2020 Year End Update

If I had to come up with one word for this year I think it would be “awareness.”

Maybe that would be applicable to most of us as our worlds have been forced into different rhythms. As God dug deep last year, there is now a growing awareness of His constant desire to make us true. It seems it’s not that easy to close the gap between who we really are and who we are meant to be. There is the awareness of the dissonance, as well as an emerging awareness of the love of Christ in it all.

“Just remaining quietly in the presence of God, listening to Him, being attentive to Him, requires a lot of courage and know-how.” – Thomas Merton

The big event for us this year was definitely our first-born son getting married. And we got to be there! Surprisingly with quarantine and ever changing flights.

It was an amazing time of enjoying extended family and celebrating the union of our son Broderic, and new daughter-in-law, Kristin. Our hearts were made full with all the relationships we were able to experience in a short time. We gained a daughter, but our house is becoming smaller in number as Brent left us in the beginning part of the year. Tucker is preparing himself for the future as he watches how his older siblings are handling things. Bronwyn is coming home for Christmas and this mother’s heart couldn’t be happier. Bruce’s health was a big concern this year and we are so thankful that he seems to be doing better, believing he is among a growing community of Covid long-haulers with dysautonomia (ongoing breathing issues). The rest of the family are in good health and spirits.

Thank you friends who continue to love us, pray and support us through all these years. (Deb)

“How can I find the shining word, the glowing phrase that tells all that your loves meant to me, all that your friendship spells? There is no word, no phrase for you on whom I so depend. All I can say to you is this, God bless you precious friend.”
Grace Noll Crowell

Lighthouse celebrated its 7th year! Functionally the cafe was transformed from a restaurant vibe to a co-working space that better facilitated creating a place of community and belonging. It’s become a genuine hub of community activity throughout the week and natural space for deepening friendships.

Although Covid-19 has impacted Ukraine and really hurt our local economy, we’re thankful that we’ve been able to keep the light on at Lighthouse through this trying year. We’ve continued to offer music lessons and youth group, but had to prune back larger community events to maintain the changing quarantine regulations.

2020 was a year of including more friends and neighbors seeking to deepen their relationship with God in missional community. These natural, deepening friendships, centered on participating in Jesus ongoing ministry together brings a lot of joy to our hearts!

“Any movement which has benefited society in the long haul, has at its core a group of people committed to a cause that they consider greater than themselves and to on another as friends.”

James McGregor Burns

This summer we tore down our old garage and began a new mission building project at Lighthouse. This expanded space will allow us to host more mentoring, a larger widows pantry and release our team to explore more ways of creatively engaging our community!

Together, we’ve raised 43% towards our $50,000 goal to build the structure of the 3 story building. With the foundation and basement finished, we now hope to resume construction in the Spring 2021 as the Lord provides.

Would you consider a financial gift towards the mission building?

If travel is permitted in 2021, we hope to host some construction teams from US/Canada in hopes of finishing out the interior. If you tile, paint, do electrical or woodworking, pray about joining!

For checks: Grace City Church
C/O Ukraine Building Project (memo)
1400 East Loop 281
Longview TX -75605
US Donations – Mission Building
Canadian Donations – Mission Building

In 2020, our ministry provided monthly visitation and food care packages for over 300 widows around Ukraine and Belarus. Most of the widows are on government subsidy which is less than $65/month.

In the winter months, the cost of living escalates and many widows sacrifice heat for food, or vice-versa. We target widows that have no immediate family and are longing for human connection. Our vision is to tend to the spiritual, physical and emotional well being of each precious widow. Many widows have prayed and received Christ as Lord, and in some villages regular bible studies and gatherings now take place as we seek to connect the body of Christ to this neglected mission field.

We are now serving Widows in Russia! In 2021 we are working with some new partners and privileged to serve in our third Slavic country! 

Thank you World Challenge for your continued support, and for all who pray and contribute to this incredible ministry!

In 2020, we hosted our first widows volunteer weekend in Ukraine. Representing many villages and widows around Ukraine and Belarus, these precious servants are what make the Widows Care ministry sustainable and life-giving. This photo represents less than half of the growing leadership group we are investing in.

‘Razom’ In Ukrainian means together.

RazomGo is our “kickstarter” platform for the Slavic world that we launched at the end of 2019. We believe that together, we can change culture by creating more of it. RazomGo is a vehicle for mass producing cultural shaping business and ministry projects. Our team has grown to now seven project managers, two full time staff, and a growing number of partnerships in the financial, government and private sectors.

In 2020 our platform raised money for a house for homeless seniors, a sensory room for children, emergency supplies for hospitals during Covid, and several more projects. 95% of the funding received was through crowdfunding in the Slavic world, promoting a new sense of generosity and power in collaboration.

By supporting our ministry, you are helping Slavic leaders like Vadim and Aleksa (above) bring hope to an emerging middle class. They are passionate for Christ and are shining for God in many cultural spheres – cool! Because of Covid, we are hosting and participating in many online forums through the week. Pray for us! *All giving is tax-deductible

US Checks to:
Mir Ministries
322 Boerne Stage Airfield
Boerne, TX

Canadian Cheques to:
Great Commission Foundation
Account: 552 (Crowe)
PO Box 14006
Abbotsford, B.C. V2T 0B4

Thank you Church partners!
Living in Anxious Times Political correctness, diplomacy, empathy, work against real progress in chronically anxious systems as they “undermine excellence by encouraging a society to organize around its most dysfunctional elements.”  Friedman

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  The Apostle Paul

“We are in danger of becoming a nation of skimmers, living off the risks of previous generations and constantly taking from the top without adding significantly to its essence.  Everything we enjoy as part of our advanced civilization, including the discovery, exploration, and development of our country, came about because previous generations made adventure more important than safety.”   Friedman

To lead is to live dangerously because when leadership counts, when you lead people through difficult change, you challenge what people hold dear – their daily habits, tools, loyalties, and ways of thinking – with nothing to offer perhaps than a possibility.”  Heifetz & Linsky

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?”  Jesus of Nazareth

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Thanksgiving 2020

Well, not quite. It’s Wednesday evening here at the Crowe house. We’re hosting a meal for about 15 or so folks, combined with our crew that’s about.. counting.. 23? We have Turkey (breast only) and a few chickens that will pose as turkeys and none should be the wiser. Turkey breast starting arriving in Ukraine a few years ago, and it’s been so nice. We tried the wild game turkey once, and it was quite a disaster of grease and little actual meat. That was our first lesson in just how genetically modified those butterball turkeys are.

Something about cooking, preparing, getting ready for guests does spark the holiday spirit. Music playing, yelling at the kids to get out of the kitchen, I feel like my mother. Traditions are growing in my heart over the years. I’ve never been a tradition guy, Deb has had to coax me most years into getting a tree, doing the little things that make memories. With kids now on their own in the US, the reality of just how quickly time flies tends to make you pause and relish the important moments, and those moments, especially in the heart of a child, can be found in the little excitements of tradition. Claire came in the kitchen and could tell something was afoot.. “Is tomorrow Christmas?” Sweet thing, she continues to keep us young on the inside.

I can’t believe this year is almost over. I’m working on an end of year newsletter, they aren’t as easy as one would think. Firstly, I have to think. Thankfully there’s social media so I can scroll back to the earlier months in the year and remember what we actually did. For our family, life really continued quite unhampered compared to many of our friends and family across the globe. Ukraine has only recently started taking more drastic measures, closing all non-essentials on the weekends – but for most of the year our little down just sort of trucked along as normal. As we traveled to Canada and the US this past September, I was truly thankful to return home recognizing just how apolitical the whole thing is here compared to the west. I wasn’t however prepared for the water issue which took us over 30 days to conquer.. We’re just now getting back into regular rhythms, washing dishes, running water, taking baths.. you have no idea – seriously, we are giggling still at just how nice it is to flush the toilet. We had a system going that resembled probably something out of the 12th century, the running of the water jugs down the street.

I’ve been studying this semester with Fuller a course that focuses on the earliest developments of Christian ‘orthodoxy’, particularly the development of the Creeds. It’s been quite fascinating, I’ve read some really meaty books on our pluralistic world and how believers today desperately need to understand the nature of the globalized world now, and approach both theology and mission through a new non-western ‘only’ lens. For the past 1500 years, the church has been dominated by Gecko-Roman thinking, categories, worldview – and yet now the church that is growing is genuinely non-western – Africa, Asia, the global south’s are emerging with new voices, new ways of understanding the Bible, and it’s honestly so refreshing because the gospel has always been great news to the fringes, the impoverished – Jesus came remember as a Jew, not a powerful Roman occupier, but inside an oppressed nation. Anyway, I’ve been reading this really wild book called the Divine Name(s) by Soulen. In it, he focuses on the original revelation of God to Moses in Exodus 3, when God reveals Himself as Yah-weh, in Hebrew this 4 letter name is called the “Tetragrammaton”. The history of the Jews using surrogate names, as not to defile or take God’s name in vain, is unbelievable! This tradition was and is understood today among practicing Judaism, but has been quite lost to the world today it seems. The surrogate “Lord” for example was one of many names used to reference the one and true name of YHWH.. names like Adonai, and God only hint toward the ‘name’ – this is why God throughout the OT references ‘the name’ – and into the NT the writers continued this tradition.. eventually giving Jesus the ‘name above all names”, again referencing the unspoken name. Anyway, it’s an incredibly rewarding book, I plan to do some more study and bible study on this amazing and important understanding of God’s revelation, first through Israel, then in the Person of the Divine Son – who came ‘in the name’ of God.. it’s unlocked so much of scripture! Remember Jesus prayer, “Our Father… hallowed be your NAME”… all referencing the name given to Moses – go back to Exodus and read verses 3:14-16 and check out the Hebrew using a concordance – and take off those shoes while you do it!

Deb has finished her 2 week online intensive with her course on Spiritual Directorship. She really enjoyed it, but it was an emotional time as well. A lot of listening in groups, processing their own histories and journey with the Lord. We’d joke when meeting up at the end of the day – I’d been steeped in Pre-Socratic concepts of impassibility (non-pathos or suffering) and she’d been connecting on emotional levels with folks via Zoom.. we were getting the extremes and both wanted a little of the other. She’s got 2 more years of this program, but thankfully its spread out and not that intense. I’ve got 5 more courses until I graduate, hopefully this coming summer. I need to double up again and take two courses, I’m a little nervous because the last time I doubled up I had some difficult health issues. I am taking a New Testament course and sticking with the divinity school as I’ve already taken all the leadership courses possible and I figured diving into scripture will be good for my soul. I’m also taking a vocational formation course which looks like some more good mentoring stuff and reading that I can pass on to our friends. I have so much material, it’s insane. I could truly package up a 2-3 year course in Russian after this – something I think we should do, it’s so good and our leaders have both learned and been passing on stuff they’ve been given already! Just this past weekend the Razom group got hit with leadership surveys, soul care exercises.. all without me, stuff they received from weekends we hosted earlier this year, so I know they are primed for more material.

Bronwyn arrives in a few weeks, she’s coming with Adrienne her roomate and former YFM student in Minsk with us. Broderic is moving into their new apartment, getting ready for the baby this Spring. Still in a bit of denial over all this grandparenting discussion. We are excited for them, they are thrilled and have a strong supporting cast there in Florida with Kristen’s parents. Brent is hanging in there, he doesn’t have the greatest job, but it’s stable and paying the bills thankfully. We do pray for some friends and a social network that will help shape him – we believe God’s hand is over his life, and have to keep remembering that he’s only 19. We miss them all a lot. It’s nice to see them all zoom and play online games together, staying connected in different ways. It’s definitely a sacrifice to be on the other side of the world, I don’t care what others may say, you don’t really think or play to see your kids go back to the West as missionaries.. it makes sense that they might, or will for seasons, but you hope they don’t all remain so sticking far away, especially when grandkids start arriving. Sigh.

I’ve been praying and considering what this next season might look like. We’re definitely in transition. We love what God is doing, our deepening community, and growing in number. Our focus hasn’t been to grow by services or traditional church means, but through meaningful connections. We can truly say there’s a uniting community in and around the community, and it’s a joy to part of it. We have visitors to our home that have started hanging out, praying when we pray, and just proving the St. Patrick motto ‘belonging precedes believing.’ We love creating space, and mentoring less people but more deeply is our heart. We aren’t as involved making decisions here locally anymore, and that’s a blessing. We love seeing the Widows ministry develop, but also get more joy watching it develop without us than needing to lead it. We’re transitioning for something, something related to mentoring and spiritual directing, perhaps a course, school of some kind.. we are actively mentoring leaders now from 3-4 other ministries, God is just bringing them to us in neat ways. Folks are longing for mothers and fathers in the faith.

I’m also considering some consulting positions in Kyiv – I’ve submitted my resume, quite out of the blue to an international firm upon being sent the link and encouraged to throw my hat into the ring. I sort of qualify, but need to have my masters finished. It’s related to government – US relations and investment into Ukraine. I don’t know what I’d do if actually was offered the job, because it would require my full time attention, but I’m open to it and feel a certain joy when I think of a season of leading a team towards national focus. I think God tests our faith, He loves faith. It’s one of the reasons I know we’re in transition – I would have NEVER thought of submitting my resume to anything like this after selling my business 3 years ago. I have this feeling I have more to offer than my present context is allowing. At the same time, I’m happy to be here, and want only the Lord’s will. I’d appreciate prayer!

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October 31, 2020 : Family update

When we returned 3 weeks ago, our neighbor had drilled a 100 meter deep well and our own well had suffered the consequences.. it was dry. We live in the village, where a good well is an incredible blessing. We were thankful to hear the same company could come before winter. They just arrived today! The water brigade!
We’re drilling for water! Maybe we’ll hit oil! 🙂 These old soviet trucks are pretty cool, they can go anywhere. The crew tows a little RV (Russian style) behind and they camp out on the worksite. So we have some neighbors for a few days. It is supposed to take 3-5 days I’m told. I’m still unsure how we will afford this unplanned expense, but we didn’t have much of a choice with winter setting in and the guest house booked up most of November.
This past week we’ve hosted a lovely crew of YWAM Kyiv on outreach. Most are Ukrainian, so it makes for seamless ministry to the locals. They hosted children’s events, as well as a concert and served our widows. Our own Lighthouse team was encouraged as well. Thank you Jesus for your Kingdom alive in these young hearts!
Today the YWAM crew hosted our team for lunch. Always thankful for a free meal 🙂 It was delicious! Also thankful we didn’t have to do the dishes, another thing you need water for!
Some of the kids at Lighthouse this week playing games, singing, and learning about (and experiencing) the love of Jesus.
Last night we hosted a small concert as well.
This is Vanya, remember our intern from the summer program we offered to hire and train? The Lord provided for him a course in Kyiv FOR FREE to learn Latte art! This really brought smiles to our hearts as we love Vanya, he’s been a great worker with a humble willing heart. He puts his all into making pizza and coffee.. he even wanted to learn more art and literally within a week or so this door opened up and voila – I’ve been wanting our staff to take this course but it was too expensive! God loves Vayna, and is showing in so clearly. A joy to come alongside his unfolding story.
They love their diplomas here!
Our crew is getting smaller, Tucker taking photo:) We decided to rent an apartment in Kyiv this week for hot showers, deb brought dirty laundry 🙂 We spent 3 days, I had some meetings and we enjoyed the big Ukrainian village (3 million) of Kyiv! It’s changed a lot in the past 10 years.
I was invited to an exclusive investors club in this posh executive high rise. I met investors, business owners and manufacturing directors. The pubic sphere is greatly outpacing the governments capacity to adapt to reforms and international policies. I call it the wild west. A lot of opportunity for our RazomGo platform to build relationships, and hopefully some funding pathways for start-ups and future culture makers!
Since Maiden Revolution 6 years ago, Kyiv was really bounced back and has a really European vibe now. Many coffee shops and more affordable places to shop. However some things are still stuck in time, like this hug theater, still has posters and graffiti from the ‘winter on fire’.
This is close to where we stayed. It’s a famous Kyiv university where many students go. The red color is just.. different yeah?
I liked this little van. Something about it made me smile. You know there’s a history there. Someone was wanting to do a coffee shop, then a coffee truck.. some friend had an old van.. countless hours figuring out how to make it work. Where there’s a will!
This week we are promoting a new Ukrainian Film that friends are trying to crowdfund. It’s about domestic abuse in Ukraine, a topic that is rarely discussed and with all the alcoholism, we know it’s a huge issue. It’s called, “It’s not your fault” – they are trying to raise $10,000 through our RazomGo platform. It’s so encouraging to see such worthy themes and ideas emerging in Ukraine, and to provide resources for folks to try and spread the word.
(Translated from Google) Widow service began in Kagarlyk for more than six months. This is a wonderful time to be a part of God’s plan. We want to tell about Koval Vira Khomivna. 12 years as a widow. She dedicated 41 years of her 80s to medicine. She was with her husband in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident, which inevitably affected her health. All joints are affected and for her every movement is a pain. Especially for moving your feet. The daughter and granddaughter exchanged her house for two rooms on the second floor of the dormitory. She doesn’t even own these rooms – her granddaughter copied everything for herself. Almost no one comes to her. When we met her, she was constantly crying that she had been so deceived and simply thrown here by herself. A lawsuit is currently pending to return her home. She was always hungry. When they started bringing her grocery set she was very happy. There were also thoughts of suicide. But the Lord began to do His work. She began to pray, to glorify Him in her difficult situation at the moment. This week, students from (Name) could come with us and cheer and pray with Vera Khomivna. She listened, cried. She said that we had a big party because so many guests came to see her. They gave her a warm blanket.

It’s been a strange re-entry to Ukraine after our recent trip to North America. Part of it has to do with not having water and not really feeling ‘home’ , but part of it also is a sense that the Lord is truly developing some things around us, and we’re beginning to ask longer term questions about our role, how we can stay agile to the work of the Spirit, not get in the way, and also position ourselves for whatever is next. I sense a season might be coming where I enter the ‘workforce’ again – whether that is with RazomGo and our platform, perhaps with government /NGO opportunities I foresee (leadership development, and consulting work), or perhaps once I’m finished Fuller next summer a break, or season of writing. I’ve been buried in the first 4 centuries of early church development, doctrine, and reading/writing on themes I never imagined I would be, and more surprisingly really loving it!

In any case, it’s an interesting season to be watching things and people grow, and appreciating life through new lens and perspective. Maybe I’m growing up. 🙂 Do we ever grow up? Should we?

If you are interested in some early church writing, here’s a short paper I wrote on Cyril of Alexandria, and his interaction with Nestorius of Constantinople. I don’t get too deep into the heresy of Nestorianism, but more the nature of apologetics and developing creeds during time.. and the historical drama surrounding the development of so many of our Christian ideas. History is so cool! Click Here to Read

Thanks for stopping in. I hope you are growing out there, trusting and letting go of all that isn’t worth pursuing. Life is short, a breath in time. I’m thankful for the health issues of the past couple of months. Thank you for praying for me! Although I’m doing much better, I’m very conscious of my mortality and uninterested in pretending, or faking it till I make it. Jesus knows our frame, our inner most being, and we are wise to align ourselves from his point of view. Striving needs to cease, believing the deep, historically rooted and existentially immersive reality of Jesus is our aim. We need a fresh baptism in God’s reality, then cease running from that place, exchanging the satisfying joys of God’s love and nearness for temporal trivialities.

Where is this Christ surrender in our generation? A whole lot of independence. A whole lot of unbelief. Real, authentic Christianity believes that in God, alone, our fullest experience of this life is realized. As Kierkergaard suggested, the most reasonable human act is to leap by faith into discovering true freedom in God. All else is the matrix of group think, blind sheep roaming about, believing they can see. Pseudo Christianity lives from the place that as good as God might be, we need to secure pleasure from other places, and this thing called surrender won’t fully satisfy, so we live on the edge of freedom, never quite diving in.

Is Creator God enough for me? Am I willing to belief His coming in material form reveals His love over me? I’m still learning the love of God, learning how to respond to this life shaping gift. It’s freeing, in every respect, but so such a difficult path!

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We made it back into Ukraine, or I should say, out of Canada finally! That’s not what I meant to say though.

We did it =  Our $2,500 pledge was matched AND exceeded by an additional $2,500!  This has allowed us to continue finishing our basement level foundation before winter. The race is on!  Thank you so much for your generosity.

I’ve included a timeline of photos below so you can see our progress. To date, we’ve raised $21,000 towards our $50,000 goal. I am VERY enthused about this new missions building. I normally don’t enjoy building projects, especially in Ukraine as they can take so many unexpected turns & delays, but we feel the pleasure of God in the construction of this expanded missional space.

Lord willing, it will serve as:

  1. Widows Pantry
  2. Youth Mentoring Courses
  3. RazomGo Innovation Workspace
  4. Prayer & Meditation Room
  5. Small Reception Hall
Widows Volunteer Weekend!

Volunteer Weekend! This past weekend, our leaders from 6 regions around Ukraine came to our guest house for a refreshing time of rest, mentoring and prayer. We had one couple from the Eastern war-zone region of Donetsk. The Lord is building His church in Ukraine and Belarus. These are brand new forms of unity for many of the volunteers who aren’t often encouraged to serve outside their church.

Our theme was Jesus Our Shepherd and we considered the ways in which Jesus is currently shepherding our hearts individually and areas we need Him to!  We’ve received many neat testimonies and are now planning to creatively host something similar within Belarus – please pray for this!

Wow, quality of some of these screenshots are terrible (from our recent newsletter this week). But I don’t have time to make pretty – and I think most of you already get our email so this is just for posterity 🙂 I really wish I could find the time to step back and write on some of the things the Lord is teaching me, and working in me. I spent all extra time reading and writing in my Fuller class, and next year Lord willing I will be able to post some of that, and maybe translate too. Thankful for this season of formation, learning, and new ways of being, relating to folks and this world God has made.

Peace – Bruce & Deb

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