As we prepare to return to Ukraine in two weeks, our hearts are heavy with the reality of what we will return to. The war has escalated, more lives are being lost, and the country is hemorrhaging economically.Two years ago, we embarked on the purchase and renovation of what is now the Lighthouse Cafe. At worst, we prepared for slow growth and temporary outside support as we got on our feet. At best, we hoped coffee and food sales would cover our monthly expenses with a small profit to ear-mark for outreach and community involvement.
Before we were able to open, much changed. The revolution on Maiden ushered the country into a state of economic and political instability. What little foreign investment Ukraine was enjoying all but ceased as the government began top down reform. The fragile and antiquated economic engines in Ukraine strained as sanctions, both from the East and West (intended for Russia) has driven the country to the brink of economic collapse.
For a bit more perspective, Ukrainians already make on average less than the equivalent of $300/mo in our town. Police, school teachers, firemen, etc. eat from their gardens and live on bare necessities. It is not uncommon for families and pensioners to buy half loaves of bread, literally existing one day at a time. Unemployment is astounding – nobody truly knows the % out of work, but it’s higher than 30% in my estimation.
Buying a cup of quality coffee is a luxury for most, and one that we provide as inexpensively as possible – averaging around $1 per item on our menu.
Ultimately, the economic situation in Ukraine, and the inability to get the gas company to do their job (so we can sell pizza) has altered the financial trajectory and ministry plans for this year. For the 4yrs prior, the Ukrainian currency (Hrvnya) hovered at 8:1 to the US dollar. Over the past year, and specifically past months, embattled in war and with no significant economic reforms to help business, the Hrvnya now sits at 26:1 ! Imagine for a moment what this would look like in any western nation if the currency lost over 3x’s its value in less than a year? This means our costs have and will continue to rise for coffee, milk, utilities and staff.
What was already an enormous challenge for the Cafe as a business before the revolution is now an impossibility in the short term without financial partners. Yet conversely, never before has there been the opportunity to shine and provide such a haven for our community.
Double-edged sword! We are so thankful that we are in Ukraine for such a time as this, yet the needs are greater than we can handle on our own. Even though the Cafe has taken off, embraced by the community and we receive a steady flow of daily traffic and many loyal customers, we are forced to keep prices at cost or below in some cases or the place will be empty.
To make matters worse, many men are now serving, by draft or volunteer, in the army. They reluctantly leave behind wives and children to survive on their own, with irregular and dismal army stipends. The Cafe donated (through our home church in Texas) food packages to families who have a loved one serving in our town. So many avenues to help and be the hands and feet of Christ. We want to serve so much more than coffee!
We also have many students that frequent the Cafe, an estimated 60% of our customers are under the age of 20. These students have very little discretionary income, especially the younger kids who often come with no money at all, just to sit with friends and huddle around a gadget. We provide younger kids with popcorn and occasional free hot drinks – we love to lose money on these kingdom treasures:) We must keep the doors open for these guys, and continue to invest in relationships for the long haul.
These are just some of the factors in play for us as we consider both the short and long term sustainability of the Cafe. Our ultimate passion and vision for the Cafe has not changed.
Besides providing a warm and clean place with great coffee, our primary objective in all things is – “To shine the Light of Jesus Christ” – He is the Light to every nation and we give him this facility to guide in the coming year!
The Challenge: We are currently needing between $500-750 per month to keep the Lighthouse Cafe open through this next year. We believe this will be a temporary need to weather this economic storm. As Ukraine stabilizes, we believe we can self sustain – but we don’t know how long that will take.
Our Request: We need a handful of partners (individuals, families, churches or businesses) to contribute towards the Cafe specifically. It can be a one time gift of any amount, or monthly regular contribution. Any amount will help, and all will be invested into the Cafe and ministry efforts this year!
I’d love to see, for example, 25 partners giving $25/mo –
How to Help:
A) You can give online, on this site by clicking on DONATE*we use paypal, which accepts all major credit cards – and if you have a free Paypal account you can also setup recurring giving (eg. $25/mo).
B) You can send tax-receipted donations by check to:
Crossroads Community Church
Memo: Ukraine – Lighthouse Cafe
1400 East Loop 281
Longview, TX 75605
C) If you’d like to talk in more detail about any of our projects and needs, I’d be happy to call you personally.
Thank you for taking the time to read and pray about this challenge.
We were so encouraged during our travels this past month and believe God is going to provide – but I know we must do our part to humbly communicate and ask the family of God. I enjoy raising support for others, but do not find pleasure when it pertains to our own efforts as much – I do believe, however, in the viability and sustainability of this work, and future discipleship that will take place in and out of the property – we’re just in a very precarious season and need money to keep moving forward.
Bruce & Deborah
miss you guys already! but excited to see all that the Lord will do!!
To Bruce and Debbie
I asked Tanya how I could find your name to correspond on Facebook and she said on her timeline and names. Often wondering how things are going and our regards to you and everyone at church there that we met where you were living when we came to Ukraine just over 2yrs ago and stayed with Tanya and Sergii. We are from Australia. Its good to know the update. Do you still have the program for the children’s activities that Robert went to. A safe trip back to Ukraine. God’s blessings.
Madonna and Robert
Thanks for this clear explanation of where you all see the cafe as we begin 2015! I feel better informed and “caught up”. So thankful for the work you are doing there and want to continue. Also very glad for the time you spent in Longview recently as it does help so much to stay connected. Will pray for these financial needs and the needs of those who frequent the cafe. What a blessing your family has been and will continue to be to so many!