March 21, 2019

We had a wonderful, formative time in Minsk this past weekend with our Mir Leaders team. We began a study based from the book “The Critical Journey’ on the six stages of faith in the life of a believer. We also study Missio Dei in scripture, creative forms of prayer, and other intentional activities to help internal processing that I’ve adapted from my Fuller Seminary course. We’re already excited for our next retreat in the Carpathian mountains!

Someone else posted this photo so I’m stealing. I felt God’s confirming presence in this moment as we prayed for leaders of LIT, Widows and our new Kickstarter platform coming soon. I believe we have just begun our journey together in becoming more excellent listeners. Our ‘worship’ time this time consisted of no songs (unplanned), it just lingered and we together sought the Lord in the evening. Help us Lord rely increasingly on your wisdom, and Spirit’s power.
Into week three at Lighthouse with a new initiative towards at-risk families in our town. Our team gathers and provides a children’s program for these precious kids. Interestingly, and unplanned by us, a partner orphanage ministry started meeting on the 2nd floor with families together that are really in desperate situations, and many of the same children attend that. Double impact! We’re doing similar project in Minsk now as well, with our new partner Bettina with High5Give5. Children giving to children!
Just returned last night by train from Eastern Ukraine (Slavyanks). A crew of 6, including new partner Dar Draper from aged-out orphan ministry ‘Glow’ (North Carolina) journeyed with us we met again with leaders from “Good News Church”. They are working in many spheres, from orphan, front line war area, to rehab centers and now widows (we have begun partnering with them with our program). Gracious people.

After running a full orphanage for many years and seeing little success in the ‘graduates’ (suicide rates, prison, prostitution etc) they re-structured to focus on all the families that are moving towards having their kids taken away, and work with the parents and children along with the government to see restoration before it’s too late. Their vision is to restore as many biological families as possible – wonderful people serving here, and of course, beautiful little kids!

The orphanage itself was destroyed four years ago during the fighting in this area. It’s recently been restored and moves forward. Can you imagine, tanks purposefully destroying orphanages? The soldiers stole all the material, furniture, and even took the toys, smashing all that remained.
In Slavyansk, we grown to like this young couple here Oleg & Joana. They are worshipers, and musicians who are in the middle of some recording projects. Both super talented and have a passion to see a house of prayer (24/7) emerge. They’ve started but it’s been really difficult out of the gate.
During some time in prayer in Slavyansk with leaders and our team, the Lord moved on some hearts in significant ways. We discussed extending our LIT platform to this area, along with partnering with their own regional worship. We also were encouraged to share social media and production resources which could be very interesting. So much creative talent and vision gathering for something!
We visited several downtown spaces with potential for starting another platform in Slavyansk. This particular one has been sitting for almost two years, and we’ve connected in a very meaningful way with the owner. There’s quite a bit more I could share, but simply ask that you join with us in prayer for wisdom and guidance!

This is the inside of the cafe, it has two floors, and equipped with almost everything needed to get rolling. God is preparing, working and revealing some neat things.

Thanks for checking in – and please do join us in prayer as we are also experiencing, along with the positive movement, some discouraging things as well as we seek to walk the middle ground among churches that don’t have the same vision for Kingdom unity. We’ve been reminded by many that we don’t wrestle with flesh and blood. Remind us Father of essential unity in the Person of Jesus. Salvation is a Person! We’re not saved by right thinking. I used to think doctrinal unity was super important. I think a healthy doctrine OF unity in Christ is even better. Jesus said the Pharisees searched the scriptures thinking in them could be found eternal life. Not so. Truth is helpful when we know personally Christ, THE truth. We can intellectually know things about the Person we don’t. In fact, the posture of weakness, of a learner, one who sees their own blindness is the pre-requisite for union with God in the first place. To ‘know’ that we don’t know. To know the resurrected Christ puts all else into another category, no matter how essential we try to make it. Be careful, says Apostle Paul, if you think you stand, lest you fall. How can we lose this perspective of salvific essentials? I love the Morvian motto – cooler in Latin – In necessariis unitas, in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas. In essentials unity, in doubtful things liberty, in all things charity. We feel an increased, even focused vision for Kingdom unity in the Slavic world – it’s gonna be a rough ride and perhaps the Lord is shaping us for the difficult path of friendly fire. I’m comforted that He warns us of it, and even tell us to rejoice – not sure I fully grasp that part yet.

We’re also about to receive team of 15 orphans (teens) from GLOW at our guest house tomorrow for the weekend – gracious me we’re a tad busy! We also just started officially developing a new kickstarter platform for Russian speaking world, to attract investment to business and mission projects particularly for next generation. Speaking of platform, we just launched the widows online platform also which helps our volunteers track the budget and social/spiritual/physical needs. It’s taken 4 months, longer than I’d hoped but I’m optimistic that we can now more efficiently train and monitor expanding territory. We are doing this with World Challenge, our main sponsor with Widows.

Good news! Our septic is now working – I am SO thankful for Alyosha our friend and neighbor.

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From Doing. To Being.

Whirlwind past week. Planes, trains and automobiles. Away from family, immersed in the Russian language, cultural thinking and projects. The timing of our septic problem wasn’t great. Upon returning last night, my heart and mind was not the only thing overflowing. Gracious.

“A humble self-knowledge is a surer way to God than a search after deep learning.” -Thomas Kempis

Finishing up the final paper for my first completed year at Fuller. One word, formation. To step away from your context, to look deeply inside with a cohort of fellow learners has been nothing short of transforming. For too long my view of leadership has been nestled in personality, natural & acquired gifting – in short, it’s been worldly. This corporate style leader, the one with all the supposed answers and vision is a reflection not of who I really am – but a product, a brand, a false-self projection that I’ve been striving into.

We are not our successes. We are not our failures. We’re not even our beliefs. We are.

“Grant Lord that I may know myself that I may know Thee” -Augustine

This person God created, the real you. The one that hides in the shadows. The broken, insecure, fragile you that seeks meaning and affirmation. Jesus deeply loves that person. He can’t love anyone else but the real person, because all else is an illusion of our own making – either what others have pressed upon us as ‘successful’ and worthy of love, or what we’ve been deceived into thinking is worthy.

Is your Gospel deep enough to accept and unconditionally love the real you? Is your Gospel powerful enough to reach down into the depths of you, and begin forming you from the inside out? Are we polishing up the outside projection or moving from shadow into the purging rays of His presence?

“Whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.” John 3:21

Why would Augustine challenge us into a ‘self-knowing’? Isn’t that the exact opposite of what Christians should do? After all, aren’t we supposed to cast aside the old nature, the old person and dive into knowing Christ? I think he was saying this (as have Christians throughout history until the last century), that until we turn inward and wrestle and come to terms with our broken, true self in shadow, we’ll never know the depths, heights, and wonders of grace. We’ll spend our lives attempting a relationship with God from the place of projection, much like the Pharisees. We’ll assume because we practice certain moralities and by comparison seem quite successful in them, that we have something we potentially do not – relationship!

You see, we’re not just sinners, we are deeply loved sinners and the plan of God from the start was the miracle of transformation – but it takes a brave, trusting, surrender to embrace this realty – That in our most desperate condition, that’s really who we are and no striving or religious zeal can convince God otherwise. Remember, it was not immoral or lazy believers that were rejected in Matthew 7. These disciples cast out demons and performed many miracles! Think about that. They were missional, active, productive in their fervor for Christ, yet met with Christs, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

They thought they knew Jesus through production, doing. Their symbols of outward affirmation trick us at times into believing we are perhaps someone we are not. We Christians are not free from this life journey of self discovery. In fact, I think we are some of the worst pretenders in the game. Religion rears its ugly head in thinking outward uniformity is real unity, adhering to code, ideas, following blind leaders thinking there must be safety in the pack.

Beware the affirmation in doing unless it comes from the place of true being.

I’m rediscovering Christ, faith in the purging rays of transparency in solitude – and the results are freeing. This, spiritual formation, is the heart of discipleship. As a leader, I must lead in this process and come alongside others who are desiring to go deeper than institutional religion. I’m becoming less aware of other opinions, and more concerned with being who I am. This isn’t an excuse for poor behavior, but rather just the opposite, it’s a ruthless process of wanting true inward change that I don’t ‘need’ to worry about my behavior. If behavior is coming from any place than my true forming self, it’s an act, it’s weak, and false. If Jesus appreciates sincerity, we all must come to the Cross and nail that false self there for good.

Once we realize the polished religious or performance self is our enemy, the game is on. We need to bring all that is false to Calvary, the place where our new identity is found.

Put on the new self which is being renewed. Col 3:9-10

Which ‘self’ are you living into?

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Emerging Spring. Life.

Abigail 🙂 Turns 7 this month. Life is full of wonder for her

Explorers Full of Wonder

Sunday night we had our first meeting as “Explorers.” There are hearts that want to know more. We want to meet this desire in fresh new ways. What is out there that we can still learn? Are there new things that can continue to shape our lives? Are there wonders about God that remain undiscovered by us?

We ended our time with a picture of a hand holding a sparkler. Do you remember the first time you held a sparkler as a child? “What was wonderful about childhood is that anything in it was a wonder. It was not merely a world full of miracles; it was a miraculous world,” said G.K. Chesterton. Remember when things delighted us and filled us with wonder? Jesus said to receive the Kingdom of God like a child. We enjoy watching a child be amazed. Maybe it makes us sad that it is not so with us anymore. Life has taken its toll and we forget what it is like to be enraptured with things. It was my prayer as we gathered into groups that I would be reminded to “wonder” again. The kingdom of God belongs to those who have an unabashed faith and an open delight in the love of the Father. There are things we can all still discover about God as we explore and be amazed at.

Loving on some new kids

Yesterday was the first day of new outreach! Several people who work with us have felt the nudging of the Spirit to reach out to the children in our town who are living in some pretty desperate situations, in deep poverty or homes with substance abuse. Every Monday afternoon, they will spend a couple of hours with them, feeding them a healthy meal, doing some fun activities, and sharing the love of God over their lives. The hope is to bring light and love to the parents of these children as well. This is new and unknown territory for the team. There will be challenges ahead. They are taking these steps in faith and we ask that you pray for them as they get involved in these precious lives. We have begun this in partnership with a new sponsor – “High 5 Give 5.” Thank you to an old friend, Bettina, (who helped us start the Widows Care program several years ago with World Challenge) who is willing once again to invest with a new outreach.

Club 180

Anya – former Club 180 student

We are continuing our Club 180 student nights, which take place on Wednesday evenings. Dima and Lena are now in charge of it and we have a newly married young couple, Vitya and Anya, that we would like to train to be the next leaders. It has been a joy to watch Anya’s journey. She first came as a student and slowly turned her heart towards the love of Christ. She is growing into His image and serving those around her. It seems so natural and normal we can forget what a miracle it is to be “called out of darkness and into his marvelous light.” I Peter 2:9

Refresh

Desiring to help people connect with God in deeper, more meaningful ways, we are creating a few weekends throughout the year that give time and space for quiet and rest. These are times of silence, times of prayer, where all outside distractions are put aside and hearts have the opportunity they need to hear something from God. We just held our third one the last weekend of February. It’s a new experience for most of us, I think, to allow this amount of quiet for our souls, but it is really a refreshing time to just ‘be’ in the presence of our Maker.

Time in Texas

So much eating! yum

We had a tremendous time in Texas. It is always such an encouragement and so much fun to meet with new friends, old friends, and, of course, with family! We look forward to how God will continue to bless these relationships as we all work together in his kingdom. One of the highlights of the trip was the board meeting we had in Dallas with most of the board members of MIR. It is an extraordinary thing to be a part of a group that all desire to hear and follow God’s leading. We are not a business board with agendas to accomplish, but a group of people put together by God to listen. We were reassured and heartened by the response that this truly is the desire of every person involved. The prayer together was a strengthening and comforting time.

We hope you are blessed by the creative efforts of our team member Sveta, who designs these quotes/scriptures, our brochures, advertising, social media compilations, and other odd jobs. 🙂

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Explorer’s Bible Study Group

Beginning this Sunday evening at the Big House 6:30p – Dive deeper into matters of faith, philosophy, meaning of life with fellow sojourners.

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