BPW_2211
BPW_1884
BPW_2216
1
BPW_2316
8
7
3
6
5
9
4
2

Blog

The 2017 Credo Group

blogcredostudy

We hit an all-time record of 47 people in our apartment last Thursday. (Check out the floors.) I loose track of the parties and fun we have in our flat, but I am pretty sure we’ve never had 47…although that one New Life/15-intern lunch of 2014 might have been pretty close…

blogcredolesson2

The following Tuesday we tried again, but “only” 25 showed up. Only! Then we had 30 the next lesson, and 20 this past week. Honestly, this is larger than many churches in Eastern Europe. Some can only dream of a youth group so big.

blogcredolesson3

Thanks be to God, who gives us not only campers, but those who are willing to grow in their faith with Jesus. I don’t have time to share all the stories of where we are seeing God work, but I can ask you simply to pray for Khrystya, Khrystya, Sofia, Sofia (that’s easy), Diana, Kyryl, Severyn, Daniel, Alla, Vlad, Vitalik, Anya, Yuliana, and a few others who honestly have the chance to change their lives and others’ because of Jesus changing them.

blogloveteenagers

Summer is coming to a quick close, and teens come to a fork in the road. Pursue this Jesus thing and remain a part of the youth group community, or return back to school, to the world, to the way life was before summer? We are trusting God that He will keep His children close. Looking forward to fall!

The Emotions of August

The end of August always brings two feelings.

One is pure bliss! Camp season is over; God got us through with great camps, short-term teams, interns, lots of lessons learned along the way, and tons of teenagers with whom we got to share Jesus. In August, schedules slow down. Summer vacation is right around the corner!

blogbathroomtearoutThere is space to get a few personal things done, like waiting in line at the phone company to cancel an old home phone number (this must be done in person with a passport in Ukraine; I’ve been putting off this project for 9 months now…). Or ripping apart a wall in the bathroom due to some shoddy craftsmanship from 8 years ago, now causing our hot water heater to switch off…(sometimes as team leaders we forget that we are also people, and that maintaining a household and sanity in the home is of critical importance. Whereas some do house projects every weekend, our lifestyle does not provide such a luxury.)

 

The second feeling is sheer panic in my heart. I am super struggling with what to do with my fall, and am seeking God intensely, even purposely picking the 5am JV Prayer Room slot, just so that I have a few hours in the early morning to pray and sit, well, more like wrestle, with God, about my next stretch. The way things are playing out it appears as though my life schedule is more empty than it has ever been before.

Due to certain life circumstances, it appears as though I have more freedom and space than ever before, yet at the same time this is terrifying me, because I need more boundaries, I need more clarity than every before. I like having a set project or task before me, because it keeps me grounded and from chasing down 100 other shiny things that catch my eye and I want to be involved in. This is a serious problem of mine. And this is the fall where it is going to stop.

This June and July, due to a seminary deadline, but nonetheless, I felt that God was asking me to commit just to just three things:

  1. Love your kids. They’re out of school and without a babysitter for the summer.
  2. Love teenagers.
  3. Work on the dissertation every single day and turn in those 50 pages.

blogmarissabirthday

(Marissa’s little lake birthday party. Turning seven.)

Update – this summer worked out! I did these three things. I felt some stress when dealing with things outside of this list, but I felt great joy in doing these three things. I would call that a successful summer.

However, here we are entering fall. I am seeking God daily – “God, what do you have for me? What are my best yeses this year? What are my best nos? I only have 168 hours in a week and I am tired of chasing down what I think I am supposed to do. I want a role, a place so badly. I need You to intervene, stop me in my tracks, and draw me into Your awesome, prepared-in-advance good works for me to do each day, which will bring contentment and not send me looking elsewhere for identity and ministry.”

Honestly I have not heard much from Him. I have heard my own heart’s desires speaking, but they are fickle, sinful, always changing with the wind, untrustworthy. God has got to intervene here. But this is what I hear and know thus far from my faithful Lord.

blogepokhateamretreat

  • If you can’t love your team, your ministry is nothing, so you need to start there.
  • Your children are precious and are worth investing in.
  • In September 2016, you wrote “Daily die to self, so that I might be among team and family as one who serves”.
  • In September 2016, you wrote “Radically testify to that which I have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
  • You will glorify ME through your Fuller Seminary studies.

This doesn’t help me much regarding an hour-by-hour schedule. This doesn’t help concrete investment in a particular ministry. Honestly, I will just work on these points until God frees up something else. It is a privilege to have God on my side, my Heavenly Father who cares about every detail, and who promises never to leave me or forsake me.

I Got My Mind Set On You

As a child of the 1980s, this George Harrison song was one of my all-time favorites. But I am realizing its significant spiritual component as this message “setting our minds on” pertains to Jesus Himself.

blogMichaelDianaSophia

When you commit to being a youth leader – a discipler of the next generation – you are signing yourself up for entering into a battle with them of the sins of the flesh. In my experience, the biggest areas of sin and temptation for teens in my context these days, both Christian and non-Christian, are drunkenness, promiscuity, lying, disrespect to parents, cheating, pursuing money above all things, depression, gossip, disillusionment with the church and laziness. If you are a spiritual mentor, you will enter into this arena more than you ever wished.

blogYoungLeaders

I praise God that Jesus, too, entered into such arenas with His own disciples. The grace, patience, intense intercessory prayer, and forgiveness that he extended to Judas, Thomas, John and James, Peter, and Matthew. (I’m sure to others too, but these are the ones I see in Scripture hurting/disappointing Jesus the most.)

blogOlyaGroup

These dear young people are just that – young and immature in Christ. They are newer Christians. They do not have a solid foundation of Scripture; they are not faithful in time with Jesus above all other priorities. They do not spiritually feed themselves in such a way as to protect themselves from the temptations in this world.

blogSmallGroup

My heart breaks for them. I sit and pray for God to protect them, just like Jesus prayed against Satan when he asked to sift the disciples like wheat (basically to destroy them.)

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Peter said, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.” But Jesus said, “Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Luke 22:31-34

I thank God that His word and promises are so faithful. In my Bible reading today, I came across two similar verses that I am praying, just like Jesus did, for the disciples. We take our example from Him. He is so relevant to TODAY’s YOUTH!

Romans 8:5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Colossians 3:1-2 If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

blogPrayersForTransformation

God, may our young people transform their minds. May they submerse themselves in the truth of the Bible, so that it becomes easier to say no to sin and yes to You. May they think about life with you in the future that will have practical implication on everything they are doing today. May they see the lies and the emptiness in saying yes to the flesh, leaving us only empty, guilty, unsatisfied. Please, God, intervene radically and rescue them as only You can. Thank you that forgiveness, restoration and repentance are just around the corner at every step. You are so kind! ~ Amen

Friends Who Go The Distance

“Good morning, August 1st. You have been looming for quite some time now. I’m thankful that you are now in my past.” August 1 was our Year 1 paper deadline for our Fuller program. Honestly, writing a forty-page stab at the first section of a dissertation has been probably the hardest academic thing I have ever done – maybe because it is not just one 40-page paper, one time. This is one of many 40-page papers. I feel so small, so uneducated, and super unworthy to be on this journey! Yet at the same time I’m so filled with joy that I can participate in God’s kingdom with this tiny contribution.

blogpoolcelebration

Yesterday our family went to a new pool to celebrate completion of Year One. (Dylan’s behind us; Marissa’s on top of the colorful bubble.) This was truly a day to celebrate because I personally have battled several internal giants while writing this paper, including my issue of avoidance (which only leads to anxiety), the new disciplines of “Two Awesome Hours” and daily investment in reading. I have changed habits, hopefully for life! This is so life-giving, I am shocked. Hard, but life-giving. And lastly I’m learning where to set the bar for myself as I look at up to all these incredible, brilliant scholars, who I will never be. There is something so healthy about standing on the shoulders of giants! I have loved every minute of this, even in the hardship, which is the confirmation from God to keep going.

blogLookingOutOverLviv

In the midst of all the academic stress, late nights, drafts and re-writes, joys and frustrations, we not only had New Life English Camp and a New Life Fusion Camp visit, but we also had a different kind of visit. Our dear friend Aleisha Stephens came to town. She and Brian are our dearest friends, hands down, in this season of life. Unfortunately Brian’s dad ended up in the ICU in Florida, so Brian ended up flying there instead of to Ukraine, but Aleisha’s visit (with two of her dear interns) was perfect timing. I just lied – of course it was the worst time of year for them to come: this paper was due in less than 10 days! But honestly, it was the best time for them to come. We don’t have many people in our lives with whom we can be totally open, honest, vulnerable, and free with. And I have felt particularly lonely since re-entering Fuller, so I needed this.

God knowns our needs and puts people in place at just the right time. I’m thankful to be on the other end of this August 1st deadline, but the lessons I have learned and the time I got to spend with Aleisha during this time will have ripple effects for me into the next decade of life and ministry, no doubt.

blogKandAleisha

How Netflix Documentaries Are Changing My Life

Do you believe that God can speak to you through any means?

I was visiting a Fusion rock/pop choir camp a few weeks ago, and our youth pastor, Syava, was leading a 16-person small group(!) (We had that many kids register for both of our church’s local camps with JV, and since evening  program is pretty much the same, Syava leads his own talk for them and conducts small group. It is a great time to invest in kids who don’t yet know Christ but who have already 100% heard the Gospel and want to be there.)

Syava spoke on this: 1 Kings 18:11-13 “And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his cloak and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.”

God spoke clearly to me last night, working more on my character and heart through unexpected means. The first was through a Netflix documentary. These days there is not much time for tv, and my favorite shows (Chicago PD, This is Us, Homeland) are not on anyway. But we have grown to love Netflix documentaries.

blogwhatthehealth The high scoring video game one. The one about the video game graveyard. The creepy one about Scientology. The creepy one about one of Trump’s advisors. Sour Grapes about the wine-bottling scandal. The vitamin/shakes scandal (Betting on zero, I think.)

And for some strange reason, on Ben’s birthday, actually, we watched “What the Health”. In a nutshell, it is a pro-vegan lifestyle movie. It was NOT the film to watch when running from limited fast food options and gas station snacks with short-term teams. This particular film is not changing my life, it’s actually kicking my butt. Hard. But I am glad to be informed and consider my options. I used to think Whole 30 was hard core, Paleo was pretty amazing. But this no animal product lifestyle takes things to an an entirely different level. You can’t have it all…

But saying no to meat and dairy and eggs is actually not the way that God is speaking to me, although I am praying about why I happened to see it and what I am supposed to do about it…

blogminimalism

No, instead God got my attention through this film. It was amazing! I am by no means a minimalist, but living in a 100 sq. meter apartment in Ukraine for the past 8 years (1000 sq. feet) with no yard, garage, or balcony does keep my material desires under control. This movie had so many Biblically-based principles, I was shocked. One thing about attending Fuller Seminary is that they teach you how to see Christ in culture all around you. We don’t through operate in a fundamentalist bubble where everything carries either a secular or sacred label. No, Christ is in all and all things have been created for Him and by Him and through Him. He is in it all and was definitely in this documentary.

Main take aways were: Are you imprisoned by your work? Are you imprisoned by your things? What lies do you believe about “stuff”? We consume because we are looking for deeper contentment and joy. Do you have space in your life for things that really matter? Watch this movie, whether you are a hoarder or only own one pair of shoes. It’s not actually about that. You will leave feeling uplifted. It is evident that there is so much freedom that comes with living a lifestyle not tied down to things that do not matter.  This is not one of those “put down everyone else to make me feel good” kind of documentaries. Ben and I both were absolutely inspired…yet if they only knew Jesus as the ultimate answer to their deeper issues and questions.

blogspiritofthedisciplinesBut that is actually not the theme that God wanted to talk to me about. Just before starting “Minimalism”, I had started “The Spirit of Disciplines” by Dallas Willard. (It’s time to start up a new round of our program’s 20-books-a-year reading list.) The opening chapter talks about Matthew 11:28-30’s easy, light yoke that Jesus wants to give us, as he takes our heavy burdens. It talks about how John wrote that “His commandments are not burdensome.” And I recognized that I have been feeling burdened and tied down by the responsibilities that come with the territory of being a team leader. I get thrown off course easily. When ministry challenges come, I view my job as heavy rather than light. In other peoples’ problems my joy is robbed rather than made complete. This book is saying “Jesus promises a light yoke to carry. The heaviness of going to the cross was taken up with full joy (Heb. 12). The challenges of immature disciples did not throw Jesus off course. The sin of the world hung on His body on the cross. The ability to see the evil in humanity’s hearts. The mega-criticism that ultimately brought Him a death sentence.

JESUS took on these things brilliantly because of His daily connection with the Father that sustained Him, and because of the mission that He was on. His eyes were fixed on the thing that really mattered, so that nothing could shake or waver His faith. He lived so simply that He could always do the work of the Father. He had no personal agenda. He was all in. And nothing could stop Him.

I know that God is preparing more great things in my future. His confirmations of this are everywhere. But I need to be physically healthy (What the Health), emotionally healthy (Minimalism) and spiritually healthy (Willard) in order to be ready for the good works that God has prepared in advance for me to do. Only then will I be able to battle the stress and temptation to hold on to a heavy burden instead of exchanging my difficulties for His light load. Jesus models this for us in Scripture. I am ready to learn from Him.

Walking in the Footsteps of Faith

Just recently, Ben and I were reminiscing about our Lockheed Martin days. As a part of their Leadership Development Program, we had the opportunity to sit in on executive meetings and observe high-level directors and leaders in their sweet spots. They cast vision. They appointed those who are great executors to their teams in order to bring projects to completion. They ran multi-million dollar companies. They spurred the younger generation on to great achievement and opportunity. It was fascinating to be a part of of the inner-workings and learn from the best. Yes, it was a secular environment with secular goals, but I am still inspired by those three years that I was a part of that company and with that crowd of young leaders. I would not be who I am today without that experience.

As a leader in Ukraine, it is not at all the same as those LMCO days. The honest truth is that there are just not as many leaders to look up to. Who is casting vision, training and equipping, and appointing executors to the team in order to bring projects to completion? Most of the time, that is our job.

Josiah Venture has quality leaders we can look to, learn from and be inspired by, but they are far away, and there isn’t that daily access to them like we had in corporate American. One of the only substitutes is self-leading and self-teaching, where you learn from books (the best mentors). It’s not ideal, and often it is lonely and exhausting. But it is one of the only ways to stay motivated and inspired when there is no one around on a daily basis.

Honestly, I usually feel alone. I have been thinking about this A LOT this summer. Leadership is lonely.Being a female leader in a male context is particularly lonely. I sometimes can’t help but wonder – who is coming to work each day excited to train and equip me as I train and equip others day in and day out?

I long to look to the side and see another female who is doing things the way that I do, but after 10 years, it is still not there. It’s not that I don’t have friends and teammates, because I do and they are wonderful. But, for example, for the past two months between camp activities, we have spent every spare second, literally, at our desks, writing a 50-page attempt at the social sciences context and literature review for our doctorate program. People ask where we’ve been or what we’ve been doing with our time…it is hard to explain. You don’t want to feel pretentious by talking about the program all the time, and no one really understands anyway. Being a 37-year-old student when no one else is a student doesn’t help the loneliness. I never, ever that God has called us to this life in Ukraine and to these studies, but it can still be lonely.

blogInthisTogether

Luckily I have Ben, who understands in almost every way (except for the female part, but at least he tries to empathize). (Happy Birthday, by the way. 2 weeks belated. I owe you.) We have studied together since 1994. We did grad school downtown Philadelphia together (different schools and tracks, but still at the same time), so plenty of late nights in our orange office in Delran.

We did Fuller Theological Seminary together, 6.5 long years, to be exact, and with two children born in the mix. We stayed on track and stayed together. And then, back in November, we committed to doing the DMin together. So we sit up until 2am, sharing research, sharing book quotes, banging our heads against the desks, laughing hysterically, rejoicing when we find a great article, etc. Just last night we stayed up until 2 or 3am, discussing surveys we read, dreams we have, challenges we are facing.

It’s incredible when your spouse is not only your husband or wife, but in our case, we really do share things with one another in a way that no one else seems to. I’ve always been one to dance to the beat of a different drum, and I may not have peers who understand my life, but Ben really does, in the deepest sense, where I feel the loneliest. He is right there, feeling a bit lonely himself. I am so thankful for a bond of ours that is deeper than marriage, deeper than friendship. It’s one flesh on an entirely different level. I don’t really know how else to describe it, except that almost every single day we look at each other and say, “I don’t know what I’d do if you weren’t physically in this, 100%, side-by-side with me. I am so glad that you understand.” _______________

I was reading Romans 4 this morning, and God woke me up to see that my faith really wavers when I look around me, like Peter on the water, and feel that I am so alone. The reality is that Jesus is right there, telling me to come to Him, telling me that this plan to redeem Central and Eastern Europe for God’s Kingdom purposes is worth it. Ultimately, it is he who fulfills my loneliness.

Another reality is that we really are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 11, 12:1-2). Abraham is one of those witnesses, who testifies to the fact that the unknown journey is worth it. Following our Lord and Savior anywhere for any purpose is worth it. He is so important to the people of Israel; I want his life lessons to be important to me to. What do I see when I look at Romans 4 and think about the life of Abraham?

blogMoreFaithsteps

Hebrews 11 reminds us that “By faith Abraham obeyed when we has called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents…for he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God…Therefore from one man, and him as good as dead, were born descendants as many as the stars of heaven and as many as the innumerable grains of sand by the seashore. These all died in faith, not having received the things promised but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth“…

What I can learn from Abraham?

  1. God honors obedience. Obedience to come to Ukraine, to become missionaries. Our obedience to lead the team. Our obedience to study at Fuller.
  2. We do not know the future. I may not see the promises fulfilled in my life time.
  3. I am a stranger and exile on this earth. Abraham moved and was totally alone.
  4. I need to stop looking around me, trying to find people who can relate, and lift my eyes up and focus on the eternal (Col. 3:1-2). “But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Heb.11:16)
  5. Romans 4:12b “Walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had”…
  6. Romans 4:16 “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace.”
  7. It might feel like you are swimming upstream.  “In hope Abraham believed AGAINST HOPE, that he should become the father of many nations.”
  8. This journey requires supernatural believe in God’s miracles. Romans 4:19 “He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about 100 years old), or when we considered the deadness of Sarah’s womb.”

“No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.” v. 20-21

“That is why his faith was ‘counted to him as righteousness’. But the words ‘it was counted to him’ were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord.” (v.22-24)

Lord, help me battle with the reality of loneliness in leadership. Thank you for Ben, for Abraham, for Your Son, for my job, for my school. In my loneliness I am filled with your spiritual riches that will sustain me until I arrive in your faithful city. I can’t wait. <3

Malenovice, CZ Event Center Fundraising

Recently our Ukraine team has been responsible for covering a week in July in the prayer room. That means finding 24 people per day to cover one hour of on-line interactive prayer, interceding for Josiah Venture and for God’s movement in Central and Eastern Europe. When it is our team’s weeks to cover, I find myself in the prayer room almost every day, compared to the twice-per-week average that I try to maintain weekly.

Prayer-Room-Promo-Social-web

Often when I am in the prayer room, this prayer request comes across my path:

Malenovice Event Center
One of the keys to keeping our team and young leaders healthy and well-equipped is a training center called Malenovice in the Czech Republic. This amazing facility has served our team and this region of the world for 18 years, providing a place for transformational training events for leaders.

But the movement is growing and we are out of space.

After five years of planning and preparation, we are ready to expand our capacity at Malenovice.

blogeventcenter3

Please join us in asking God to provide the remaining $2 million dollars of the $5.5 million that is needed for this project to move forward. UPDATE: A gift of $500,000 was given in May! This brings the amount needed down to $1.5 million. Praise God with us for this provision.

Pray for people who are willing and able to make an eternal investment in lives that will be changed because of this facility.

Check out this link: https://www.josiahventure.com/about/training-centers/malenovice-event-center-project   and read all about the history of the hotel and the importance of a place like this. Ben was at the original hotel in 2002 when he was a summer intern in Czech. Since then, we have visited Malenovice countless times and have honestly been blessed EVERY SINGLE TIME. No joke, this place is holy ground.

So would join us in praying for the JV team to find donors to cover this final amount? I believe that there are people out there who can make generous donations to something like this, investing in a project that will change lives of an entire region.

Also pray for the government permissions. There have been many people in Czech looking to shut down this project. May God do what is right and necessary and provide in His perfect time.

Celebrating 10 Years of New Life English Camps!

We praise God with our whole hearts for this milestone! Ten summers ago we prepped with our New Life Church team for a “camp of a different kind”. JV Camps are unique, in the sense that they have specific themes, logos, training and strategies, in order to equip local churches to reach the campers all year around, not just for the 7 days that they are at camp. Their camps are dual in purpose: evangelistic, so for new kids who don’t yet know Christ, and disciple-making, in the sense that young leaders are developed and trained so that they can spiritually lead their peers.

(We’ve actually been doing camps in Ukraine for 11 summers, but our very first summer in UA, we were booked with other camps, and New Life had their own plans.)

Tossing the Bday Boy

Being Human 2008

Dear Youth Leaders Yara Kristy Yulia Lena

Being Human 2008

blogStoriesCamp

Stories 2009

blogRedeemed

Redeemed 2010

blogSyavaBenCollision

Collision 2011

blogKidsAtCamp

The First Babies of Camp – Collision 2011

blogGreaterThan

One more baby of Camp – Greater Than 2012

blogReconnect

Reconnect 2013

blogUpsideDown

Upside Down 2014

blogYouAreHere

You Are Here 2015

blogDidYouGetMyMessage

Did You Get My Message 2016

_MG_2516

and now SEEN for 2017

What a beautiful partnership. What a team of youth leaders. I vividly remember our first camp in 2008. Sasha, Yulia, Syava, Ben, Andriy and I are the only ones still leading youth ministries from that original group. Praise God that many other leaders are still around, just serving in different places in the church, diversifying the Body.

Over the years, so many leaders have grown and developed from the concept of making a camp a year-round experience that, on one hand, trains and equips leaders to be disciple-makers and evangelists, and on the other hand, reaches out to teens who don’t yet know Jesus. Each year almost 80-100 youth and leaders head to camp in great expectation of what God will do.

blogSeenCampEvFree2017

Two more things – one is not forgetting the other types of youth camps done with New Life. Now we have Fusion and Floorball and other outlets for youth to serve and to be ministered to. This email is just highlighting the English wave. Two, we never want to forget to thank all of the short-term teams that make these English camps possible. 2008 and 2009 were blessed by FAC, our New Jersey church. After that, EVFree Fullerton has blessed us from 2010 through 2017. Even the one scary year (2014) with the war was blessed by EVFree – they didn’t send an official team, but they sent tons of summer interns, several of which served New Life that summer so that we had enough native English speakers to actually call it an English camp! God continually provides all that we need.

Cheers to ten years of memories, stories of salvation, new leaders being changed, lives from the US being transformed, and God reminding us that He has a huge heart for the next generation.

 

I Love This Town!

blogsidewalksLvivWho remembers that line from Ghostbusters? I think it was Winston Zedemore who yelled it as they went out to fight spooks in Manhattan. I can’t agree more. I love this town. Ten years and Lviv hasn’t grown old for even a second. I have found, over the years, that I love reading about the theology of cities. Timothy Gorringe’s “A Theology of the Built Environment” and Eric O. Jacobsen’s “Sidewalks in the Kingdom”, and anything by Robert D. Putnam are all modern texts that really delve into the purpose of villages, towns, and cities, and how God wants to redeem them for His purposes. I’m in love with cities and the theologians that also care about them.

  • “So much of our Christian literature seems to be focused on the question of whether and how we can save our cities. It seems to me that we need to adjust this approach and begin to look for ways that our cities can save us. I mean save here not in the sense of salvation from sin—only Christ can do that—but rather save our souls from the damaging effects of uglification, standardization, privatization, and mass consumerism that have fueled this historically unprecedented appetite for sprawl in our country. But to receive the blessings that our cities (historic downtowns and traditional neighborhoods) can provide for us, we need to learn to see our cities once again.” – Sidewalks in the Kindom

This morning Marissa and I went out to purchase some small thank you gifts for some kind people from EV Free in California, who sent their short-term team members with little gifts, mainly for our kids. Some pink birthday cake mixes. Some almond butter. A powerful magnifying glass for my two Sid the Science kids (we’re obsessed).

As we are out, we run into kids from youth group, some youth leaders from California, one of our shop keepers who just repainted her store.

  • “There is not, therefore, a stigma attached to being a stranger. Cities are among the few places where strangers are accepted, and consequently, people who have no significant network of people come to cities because they can. This is significant for Christians, because the Bible holds hospitality— especially hospitality for strangers—in high regard.”

We love the city. We love the general Lviv community. Being involved in city institutions, whether it is churches, schools, hospitals, prisons – these places connect you to some of the heartbeat of a city. Walking everywhere. Sharing public transportation. Watching several people get arrested yesterday (!!). These are all daily occurrences that happen when you choose to be a part of the city life around you.

  • “If we are inconvenienced or annoyed by living, working, and playing in the company of our fellow human beings, perhaps we need liberation from our selfishness and our willfulness rather than a massive home on a two-acre lot (soon to be surrounded by other massive homes on two-acre lots). Living in closer proximity to our neighbors forces us to make compromises of our needs and wants—sometimes allowing us to learn the difference between the two. And as we navigate the delicate balance between our needs and those of our neighbors, we are presented with opportunities to take social risks and talk to our neighbors as we come up with mutually acceptable solutions.” 

blogIlovethistown

This week at camp we connected to various teens from the city. Here we are at follow-up, doing a long tour of the city and High Castle. Some teens with us were actually from small towns and villages, hoping to move to the big city in order to get a good education after high school. We pray that our church, our Christian community of young people devoted to Jesus, will be a home away from home for all these teenagers. We know that God wants to redeem Lviv for His purposes. It is a joy and privilege to still be in love with the city after all these years. (And what a view!) Yet we still recognized the huge task at hand as we hope to reach every teenager and their schools with the Good News of Jesus. One million people. 86 secondary schools. Thousands of teachers, administrators, parents. May we never grow weary of the task at hand.

  • “Unlike America, Europe has managed to preserve and develop its urban traditions into the present age. As a result, it has some of the most interesting and vibrant cities in the world. However, it is in Europe that we have seen the church experience the most radical decline in influence over the past century or so. This fact should remind us that even the best-designed and most charming cities will not automatically support the aims of the kingdom of God. The church cannot, and never could, rely on external forms of either ecclesial or civic institutions to guarantee the success of its mission.”

June and July – the fast track

blogGreeceLobby

I write on June 30. The last time I was on was May 31st. A month of silence?! This is a good thing. Two weeks were spent on an internet-free, work-free vacation with the kids.

The second two weeks were the annual pre-summer ministry scramble with our team before summer short-term teams arrive. Interns are here! Here is our newest team member, Randi, who will stay until Christmas and work with Fusion! So glad she is here, especially since she is the only North American summer intern we have. What happen to the 2014 summer, just 3 years ago, when there were 15?? We need more workers!!

blogJulianaESI

And don’t forget advertising for camp…oh those English clubs! What an incredible way to meet new teenagers. We were incredibly blessed by a group that is at a nationally top-ranked physics and math high school, so the kids have to know English. How fun it was with them!!!

blogEngClubPhysMat

Short Term Teams (STTs) arrived 48 hours ago! Here is our training for 34 team members, plus interns and staff, so we had a nice group of 50 to kick off summer. They go out to our three different camps with 3 different churches from Odessa, Ternopil, and our local church in Lviv.

blogShortTermTraining

And every spare second in between has been dedicated to writing 40 pages for the literature review for the DMin. It’s due on August 1st. We’re trying not to freak out.

blogSummerReading1 blogMoreSummerReading

Therefore July holds one English camp, one Fusion camp, and intense writing time for Fuller, in addition to all the things required to lead a budding team of 22 people.

blogNewLifePrayer

We know that prayer ministry is so important. Here is part of a prayer team at our New Life Church. Pray for a fruitful summer, especially since I may not get back on this blog until August 1st, after turning in that writing assignment! All for God’s glory and for the furthering of the Kingdom of God, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe.