elderly, food distribution, construction, others still focused on evacuation in the East.
Hero work. This kind of work comes from adrenaline, which eventually runs out. We can keep bobbing from one thing to the other, but eventually, we need deeper sustenance that sustains. I was finished. I am finished.
Anyway, I was sitting in a chair, outside, overlooking the very nice green yard of grass we have here at our rental house in Romania. It’s probably why i chose this place. It’s a square yard, with a fence, peaceful, controlled, a little order in the chaos. So I was just sitting, discouraged, tired. I saw the green, a few dandelions, and that’s about it.
“Be present, and look.”
These were the words in my mind, to my soul. I was in no mood for the Spirit to speak to me. I’m never quite sure if it’s the Lord, and I wasn’t in the mood for guessing. After a few minutes, I noticed a little bee. It was working away, combing over this little weed, doing its bee thing.
“Ok, Lord. See? That’s what I want. I want a purpose, a focus. But instead, you give us this chaos, this overwhelming ocean of needs I can’t begin to penetrate.”
A few more minutes passed. I notice another bee, then another. My eyes, as if awakening from a dream, began to see what was always there, smack in front of me the whole time. The lawn was alive, hundreds of bees, spread across the seemingly static green grass.
My eyes got a little moist. No words, just a sense of His presence, all around, always there, inconspicuous the way our Savior is. There were, there are, hundreds, thousands of fellow folks buzzing about in their zone, in their measured, finite spaces. It was a sense of great encouragement, and a little chastisement from God – the kind that re-orients and settles the soul.
I left that chair, and that moment, with a new sense of rest. I can’t fix this world, I’m not supposed to. War, or no war, we don’t really have ‘a world’ to save, we each have a little flower. We all have one, and if we’re listening, and moving with the Spirit, we’ll pollinate life into this broken world, and join the Spirit’s enlivening activity. Little is big in the kingdom, less is more, and the big work belongs to big shoulders – not mine.
During our Zoom call, this became an affirmation from our supporters, and a deep encouragement to dig into the meaningful, not the massive.
So thank you, little bee. Thank you for showing me how foolish I look when I try to put a cape on. Oh, and Jesus, thank you for wrapping yourself in humility, not an avenger’s cape. Your way is not hero work, but cross bearing, an invitation to surrender, not to strive.
After all, we too are flowers, and not just bees. We need as much as we give. Finite, mortal, limited, and designed to lean into the capable arms of our Creator when times get tough.
Blessings from all of us in Romania, and Ukraine!