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!