Winter, Widows and Where?

Three generations, two widows and a grand-daughter in this sweet family.

Three generations, two widows and a grand-daughter in this sweet family.

Winter has deposited a solid 2ft of snow this week.  I woke up this morning to a cold house and my talented wife starting a fire – dreaded radiators acting up again.  Winter is work, we take nothing for granted when it comes to heat here.

Our town now has a tractor running about doing it’s best to clear the main road, but most neighborhoods haven’t been plowed yet.  In the center of the town, in the center of the street,the tractor piled a mountain of snow – kids are now collecting and sliding down it.  Off to the side next time tractor man!

This morning I was privileged to visit some of our Widows from our feeding program.  What was particularly humbling is that they asked for me.  This is no small thing for local Orthodox Christians to invite foreigners into their homes.

I don’t like to call it a feeding program, because so much more is being accomplished.  Yet, the reality of the name, ‘feeding program’ drums up images that are realistic given the real economic crisis in Ukraine, particularly among the pensioners in winter.   This is survival food, and opening hearts for some neat relationships to form.

As I'm writing now, this little bear cub plops down beside me. She loved meeting her big brother Broderic this Christmas.

As I’m writing now, this little bear cub plops down beside me. She loved meeting her big brother Broderic this Christmas.

One of the visits was particularly special to me.  The grandmother, a widow, her daughter, a widow, and granddaughter who is actually the girlfriend of Max who works at the Cafe and helps with Club 180 Youth.   As we sipped tea and reminisced about their past, I felt a love swell up in my heart for the grandmother.   She’s held a family together through some very difficult trials, and continues to beam an innocent joy and softness.   She worked for 36yrs in the local radiator factory, has seen so much in her lifetime.

We opened scripture, shared from the Psalms and prayed together.  Such open and thankful hearts.  Several times during our visit the grandmother could be seen wiping tears. She was full of joy, enjoying and giving love.

For too long, I’ve imagined (thank you America) the Gospel to be a complicated, amway-like program designed to instigate mental ascent.   We like things packaged, measurable and repeatable.

Yet, how simple, how profound the revolution that is love!  Think about it.  What conquered your heart when you finally surrendered to God?  Simple, powerful, life-changing love.

As believers, our calling is love.  That’s it.  Everything else is religion designed in hell to puff men up and make God appear small.

When God flexes His muscles, He suffers on a Cross.  That’s who He is; power constrained, humility in action for the good of others.

These dear ladies have so much to offer.

On another visit today, a sassy but sweet widow offered us her three last apples – a rarity in winter, shriveled (sorry Canada, it’s not ‘shribbled’) and unappealing to the eye, the Widows mite.  Humbled.

Humility in it’s literal sense is to be ‘made low’ or to ‘come under’ something or someone.  When someone loves you sacrificially, all our pride is pressed upon isn’t it?  Oh this welcoming but difficult sensation of humility in combination with love.

It’s a cold dose of reality – we are unworthy of the care of others, and we know it.  So, when the King of the universe stoops down and sets His gaze upon us, it becomes the greatest challenge of our lifetime – to believe it is to be pressed, crushed and emptied of all self love and falseness.

The humble love of God towards us is the battleground of faith.  To reject it is to be in denial of it, or so delusional that we think we deserve it. To accept it is to made lower than our deepest fears, but then raised to the highest of heights!

“The Lord reached down from above and took hold of me; he pulled me out of the deep waters” – Psalm18:16

To believe it, to embrace this love personally from God the Father, is the fountain head of dispensing this miraculous love to others.   We love, as scripture says, because He first loved us.

Today I was humbled by love.  The love of precious ladies and the love of a beautiful and perfect Creator.   I felt a very real love for people I had just met, the love of God working through me.  This is powerful love, it’s the real deal love.  I want more of it.

Ice rink is being used daily,and nightly and providing plenty of sore backs with all this snow!

Ice rink is being used daily,and nightly and providing plenty of sore backs with all this snow!

The Ukraine government has revised again their tax code for business effective Jan 1, and it’s not good for small business.  With the economy hemorrhaging and a continued war in the East, they’ve instituted a war tax, along with doubling the cost to legally employ.  To double down on private business that might think to avoid this tax (as most do), there’s a new 90,000hrv ($3,500) fine for violation of this tax code.  We met this morning to update our Cafe taxing system, keeping legal here is important for us nor our employees who we’re training to pay their required taxes as well.

A very small sample size of the amount of paper receipts we try to make sense of for end of year taxes.

A very small sample size of the amount of paper receipts we try to make sense of for end of year taxes.

It’s difficult to try and convince our staff that a taxation system is actually good when their dollars rarely do anything visible (roads, hospitals, schools, still in Soviet conditions).    These new taxes make it harder on everyone, especially those already doing business for ministry.   I anticipate many more businesses closing this year, but pray this makes our witness even stronger.

Thank you for your support and financial blessings through the year – it makes a huge difference for us to receive even $50 extra in a month.  We have the coolest group of supporters – Deb and I are humbled at the core group, the ‘church’ that Jesus has given us for His work here.

Click here to see our support team, we’d love for you to join it if you aren’t already!

Going Where? This Friday my parents from Canada will be arriving in Kiev for 12 days.   It’s been 2yrs since their last visit.  The kids are very excited… it may also have something to do with belated Christmas gifts in Santa Nana suitcases.  Deb and I will be flying out as soon as they arrive (nice son right?!) to Seattle, Washington for 3 days for some ministry meetings as they watch our crew for us.   We have a busy Jan 13-20 coming up, please pray for us and our family as we consider some more opportunities, seeking the Lord for wisdom and timing for next steps.

I’d also like to make a note to anyone out there sensing a season of serving with us, whether for a few weeks, summer or possibly longer. We are prayerfully considering expanding our team in the near future and while our gaze is primarily towards leaders in the Russian/Ukrainian speaking world, we remain open to the call of God on all that surrender and desire to serve at some level.   It’s His field, but it’s your race.

Sincerely,

Bruce & Deb

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