Socrates coined a phrase, called the Socratic paradox and it goes like this: “I know that all I know is that I do not know anything.” Sometimes when we anticipate certain things and they don’t go as planned, we’re left with this same feeling.
Outcomes can both exceed and underachieve our expectations on a daily basis. I rarely find results meet what were in my head and heart. St. Petersburg looked nothing like I had hoped for. The crowds were smaller, the two evenings quite different from one another. While many individuals were deeply, visibly touched, it lacked the themes of unity and ’emerging’ generation from Kiev and Minsk.
Christ came after Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. Had they been given the chance to hear His supreme reasoning and truth claims, I wonder if old Socrates would have been altered his statement to something like, “I know Christ is God, that is all.”
After Lit St. Petersburg, I’m stepping back to the drawing board a bit, as I realize we can’t assume God is working in the same ways in every place. To make assessments of an entire country, simply as a visitor is rather ridiculous. Yet, the Lord sees and knows all and I believe leaves us with deeper impressions than simply what we see with our naked eyes.
I’m left with a few impressions that have been ruminating in my heart, concerning the very general spiritual conditions of the three major Cities we have been focused with lately.
Ukraine is a country of spiritually emerging hope. You can’t see with your physical eyes alone. People continue to struggle especially in rural Ukraine where jobs are scarce and a future looks bleak, but hope is definitely rising. We feel it. Aslan is on the move in Ukraine. He’s roaring through new youth movements and a willing unity. The fields are white, and so is the opportunity to develop stronger, united fronts for Christ to the Russian speaking world.
Belarus, from our 3 months this past fall in the capital of Minsk, is a country of spiritual thirst, saddled under relentless and debilitating control. Ironically, this suppression is only resulting in increased hunger for God, especially among the youth. They crave reality, deeper experience in God than that religion offers. Gathering youth together was like an infusion of intense healing, of refreshing glass of cold spiritual water to a parched people.
Russia, at least from our experience in St. Petersburg, a city of about 5 million, is an intensely rich and comfortable city. Instead of feeling the hope of Ukraine, or thirst of Belarus, I felt only grief. There’s an apathy that creeps in when at people come to a place of no longer needing God – this verse dropped in my heart during our first day:
‘You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.’ Rev 3:14
I’ve since talked to some YWAM friends, and from Steiger who also confirm the difficulties of this City. In a sense, the hardness and lack of visible success has ignited something in my heart – like a battlefield has been found, one that won’t go down without more prayer, diligence and wisdom. I’ve tasted something that needs to change, it needs our focus and power of God to overcome.
We met some key new allies who break this mold however, and believe God moved deeply in several people. The first night we had around 150, and the second night a bit more. We had our eyes, at least I did, on at least 700, it’s always more exciting to worship in a full auditorium. With plenty of room to spare, people spread out, and seem to tabernacle with focused intent particularly the first night with Yan and XDH leading, some not moving or checking their phones for a solid hour.
I couldn’t help but think of how God loves to fill hearts, not just rooms. It’s hard to not be discouraged however when there are empty seats remaining, and literally 50 meters outside a city of millions wanders aimlessly in the night.
Some of my favorite stories (they are still coming in) include a family that somehow found out about the event and traveled +100 miles. Also, as missionaries have been systematically removed from legally serving in Russia, we were encouraged to meet several brave souls who’s faith was GREATLY bolstered by our event. Pray for them.
Some of the instagram posts afterward are always neat to read, where people say things like, “I totally came by ‘accident’ and it was amazing!” Others in shock that such an event was taking place right under their noses, or could take place at all.
In each country, God is both advancing and subsequently being resisted in unique ways. The resulting plan of advancement in Christ must be equally unique and spirit led.
We heard that several of the pastors leading churches in the city had specifically instructed their people not to attend. It’s a sad reality that in incubated environments such politics are involved.
I pray more churches, especially in major cities like Kiev, Minsk and St. Pete will grow in boldness outside of their regular scheduled programming, and in co-operation with others. I believe it’s happening, but it’s also not.
The platform of Lit. Worship events geared towards youth in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. After hosting one worship event this past year in each of the three countries, I’ve come away agreeing with Socrates, I know that I know nothing (besides Christ). The experience of the events have revealed to me, or perhaps educated me in the reality that each country we visit is quite unique. Unique challenges, economic conditions, political pressures and religious control. We need fresh direction, vision, and aid of the Holy Spirit – it’s ok to not know, because He does.
Pray with us as we step back and re-think how to approach Russian events and outreach. I feel worship is not what is needed, at least not yet. The Gospel’s teeth need to be felt before the love and grace of God is appreciated. For that perhaps God is building a stronger base of long term influence in the freedom we are enjoying in Ukraine. We just finished praying this morning for God to lead us in Kiev, for upcoming partner meetings, for housing and the place God wants us to form up.
We have June in our sights as we begin to work on Lit Kiev, and extending this project to include classes and more teaching during the day in various formats and topics. We are also focused on Minsk in the fall and starting to look at venues to follow up that amazing event. Both will need lots of prayer, and support as we are moving into these again by faith. For now, it’s prayer over Russia, all the seeds sown, and ask you to join us, because this is a huge field of harvest. It must include the power of the Holy Spirit in all we do to bring the much needed blessing of freedom in Christ.
Thank you all that prayed, gave and are growing with us as we attempt to impact the culture for Christ in the Russian speaking world. I feel the weight of learning and maximizing our efforts and investments, with renewed humility. We believe Jesus is the answer to those without hope, the thirsty, and even the apathetic who are too comfortable in this life and ill-prepared for the next.
Bruce & Deb