Lance & Megan's Blog

Coming Back “To” Ukraine: The pain of language shift


Thoughts by Lance

As I start typing up this blog post. I receive another phone notification that Ukraine is under missile threat.  For the next 3 minutes of my typing, my friends and coworkers will be hearing air raid sirens. Some are checking their phones to see where the missiles have been fired from, gathering what they can about the kind of missile or drone it might be as well as projected trajectories.  They have done this so many times, they can calculate how many minutes it will likely take to reach where they are if it is coming their direction. This is now normal life in Ukraine. And the normalcy of this reality often makes me cringe. But another shift that I have been noticing is my language surrounding Ukraine and travel… And I don’t like it.

The last couple trips into Ukraine,… wow, I just did it… let me explain what I just did and restart this paragraph.

The last couple times I went to Ukraine, I started to realize that I have inadvertently adopted a language that I have never before used in context of travel to and from Ukraine. It was not an intentional shift nor have I seen it as a welcome one.  And sadly, it was not just me using this language.  Anyone going to Ukraine started unconsciously using it as well. We no longer say, we are going “to” Ukraine, we say we were going “into” Ukraine. What makes it even worse, now saying “I’m going to Ukraine” feels abnormal and insufficient. This may seem silly, but this frustrates me so much. So much so, I have been making a conscious effort to reinstate the proper preposition of “to” back into its rightful place.

Sure, we use into and to interchangeably very often to describe our going to some place. For instance, “Megan, I’m going into Irondale.”  It is natural and it works. But there is a difference, and that is context.  Irondale is not at war. There is not a distinct “being in” and “being out” of Irondale. Men in Irondale are not being stopped at the city limit and told they can go no farther.  Irondale is under no threat of missile attack that will come indiscriminately at any time in any apart of the city. If it was a place of combat and danger, “into Irondale” would be a very different meaning. You would probably stop saying “to” and exclusively start saying “into.”

I very rarely before used “into” to describe my going to Ukraine.  As I think about it now, when I would talk about travel, I would say I will arrive “in” or “to” Ukraine at such and such date, but rarely “into”.  So, what has changed?  The context Ukraine is in has changed. My relationship with the nation of Ukraine has had to shift. How I approach my going there and my staying in country has changed. It is so incredibly inconvenient to get there now.  The freedom of my movement and my friend’s movements have been hampered inside and outside. Before the war and after war started is strikingly different.  

But what has not changed?  My relationships there. My love for Ternopil. My love for the Ukrainian people that have changed me so much for the better. When I am here or there, relationally I am still in. We have never been out even when we have been here in the states. For me, to say “to” is relational openness. In the context of nations, it rings of freedom. Just like when my kids say, “we want to go to Grammie and Grandpa’s” or “I am going to Europe.”

“Into” compartmentalizes Ukraine into a mere conflict zone. A scary place that we must go “into” and “out of.”  It shortcuts our brain to make Ukraine an unsafe place that should be avoided. I know it is a small shift in language that may not mean very much to most people. But it means a lot to me.  Ukraine is not just a nation for me.  It is where I learned how to be a friend. It is where some of my deepest sense of purpose and community was fashioned. It is where Megan and I met and grew up as a couple.  It is worth changing my language for.

So, I am choosing to combat this language of separateness, of distance and of isolation. I will again, for my friend’s sake, do a small honor and say, “I will be coming to Ukraine as soon as I can.” My language will reflect my heart’s stance to this wonderful country. And here in the states, I will unashamedly say, again and again, I still love going to Ukraine. Missiles, drones and hatred may be coming into Ukraine, but I will always be coming to Ukraine.

posted under cultural, Lance, Thoughts By Lance, Ukraine, YWAM | Comments Off on Coming Back “To” Ukraine: The pain of language shift

Practicing The Way: Be with Jesus. Become like him. Do as he did. By John Mark Comer


Formational Book Review by Lance

5/5 stars

“To follow Jesus is to become his apprentice. It’s to organize your entire life around three driving goals:

  1. Be with Jesus.
  2. Become like him.
  3. Do as he did.

Apprenticeship to Jesus—that is, following Jesus—is a whole-life process of being with Jesus for the purpose of becoming like him and carrying on his work in the world. It’s a lifelong journey in which we gradually learn to say and do the kinds of things Jesus said and did as we apprentice under him in every facet of our lives.”

“Practicing The Way” is less of a book and more of an introduction to John Mark Comer’s new program called, you guessed it, “Practicing The Way”. Though, I do have to say, it is also a really good book.  In general, I am a pretty big fan of Comer’s books and framework around the Christian life. I am drawn to the contemplative nature of the way he encourages us to practice our apprenticeship to Jesus.  In the world today, we have so many people, things and causes drawing our affection and dedication. There are so many distractions it is hard to know how to move forward with a sincere Christlike lifestyle. In this book John Mark introduces us to a way or “rule of life” for this day and age to be a disciple of Christ by being with Jesus, becoming like him and doing as He did.

Reading as a Disciple:

“The question is not, Am I becoming a person? It’s, Who or what am I becoming?”

“Christlikeness is possible, but it’s not natural. In fact, the gravity and inertia of life will likely take you in the opposite direction. “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” as Jesus said.  Put another way, there are no accidental saints.”

I know I am a child of God.  But sometimes I do not look or act like a Christian. I often think that just reading the Bible, going to church or being a missionary somehow forms me into a person that exudes Jesus in any situation… Sadly, this just not the case. I love that Comer frames this all with a question. Am I a Christian, or an apprentice of Christ?  To be a Christian is to do what Christians do. To be an apprentice, however, is to abide with the Master, emulate what I observe Him do and obey what the He asks me to do. 

Comer argues that we all “make our home (abide) somewhere, the question is ‘where?’” I have seen myself “rooted in the infinite scroll of social media” and from it have been “angry, anxious, arrogant, simplistic, and distracted.” My willpower seems to have no power to actually do much against this very real force of “abiding” in things other than Christ. So, if I cannot, from my own willpower, combat this current barrage of other things that ask for my undivided loyalty and sacrifice, how do I live a life of a disciple in this current age? How do I stay an apprentice while getting woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby, or reading another devastating article about more people dying in Ukraine or navigate yet another difficult relationship in the body of Christ?

I think Comer may be on to something… Just do the things Jesus did, while being content in a relationship with God where “I look at Him, He looks at me, and we are happy.” I so want that kind of acceptance and response to God. Most of my Christian life has been doing the right things for God because I have to.  But I am hoping my perspective is shifting to wanting to be like Jesus simply because it is the most loving and fulfilling way to live. Right now though, I am taking tiny steps toward this. Discipleship is a whole lot slower than we all want.

Reading Pastorally:

“For those of us who desire to follow Jesus, here is the reality we must turn and face: If we’re not being intentionally formed by Jesus himself, then it’s highly likely we are being unintentionally formed by someone or something else.”

“If “they” (whether multinational corporations, politicians, anti-democratic government agents, marketing departments, influencers who just want more followers, etc., etc.) can make us believe that each person is a blank slate, just following the inner compass of our “authentic self” in an upward march to happiness, then they can keep us blind to all the ways we’ve been “discipled”—formed and manipulated—by their desires.”

It is hard to keep a pure heart.  It is harder to shift ourselves away from things that we “like” and “want” that are actually doing us harm. It is actually even harder to identify what is even causing us harm. I have found, just telling someone who is constantly on their phone (which I have been known to do sometimes) to put their phone down does very little to bring an “aha” moment of their dependance. However, when I have seen people take a fast from social media, or actually rest one whole 24 hour period, tensions in their mind, emotions and body emerge. This tension emphasizes our living outside of God’s design for our human life and work. That is something way more than just knowledge will accomplish. That is a practice (or discipline), in apprenticeship to Jesus, working against our unhealthy coping strategies that “deform” us.

“The life of the Christian faith is the practice of many practices.”

I think there is something to, in the light of being loved by God and learning to love him back, a framework of consistent practices. The difficulty is that it is not easy (it may be impossible) to do on our own. So the challenge, I think, is to actually do this in community. And I love Comer says that, “love is the metric of spiritual maturity, not discipline.”  This is an important part of having a “rule of life.” It is not for perfection, but for love.

Other thoughts:

Why do I love Christian formation?  This style and emphasis in Christian living has been a solid rock for me these past 6 years. I remember the first time I was challenged to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (another book by Comer) from my life. It was then I started a very simple practice, driving the speed limit.  I was shocked to see my anxiety start to lift, my attitude to other drivers become more gracious and in general I became more peaceful… until I came back to the states and drove in the Seattle area… I increased my speed by 4 above the speed limit for my family’s safety… It was also the same time I started to have to initiate “The practice of being misunderstood.”  It is amazing how many people assumed I was just was trying to be a jerk by controlling the speed of others. I promise, I was not…  But I found that as I initiated a regular practice into my life, I was exposed to my inner life like I was not aware of before. And, in turn, I was able to love others better.

More about Practicing the Way at:

Other John Mark Comer Books:

  • Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies that Sabotage Your Peace
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Other Spiritual Formation Books:

  • Dwell: Life with God for the World- Barry D. Jones
  • The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People- John Ortberg
  • Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christhian Faith- Patrick Foster
  • The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation- Wilder and Hendricks
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Where is home?


Thoughts By Lance

Early on this trip, while on the Port Townsend to Sea-Tac airport bus, I took this photo. I sent it to a friend in Australia whom it reminded me of. We did photo club together. We lived and worked together in Ternopil. 

Then while on the Kingston-Edmonds ferry I remembered a conversation I had with a friend who lives in Gig Harbor, WA. We had a conversation on that same ferry a few months ago, and I looked at where we sat then. So I sent him a voice message.  We met in Europe and worked together in various places in YWAM. On that trip, we were on our way to see two other friends who were in Edmonds. One now lives in Edmonds, the other… globally. We all used to work together in Europe.

While at the Frankfurt airport, I sent a message to Megan about a “photo memory” that popped up on my phone from six years ago. It was Benaiah in our old apartment in Ternopil. I met Megan in Ukraine, and we worked together in Ternopil, now in Discovery Bay. I also sent a voice message to a friend who lives in Arizona.  We met and worked together in Kyiv.

At my hotel in Krakow, I sent a funny engineering fail video from my room to a friend of mine. I thought he would like that the vent fan for the stove went directly into the cupboard above. Just into the cupboard… He liked it like I thought he would. We work together at YWAM DB… Though he is moving soon. 

I’m currently on a train from Krakow to Przemesl (pronounced Pshemesh) texting an old friend who lives in Rzeszów (pronounced Zheshov), which is a stop along the way. We met and worked together in Ternopil. We are excited about maybe seeing each other at a friend’s wedding later in the year in Sweden. Our mutual dear friend lives in Sweden now. We both (literally) lived and worked with her in Ternopil.

I’m about to go across the border and jump in a car with friends whom I met and worked with in Ternopil. More than friends really. I’m really looking forward to our chat. 

Then I will arrive as a guest in the town I thought I would always call home. And in some ways it is home. But alone, without my family, it isn’t. I will be going to the sauna with friends tomorrow though, so it still is. 

My bags are full of things and food for friends… And even rocks from my hometown, picked by my parents on “Robert’s Hill”, for a friend’s aquarium. He, his wife and their pets live in Kyiv. We met in Ternopil before either of us were married.

Where is home? No longer is our stuff spread over 2 continents and 6 locations. It’s at least all in one state now… Except my bass guitar. It’s still in Ternopil. Should I get it now, or when the war ends? But now, so many of our friends, that were so close, are spread over states, countries and continents. 

Home is where you are rooted. I think sometimes home for Megan and I will be a longing and an ache. Home is learning contentment while rooting on ferries, in staff meetings, in Bible studies, and in the One who seems to be the central figure in all our rooting.  

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Bringing a love for Ukraine


Back in 2015, we worked with a local coffee shop to bring hope to the city, read about it HERE, Lance was able to work with the same people again to bring a love for Ukraine.

Lance and I try to get out into the countryside as often as we can. We believe that getting to know your surroundings will encourage a greater understanding of the people and nation we are serving. Not to mention, a greater love for the beauty it holds! Some of the pictures Lance has taken has captured the attention of others in Ukraine.


Our favorite coffee shop asked Lance to print a few photos to display in the shop. Of course Lance was excited for the opportunity to share his photos and his love of exploring Ukraine. Lance printed about 20 photos and prepared a short speech to encourage exploration of Ukraine.


We truly do love Ukraine and we have realized that many people do not know the beauty that is with in the country. We want to inspire Ukrainians to love their country and to see more of it. This opportunity of showcasing the beauty within Ukraine was a great way to motivate others to visit historic sites in Ukraine. Each photo was printed with the name of the village and the number of kilometers it was from Ternopil.

We are hoping that more young people will get outside of their city to experience first hand, the beauty of Ukraine!

You can see most of Lance’s photos on his Flickr site.

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Funny moments from English Club


Just thought we would share a few funny moments from English Club. We have English Club every Wednesday evening for anyone who wants to come. It is very casual, we usually just play games and have conversation.

~ Some time ago we played Apples to Apples, the word was strange. Everyone put in their cards and the winner was Super Bowl. I chuckled and asked why they chose that word to match with strange. They said “it would be strange to see such a big bowl.” Ha! They all laughed too once I told them it had nothing to do with a bowl but with American football!

~ Another time we were playing a game that involved describing items without directly saying it. The word was actually meatloaf but no one knew what that was. I said “its ground meat in the shape of bread.” Everyone got it and instantly wanted to try this bread shaped meat.

~ During the same game, the word was bull. The student said “the husband of a female cow.” It took everyone some time but they eventually got the word. I thought it was a clever description!

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