Category: Romaniv


In Loving Memory

I was sitting at the doctor with Vladik yesterday when I got the text.

Our sweet Dima had left this earth, gone to be with Jesus. He was twenty-seven years old and he was my love.


Dima had been ill and away in a special hospital for the past several months.  We missed him desperately and couldn’t wait for him to get well and return to us.  He did return last month, but to our dismay he looked terrible.  He was so much worse, not at all healthy.  He was thin and yellow and just so sick.  After only a few days he was taken back to the hospital, several hours away.  He died there a couple of days ago and was buried yesterday at the cemetery in the town of Romaniv. We went to see where his body was laid, surrounded by the graves of other boys gone before him.

We are shocked and just heartbroken. It wasn’t supposed to go like this.  He was supposed to be with us. We were so excited for the day when Dima would come live with us at the homestead.  We pictured him in our family forever. He was my special boy and I just knew that someday I would get to mother him the way my heart longed to mother him.  I so desperately wanted to watch him blossom and grow and come to know the love of a family here on earth.  But, God had another plan.


Can I tell you about my Dima?  I want as many people as possible to know him and to see him for the precious, beautiful treasure that he was.  He was amazing.

When we first started going to Romaniv we hardly noticed Dima.  He was always tied to his bed because he wasn’t able to walk and was a fall risk.  He usually looked drugged and out of it, and just wasn’t able to connect with other humans on pretty much any level.  He was like a dead person. I’ve seen an old video of him from years ago and know that he wasn’t always like that, but somewhere along the way he was lost.

In the summer of 2014 we started taking a few boys at a time to the Sensory Room to get them into a quiet environment where we could try to connect with them one-on-one.  I remember our team debating if we should even try to take Dima there.  He couldn’t walk but was long, awkward, and heavy.  One of the guys would have to carry him. Whenever we did take him there he would just sleep or zone out and it felt almost like a waste of time.  There were so few hands available, shouldn’t we be focusing on the boys who seem to enjoy our company, or at least seemed to benefit from it?


No, no, no.  Dima had been passed over for his entire life.  Drugged and left to sit in his own excrement for hours on end, his whole life he had been cast aside.  Would we be the next in a long line of people who had passed over him and thought of him as unworthy?  NO.

So, we kept taking him to the Sensory Room. And one day that summer, a miracle happened. Nina, one of our team members, was sitting on a bean bag with Dima in the Sensory Room.  She was just sitting near him, being with him, when she picked up a little toy xylophone.  She tapped tapped it next to his ear and he sat up! He looked at Nina with wide eyes, made some sounds, and gave her the hugest smile.  Our Dima was awake! Nina was crying and laughing. In amazement, we all jumped up and ran over to see. I will never ever forget that beautiful moment.

How is it possible that after a lifetime of suffering, when Dima finally awoke, his first response was a smile?  JOY. I can’t even comprehend it.


Over the next two years, we had the awesome privilege of watching Dima come more and more alive.  He still had many days when his mind was somewhere else, not wanting to, or not able to engage with us, but he also had many days when he was funny and smiley and would babble your ear off.  We all absolutely adored him. He learned to say “banana” and “Lala” (the Ukrainian word for a doll). Roma, one of our team members had a special love for Dima and was working to teach him to feed himself independently.  Every time he was at Romaniv, Roma would make sure to pick up Dima and get him out of his bed.  He would cuddle him on the couch and just enjoy being near him.  Our baby.


I know that our grieving and mourning is more about us than about Dima.  He is finally free.  He’s definitely not grieving and he knows no pain.  He is made whole.  He can run! He can speak! He is healed and right now he knows the great love of the Father better than we can even begin to comprehend.

Still, we grieve.  We miss our friend and we always will.  My heart aches for the suffering he had to endure in this life.  I wonder if he was alone when he died?  Did he suffer?  Was he in pain? Did anyone at that hospital far away truly care for him?  Was he treated well?  Did anyone see him for the treasure he was? My heart longed to show him every day that he was loved, even adored.  I dreamed of how much he would blossom in the love of a family.  I so wanted him to experience that joy and peace here on earth. Why was so much of his life spent waiting for life to begin?  It’s hard to trust God’s ways in times like this.


But then I remember his joy that day, years ago in the Sensory Room. For many years humans had not been a positive thing in Dima’s life.  Humans had hurt him and neglected him and cast him aside.  But when awakened and faced with humans- he smiled.  The only way that was possible was if God was near to him in a way that we couldn’t see. God promises in His Word to be a Father to the Fatherless, and we have to trust that He keeps his Word. We have to trust that God showed his love to Dima in the deepest places of his mind and soul. We have to trust that even if he seemed to live this life so alone and abandoned, his Father in heaven never left his side, even for one second.


It was the joy of the Lord that brought a smile to Dima’s face.

It was the peace of God that followed him when he traveled to the hospital far away.

And it was the goodness of God that allowed his suffering to end.

We will never forget our precious Dima.  We will miss him forever.  But may we never ever forget his joy in unimaginable circumstances.  Please, learn from his life. Choose joy today.

Precious Dima, you were loved.  You were treasured.  You were longed for and wanted. We saw your beauty and we will never be the same because of you.

Run free, my love.


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While the Light Remains

About three weeks ago two new little loves arrived at our institution.  We had been anticipating their arrival, wondering what they would be like.  Our Ben had recently vacated his crib (YAY!), and while our hearts were broken, knowing his crib would soon be filled again, our hearts were also expectant, knowing two new lives would enter ours, and knowing we would love them instantly.

We were right.  Love at first sight.

Sweet Baby A has been hospitalized almost continually since the transfer.  We haven’t been able to get to know him yet, but we love him nonetheless, and right now we are just thankful that he is alive and on the mend.

Our other little love has us all smitten.  We are goners, and I can guarantee you’ll be one too by the end of this post.

Meet baby “Kayden“.

COME.ON. How can cuteness like this exist?  Especially in a mental institution out in the boonies????  He is out of control perfection.  COME.TO.MAMA.

I introduced him to you on FB yesterday and so many people were instantly in love.  We had let our kids name him “Sam”, after our friend Sam who just visited us last week.  Boy was I surprised when I found out that he had already been listed on an orphan advocacy site, and there were already people who had been trying to find a family for him!  They had named him “Kayden“, so we’ll just run with that.  Sam=Kayden=bundle of love.

If you click on his profile on the advocacy site you will find a loooooong list of diagnoses.  Many of them sound very scary and many of them sound just plain confusing.  I get that.  But for just one minute, forget that list and look at the child.

He is perfectly amazing.  He is beautiful.  He is pure sunshine.  He is giggles and smiles and hilarious expressions.  He is light in a dark place and HE DOES NOT BELONG THERE.  No child belongs there, it’s true.  But seriously, we have got to get this baby out, and we’ve got to do it quick.

The thing is, our institution ruins children.  It is all sensory deprivation and neglect and ugliness. Little Kayden has a spark.  He has life and light in his eyes and he doesn’t yet know that he has been sent to die.  Did you know that when baby houses transfer boys to our institution that they expect them to be dead within 6 months?  It’s true.  I’ve heard it from directors’ mouths.  Everyone knows that a mental institution is no place for a fragile piece of sunshine like this.  How can a child thrive in a place like this?  He can’t.  A mental institution is a death sentence.  It’s the end of the road.


Unless one brave family looks at the child, and considers the diagnoses and decides to take a leap for the sake of a life.

Kayden is available for adoption, and adoption is what will save his life.

We have him in a room with our Isaiah where he will get good nanny attention, and that is good.  That is necessary.  He would most surely die if it weren’t for those special nannies.  But even the best nanny can not provide what a mommy and daddy can give.  Consider our little Ben!  He is home with his family and is gaining weight like crazy!  Our nannies could never get him to gain no matter how hard they tried. His mommy reports that he is starting to find his voice.  With us he was practically silent.  I’ve seen video of him smiling and laughing- that is not the boy we knew.  Now he is known.  Now he is loved.  Now he has light in his eyes.  Children were not made for institutions.  Children were made for families.  Our Vladik and little Ben are living proof of that.

Kayden still has light and hope.  My heart longs for a family to scoop him up before we have to watch that light fade.

Kayden is five years old and weighs 19lbs. Right now he only drinks from a bottle, but our team is trying to teach him to eat from a spoon. He can sit up, but he does not crawl or walk. Would you please consider our boy?  Would you please pause and ask God how He would like you to respond to this face?  Would you please share Kayden’s face far and wide so that his mommy and daddy might see him as quickly as possible and come to him?  Sharing works.  That is how our boys are being found.  We simply have to get their faces out there and then God does the rest.  Let’s get this baby out while the light still remains.  Ready, set, go! 

If you would like more info about Kayden, please do not hesitate to contact me.  You can comment here, or you can email me at You can find more photos of him and info about the adoption process in his country here.

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From Darkness Into Light

One month ago the most miraculous thing happened.  I didn’t realize that basically I’d been holding my breath since January.  I didn’t realize it until one month ago when our team finally breathed a collective sigh of relief.

He made it.  He survived.  He made it out. His family took him out forever, never to return.

Our baby Ben was saved.

I think we all hoped with all of our hearts that it would happen, but until I watched Ben’s mommy and grandma walk him out of the Isolation Hall, down the sidewalk, and actually get into the van with him, I’m not sure I believed it would really happen.  It was just too good to be true.  FREEDOM!!!!

Ben is at home with his loving daddy and mommy and two brothers.  He is doing amazing.  He is a survivor and he beat the odds.  And now he has a future!  It’s what we want for every single one of our boys.  It’s the perfect end to a beautiful love story…actually I guess it’s the perfect beginning, because only now does Ben’s life truly begin.

Freedom. It’s what we want for every single boy and man within the walls of the institution.  That’s why we moved here.  That’s why we purchased the land.  That’s why Jed spoke in Switzerland yesterday and in Germany today.  Many, many people need to know about our boys because it will take many, many people to help set them all free.

Almost all of our boys are trapped in the cycle of institutions forever unless we get them out into group homes.  They are too old to be adopted or their parents still maintain their rights.  They are stuck.

BUT Stephan.  Stephan is not stuck.  He is one of the very few who is available for adoption.  His fate doesn’t have to be the same as the others.  He could have the freedom and love that Ben now knows- and he could have it soon!  All that is needed is one loving family to step forward and claim their son.

Stephan is such a tiny little love.  He’s thirteen years old but about the size of our 6 year old, Seth.  If you didn’t know his age you’d swear he’s 6 or 7.  Years of neglect, physical and emotional, have stunted his growth.  He loves to eat, and eats well, but he’s still so tiny.

I’ll tell you what, Stephan is all boy!  There is nothing he likes more than to be spun around and around and to sit on a walker or in a wheelchair and be pushed FAST.  The faster the better for our boy.  He loves to play rough and he loves tickles.  See, the thing is, our sweet Stephan is blind.  To be in darkness in that place, oh my heart can’t even comprehend.  The institution is a rush to all of your senses.  The smells, the sounds, the sights, all of it rushes you like a freight train upon entering, but when I think about hearing and smelling all of that and not being able to see?  Yeah, I get a little panicky just thinking of it, and I’m a grown woman!  No person should have to sleep one night there, let alone spend years there in darkness.  It’s just too much.  Too much.  Someone please get him out of there.

I’ve been wanting to hardcore advocate for Stephen for a long time.  There was just one major detail that kept me from it.  We knew that he was blind, but then several nannies told us that he was also deaf!  This was news to us because deafness was not in his medical file.  Yet several insisted that yes, he was deaf.  I did not believe it, but I needed to be 100% sure before I could ask a family to come for him and be confident on that very big detail.

You might be thinking “How could you NOT know if a child is deaf or not?  Wouldn’t it be obvious?”  In a typically developing child in a safe environment, yes I guess it would be fairly easy to detect if there was a problem, but at our institution it is not.  I told you before that the your senses are assaulted upon entering, right?  I don’t even know how to fully explain to you what it is like there.  It is loud: screeches, screams, some laughter, crying, yelling.  During the day the noise is just about constant. And then there is the lack of stimulus.  There is just nothing there.  Unless the interns or a team is there, the Isolation Hall is just pure nothingness.  No books, no toys, no music, nothing.  Years of pure nothingness, lack of stimuli, has left our boys with many inappropriate behaviors and responses.  Pure nothingness leads them to self-harming behaviors and autistic-type behaviors.  Now imagine that nothingness coupled with darkness?  Yeah, horrible.  Stephan, like many of the other boys, does not respond appropriately much of the time.  He has learned to tune out the world around him.  It’s survival.

A few weeks ago I was sitting on a bed with our Vitya, cuddling him to sleep because he had a horrible toothache. Stephan came and was sitting at the other end of the bed.  I sat quietly and just observed him, hoping to get my questions answered about his hearing.  I called his name, no response.  He sat quietly twirling his sock in front of his face, twirling and twirling.  Then a nanny came in and saw that his socks were off.  “Stephan, why are your socks off?  Give me your foot” He stuck his foot out.  “Now give me your other foot.”  He stuck out his other foot.  She wasn’t touching his feet, she was only speaking, and he listened and obeyed.  Question answered.  He hears.  I told that nanny what others had said about him being deaf.  Her reply “Maybe he doesn’t want to listen all the time, but of course he hears!”  Haha. Sounds like a typical kiddo to me!

Stephan is potty-trained and goes to the toilet independently.  He does not self-harm, nor have I ever seen him harm others. He doesn’t really interact with the other boys at all.  He could learn to feed himself, but at this time he’s not interested in learning. He can walk and run, but he does not speak. he spends all of his days standing under the window or sitting in the kitchen waiting for the next meal.  He spins and twirls to get his sensory needs met and he adores going outside. But, his quality of life is very poor and will remain that way until he is free.

I believe with all of my heart that there is a family out there for our sweet boy.  He has SO MUCH potential!!!  Please don’t be scared off by his age.  He’s like a toddler in behavior, and like a first grader in size, yet in a little over two years he will age out and his chance to be adopted will be gone forever.  He has waited too long in unsafe darkness.

Would you please pass on Stephan’s face to others?  Would you please consider him for your own family?  Maybe you have said that you hope to adopt someday but have never considered a special needs adoption.  Would you consider it now?  Would you at least promise to pray and ask God how He would like you to respond?  We always said we would not consider special-needs adoption…uh yeah…never say never.  Ha!

This boy lives in a very bad place and he needs out yesterday.  I know that I know that the family who chooses him will be so blessed to see him blossom before their very eyes.  He is an absolute treasure.

I am happy to answer any questions you may have about Stephan.  Just comment here or email me at 

Also, our Stephan has a $10,000 adoption grant through Reece’s Rainbow!!!  That removes a HUGE barrier to his adoption.  Please share him far and wide and let’s find this boy a family! 

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The First Time

Four years ago today we met our boys for the first time.

On that day we had no idea that those beautiful boys would become the loves of our lives.  We had no idea they would become our mission, our dream, our passion, our dearest friends.

Jed and I had arrived in Ukraine just days before on a crazy adventure.  We landed in Ukraine knowing not a single person, nor a single word of Ukrainian or Russian (don’t try that at home).  All we knew was that God was calling us.  He had children in Ukraine that we were supposed to respond to somehow.  We had been praying and dreaming and looking at pictures and it had become clear that we HAD to travel to Ukraine to see for ourselves.  We had to smell the smells, see the sights, touch, feel, listen.  Only then would we know God’s next steps for our family.

Our first day in Ukraine

We made a handful of email contacts, “We want to serve children with disabilities…can we come see what you do?” We stayed in hostels, fumbled with public transportation, and had an adventure we would never forget.

On the day we were to visit Romaniv for the first time with our now partner organization, Mission to Ukraine, we had butterflies in our stomachs.  I remember Jed and I both wondering how we would feel when we met the boys.  Our hearts had been broken for orphans with disabilities in Ukraine, but we had never actually met any of them.  What if we got to the orphanage and were too overwhelmed?  What if the sights and smells and sounds would be too much for us?  We so desired to give our lives to them, but what if our bodies rejected that dream?  What if our humanness held us back?

I remember when we walked into the first room, empty of things except benches against the walls.

And boys. So many boys.  Our babies.

They walked toward us with arms outstretched and soon we were swarmed by them.

It smelled so.bad. The smell took my breath away.

The boys looked unlike any people I had ever seen before.  The neglect was unreal.   I had moments of panic as they reached for me, unsure how to respond to them, unsure of what they would do.

The sounds assaulted my ears: moaning, crying, and shrieking intermingled with laughter and words I didn’t understand.

It was completely overwhelming in every possible way.

And yet.

I remember so clearly the moment when Jed and I made eye contact through the crowd.  I glanced over at him wondering if I could tell from his face what he was thinking.  Personally, I was both totally freaked out and totally in love at the same time.  My heart was exploding and I knew.  I just knew THIS was what God made me for.  I looked over at Jed, his body surrounded by boys on all sides, and our eyes met.  His eyes were full of tears.  He nodded at me like “Yep, this is it.”

I wonder what we would have said if God had let us in on the little secret that we had met our future son that day?  Wow. 🙂

The rest is history.  After that trip, we came home, founded Wide Awake, left our jobs, passed off our church responsibilities, sold everything, and moved to Ukraine.

We thought we would serve at Romaniv for a year and then maybe move on to an institution further south, but after one year we knew we could never leave.  We were made to love those boys.  Our lives were not complete without them.  Our children had grown to love them.  How could we walk away?

And so, we press on.  We step forward with the dream to get our boys to safety.  It is our joy to serve them as long as God allows us.

I am in awe of all God has done in four short years.  He has raised up a team of young people to join us in this beautiful work.  Their love and commitment to the boys is incredible. He has given us relationship and favor with the orphanage administration.  He has brought along partners to support the work. He has given us interns and teachers.  He has moved the hearts of adoptive families to come rescue their sons. He gave us our Vladik. He has provided funds in miraculous ways and Jed is in Ukraine right now looking at land to purchase for the first group homes.  Our God doesn’t mess around!

All the awesomeness that God is doing, we couldn’t see any of that on that day four years ago.  We couldn’t foresee how He would care for us and pave the way.  We couldn’t imagine how His love for the boys would trump every opinion that said nothing could ever change.  All we knew was that God was asking us to say yes.  We can’t see what He will be doing in four years from now, but it’s okay.  All he is asking is for us to say yes and to keep walking.

So today, all you need to do is say yes.  You don’t need to know all the details.  You don’t need to have it all figured out.  Just listen to what the Father is saying and join Him in His work. SAY YES!  This life is short and we only get one shot at it.  We don’t have time to focus on our own comfort.  This life is but a blink of an eye.

Look with eternal eyes.  Be brave. Have faith.

It will be scary.  It will be hard.  It will be uncomfortable.  It might smell bad and be really noisy and dirty and messy.  Oh but the joy, the joy that comes with that mess is worth it all.

Don’t be afraid.  Say yes today and trust your Father.

He is good.

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Fatherless Friday: Isaiahu

A friend told me that I had neglected to blog about the big news!  BEN HAS A FAMILY!  An adoptive family has stepped up and is working as fast as they can to get to him.  Praise God.  Adoption will save his life.  We are so thankful!   The family is private for now, but when they are ready I’ll make sure to introduce you to them.  To keep best up to date on our boys make sure to follow us on Facebook.  I update there several times a week.  🙂

Introducing…Fatherless Friday!  I’d like to take Fridays to share about children we love who are still waiting for adoptive families.

First up is our precious Isaiahu.

Pure sunshine.

Jam-packed with potential.

Beautiful baby boy.

This is the thing: I am confident that if you could all just meet Isaiahu in person, look in his eyes and hold him in your arms, he would be snatched up in an instant.  Everyone who meets him falls in love with him.  His diagnosis sounds scary, but he is so wonderful!  He is absolutely a delight.

I mean, think about it.  This little boy lays in his bed in one single room day after day after day.  He only leaves that room when the weather is nice and his nanny takes him for a walk, or if one of our team members carries him out for a stroll down the hall.  He most likely hasn’t left his small building since the early days of fall, before winter set in- except to visit the hospital.  His world is so so tiny.  Yet he still smiles.  He still makes small gains.  He is awesome.

Wide Awake International and Bible Orphan Ministry have teamed together to hire two special nannies that alternate days, caring for Isaiahu and Ben from 7am-7pm.  Those nannies keep those baby boys alive.  Literally.  They care for their needs, hold them, feed them, bathe them, all in that little room.  They keep them safe from other boys who have not been taught to be safe.  Those nannies are such a blessing to our little ones.

Three times a week our teams come to spend time with the boys, and then three other days a week Wide Awake Int interns work with specific boys, providing therapeutic interactions that help to move the boys forward in development. His potential is ENORMOUS!  This is the first time he has had consistent therapeutic interactions and he is blossoming.

But it’s still not enough.

Isaiahu will never really thrive in his current environment.  A mental institution is no place for a 7-year-old boy- especially one as helpless as Isaiahu.

He is learning to hold his head up and to sit with support.  He smiles and laughs when his name is called.  He prefers his nannies over others and seems to have an obvious attachment to them.  He is ticklish and loves to be praised when he’s working hard.  The doctors say he is losing his sight, but it’s obvious he can still see.  Oh, how I pray for a mommy and daddy to come for him before it is too late and his world fades to black.

Someone see this precious treasure and say YES.  He may be dependent on you all his days, true. That is no small thing.  It is a very big reality.  Another big reality is that he will bring his family so much joy.  He is a ray of sunshine in a very dark place where he does not belong.  Think about what blessing will come from serving a sweet one like this.  Think about the rejoicing and cheering and smiles that will come from seeing him hit new milestones.  Think about the beauty of watching him truly live with a mommy and daddy who treasure him and fully see his value.

Sweet little Ben has a family coming for him, and now it’s his roommate’s turn.

You can read more about Isaiahu in these posts: The Day We MetFighting for my Babies, Guest post for Isaiahu.

If you can’t adopt but would like to help, you can donate to Isaiahu’s adoption grant here.  This will help relieve some of the costs of his adoption when his family finds him.

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The vision of Wide Awake is to bring dignity, love, and hope to people with disabilities in Ukraine.”

If you’ve hung around here for a while you know that our big, God-size dream is to open small group homes for our boys to live out their days.  The dream is to remove the boys from their horrible reality and insert them into safe, loving, warm environments where they can get all the love and help they need for the rest of their lives.  They will play and receive therapy and sleep in soft, warm beds.  They will be surrounded by music and laughter.  If they are able to work they will garden and care for animals and work with their hands.  Our boys need occupation.  They need to contribute to the world around them.  It brings meaning to their lives.  The dream is for them to be IN the city, not hidden away from society.  The dream is for them to have the opportunity to become all that God has created them to be, surrounded by people who love them, treasure them, and believe in them. 
We’ve got big dreams around here. We’re dreaming big, believing that God has great futures in mind for our boys.

We will not believe that God’s best for them is to lay in bed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, staring at blank walls. We will not believe that spending the next 20 years rocking back and forth on a bench is God’s hope for their future.
We know God wants more for our boys and we know that He uses people as his hands and feet in the world.

Last year it became apparent that less money needed to be spent improving the physical living conditions of the boys, and more money needed to be spent placing loving, consistent people in their lives.  To answer that need, through a three-way partnership with Hands of Hope (funded by their child-sponsorship program), Mission to Ukraine (local non-profit acting as fiscal agent), and Wide Awake (hiring and training) we were able to hire two full-time teachers who teach the bigger boys Monday through Friday.  That need is also being answered by an increase in the amount of time our team spends with the boys each week.  Since last spring there have been teams going to visit the boys 3 days a week.  The team has grown in number and in love.  It is a truly beautiful thing.

Now I am so very happy to report that the need is being answered in yet another way.  INTERNS!

Tanya, Mira, and Maxim

Our family attends a wonderful church in Zhytomyr: Христианской Молодежной Церкви (Christian Youth Church).  Youth Church is our family in Ukraine.  God has done a wonderful thing in partnering us together.  Almost all of our team comes from Youth Church, and Wide Awake gave Youth Church a grant to carry on the work of bringing teams to the boys while our family is here in the US.  Youth Church has done a FANTASTIC job of growing the team, and now the work in Romaniv has become an official ministry of our church!  Vika, the team leader for Romaniv, has just rocked it.  We are so proud of her and the whole team and are honored to call Youth Church our Ukrainian home. 🙂

Youth Church, in partnership with Wide Awake, is now sending three interns to Romaniv three days a week!  The interns were picked from our team.  Maxim, Tanya, and Mira have been volunteering at Romaniv since October 2014.  They have been faithful, loving, extremely dedicated, and committed to the boys.  This is not a project for them.  This is their love.  The three interns are university students who are doing this paid internship in addition to their schooling.  They will be with the boys for six hours, three days a week, and are an answer to prayer.  Jed began their training when he was in Ukraine in October, and then our dear friend Olya, an OT, continued their training when Jed came back to the US.  Thank you to Salem Vineyard, our sending church in Oregon, whose child-sponsorship helps to pay for this exciting new venture!

Yesterday was their first day on the job and we are all so excited!  Maxim, Tanya, and Mira’s focus is on the boys in the Isolation Hall, since the teachers are not working with those boys.  They have divided the Isolation boys up between themselves and will each work with the same boys every day they are there.  They are beginning with performing functional assessments on each boy and then setting individual goals for the development of each boy.  Their work is more focused and therapeutic because they have the ability to give their time and attention to the same boys each day.

We are looking forward to awesome results!  Even just their consistent, positive presence is life-changing for our friends.

Do you know what that means?  That means that between our teams and the interns, we have loving, energetic, amazing youth spending time with the boys SIX DAYS A WEEK!!!!!!  Freaking out excited!!!!!  That’s not even counting the teachers who are there Monday through Friday and teams who visit from other churches.  PRAISE GOD!

I remember back to the spring of 2014 when Jed and I decided to start going to Romaniv on a second day each week. It was just the two of us going to Romaniv alone, asking God to bring more help…and now this.  God is so amazingly faithful.

We believe that all of this loving presence is preparing the boys for the lives of freedom that await them.

Soon my Friends, soon you will be free. But in the meantime, I hope you can see how many people love you so dearly.

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Fighting for The Little Ones

I remember the day we met.

Jed and I heard the news that there were a couple of new arrivals at the orphanage and we rushed there to meet them.  The faces we saw that day changed us forever.

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Sweet Ben and Isaiah, six-year old boys in baby bodies, lying in their cribs, unaware of all the concern swirling around them.

The nannies were afraid.  Isaiah wouldn’t eat from a spoon and they had no bottles available for them.  After all, we’re talking about an institution for men and boys, not for fragile babies.

They tried to take their time to feed the little ones properly, but time is just not something the nannies have much of to spare.  Twenty other boys/men with severe needs were yelling and moaning from behind the shut doors of our little baby hideaway, so even though they cared, the nannies simply had to move on, shutting and locking the door behind them for the safety of the wee ones.

Our family left for a week to go work at a camp, and when we rushed back at the end of the month to see our babies, we were devastated.  They were withering away right before our eyes.  Of course they were.  Babies, children, teenagers, adults, no one is meant to be locked behind a door, in a crib 24 hours a day.  Our hearts sunk.  Something had to be done.

As fast as we could we hired a special nanny to take care of just those two babies.  She would give them her full attention 12 hours a day: feeding them, changing them, holding them, loving them.  She would save them.  Then another partner, Bible Orphan Ministry, hired a second nanny to care for them so that every day of the week, for 12 hours they would not be alone.  They would be treasured.

And boy oh boy are they treasured!  Those two nannies love, love, love Ben and Isaiah.  Last spring when Ben was on the verge of life and death they cried and rocked him and cried some more, knowing they could not save him.  And then praise God, he sent the team from Humedica to literally save Ben’s life with a specially prescribed diet.  He is not thriving, but he is not dying.  I know it is not enough, but until he is adopted it is the very best we can do for him.  So we still pray for God to send a family to his rescue.


Now the nannies cry again, hearts broken.  The doctor has told them that our sweet Isaiah is losing his sight.  No no no.  How can this be?  There is no answer as to why, no timeline for how fast.  We do see that he is tracking less and less, and we cry.

Isaiah is light and joy and pure sweetness.  He knows his name and when you enter his room and call out to him his whole body responds with joy. He laughs and is ticklish and loves to be held.  He is a boy, but he is a baby.  If I could, I would take him home in a minute, so confident am I that he will bring unspeakable joy to a family.

He has cerebral palsy and has never had any kind of therapy, unless you count visiting physical therapists who have come to lend their expertise.  (THANK YOU!!) He has the beginning of contractures in one leg and the nannies worry.  And now it seems he is losing his sight.  We are heartbroken.

Can you imagine laying in bed 12 hours a day, unable to get up, and then falling into darkness?  I know all the sounds he hears and I know he must be so frightened.  Ben too.  They are completely helpless, completely reliant on others to feed them, clothe them, protect them.  How will he keep that beautiful smile if the whole world turns black?  I can’t even fathom.  My mommy heart is devastated and it takes everything in me not to jump on a plane today and go to him.

I’ll be honest.  Isaiah’s only hope is adoption.  Ben’s only hope is adoption.  The special nannies, the special food, all of it is a temporary solution.  It is the best we can do under the circumstances, but it is not nearly enough.  We know this.  Their quality of life is poor.  Okay, they aren’t dying at this moment, but they aren’t living either.  We absolutely love these boys like we love the 5 children under our roof.  And I say that this life they have right now is not good enough.  Our Havalah is 6.  Would I be satisfied with her having attention and love 12 hours a day and then being bound to a crib surrounded by moans and screams and cries the other 12, the door locked for her protection?  Would I be okay if I learned she was going blind?  Would I be content to let her fall into darkness?

No.  I would fight for her.

I would scream for her.  

I would cry out and fight and petition until I found someone to help her.  Someone to rescue her.

And so I do for the little ones across the sea.

I can’t be with them.  I can’t hold them.  I can’t rescue them.

But I can fight for them.  I can petition for them until I find someone to rescue them.
Please, please share my babies.  Isaiah is falling into darkness.  He needs a family now.  Please see him.

Ben is a 6 year old in a 12 pound body.  He needs a family now.  Please see him. 

If you have considered adoption, please do not wait.  Sometimes it is a matter of life and death.  This is one of those times.

Havalah and Isaiah

Havalah and Ben

Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Psalm 82:3

Yes, adoption is a huge decision and a hard road.  But right now I’m looking across the table at my Vladik and can tell you with all confidence that it is worth it.  Would our lives be easier if we didn’t have Vladik?  Of course!!!  But I know where he would be right now if he wasn’t at my kitchen table.  My heart can’t even handle that truth.  In the light of that, the “ease” of my life seems pretty insignificant.  These babies are worth our discomfort.  Just as Jesus came to us, we are to go near the broken on his behalf.

Please pray and ask God how you should respond to Isaiah and Ben.  Please don’t just move on.  They are worth fighting for.

If you have any questions about either boy or the adoption process itself, please don’t hestitate to ask. You can leave a comment here or email me at  

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The Most Important Post, Revisited

November is a good month. We have two family birthdays, it’s Thanksgiving, the holiday season begins, the weather is cozy, and it’s National Adoption Month! Did you know? Have you heard? There is a whole month designated for sharing about the plight of orphans and the blessing of adoption. Yep, that sounds just about perfect to me.

I wrote this post last November.  I wanted to share it again (revamped a bit) in honor of National Adoption Month.  It’s crazy because when I wrote this a year ago I had no idea we would adopt Vladik.  Now this post means more than ever to me.  There are many different great responses to the orphan issue, and your response will likely be different than mine. But for the sake of our Boys, every response is important.

The work we do, and Mission to Ukraine has done for many years at Romaniv is important and necessary. It is life-altering for our Boys. Boys who were once strangers who flinched at touch and cowered from any human interaction are now dear loved ones who come scooting and crawling and hobbling as soon as they hear our voices. One boy who used to avoid eye contact at all cost now seeks out our gaze and will sit forehead to forehead with Jed as the guitar is played- just looking into Jed’s eyes. No words, just a look. It is enough for us to see that God is doing miracles.

And yet.

No work we do could ever be more beneficial than a family.

No treatment could ever be as effective as the love of a family.

No weighted vest could be more comforting than a mother’s arms.

No helmet could offer better protection than a father’s embrace. 

This work we do is a stopgap. It is the next best thing possible in this situation. But it is not a family, and it is not nearly enough. There is no future for our Boys here. Even when our dreams come true and we build group homes where they can be loved and cared for, it still won’t hold a candle to a life spent as part of a loving family. There are nannies at Romaniv that do care for the Boys deeply, but they face an impossible task. How can 2 nannies care for more than 20 boys with severe disabilities and do an even satisfactory job?

Most of the boys and men at Romaniv are not legally free to be adopted. Either their parents still maintain their parental rights, or the boys are over the age of 18 which prevents them from being adopted. To those boys and men, we commit to doing whatever we possibly can to love them, care for them, and give them a future worth living until the day they are made whole in heaven.

Some of our Boys, though, ARE available for international adoption.  After some hesitation and prayerful consideration, we shared them with you.  There are many layers to this. We feel protective of our Boys and the work that is being done; we want to avoid any exploitation; we have a relationship to maintain with the orphanage directors that requires vigilant care. Nothing about this is simple, so we have been treading lightly with steps full of prayer. And yet, our boys are just not thriving, and they never ever will in an institution.  They need families.  ALL our boys need families, but Alex, Micah, Stephan, Aaron, Ben, and Isaiah actually have the opportunity for family- a life-saving opportunity.

So I’m asking that you see our Boys. I’m asking that you stop and see them for the treasures they are. See their immense value. See their precious beauty. Consider their lives as weighty as your own and ask the Lord how you should respond to this knowledge that some of them are waiting for families. If you follow Jesus you are called to care for the orphan in some way. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus I bet you can agree that this is a justice issue that can not be ignored.

                                                                 “Learn to do right; seek justice.

                                                                            Defend the oppressed.

                                                                 Take up the cause of the fatherless;

                                                             plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

Maybe you are supposed to pray. A million times thank you! Prayer is important and essential. Any of the progress that’s been made has only come through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Boys need prayer!

Maybe you are supposed to give financially to help improve the quality of life for our Boys. Yes! Thank you so very much! None of this would even be happening if we didn’t have faithful financial supporters on the team.

Maybe you are supposed to adopt. Please don’t dismiss this response. I am confident that some of you who read this are called to respond through adoption. Children were made for families! Children were not made for institutions. One hour spent at the institution will prove that point. I must warn you though that any romanticism concerning the adoption of one of our Boys ends with the fuzzy feelings you may be feeling as you read this post. It will not be romantic. It will be a hard road and much faith will be required. But- it will be a road worth walking. I am confident of that. Orphans are very important to our God and He has gone to great lengths to prove His love for these particular Boys. He will not allow the world to forget them now, and He’s not about to forget them when they step out of Romaniv’s gates.

I have spent hours with these boys. I have held them in my arms. I have kissed their cheeks. I have held their hands so they won’t harm themselves. Now I call one of them my son and he is asleep, warm and safe in the next room.  They are real people. They were created with purpose and God has good plans for them. When I look at Vladik now and think of the life he lived there and was destined to live for the rest of his days had he not been adopted I can’t help but cry.  Friends, he is precious.  He is a joy in our lives.  He is smart and funny and loving and worthy of this life he’s been given.  All the love and attention and cuddles we can heap on him- he deserves them all.  Hopes and dreams of retirement and empty-nester days fall flat when weighed against the life of a child.

There you have it. Now you know, and I now humbly ask you to respond. I ask you to stop and pray and ask the Lord what He would have you to do. Say yes and don’t look back.  Please pray that adoptive families would step out with boldness and faith. Any serious inquiries can be emailed to and I would be happy to talk with you more.

Please share this post and give our Boys a voice this month. Thank you!
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8


Alex, Micah, Stephan, Aaron, Isaiah, and Ben all wait for families of their own.  A friend of ours is doing a wonderful fundraiser/giveaway to help raise adoption grants for them so that when their families do step up the expense will be defrayed a bit.  If you feel that your response is to give financially, then please, please visit this website and drop some dollars in their accounts.  Thank you!  







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All About Vladik

Our Vladik (aka Vladchik, Vlad, Sonichko, Lyubime…and on and on) has been home with us for 12 days now and it sorta feels like it’s been forever.  He is just the perfect fit for us and we are the perfect fit for him.  It’s like it was always meant to be.

After 15 years in institutions, and the last 11 at Romaniv- in one hallway, he is doing AMAZING.  It’s actually pretty miraculous. We aren’t sure all what Vladik does and doesn’t understand, but one thing is for sure: He was READY for a family.  From the day he left Romaniv with Jed in his new clothes and shoes he has never called us “Jed and Kim” again, only “Papa and Mama”.  He knows.  It’s a miracle.

Here’s the lowdown, for all the Vladik-lovers out there.  🙂

Siblings. Vladik is SO SO SOOOOOOOO happy to have siblings!!!!  He absolutely loves them all, being especially partial to the boys.  He likes to take them to school and walk them to their classrooms.  He gets super excited when it’s time to go pick up Hava and Seth (half-day kinders).  Like, even if he is on the swing (his most favorite thing), he’ll gladly pause if it means going to pick up the kids.  When he sees them standing in line with their class he runs over and gives them big hugs.  Vladik and Seth are great friends!  Finally Seth has someone who’s interested in cars and balls and all things BOY!  When Vladik and Seth are both home they are playing together constantly, joined at the hip.  They are truly God’s gift to each other.


Sleep.  Bringing home a newly adopted child is a lot like bringing home a newborn from the hospital.  Everything changes, the new “baby” requires a lot of mommy and daddy’s attention, you spend a lot of time figuring out eating and pooping habits (not so fun with a 15 year old..hehe..but then, is dealing with another person’s poop ever fun??).  But, I gotta say, after 8 straight years of constant newborns (foster and bio), I can fullyappreciate  Vladik’s amazing sleep habits.  He is a GREAT sleeper!!!

For now, Vladik sleeps in his own bed in the room with Jed and me.  It just makes good sense to have him close to us at night, for his own sense of security and our peace of mind, until we feel the time is right to move him in with the other kiddos.  He goes to sleep easily and he sleeps all night.  The only issue, and it’s a big one, is sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is a common problem with kiddos with Apert Syndrome, and we have big concerns about it for our Vladik.  He snores loud all night long.  He can’t really breathe through his nose, so that’s an issue too.  He sleeps with his back arched and his head thrown back, which is a common position for kids who are struggling to get air.  He stops breathing and hacks and coughs all night long.  Making it possible for him to sleep safely is our number one medical priority for Vladik.

We have a great routine of a nightly shower and then massage before bed.  The other night he said “Papa, I’m going to sleep with mama tonight.  You sleep alone over there.”  hahahahahaha!  What a sweetie.

Language.  Vladik’s language is exploding!  He literally does not stop talking.  We aren’t speaking English to Vladik at all, we’re just sticking to Ukrainian.  If we were going to be living in the US we would start teaching him English, but there’s really no point since we are going back to Ukraine.  He is surrounded by English, since our family speaks that to each other all the time at home, so I’m sure he’ll pick it up.  But really, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep Vladik speaking Ukrainian.  We are improving our skills and he isn’t losing his.  Win win.  🙂  Vladik’s speech is super hard to understand, due to all the structural issues with his face, but we are understanding him better all the time.  I don’t know if that’s because his speech is improving or because we are just used to “Vladik speech”.  Either way, he is able to make his needs and wants understood, and we are able to communicate just fine.

Food.  This is the hardest thing at this point.  Vladik is used to eating the same 4-5 foods  There is not much texture in the Romaniv food because many of the boys have swallowing problems and very few teeth with which to chew.  Feeding time at Romaniv is CRAZY town.  But, I digress.  🙂 Anyway, Vladik has a hard time with new textures and new flavors.  So, the struggle is to find foods he’ll eat without me having to cook two different meals all the time. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)  If I have a pot of mashed potatoes and a pot of soup in the fridge to fall back on, then all is well. But heaven forbid we should run out of mashed potatoes! 😉  We’re just trying to slowly intro new foods and at least make him try them before flat-out rejecting them.  It’s hard to know which struggles are sensory and which are structural.  Baby steps, baby steps.

Medical. Last week we started Vladik’s medical journey and it’s gonna be a long one, folks.  We had an appointment with our primary pediatrician and she basically referred us to every specialist known to man: neurosurgery, genetics, ear-nose-throat, Shriners for hands and feet, craniofacial, dentistry, ophthalmology, radiology (for scoliosis x-rays), occupational therapy,  and speech pathology/feeding. The referrals have been made, so now we just wait for everyone to call us to schedule appointments.  Let’s get this party started!

Social/Attachment.  Our Vladik is one smart cookie.  He understands that we are his family and he belongs with us.  He is appropriately shy with new people and there is no danger of him wanting to walk off with some random person.  He’s a naturally cautious kiddo, so he’s also not really a “wanderer”. During the adoption process, we prayed that God would prepare Vladik’s heart for a family and He has totally answered that prayer.  The boys at Romaniv have absolutely ZERO concept of what a family is.  They had never seen family modeled to them.  They have no books about families.  They are completely isolated from society and most have never experienced family life.  So Vladik’s entry into our family is something we were super curious about.  But he gets it.  He really does.  We have been building this bond for a couple of years now, so that has made everything a whole heck of a lot easier.  He already knew us and we were already the “good guys” in his life.  He accepts affection and is starting to be the one to initiate affection more every day.

As far as Vladik being 15 years old, coming from a really horrible environment, and being in the home with our little kids, we are not worried. He is definitely the youngest, developmentally, and does not at all take on a dominating role.  That’s just not his personality. We are taking appropriate precautions though, and we know we need to be wise. We have seen where he came from. 🙁   For instance, for now, Vladik sleeps in our room. We always have the kids in earshot or in our line of sight when they are playing. We are trying to teach our other kids a bit more modesty (they’re not very good about that here at home) 🙂 and explaining to them why it’s important that we be modest in front of Vladik: “To teach him how he should behave in a family…” But all in all, we have no big concerns. He is appropriate and very much still a little boy. We knew that about him before we ever decided to bring him into our family.

Emotional/Spiritual. Vladik is absolutely amazing. He is a miracle. How in the world did he keep his joy throughout all he endured? He is ALWAYS happy. He is the light of our family’s lives. He is thoughtful and obedient (most of the time) and pure sunshine. He brings us immense joy.

The only time he has really acted out was at the doctor’s office. He was very nervous and stressed. He wouldn’t listen and was acting so crazy- as in, I’ve never ever seen him like that before. Then he started talking. He spoke of Romaniv and people there, things they did. To each other. To him. Our hearts were broken. To the average person, it’s hard to imagine, by looking at our boy, how immensely he has suffered. I can almost forget it myself. And then he talks. Then we remember that one month of freedom doesn’t erase 11 years in hell on earth. His journey to complete healing will be a long one, but he is already well on his way.

Many people have asked us if Vladik misses Romaniv or his friends there. It’s a good question, especially when so many people love our Boys there so deeply and associate that love with “Romaniv” as a whole. But I have to tell you, that to ask that question is to not understand what Romaniv truly is. I don’t say that to look down my nose at you, or to shame the askers, I’m just saying that if you spent 10 minutes just observing Romaniv life, not playing there, but just observing, you would never even wonder about that question. Life at Romaniv consists of fences, walls, benches, neglect, abuse, survival of the fittest, and horrors most of us would never imagine even exist in this present time. NO person, let alone a child, should have to stay even one night there.

You all know how deeply committed we are to Romaniv. You know that we have hope for change and we are committed to change there. You know we love the boys, and we also love the staff and administration. We do! God has called us there- to give our lives to these boys, these nannies, these directors. And because of that deep love and commitment, I feel I can speak honestly and frankly about the reality. I hope you understand.

This morning Vladik was looking at the pictures on our fridge of some of the boys and he saw the Isolation Hall, his home for 11 years, in the picture.  He pointed to the window that he used to spend hours staring out of and said “My bedroom.” I said, “Yes, you used to sleep there, but not now!” He just looked at the picture and said “I don’t like that room. I don’t want that room. Foo! (Ukrainian for ‘yuck!’) It’s bad! I don’t want that picture.” Then with a glance at me for permission, he took the picture off the fridge and handed it to me. “All done!” He said. Then I asked him to show me his bedroom. We ran into our room and flopped down on the comfy bed, all giggles and cuddles.

That’s right. All done, sweet boy. You’ve got your whole life in front of you. 🙂

Did you know several other boys at Romaniv are available for adoption? They can have the same future as Vladik if only a few brave families will step up and say yes. Could you be one of the rescuers? You can read about the boys here and here. Please, read about them with an open heart and see what God might say. Thank you! 

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Hands of Hope to Romaniv

This is a post that has been in the works for many months, but I think you’ll find it worth the wait.  (Even though you didn’t know you were waiting for it…I did.) 😉

We are so excited to introduce you to…drumroll please….


You asked for it, and we are so happy that you are getting what you asked for!

Here’s the deal. Wide Awake is super blessed to have an awesome partnership with a non-profit in Indiana called Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care Ministry.  I wrote about them before, here.  Hands of Hope has been involved in helping to improve life at Romaniv since March 2012, after Suzy, the executive director, and Lois, the Romaniv liasion first visited our Boys.

Suzy and Lois with Romaniv Administration

Hands of Hope provides the money that we use every week to buy bananas for the Boys.  They give money for special projects around the orphanage, like outfitting a sports room for the Boys that they can use during the long winter months when they are cooped up inside for hours on end.  They pay for Leysa, one of our awesome team members to go to Romaniv three days a week to teach the boys music and lessons about Jesus.  They have also partnered with Wide Awake and Mission to Ukraine to pay for the two new teachers who have begun to teach our Boys 5 days a week.  They let us know how much money has been given by sponsors, and we, Wide Awake, work together with Hands of Hope and Mission to Ukraine to decide the best way to use it to most benefit our Boys.

Hands of Hope has poured a ton into our Boys over the past three years.  And how do they pay for all of the awesomeness?


Hands of Hope is no new kid on the block when it comes to child sponsorship.  This is their deal.  They rock at it. We have been working hard with Hands of Hope to update many of the profiles of our Boys and we are so excited to share this opportunity with you.

Want a way to tangibly change the lives of the Boys?  This is it.  100% of sponsor support goes toward improving the quality of life for our Boys.  100%!!!!


Here’s how it works on your end:

1.  Go to Hands of Hope website and choose a boy.  (I know, how can you choose?  They are all amazing!)

2. Click on your adorable choice and set up your tax-deductible monthly sponsorship of $35/month.  You can give by debit, credit card, or check.

3.  Hands of Hope sends you a welcome pack with more info about Romaniv and your special boy.

4.  You literally become “hands of hope” for our babies.  THANK YOU!!!!

Here’s how it works on our end:

1. Hands of Hope sends the sponsorship money to Ukraine, to Mission to Ukraine (the fiscal agent), and lets us, Wide Awake, know how much money was sent.

2.  We use the money to buy bananas three days a week, pay for teachers, and collaborate with the orphanage director, Hands of Hope, and Mission to Ukraine to pay for special projects around the orphanage that directly improve the Boys’ quality of life.

3.  We update Hands of Hope on the Boys, give prayer requests, and keep them posted on any significant happenings and needs around Romaniv.

That’s the scoop!  Cool, right?  This is the real deal.  Suzy and Lois, our friends at Hands of Hope love the Boys so much.  They visited in March and for us, it was like love at first sight.  They are AWESOME.  I can also guarantee you that the money donated is used with only the Boys’ best in mind.  No money is ever in the hands of the orphanage administration. We are the ones who do all the paying and purchasing. We try to use the money prayerfully and strategically so we aren’t just throwing money at need, but we are truly using it to change the culture of Romaniv.   And it’s happening.

God is doing big things.  Won’t you join us? 🙂

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