Hello. We're Jed and Kim Johnson, co-founders of Wide Awake International. We aren't super special people. We're just two people who fell in love with Jesus and decided to say yes to the next thing He presented to us. Our journey to Ukraine, and our journey in Ukraine is a journey of simply saying yes.
We live in Zhytomyr, Ukraine with our five children, Adelina, Ezra, Havalah, Seth, and Vladik. In our former lives (in the US) Kim was a pediatric nurse at our local hospital and Jed managed programs for local non-profits that served families and children at risk.
A need we never knew existed.
We have always been passionate about children. Before moving across the ocean, we provided foster care to medically fragile infants in our home, in the Pacific Northwest. In fact, our precious son Seth was adopted from foster care. Then in August of 2010 our eyes were opened to a need we never knew existed.
"I remember the night very well. The kids were tucked into their beds for the night. Jed was working late and I was reading a blog. By chance, or perhaps divine direction, I stumbled upon the story of a woman who had just adopted two little girls with Down Syndrome from Ukraine. With each journal entry the woman described in detail the plight of Ukrainian orphans with special needs. Several hours and a box of tissues later I finished reading every entry. The course of our lives was altered, I just hadn't told Jed yet..." -Kim
We couldn't shake it.
The weeks and months passed and we couldn’t shake it. As Kim washed dishes and changed diapers and Jed drove to and from work, we felt the Father gently asking, “Will you respond to this need? Will you say 'yes' to me?”
In the spring of 2012 we visited Ukraine for the first time. We traveled the country seeing what work was being done to serve orphans with special needs and to understand what our response should be.
We met the children that our hearts had been broken for. No more convincing was needed. We knew at the end of that trip that moving to Ukraine was our YES. This work, those children were what we had been preparing for all those years. We were moved to action, and in November 2013 we moved our family to Ukraine, indefinitely.
We are currently serving the men and boys at a rural institution in Ukraine's Zhytomyr region. We have a wonderful team of Ukrainian friends who partner with us in this awesome work.
Several days a week our teams bring love, hope, and dignity to the boys. We also have interns who work three days a week, providing therapeutic interventions to the lowest functioning boys at the orphanage.
Our goal for the time spent with the boys is to be a consistent loving presence in their lives. We work to increase their quality of life and quality of care, and to increase the web of therapeutic support surrounding the boys. The boys have become our dear friends and we love them with a fierce love.
In August 2015 our family had the immense joy of adopting one of our boys! Vladik is 15 and lived at the institution for 11 years. It is such a huge honor and joy to see him grow and change. He is a miracle! We want that so badly for each one of our boys.
We don't want this to be just a story of sitting with the boys and loving them in their suffering. We hope and believe that this will be a redemption story. In the summer of 2016 we purchased a large piece of land in a village outside of Zhytomyr. The renovation of the property's existing home is just about complete and our family moved into that home in the summer of 2017. The big dream of Wide Awake is deinstitutionalizing the boys. We dream of getting them out into loving homes where they can live out their days with dignity and joy.
That dream was realized in December 2017 when we brought our friend Boris to come live with us and again when we brought Anton and Ruslan in the fall of 2018! These boys lived the majority of their lives institutionalized and being dehumanized. We are on the long journey of helping them to become fully human to reach their potential.
While all these great things are happening, we’ve been preparing the next piece of property and in the spring of 2019 we break ground on our next home.
This is a God-size dream and one that we know we can't accomplish without him. So, we put one foot in front of the other and simply say yes to the next thing He presents to us.
Wide Awake International | PO Box 12642 | Salem, OR 97309 | © Sea Legs Media