About Greg

I'm a blogger, and work for a tech company here in Austin. I'm actively involved with my church, Servant Church, and love to meet new people. Thanks for stopping by!

New Blog Address Live Today!

As you might have surmised, along with posting more frequently lately, I’m taking this blogging thing a bit more seriously. To further that interest, I’m making a few changes around here.

The first is I have a new domain name! From now on, the blog will live at: recklesspursuit.net (Yes reckless pursuit.com was already taken, and it’s cute and all, but it’s not my blog.). Though the new blog looks the same as this current blog, under the hood it’s quite different and gives me more tools as a writer and domain manager.

While all old content will continue to live here, all new posts will live at the new site. I’ve already migrated all the content of this blog over to the new site, so if you want you can go back and read old posts from the new site, nifty huh?

Important News (if you subscribe to the blog… or want to):

While the content is the same, unfortunately I cannot migrate subscriptions. However, it is quick and painless to subscribe to the new blog. So if you’d like to subscribe and receive new posts via email, go to the new blog here and on the right hand side of the page, enter your email and click “Subscribe!”, pretty simple right?

That’s great Greg, but you said changes with an ‘s’ what else is new?

Glad you asked, in addition to the new address, the other major change is that I hope to ramp up the frequency of my posts, to a few times per week. I have more to share and can’t wait for the opportunity to do so! I love writing and hope that you enjoy reading my thoughts as well. Thanks so much for coming along with me thus far and I hope to see you around on the new blog as well!

The Last Few Months (Part 2)

As I left off in my last post, through reading a great/challenging book and the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I came to turn around from cutting ties with Servant Church.

The Bible Made Impossible

My friend Ian introduced to me this book called “The Bible Made Impossible” by the Sociologist Christian Smith. In the book Smith, an evangelical Catholic (yeah I didn’t know they existed either :)), makes the case that biblical inerrancy and other ideas in the same constellation are not possible to uphold in practice and therefore should be replaced with different frameworks for considering how we view the Bible, what it claims, and how it should be applied in the 21st century (or in any century for that matter). Without watering scripture down to mushy relativism, Smith suggests that maybe we are asking cultural or moral questions of scripture that it was never meant to answer. Instead he argues that scripture exists solely to point to the person of Jesus, who He was, what He did, and how we can know Him.

Furthermore, Smith shows that there is no such thing as a truly objective reading of scripture since we all are want to interpret it in light of our own ideas we bring prior to reading it. This leads to a problem he calls “pervasive interpretive pluralism” (i.e. the Bible says a lot of differing things that can all be supported in scripture). And since scripture can be interpreted so many ways, we might want to slow down before we make hard claims about who is beyond the pale theologically speaking. The effect of this message on me was profound. Instead of driving me away from faith, it brought me to look at scripture more closely, to wrestle with it a bit more, and turn over rocks I’d left alone in the past. I found that if I wanted to take scripture more seriously, my interpretations needed to be challenged and I needed to become more conversant with those I disagreed with instead of shying away from conversation, which had unfortunately been my tendency at that time, especially in my running from Servant Church.

Coming Back Home

The week that I planned on cutting ties with Servant Church, I instead found myself worshiping there. Initially, I went because Eric, the Pastor, invited me to hear the sermon that week (which you can find here if you’d like to check it out), about the rhythms of arriving & saying goodbye. The previous week, with my mind made up, I’d told Eric I was planning on leaving Servant Church. However, also in that same week’s time, but after meeting with Eric, I was totally humbled by the ideas presented by Christian Smith and starting to have my thinking turned upside down again. It began to dawn on me how hurtful and judgmental I’d been to rush to judge the effectiveness and viability of a church based on its theology. Additionally, I was overcome with how presumptuous I’d been to assume such superiority of my theology over others. Despite all this emotion and confusion flowing through my veins, I drove to the church that Sunday and cautiously walked up the sidewalk, not sure of what welcome I’d receive. However once I got through the doors, I was reminded why I loved this church so much and was warmly welcomed back by my friends, some of whom didn’t expect to see me there again. By the end of that worship time, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, I knew where I belonged and was glad that it was at Servant Church. Over the next few weeks, I began to resuscitate and rebuild the connections I had within the community and have not looked back since.

Indecisive? Thoughtful? Crazy? … Maybe a bit of all three

Like I’ve said before, I run with ideas until they reach their logical extreme, then run the other way. After running from an Arminian Theology to a Calvinist one, I have now been humbled back into seeing things a bit more generously theologically speaking. Today I’m not sure what I’d call myself if someone put a gun to my head and asked me to pick. Thankfully life doesn’t work that way, we don’t have to pick sides, instead we can follow Jesus wherever He leads without fear, we are safe with Him.

Lessons Learned

In Boy Scouts, one of the best exercises we did was something called “Lessons Learned”. After our campout each month, the Scoutmaster would write a short report of what we learned, the ideas we’d tried, the place we camped, or the type of activity we did that weekend. Then a few months or a year later, when planning a campout for that same place or activity, we would read the lessons learned aloud, so we would hopefully avoid making the same mistakes again, or try a good idea again. All that to say, here are my lessons learned from this experience with Servant Church & my theology:

  1. Don’t write off good relationships in exchange for good intentions. I was ready to cut ties with people who are now my closest friends because I intended to be the best “Missional” Calvinist I could be by only choosing to associate with a church where I agreed with the people 100%. There are quite a few issues with this way of thinking, the least of which are: a) That would be quite boring, b) This ignores the fact that the kingdom is and was meant to be diverse and instead tries to promote conformity in the minutiae, which sounds rather Pharisaic, & c) In the wise words of Forrest Gump about his closest friend “Bubba was my best good friend, and even I know that ain’t just something you can find around the corner”.
  2. If you have to disagree, only do so about things that actually matter. One of my big mistakes (and frankly a huge mistake in the American Church at large), is that we make minor disagreements out to be the linchpin of all theology. We would rather separate (something Jesus expressly asked us not to do) from those of a different opinion than have to wrestle with issues and be generous with one another (something Jesus expressly asked us to do). In short don’t “make a mountain out of a molehill” as my family likes to say. Don’t get me wrong, its fine to disagree with others, but don’t let those disagreements define or harm your relationships with them.**
  3. You can come home again. Above all these other lessons, I’ve learned you can come home again. I’ve rediscovered how much my community loves me, and how much God shows His love to me through these kind-hearted people. If there is someone or group you need to reconcile with, don’t wait any longer, swallow your pride and pick back up where you left off. That is certainly not always the easy thing to do, but it is better than wallowing and being consoled by the “rightness” of your opinions. We have a God who is in the business of redemption; you, your family, & your community are not beyond God’s love and repair.

Thanks again for coming along with me on the journey of this summer. I hope it has been edifying for you thus far. Please subscribe if you’d like to and stay tuned as there will be some new and exciting changes in my life and the blog coming soon!

** Note: In “The Bible Made Impossible” Smith makes this point quite well in a way that we in the American Church should take to heart.

The Last Few Months (Part 1)

The last few months have been some of the most tumultuous in my life thus far. I have processed them but never really written much about what went on and how I dealt with it until now. But now, before my memories fade and the order of events is washed away, I want to preserve these things both for my own growth and hopefully for the help of others someday.

Toward the beginning of the summer, back in May, I had a pretty serious set of doubts about where I was headed in vocational ministry. Up to that point I was seriously considering being a pastor in the United Methodist Church, and had done a lot of praying, consideration, and plan making toward that end. I was attending a UMC church plant called Servant Church, which I had grow to love dearly. However, during that time I felt an undercurrent of unease about being in the Methodist system for clergy and about some aspects of Methodist/Arminian theology. I had left behind my bend toward Calvinism (or so I thought), but it’s doubts about the beliefs of Arminians lingered in my mind. These questions ranged from issues like “Should only clergy be allowed to bless the communion elements?” to more complex issues of “Should we baptize infants?” or “Should we ordain women as pastors?”. And while I understood the Methodist position and why the church believed what it did, I could never really accept those answers in a way that I was at peace with. The final breaking point for me trying to make being a UMC pastor was when trying to make a compromise on the issue of infant baptism (if you want to more about this, ask me sometime, but the minutiae are not important for this story). I realized, if I faced such an uphill battle on this, why bother with the more difficult or emotionally charged issues? So I ran back to the open, yet cold embrace of Calvinism. I say cold because it felt stable and reasonable to me, just not a very comforting theology to land on, and most of the experiences I’d had with Calvinism were rather exclusionary towards those with whom they disagree. I let my mentor for candidacy in the UMC know that I wouldn’t be continuing the process, and started pondering what expression this longing to be a Pastor would now take.

One facet of this new found embrace of Calvinism that I didn’t want to deal with right away was what impact it would have on my relationship with Servant Church. I loved the people in the community and continued to be present there until the end of May. However, this issue I was so content to let slide was thrown into my face one Sunday morning. I awoke and began to prepare to leave for Servant Church, but as I got closer to walking out the door, this deep, almost physical unease set in and began to intensify. I started asking the Lord, “What is this feeling about?”, and soon I felt that I really needed to take seriously the issue of what am I doing at a church whose theology I don’t agree with and find contrary to my reading of scripture. I tried to brush off the feeling and told God, “OK, I understand, we’ll deal with this as soon as I get home from Servant Church”, but as I started my drive toward the church, this unease intensified into a general panic, telling me to turn around toward Austin Stone. Soon enough, I turned the car around and as I drove toward Austin Stone, the feeling subsided.

As it happened, the sermon topic at Austin Stone that week was about church membership and what it meant to belong to a church. This topic encouraged the thoughts already spinning through my mind into overdrive. Suddenly, I felt that in order to follow my convictions, I was ready to throw the Servant Church community that had done nothing but love and support me, out the window. If you’ve known me long, you will come to find that I will take an idea out to its logical extreme and then run in the opposite direction when I find major issues with it, not because I’m indecisive, but because i want to always live in a way I find consistent with my beliefs. That May, after feeling disillusioned with candidacy in the UMC, I gave up on Servant Church, and would not return for two months. In the meantime, I returned to Austin Stone, where I didn’t have many strong relationships or community, but I consoled myself, saying to myself “At least they have a theology I can agree with”, which in hindsight, was a pretty cold way to go about living.

While I tried to figure out what it meant for me to run back to Calvinism, I had other pressing issues going on as well. The first of these was leading a Wesley Foundation mission trip to Lviv, Ukraine for two weeks (something you can read about in a number of my previous posts starting with this one). After returning from Ukraine, I had a few weeks to regroup and transition out of the college lifestyle I had enjoyed for the past five years (despite actually being in college for 3.5 of those years), get ready for a new 9-5 job adventure with Volusion, and process the major change in friend groups I was experiencing. I enjoyed those weeks, spending a good amount of time with my family and catching up with friends.

But then in the midst of these transitions, a tragedy hit me on an otherwise uneventful Tuesday. I was driving from work home for the evening when I got a call from a friend who was on the Ukraine trip team, asking me if I’d heard what had happened in Lviv. I said that I hadn’t and she preceded to tell me about a horrific construction accident where the ceiling had partially collapsed in the old student center in Lviv, where we had been working three weeks prior, however she did not know exactly who was killed or hurt. My initial reaction was disbelief, I had the feeling similar to that of jumping into an ice cold river, breathing sharply, all the while thoughts reeling in my mind while it rebooted into basic fight or flight mode. The call was dropped, so I called another person on the trip. I remember driving on Spicewood springs over MoPac, when she told me that two people had died, including my friend Illiya, who myself and the other guys in our group had stayed with in Lviv this summer. My sharp breathing was nothing compared to the panic that went through my heart at that moment. It’s a miracle that I made it through that drive to where I was headed. I called my mom and was coherent long enough to tell her that there was an accident in Lviv before I collapsed into uncontrollable tears & emotion. After I regained my composure or at least enough to not look like a train wreck outwardly, a memory flashed through my mind. I remember just a few weeks ago, sitting at Illiya’s kitchen table, after he had just finished his last exam to get his degree in Religious Studies, talking about what he would do with his life. The optimism and hope of that moment was suddenly eclipsed by the bitterness of this moment learning of his death. The next day, as many of us from the trip as could be there gathered to talk and pray for the two men who died in the accident, our friend Illiya and David, who was there on a short term mission trip from Sugar Land, near Houston, and for the Missionary Pastor, also named David, who was injured in the accident. David is recovering in the US and walking now, but initially he fractured his pelvis in multiple places, broke his arm and leg, and had nerve damage in his arms from the ceiling collapse. There wasn’t much to say that night, we already heard all the news there was to hear, so we mostly cried, shared stories, and prayed. We had no power in that moment, just hope that this wasn’t the end for Illiya, for David, for the ministry, and that one day God would set this right.

I told my training leader at work what had happened the following day, but otherwise kept the two worlds of work and my personal life very separate. Compartmentalization has been a very dear friend to me this summer. And when the worlds collide, I find myself quite ill at ease about it. Not exactly an unexpected result, but this summer I learned how much I rely on a strict separation of the spheres, because I like most people, value control of my circumstances which is illusory at best. A few weeks after the accident, a coworker asked me about it since he knew that I’d been in Ukraine and had heard from a friend of a friend about it. I admitted that I knew about it and that it was people I knew who’d died or were injured in the accident. He gave me his condolences and I walked back to my desk. I started to work again, but this neat separation between work and the rest of my life was shattered. It shouldn’t have bothered me like it did, but I found myself in a minor panic for the next half hour or so, till I got in touch with a close friend who reminded me that things would be OK.

Apart from the accident, the undercurrents of what church I would partner with began to come back up after the trip to Ukraine. For a few weeks after the trip, I had nothing to do with Servant Church and was resolved that a) I didn’t agree with them and b) therefore could not partner with them in worship or mission, since in the longer term they would not support me working with groups I desired to work with (like Acts 29, etc.). So I kept my distance, ignoring the polite calls of friends and leaders at Servant Church, firm in my resolve. I met with Eric, the pastor there, a few times but kept making clear to him that I did not want to be a part of their church, though I did appreciated his friendship and care toward me. I was prepared to cut ties with the church I had so carefully cultivated over the previous four months, until something happened which made me see the error of my ways and return. I’ll explain in more detail in Part 2 soon, but until then thanks for reading and following my story. I’d love to hear any feedback you have about all this, so please leave a comment below if you feel so inclined.

The Rest of Our Ukraine Experience

Well, my last post had “(part 1)” at the end of its title, but there won’t exactly be a part 2, instead I’ve written a rather long post tying up our Ukraine experience, which I wanted to capture before time began to wash away its freshness in my memory.

After that great and reassuring experience of worship on our last Thursday leading Pilgrims, the student worship service, the last few days of our trip were great, but went by very quickly. Friday, we had another great day at the work site, and in the evening we went out to watch Ukraine play in it’s 2nd Euro Cup game against France. We stood in Fan Zone with thousands of others in anticipation, hoping Ukraine would pull off another upset and advance to the next round. The match went ok in the first half, but as the second half wore on, Ukraine’s defense fell apart and France ended up winning 2-0. As disappointed as we were, we went to drown our sorrows in overpriced dessert. We had a fun time at a restaurant which translated means “Japan House”, pronounced Ya-pona Hata in Ukrainian. I had green tea iced cream, which was an experience, though not exactly a tasty one. Reassured in the hope that Ukraine would do better against England in the their final game, we went home and got some rest.

Saturday, it was a beautiful day and we had a great chance to go to a nearby lake and relax with our team and a number of our Ukrainian friends. We crowded into a stuffy Marshutka, yellow buses that are the primary form of public transportation for the city and surrounding areas, and took a 30 min. drive to a lake. The weather was perfect, with bright sunshine, a light breeze, and highs in the 70s.

We had a Shashleeke, or a Ukrainian BBQ out there and played in the water, which was just a bit warmer than Barton Springs back in Austin. We just had a fun time of fellowship, playing Ultimate Frisbee (the Texas team son of course), slack lining (google it), swimming, eating fresh food, and enjoying one another’s company. It was great to see the countryside and enjoy Ukraine’s natural beauty after being in the city for so long. After going at such a quick and rather un-Ukrainian pace most of the trip we got a good chance to slow down, which we were thankful for. In the late afternoon, we got back to the city center and walked Rynok Square, the city hall and main square, seeing all the festivities and fans geared up for the Demark vs. Germany match the next day.

Sunday was a big day in a few ways. First, it was important for me because I preached at Church. Second, it was our team’s last chance to worship with our Ukrainian friends, which was bittersweet. And third, it was the day of the last Euro match in Lviv, which was a huge deal for the city itself, this also meant that it was our last Euro Game party to host at the student center. First, I got the chance to preach at church. (If you want to read what I preached, you can find it at Google Docs here.) I had preached for the church and at Pilgrims before, but still I was a bit nervous initially, and delivery of a sermon is very hard to gauge through a translator and given that you can only speak one sentence at a time it is more difficult to establish a rhythm. I spoke on the story of the Demon possessed man who is healing by Jesus in Mark 5. I contended that like this man, we as believers have all been afflicted, hurt, and captive to our sin, all of us as believers have been redeemed and healed by Jesus, and then we are all sent forth to spread the good news. My point was that we are all called to be missionaries and that we need to live out that call both in our home context and in the nations. I thought it went ok, but I don’t really know how it went because I am pretty tough on myself when judging things like that.

After church, we had a great picnic with church folks in a park down the street from the student center. We had sandwiches, sat on the green lawn on a beautiful day, had great conversation, and even played ladder golf and corn hole to boot. The picnic was another great time of fellowship with our friends from church and we savored every minute of it. Later in the afternoon, we wandered around the city some more and got ready for our last Euro Game party.

That evening we hosted our last Euro Cup party, complete with Mac & Cheese & meat, a foreign concept to all our Ukrainian friends. To go along with these delicacies we bought a fruit stand out of all their fresh homegrown strawberries (at close to a $1 a pound, which was awesome), and made banana splits with chocolate sauce as well. All of this sounds simple enough, until you see our kitchen. It was a work of performance art to see the commotion of the kitchen buzzing with activity, most of time using 3 or 4 burners at once to get all the dinner cooked. Julie was our star choreographer of the whole operation, making sure that the Cheese and meat didn’t burn, while keeping the noodles boiling and later the chocolate sauce from burning as well. This last party was perfect example of our team firing on all cylinders and working very well together to get our task accomplished. The party went off without a hitch and everyone had a great time as we watched the last Euro game in Lviv. We conversed with our Ukrainian friends, made new friends, and got everyone fed.

We also had our last in country debrief, followed by a surprise whipped cream attack on Todd and me by Jeanette & Dom. All told it was great evening, except for doing the mountain of dishes 🙂

Monday, we had our last day of work at the site and our last full day in Lviv. We worked quite a bit on the ceiling that last day, ripping down the lower part of the ceiling to expose the large support beams beneath them, which they want to clean up and show off with a kind of unfinished ceiling look when it is all done.

As we wound down our work, I couldn’t help but reflect on the work we did. In our time in the space we:

– Scraped paint off of 7 walls and a ceiling so they could be repainted

– Removed the half inch thick plaster from 12 major walls

– Knocked down 2 major brick walls while staying clear of rupturing a gas line and a number of electric lines

– Removed the floor and sand beneath the floor in 4 rooms

– Removed the ceiling in a major room

– Hauled thousands of pounds of sand & cement via stairs and a lift up to the 4th floor

– Shoveled all of the debris from these projects into lots of bags

– Sent hundreds of pound of leftover bricks down the lift and by hand

– And hauled down thousands more pounds of assorted debris down four flights of stairs

All told I believe we accomplished quite a bit. However, the best part of our last day was our time spent in prayer. After all the dust settled and the hammers and shovels went silent, before we went home to clean up and pack, we took some time as a team to pray over each of the rooms we worked in.

We prayed for the office, for the foyer/computer/hangout room (where we did most of our work), for their sanctuary area, and for the parts of space that weren’t purchased yet. We prayed for God to move in His power and use these spaces to His glory, for people to find Him and come to love Him there, for the empowerment of David and Shannon and the leaders of the church and student center, and for the generations of believers who would walk into that place, be trained, and go forth to make disciples in Lviv and around the world. It was a fitting end to the work, and a reminder that God has been before us and is after us in the work He is doing in Lviv. We stood in awe and wonder at the chance God gave us to come alongside Him and bring the change He desired into reality in the physical changes to the space, and be a part of the history of the church in Lviv that is continually being woven together. That night, we had a celebration dinner together at the girls apartment, followed by dessert out at a little cafe and then we returned to our apartment to pack for the long trip home.

The next day, we packed everything up, went to a goodbye lunch in the center with David, Shannon, and some friends at this questionable American-style fast food chicken place called “Yummies”, and then loaded up for the airport. Despite a few major headaches with our tickets, we left Lviv on time and headed back to the US via Warsaw, Poland. We had a real adventure once we landed in Chicago O’Hare however. We only were scheduled to have a 2 hour layover, but the flight arrived 20 min. late and we then had to wait in the longest customs line I have ever seen. That coupled with a few bag check mistakes put us in dire straights time wise to make our connection to DFW. Once we got through security, I encouraged our team to run as fast as they could to the gate. I felt like I was the airport scene from “Home Alone”, except for the getting on the wrong flight part. I ran to the gate as well, but despite our valiant efforts, we missed the flight. But we didn’t despair for too long, because there was another an hour later that still had room for us. We landed in DFW a little after midnight (a total of 18 hours of traveling thus far), found our gate and thought we would have to make do with sleeping in chairs that night,until the Lord provided. We settled in and were about to try to sleep, when a nice man who worked for the airport happened by.

He asked if we were sleeping here for the night and when we said yes, he asked if we would like some cots, and said that they indeed had cots for us if we wanted. We gladly acquiesced to this proposal, and when he returned a bit later with the cots, he said “Hold on, I’ll be back with the pillows and blankets in a minute”. The team slept, but I stayed up that night to keep an eye on our things (you never know what kind of people there are lurking in the airport over night after all). In the midst of my sleep deprivation, I couldn’t help but come back to worshiping God. I spent a while that night thanking Him for the good work He had done in and through us on the trip. He is such a good father and provider and I did my best to give Him thanks and praise that night in the lonely but tranquil DFW airport. A few hours later, one of our team folks couldn’t get back to bed and switched places with me and kept watch while I tried to sleep for a bit, which helped a little, but I really didn’t get much rest. Our flight took off at 8:15am, so everyone got up at 6am for a final team debrief. We had a great time sharing the good and difficult parts of the trip and how it has or will continue to change us. Each person shared how God moved in them through the experience and we lifted up prayers of thanks for all of these things. Finally, we boarded the plane and got back to Austin safe and sound.

I’m so thankful for the team we had, for the leaders at Molod Do Isusa & the Church, for David & Shannon and all their hard work they did to make this a great experience for us, for Nick & Katie and their opening their homes to us for two weeks, for the wonderful city of Lviv, that welcomed us so well, and to the sovereign God who made it all happen for our joy and His glory. Thanks also to you who supported us on the trip through prayer and finances, I am very grateful for your help.

The spiritual impact of this trip for the team, myself, and the ministry in Lviv is ongoing and I can’t wait to share it with you as it continues to unfold. Thanks for being a part of it.

Two Euro Games in Lviv, Pilgrims, and some time at the beach (part 1)

First, thanks for reading and supporting our ministry here in Lviv. We could not do this ministry and the work we’ve done over the last two weeks without your support an prayers. Second, sorry about my updates being less regular than I anticipated, our schedule has been very tight time wise and rather tiring, so I haven’t had as much time to write as I’d like.

With that said, here is what has been going on since Tuesday. For most days, the work at the new student center space has been a consistent rhythm: do something that makes the room dirty (like take down bricks, a part of the ceiling, or rip up a floor), then load up the trash into bags and take them to the lift and lower them 4 stories to the trash pile. So if I don’t mention the specific work at the new space, that is what we did that day 🙂

Wednesday, we had our second Lviv game watching party, where we made Texas style food while watching a Euro game, then went down to the fan zone to watch the game taking place that night in Lviv. That day we made a good solid Texas meal: Chili (with and without beans) over rice, with a chocolate cake with buttercream frosting. When we are cooking in the small kitchen of the student center, it’s a logistical nightmare, with at least two people trying to work on multiple dishes while another works in the sink preparing more dishes to use, all within a 4 sq. ft. space, creating a perfect storm of crazy busy activity. But somehow we managed and got around 30 people fed with some hearty Texas food. Over dinner we had some great conversations with students about life and future aspirations, continuing to grow our friendships with the students here. Also, we had some homeless brothers and sisters and some folks from the church, english club, and pilgrims join us as well, making this a very eclectic gathering, like a church family should be. After filling our bellies we walked down the street and gathered down at the fan zone to watch Portugal vs. Denmark. It was an early game and we had a great time enjoying the crowds while it was still light outside as the sun set on the beautiful Lviv center skyline.

Thursday, after a long day at work, we took our turn to lead Pilgrims, the weekly student worship service, like we would an Overflow service back at the Wesley. Complete with currents, and overflow groups, we led our new friends as we worshiped our God together. Erica gave a great current, sharing about her trust in God as she ventures out into the world and walks in obedience though she is not sure of exactly where she’s headed in the short term with a job. It was a great and brave story and I’m really proud of her for sharing that. We continued our worship together in song, led by David and Jeannette, sharing some songs in English and some in Ukrainian, but no matter the language, we were united in our intention to praise God. Next, Todd shared the sermon for the night. He shared his testimony of how he came to know and follow Jesus, and how God has been working in his life in the past and today, leading him out of sin and toward obedience and a path as a UMC pastor, totally sold out to follow Christ. As we broke into groups to discuss the sermon and how we were or weren’t living our lives in sacrifice to God, I knew that God wanted to use that to open up some people to follow him more and more with their lives. And while I don’t know what all went on in the conversations in the groups that night, I know it was powerful and will bear fruit in the ministry here in Lviv moving forward. Also, that night I heard from the Lord that He was really proud of our group and and how we had been waking in obedience to Him on this trip, something he continued to tell me throughout the night, more joyfully each time He repeated it. Overall, it was a great night of worship and the Lord showed us kindness and love in a great way.

That catches us up to Thursday, it is late here and I can barely type at this hour, so I’ll have to write more later. For now, it is our last night in Lviv, so please pray for safe travel tomorrow as we leave this beautiful land and our new friends for life back in the states ( I just misspelled that sentence 5 times trying to write it, I’m a bit tired). Thanks so much so your support and prayers.

Church, an indoor BBQ, and Ukraine’s 1st Euro Tournament Win!

Since Saturday, it has been a quick few days to start our second week in Lviv.

Sunday, we had the priviledge of worshiping with the great folks at St. John’s UMC Lviv. We even had the treat of having the Ukrainian sermon preached by Pastor Lubomir translated into English by one of the talented members of of the church. We loved being able to share whole-heatedly in worship together despite not having a language in common. After church, we were going to have a shashlik, a Ukrainian BBQ of sorts out in a nearby forrest, but sensing that our team was very low on energy to make the trek out there, David and Shannon graciously moved te event to their apartment where we enjoyed grilled pork shish kebabs from their back porch balcony along with baked potatoes, bread, veggies, and kool aid. We had a wonderful afternoon hanging out with and getting to know people from the church, it is wonderful to see the ways it has grown and developed from last year to this. We had an afternoon to ourselves to relax and explore the city and then caught another Euro Cup game in the evening, enjoying our day of rest.

Monday, we got back into the swing of things with our work on the student center space. We demolished more of the walls in the space and did lots of cleanup from the previous demolition work we’d done thus far. Then, these last two days we have worked on taking out the floors in the main room and hallway of the apartment and cleaning up the leftovers from that, and despite a few minor illnesses and injuries we are all doing pretty well. All through out our time on the work site, we’ve been building relationships with the guys who were working alongside. Probably by far we’ve interacted with on worker one most, named Rouslan. Rouslan doesn’t speak much English at all, but we’ve learned to communicate in shorthand, for example, when he wants me to help him carry some 100lb. Bags of sand from the lift into the next room, he’ll call out “Greg, Miami beach”, signaling me. Besides these shorthand codes, we’ve got to know him other ways too. Rouslan is always looking out for is, watching for dangers in the jobs we are doing or in the way we are going about a task so we don’t hurt ourselves or someone else, or waste time doing something the wrong way. Work has been very enjoyable as we’ve made new friends at the worksite.

Monday night, we had a great dinner at the girls apartment, planned English club, and then us guys donned our Ukraine jerseys and headed out to the Lviv Fan Zone to cheer on Ukraine against Sweden in their first ever Euro Cup game. The atmosphere itself was a great and worthy enough sight, but Ukraine came ready to play that night too, which made all the difference. It was exciting as Ukraine scored its first goal to tie Sweden 1-1, the crowd shouting and chanting “Slava Ukriane”, a national cheer, and yelling. Then the team scored again, taking the lead 2-1! Which was pretty decent or a team the supposedly didn’t stand a chance. After about 15 nerve racking minutes of holdin on tight and avoiding giving away a goal, the final whistle sounded, and Ukraine emerged victorious, and then the sea of fans on the main center of Lviv went crazy, shouting, cheering and reveling in their sweet win. It was great to be a part of something so meaningful to the pray of this city and country. Keep cheering them on as they play France this Friday, by the way.

Tuesday, we did more work ripping up the floors at the new student center. However our evening was the more notable part of the day. This Tuesday we led English Club here at the student center. Molod Do Isusa runs this conversational English club as their primary outreach to students here, and last week we participated to get a feel for it, an this week we planned a lesson and took the lead. Since it is summertime, we talked all about fun things we like to do in the summer both at home and in Ukraine. We talked about water parks, watermelon, swimming, camping, fireworks, BBQ, road trips, and anything else we could think of. And likewise we asked our new Ukrainian friends about their summer traditions and how they spent their time without school and with long daylight hours. We had a lot of fun and made many new friends. And then we played a game together, with each person getting a card with an animal on it, that they weren’t allowed to see, but they could ask other people yes or no questions about the animal they were. It was quite entertaining for folks to try and figure it all out. All told, it was a great experience.

This brings us up to Wednesday, which I’ll post about soon, that’s for reading, please pray for our last two work days Friday and Monday that they will be safe and fruitful. Thanks do much for your support.

Knocking down walls & Savoring the weekend

After settling in well in Lviv, we are now hitting our stride and in a good rhythm here in our work and play.

Thursday and Friday, we had good work days at the new student center space. After tearing lots of plaster from a few walls, we got to the fun part of wall demolishing, knocking down the wall brick by brick. First David, the pastor/missionary/contractor jack of all trades began with the bricks at the top do the wall, gently pulling them down one by one, but once we got the wall down to head height we could take sledgehammers and beat the rest of it down, which was probably the most entertaining part of our 2nd and 3rd work days here. Nobody got hurt, thank goodness, and we made a very visible improvement to the space, opening up the floor plan of what will by the foyer of the church.

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This photo was after Patrick and I demolished the first major wall. The next day Todd, David, Volodia (one of the leaders of the ministry, as well as a newly appointed local pastor here in Lviv), and Katie (one of the mission interns here in Lviv) demolished various other walls in the space, really opening it up the space more so than it has been up to now. When we aren’t knocking down bricks, we are cleaning the mortar off of them so they may be reused to build a few future walls in the space. Also, we have been carrying lots of debris from the space on the 4th floor down to the ground level to be carried away, but toward the end of Friday that job got much easier as the crew we are working with installed a cable driven lift out of our window, which helps move sand for concrete up to the space and move trash down, while saving our backs, legs, and arms. We are incredibly grateful for this new labor-saver and for our friends who installed and welded it together. We are tired at the end of each long laborious day, but we know we are truly making a big impact in the ministry and it’s future here in Lviv, please pray for our work to continue smoothly, for safety, for our masks to continue to keep us from breathing in the dust that is so thick from the ruble we’re creating, and for our friends who we’re working with (Ihor, Rusalan, Orest) that God will continue to bless them and their work here long after we are gone.

Apart from the construction part of our ministry here, things are going great as we build relationships with and find ways to minister to our Ukrainian friends. On Thursday night we joined Molod Do Isusa (the campus ministry) for their worship service called “Pilgrims”, much like Overflow at the Texas Wesley, and had a great time worshiping together with them. Though we didn’t always understand the words to the music we sang, the movement of the Holy Spirit was evident as we sang together, worshiping this great God who created us and loves us. that night David preached about the Holy Spirit and the disciples receiving and being empowered by it at Pentecost. It was an inspiring message, challenging us to go forth and make disciples, in the power of the Holy Spirit, which has been given to all of us who believe. It just left me humbled that though we don’t speak the same language, we could all worship this wonderful God together as a family. We had a good time conversing with students after the service and got to build more friendships there. Pray for us as our team prepares to lead Pilgrims this next week, especially for Todd as he preaches.

This weekend we enjoyed the first few Euro Cup games and got some much needed rest. On Saturday, we went out to the suburb of Seeheve, where my old apartment is from the last time I lived in Lviv, and helped with a church event picking up trash in a nearby forrest. It was not quite the most relaxing thing to do on a Saturday, but it was still fun to do with friends and great to be outside in the cool forrest on a nice sunny day. We had a picnic lunch with our friends from church, went home and rested, and then prepared to host a game watching party for the first Euro game to take place in Lviv, Germany vs. Portugal.

Saturday night we hosted the first of 3 game watching parties for the students at Molod Do Isusa and the church, complete with homemade Texas style food. The first dish we served was Tex Mex: tacos and nachos, compete with all the fixins’. Though it was a foreign food to the folks at the party, they loved the food all the same, devouring it all. We were able to make most of the food from scratch, though we did import HEB taco seasoning to help us make the tacos properly. We had a very festive time and had fun making the food, eating it, conversing with new friends, and cheering on the respective teams (I didn’t really pick a side in the Germany vs. Portugal game however).

That brings us up to the going on from last night, I’ll try my best to keep up with this week more closely than last on the blog. So, please pray for our work at the site, for our leading of English Club and Pilgrims this week, and for my preaching at Church here in Lviv next Sunday. Thank you so much for supporting us by reading the blog and praying for us in our ministry, I am incredibly grateful for your support.