As we’re getting rolling here, I know that some people who have known us for a long time (as well as many new friends around the world) don’t really have a clear picture of why we are where we are, what we’re doing down here, and how it connects with what we’ve always been doing.
So, while I do NOT want this blog to be “all about me,” I’m going to share a bit of our personal story… and then leave that aside.
My wife Liz and I have served as mission workers in Kyiv, Ukraine since 1995… first with The Navigators (originally with the CoMission project) and, since 2003, with ReachGlobal, the international mission of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
Nearly four years ago, our family experienced a health crisis that forced us to return to the US in order to see to the survival of our family. At that time, ReachGlobal asked me to serve in the role of Area Leader for Eastern Europe, a role which I still fill. That quite literally “kept us in the game,” since it had become clear that returning our family to Ukraine was not a healthy option for the near-term future, yet God hadn’t relieved us of the burden we deeply felt to be involved in European mission.
Since we have always loved “getting our hands dirty,” being involved in the messy, life-on-life aspects of personal ministry, the shift to leadership – where one’s success is measured by the health and effectiveness of how others function at ground-level – was not easy. It seemed, originally, that we were giving up far more than we were getting.
However, over time, we’ve experienced the blessings of the “convergence” that often begins to take place at this stage of life, and realized how the contributions that we are able to make in increasing the impact of others was consistent with who God designed us to be… though we still miss life in Kyiv deeply… and especially the many Ukrainian friends and colleagues we are blessed to know. For the record, our approach to ministry in Ukraine was “insider” – we came with more questions than answers, and didn’t try to do much of anything until we could do it in the heart language of our neighbors. Far and away, our deepest relationships and truest friends were among Ukrainians, not among other missionaries… we did NOT, by any means, live in any sort of “Christian bubble.”
In my current role, I provide leadership and oversight to our mission staff and partnerships in Ukraine as well as the rest of eastern Europe. I participate in ReachGlobal’s Europe Division Leadership team, which sets the vision and strategy for our work in Europe. I have a particular interest in fostering values and practices of integral mission (more on that later as well). My passion in particular is in developing reflective practitioners of integral mission and fostering a community of leaders in that area. At present, our team is starting a major initiative in Berlin, designed to help us discover the sorts of qualitatively different strategies and approaches that are needed to work for transformation in “complex urban centers” of the world.
So why are we here, sitting on this porch in rural Virginia? In a word, we needed a home – having been in Ukraine for so many years, we had never had a home of our own in the US. We prayed earnestly about it and God miraculously provided this place for us (we’ll tell you the story sometime). However, we didn’t expect what we got – this 10-acre parcel with some historic buildings (and lots of stories) and a huge potential for development… far beyond our capabilities, to be honest. We have a vision to develop a community here that will have real connections to the world of mission which has been our “sandbox” for so long, as well as the sort of revitalizing impact and missional values that have characterized our service and so many of our relationships in Europe… and find some ways of creatively tying these two worlds together.
So, going forward, we’ll be interacting about urban life and country life, European culture (what makes it what it is, and how different the East is from the West), American culture (what makes it what it is, and how different the North is from the South), LOTS of music of all sorts, and the threads that connect seemingly distant points of geography, thought and life into a world-wide web upon which we find ourselves.