We accepted the challenge of leading the Ukrainian Celebration event for three reasons. First, we have served with Cru City Austin in a variety of ways in the past. Cru always does such a great job planning meaningful events so we knew from the beginning that we would be working with a strong and experienced team.

Second, we have friends and family that are connected to Ukraine in various ways. My (Todd’s) uncle has been the leader of a missions group working directly with Ukrainian people for years. Another friend worked for several years with a ministry that helped train Ukrainian pastors and missionaries. Finally, we knew the direct impact the Ukrainian war was having on its people as we know the mother of a CRU staff member who was displaced from her home in Ukraine where she lived all her life. When you personally know people that have been directly impacted, how can you not get involved at some level?

Working alongside others for this celebration event gave us the opportunity to serve those going through dramatic change in their lives. We both believe in Christ’s simple commandments to love God and love people…these events offered an opportunity to do both.

The biggest learning opportunity for us was balancing and blending Texas/U.S. culture with Ukrainian culture during the event. We wanted everyone to feel welcomed so striking a good balance between “Howdy Ya’ll” and Ukrainian norms was important. We (the team) made a lot of decisions by carefully listening to the input from the Ukrainian team members.

One example stuck with us. In the U.S., we tend to be very time/schedule driven when it comes to social gatherings/celebrations such as this. The American members of the team were generally pushing for a relatively short gathering (a couple hours) with scheduled time slots. However, the Ukrainian team members had a different perspective. They wanted a schedule – yes – but they wanted less time for “scheduled” activities and more time at the beginning and at the end for everyone to just hang out and visit. Of course, they were right as many of the attendees hung out for quite some time after the “scheduled” events were over.

Our own lives were impacted in several ways. First, simply being around people from a different part of the world reminds us how similar we all are and that we are all created in God’s image. In today’s American culture, everyone seems to focus so much on differences, when in reality, we have so much more in common. Second, talking with the refugees about their experiences makes us stop and fully appreciate our blessings. Third, we feel good about the opportunity to share some of our blessings with the refugees in hopes that they are blessed during this difficult time of transition.

Months later, we are still involved with helping the Ukrainian community. We have been using our pickup truck to help move furniture for various families as they are moving into their new apartments. This simple act of moving has encouraged us in a couple ways. First, the giving nature our local community is evident. Many of the refugee families have fully furnished apartments within weeks due to furniture and other donations from a wide variety of people throughout the community. One family we helped move had a car donated to them! Remember – these families literally show up to the U.S. with suitcases containing clothes and a few personal items…that’s it. The second blessing is simply witnessing the thankfulness and appreciation the Ukrainian families have for the generosity. Despite all the hardship the families have experienced, you can just tell from their reaction how grateful they are. One family told us directly that they just can’t believe how friendly and helpful everyone has been. Very humbling experiencing this as an “affluent” American.

Our involvement with the celebration event and the influence of several people we met during this process led us to take another step: sponsoring a refugee family through a program that legally allows Ukrainian families to relocate to the U.S. This process is underway with the arrival date of our sponsored family not yet set.

We are doing just a small part in helping a much larger group of people make a difference in the lives of our new Ukrainian neighbors. What continues to motivate us in these efforts is our desire to love God and love people.

Over 40 business and non-profit leaders came together for an all-day workshop entitled Crucial Conversations based on the NY Times best-selling book. Our Cru City Austin team loved getting to know the participants, learning together, and receiving tremendous feedback.

Here are a few of your comments:

“I only wish I’d taken this course YEARS ago to help in every aspect of my personal and professional life.”

“Masterfully taught, not a wasted second.”

“This course will help me have an overdue conversation with my boss.”


“Crucial Conversations – This is a life changing event.”

Our Master Trainer, Greg Stephens, was OUTSTANDING and received very high marks
for the content, his enthusiasm, authenticity, and tremendous personal examples that
made it real and practical for each one of us.

If you recall, Greg asked for help to connect with any high-leverage leaders who want to
improve their leadership and communication skill . . . for both personal and
professional development. I believe the course runs for 12 weeks and is limited to a
select group of 12 individuals. If you think of any potential candidates, please reach out
to Greg on that. Contact information for him is below.

This practical, interactive workshop helped us to learn to:

  • Keep composure when feeling angry, defensive, or intimidated.
  • Speak honestly and respectfully.
  • Find and cultivate mutual purpose with those who hold opposing
  • Recognize the warning signs when you’re at cross-purpose and take steps
    to rebuild safety and return to dialogue.
  • Bring people back to dialogue when they clam up or blow up.

Most of the participants indicated an interest to be informed of future Cru events and
also learn more about growing personally, professionally, and spiritually. We look
forward to being a potential resource for your continued development.

Feel free to contact us at austin@cru.org. or check out our website at austincru.com.

A Note from Greg Stephens

Thank you for joining us for the Cru sponsored Crucial Conversations class last Friday. I
wanted to formally thank Cru City Austin for their commitment to serve the people of Austin,
TX. Although we did not speak about the spiritual dimension of life and the effect Crucial
Conversations has in that arena, my wife Emily and I have been encouraged, helped, and
blessed through one on one conversations with many of the Cru City Austin Staff. If you are
searching and examining yourself in the spiritual context, you might find it valuable to reach
out to Cru if you would like to deepen your knowledge, ask questions, or just have an
authentic conversation of what kind of peace a spiritual conversation can bring to your life.
Although we have power over what we believe, what we believe holds real power over us,
especially the power to heal.

I appreciate the commitment it took to put aside your Friday and make it to class. I hope
you implement the skills you learned and improve your relationships. I wish you all the best!

My Best,
Greg Stephens | Founder | Alignment Resources
Email: Greg@Alignment-resources.com
Phone: (512) 750-4734
Podcast: Ashotofinspiration.com

Part 1: How do we engage people with whom we strongly disagree?

Friends and strangers clash with each other over issues large and small. Coworkers have conflicts in the office. Married couples fight over finances. People demonize each other on social media. Is there any hope for civil discourse?

We say ABSOLUTELY! And what drives that optimism will be revealed in the upcoming webinars. We invite you to join us as we explore a strategy for effective communication in this polarized, politicized, and often poisonous communication climate.

This first webinar covers the topic: “Hard Conversations” – Navigating Difficult Conversations with Truth and Love and will focus on our interpersonal relationships.

These webinars are hosted by Cru City Austin as part of our fall event series helping people develop personally, professionally, and spiritually. Great content. Great community. Great opportunity to actively engage through poll questions, live chat, and Q&A.

Dr. Tim Muehlhoff

Our Guest

Dr. Tim Muehlhoff

  • Professor of Communication Studies at Biola University.
  • Tim staffs Biola’s Center for Marriage and Relationships (cmr.biola.edu)
  • Frequent speaker at FamilyLife Marriage Conferences.
  • Author, speaker, and co-host of The Art of Relationship podcast.
  • To learn more visit: timmuehlhoff.com

Like most organizations around the world, Cru City Austin has had to find new ways to connect to people during this time of COVID19. Until March 2020, 90% of our contacts with people were face to face. Since COVID19 struck, we have had to pivot and use social media and the internet to connect. In a matter of weeks, we turned our small groups, seminars and even our outreaches from live events to online webinars and Zoom calls. Our mission and vision are the same —“To connect people to Jesus and develop spiritual leaders who will advance the mission of Jesus to impact Austin and the world”– but our strategies had to drastically change to connect with people during the pandemic.

In early September 2020, we held our first webinar with speakers Dr. Joe and Cindi Ferrini, who shared tips on “Fighting Fair.” Our webinars are designed to give people helpful information on growing personally, professionally and spiritually. The Ferrinis gave great advice on how to avoid fights (by listening and answering facts with facts, and emotions with emotions) and shared the importance of inviting God’s spirit into each disagreement.

In October, we hosted Dr. Tim Muelhoff virtually twice in one week. His talks, “Hard Conversations – Part I and Part II,” generated a large number of comments and questions from the 140+ participants. One of them later shared that she took the notes from Dr. Muelhoff’s webinar and shared them with a group of young leaders in her high-tech workplace and got great feedback. Another participant wrote: “I almost didn’t sign up to this webinar today but was so, so, SO thankful I did. This was a jewel of help about difficult topics and I am looking forward to the next one.”

One attendee who indicated that she was interested in growing spiritually has since come to faith in Christ after going through a basic Bible study with a local staff woman. A couple wanted more information about the local Cru ministry and started going through the same Foundations study with Cru staff and are now growing in their faith.

Because these webinars allow us to reach almost three times the number of people who attended our past Austin “in person” events, we will continue to use this powerful new tool that God has made available “for such a time as this!” You can click on the links to hear the Ferrini’s talk and Dr. Tim Muelhoff’s webinars one and two.

Ferrini: https://austincru.com/fight-right-how-to-resolve-relational-conflict/

Muelhoff one: https://austincru.com/hard-conversations-two-webinar-series-part-1-interpersonal-relationships/

Muelhoff two: https://austincru.com/hard-conversations-two-webinar-series-part-2-public-engagement/

Many private equity firms during this time of COVID19 are working hard to help their companies maintain, if not prosper, during the severe economic downturn.   In addition, they want to assure their investors and management teams that this crisis will someday end and business and investment activity will resume. Financial advisors realize that people are fearful about their lives and investments as well as shell-shocked about how these unusual circumstances have disrupted their world.

A local private equity firm in Austin, TX is offering an additional way to serve their partners during this stressful and fearful time.   Since the lockdown began, the principals in this firm have offered daily prayer for their community of partners, investors and service providers by sending out an email invitation to their entire  network.

The leaders of this firm have often felt led to pray, but the current pandemic spurred them to action.   They responded out of obedience to the Lord.  Prayer is a positive step they felt led to offer to their whole network of 200-250 people.   This unique situation of Covid19 was an impetus to step out in faith and make public what they believe.

One partner wrote in a company-wide newsletter, “Quite candidly, we can think of no better way to serve you as our partners.Our belief is that the weakest prayer is far more powerful than the boldest wish, so our senior leadership has decided to set aside time every business day to pray for you, our partners, sponsor firms, investors, and service providers along with your families, companies, and teams.”

In the initial email distribution, clients were sent a list of Bible verses that offered encouragement to pray as well as input on prayer. Everyone was invited to email prayer requests as well as join in the live call any weekday.  This prayer effort communicates that those who are handling their finances are not only seeking God for wisdom in making wise financial decisions for them, but they are also praying for their personal and family needs. They take seriously the Biblical question noted in Matthew 16:26 “For what will it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul”.

Every Monday morning a reminder email is sent out to their network with the prayer option.  Then each workday at noon, the leaders of the firm meet over Zoom for 15 minutes to pray for the personal and financial needs of their partners and investors. The outcome has been very positive. Prayer requests are being tracked and answers posted.

The partners intend to keep this time of prayer as a normal part of their business week even after the virus becomes less of a threat in our city and country.

In addition, one partner stated a positive result of this new paradigm, “Offering prayer will give us more opportunities to talk about our faith when we see people in person.”   That’s an investment that is assured to have a lasting ROI.

Lisa’s Story:

Quite a few years ago I tried to hide from God while in a relationship I knew was wrong. John was a tall, athletic, good-looking college student from a well-to-do family who swept me off my feet. He had a way about him, making me feel like I was the only girl in the room. Everything he said or did seemed so romantic. I enjoyed being adored. So, I let my guard down and fell in love.

My parents were concerned and wanted me to slow down – I wouldn’t listen. John would not go to church with me. I told myself it didn’t matter because he was a good person. All I wanted was to be with him; however, he wanted more than kissing and holding hands. As a Christian who believed in God’s Word about waiting until marriage, I struggled to maintain sexual purity with him. We dated for about a year and talked about marriage. I was afraid he would leave me so I took our relationship to the next level. After all, the plan was to marry him and make it right.

When I became pregnant, the love of my life didn’t want me because I was “damaged goods” (which he took part in) and a baby didn’t fit into his plans. I was shamed, rejected, scared, crushed and now alone. I was too afraid to talk to anyone about this, especially my parents, and fearful of being cast out of my position at church. I was supposed to be the “good girl” in my family with a “good head on her shoulders”!

I panicked and couldn’t think straight so I hid… the first thing I hid was the pregnancy. Then I hid the abortion. These were not easy choices and I knew they were wrong and could spiritually break me but I did it anyway because of my pride.

John sent me money because he wanted me to get rid of “it.” I went to the abortion clinic alone. The doctor was cold and calculating. After the procedure he looked down in the trash can and said under his breath “hmm a boy.” I began to quietly cry uncontrollably; the doctor gripped my knee and said in a stern voice “stop crying” and left the room. I had to lie in a recovery area with other women who were crying. I had to stay until the bleeding stopped which took a few hours. The staff expressed irritation when I was the last to leave (I would have stayed all night just to avoid an empty apartment) so I drove myself home.

The moment I lost my child I started losing myself. Not only was my womb empty but my heart seemed barren as well. My moral compass began to slip away. I became obsessed with staying busy so I worked three jobs and skipped church. If I wasn’t working, I was going out and partying or dating just to forget. I had nightmares of a baby crying for me or crawling into danger when I fell asleep. So, I tried to stay awake as long as I could which began to destroy my health. I had suicidal thoughts at least twice a day.

I just wanted to stop hurting and be loved but random dating didn’t seem to help. I was so messed up physically I didn’t think I would ever be able to have children in the future. Yet God knew where I was the whole time through those 5 years of hurting and hiding! I was afraid of being seen as a fraud, dirty and broken – I wanted to be clean and whole. All I had to do was “want” to be found.

Finally after those few years of physical, emotional and spiritual struggle I threw my hands up and cried out. God heard my plea! Counseling ministries for post abortion “just happen” to come to our church and I attended every counseling session I could. I felt like the prodigal child who was coming home and my Heavenly Father ran to me and threw His arms around me! I finally felt safe again. That’s when the healing began. I am forgiven and I have learned how to forgive myself. I learned that I needed to grieve and my Gracious Heavenly Father has turned my mourning into dancing. I am Free because of God Almighty and I am His!

“For I will be merciful and gracious toward their sins and I will remember their deeds of unrighteousness no more.”  Hebrews 8:12

*Lisa has been happily married for over two decades with two wonderful sons.

If you would like additional help and/or to confidentially talk with Lisa, please email Teresa.Snow@cru.org.  Teresa can connect you with Lisa.

Additional resources are The Source, https://www.thesource.org/regions/austin

and Her Choice to Heal, https://herchoicetoheal.com/.

“She had taken her own life only moments before we walked in.”

Preston Graham with Jeff Grant – March 21, 2019 – 3 Minute Read