Category: Christian Youth Church
What in the world? June was a tornado. It was a tornado of awesomeness and craziness and life-changingness. But yeah, it was definitely a tornado.
May 31: Our sweet Sara left after a month of massage and intern-training. We miss you Saramama!
June 7: We celebrated our kids’ completion of one year of Ukrainian school and our precious Seth’s birthday at a water park in Kyiv. Yay!
June 10: We moved to the Wide Awake Homestead! MONUMENTAL DAY.
June 11: Tara and Christiana arrived! Tara and Christiana are both American girls who came to bless our boys and our team. Their presence was so refreshing. They served and smiled and brought every one of us so much joy. Internet friendships can turn out to be real-life awesome!
June 12-16: Tara and Christiana started going to Romaniv with our team and interns, getting to know the boys. Addy went to a day camp at school and made new friends. 🙂
June 17: The team from Hands of Hope arrived! Hands of Hope is our wonderful partner in Indiana. They have poured much love and support into Romaniv and Wide Awake over many years. They came to help with a Romaniv Day Camp that was put on by Mission to Ukraine and Wide Awake. They also brought an awesome builder with them who served us by building a deck at the Homestead!!!!
June 19: Day Camp begins and a team of medical professionals from Germany arrived to help at the camp and observe our team.
June 22: Sydney, an American friend and long-time Wide Awake supporter was “in the neighborhood” and arrived to visit, help, and see all the craziness we are up to. ALSO a crazy awesome American arrived to begin the in-country process of adopting our sweet Stephan!!! His presence was just the hugest encouragement to our team. We were so blessed to see him open his heart to Stephan and say YES to what God has for his family. Just wow.
June 23: Final day of Day Camp! Hands of Hope threw our team a party and it was awesome. They encouraged us and blessed us all. Our hearts needed it.
June 24: Hands of Hope headed home.
June 25: Our church had a beautiful baptism and picnic at the river. All our German friends and American friends joined in and it was just a really special day.
June 26: The German team provided a training for our interns after observing their work over the past week. Their insight and wisdom, how they saw the boys and the work with fresh eyes was invaluable. They challenged us and pushed us in new ways. A little pushing can hurt, but when done in love it can foster so much growth. We really so appreciated their hearts and hard work!
June 27: The German team did more training for the interns, and then a training for our team. So much good stuff!!
June 28: Good bye German team! Thank you!! Please come again. 🙂
June 29: Good bye dear Tara, Christiana and Sydney. Your wide open hearts and contagious laughter will be greatly missed. Come again!
So there you have it. Tornado.
It was quite the balance of scheduling and transportation and feeding, but the goodness far outweighed any stress that came along with it. I mean, all those wonderful people came because they love our boys and they believe in the vision of what we are doing here. They believe in God’s dream and they see the incredible worth of our boys. They gave up their vacation time and spent a lot of money to come pour into our boys, our family, and our team. We are forever grateful and super humbled by their giving.
I know I promised you a walk-through of the Homestead and I haven’t forgotten. With all the craziness of June we really haven’t gotten a chance to settle at all, and speaking of tornados…well, you get the idea. I’d like to tidy up a bit before sharing with you. 😉 Hopefully this week I’ll have something to show you. Thank you for your patience!
Now for pics.
Last night, in the middle of the night, we stood outside the orphanage, unsure of what to do. A young child lay dying inside and never had we felt so helpless. All the details of what transpired are for a later post, as a lot is still unresolved, but last night there was a fight for his life on all levels, and I will never ever forget it. For now, he lives.
Lately we have felt pressed on all sides. Lately it’s felt like the difficulties will never stop and the obstacles will just keep on coming without relief. Several times over the past couple of months we’ve said “Something’s gotta give.” Some days we felt like we just couldn’t take one more challenge. It all just feels like too much.
Then we remember the big picture. We are not simply fighting an injust system. We are not just battling passport officers and city administrators and higher-ups only looking to fill their pockets. This battle is not against flesh and blood.
We are fighting for lives. We are fighting for precious souls who have been discarded by the world. We are fighting for God’s Kingdom to come in a very dark place. We are fighting for glimpses of Heaven to break through. And we do not fight alone. God goes before us and this is HIS battle.
Right now our team is on the front lines and we are advancing. Look what God is doing!
Our sweet Stephan will have a family! Yes, a family has committed to adopting our little love. It’s a miracle. He will have a future. He will be saved. They are in the beginning stages of paperwork, but they love him and are fighting to get to him.
The new roof is going up on our Wide Awake property house. Every day brings us closer to bringing our boys out for good.
Next week our family will submit our documents for permanent residency. Once we get permission to stay here forever it will be much easier for us to register Wide Awake as a Ukrainian non-profit. That will be a big and necessary step toward getting our boys out.
Jed and Den, our pastor and board member, met with the Ukrainian Ombudsman for the Rights and Protection of children to discuss Wide Awake’s vision and plans. The President’s office is aware of our team and the work. Relationship is building there and who knows how God plans to use that?
All of this is thanks to God. He gets the glory for every single bit of it because there is NO WAY we could have strategized enough or worked hard enough for this kind of advancement. We certainly would have screwed it all up. God loves our Boys so very much and He is clearing the way for the freedom. HE is doing all of this, not us.
So, it is no wonder that we meet resistance. It’s no wonder that with all of this amazing stuff happening that we meet obstacles of every kind. It’s no wonder that our hearts get overwhelmed and we are hit with trial after trial. It’s no wonder that we get afraid and intimidated and distracted. The enemy will not give up his ground so easily.
Last night, standing in the cold, knowing death was near, we were on the very edge of the front line. We were in the line of fire. Never in your life can you be prepared for a moment like that. Never in your life could you imagine that you would need to convince medical professionals of the value and worth of a life.
Friends, we need prayer like never before. The battle is heating up and much is at stake. We need supernatural wisdom like never before. We need favor with government officials and orphanage administration. We need to know when to push and when to hold back. Most of all we just need Jesus. We need to have his heart and his eyes. We need to remain humble and small in our own eyes, that He might be lifted up. We need to simply say yes and give Him the control. He loves our boys more than we ever could.
Please pray for our new little one who is so sick. I will give details as I am able. Thank you!
I think I’ll try to get back into posting photos of our daily life here. I know lots of people (besides just the grandmas) are interested in our daily life, and posting weekly pics forces me to get on here and share even if I don’t feel like I have a heckuvalot to say. 🙂
The kids are adjusting pretty well to life back in Ukraine. Seth acts as though we never left. Ha! He easily picked back up with little friends from church. Ukrainian life with all the walking and more naturally active life suits him just fine. Hava, Addy, and Ezra are all doing fine. School hasn’t started yet, and we still haven’t nailed down exactly where they will go and which grade everyone will be in, so they’re still in our family/church bubble. Things may get a bit more dicey once we get closer to beginning school…we’ll see. I’m nervous about it, but what’s new? Today all is well, so I’ll just be content with that. Vladik is doing great. He was pretty emotional and regressed quite a bit in our first week here, but he seems to be coming back to his old self. I could do a whole post on that…maybe I will!
Bluebell is adjusting to Ukrainian life as well! It’s killing her to not be able to just run and run and run. But, we have LOADS of stray dogs in our neighborhood so she has to be on the leash at all times. We take her for several walks a day, but I know she misses her freedom. Soon! Bluebell will LOVE village life! We are so glad we brought her. I see the kids going to her for comfort and joy often throughout the day. What a blessing. I could do a whole post on that as well! Maybe I will! 😉
On Sunday night a bunch of our church family came out to the new property to check it out and to pray. It was awesome! We felt so loved, and it was massively encouraging to see so many people from church interested and engaged in what God is doing. It was a beautiful time.
A friend from church, Andriy, brought his camera along and took some cool pics while we were all out at the property. I love them!!! There are SO MANY super old things left at the house. Like serious antiques. It will be so fun to use them in decorating. EEK! I’m horrible at that kind of thing. I need Fixer-Uppers International!!! Seriously though, our house would be so super fun for someone who is good at that kind of thing. It’s like a museum!
We have a small team here this week from the UK Vineyard, and one friend from Ventura Vineyard. Oh man, we love those guys so much. They’re mostly here to help the Ukrainian Vineyard pastors, but a couple of the team members are Speech and Language Pathologists and they came just to support our interns at Romaniv. They have all been such an encouragement to us. They also makes us laugh a ton, so that’s a big bonus. We are so thankful for their love for Ukraine and her people, and their love for us. We don’t want them to leeeeeeeeave!!!! (I don’t have pics of them all, but you get the idea. They rock.) Thank you Jim, Jeremy, Josh, Sophie, and Ali! 🙂
And, of course we have our boys. Our sweeties. Our urgency to get them out grows more every day. It’s hard to trust God’s timing, but we really don’t want to push ahead on our own. We are certain to fall flat on our faces if we get ahead of ourselves. So, one foot in front of the other we say yes. And in the meantime we try to give them all the love we can while they wait.
We would like to invite you to a very special event!
Our family’s time here in the US is quickly winding down and we are itching for an opportunity to meet face to face with the ones who have helped to make all of this possible. I can blog the heck outta this thing, but there is truly nothing like being in the same room and telling stories, live, in person.
If you are in, or around the Salem area we would absolutely LOVE to see you there!
And just to sweeten the deal a bit, I’ve got to tell you that our friend and partner Denis Dmitrov will be there too- all the way from Ukraine! Denis is our pastor in Ukraine. The church that he pastors, Christian Youth Church, is where we, and almost 100% of our volunteers attend. Christian Youth Church has taken on Romaniv as a ministry of the church and it is a miraculous partnership that only God could have planned. Denis will be visiting the US for the first time ever and we are super excited for Wide Awake supporters to meet him and hear a bit about the work from his perspective.
So, please come! Invite a friend! This is the perfect opportunity for people to be introduced to what Wide Awake is all about. I can’t wait to see you and give you a big fat hug (and I’m not even a hugger…that’s how excited I am about this).
“The vision of Wide Awake is to offer hope, dignity, and improved quality of life for some of Eastern Europe’s most marginalized children.”
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 and 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 are 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!
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 of 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 babies.
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 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 babies, soon you will be free. But in the meantime, I hope you can see how many people love you so dearly.
I’m here! I’m here! Oh.My.Gooooooodness. It’s been such a long time.
I had this whole introspective, from-the-gut-post in the works, but, while trying to finish it up I realized I just don’t have the energy for that right now. So, you get a not-from-the-gut informative post instead. 🙂
There are a whole lot of emotions goin’ on around here, that’s for sure. We are gearing up for our first visit back to the States, as a family. We leave on Tuesday. WHAT???? Pure craziness I tell ya. Our life is never boring. All my introspective writing was on our feelings about leaving our Boys and it was UGLY. The thought of being so far away from our Boys for several months brings on an instantaneous sob-fest, so I’d rather not delve to deep into that topic. Let’s just say that we don’t want to leave them, but we are excited to be with family and friends. It’s confusing, and not black and white. So, there.
ADOPTION. We are in the home stretch of the adoption process! In fact, we were supposed to have court today, but it was rescheduled for August 31st. There were no jurors available today and yeah, it’s frustrating, I cried a lot, but we know that God’s timing is perfect. After court on August 31st there will be a 10-day mandatory waiting period and then we will get to take our boy out of Romaniv forever!!!! I can’t wait to introduce him to you!
TRAVEL TO THE US. We had already planned, before our move to Ukraine that we would head to the US as a family for our first visit in August 2015. Many, many months ago my parents planned that when we arrived, in August 2015, they would take all of their kids and grandkids to Disneyland. Well, the time is upon us! Woohoo! The timing is a little stinky, with our adoption court rescheduling, but oh well. We are just thanking God for this last big hurrah before we have another son and our lives change forever. Don’t people call that like a “babymoon” or something crazy like that? Let’s call Disneyland our “babymoon”, nevermind that our baby is 15 years old. Hehe. (details, details)
So our family will leave Ukraine on Tuesday and fly straight to California. We will have a few days to catch our breath before my family joins us for Disney. Jed will leave Disney early (on the 20th) to fly back to Ukraine. He was supposed to be picking up our son at that pointt, but then court was rescheduled and yada yada yada. We couldn’t change his ticket. Whatevs. The kids and I will head to Oregon after Disneyland and start to get settled a bit, get ready for school to start. I will fly back to Ukraine for court on the 29th. I’ll leave the kids with family and friends in Oregon.
After court I will come back to Oregon and Jed will stay in Ukraine to finish up all the documents for our new baby. Then he and our newest Johnson will fly and meet us in Oregon. Together at last!!!
HOUSING. We decided right after we got home from camp that it would be best to move out of the house we rent in Ukraine and put our stuff in storage. We really can’t afford to pay for a house that’s not being used here, and a house that we’ll be using in Oregon. So, we’ve been busy packing up and moving out. FUN.
While in Oregon we will be renting a house from some crazy-generous friends who are giving us a screaming deal. Praise God!!! Friends and family are letting us borrow stuff to set up a temporary Oregon home. 🙂 Thanks! We don’t know where we’ll live when we come back from America, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I can’t think about it now or my head will explode.
SCHOOL. Our kids (minus the new arrival) will be attending school in Oregon! This will be a first for them. Addy and Ez have been to school in Ukraine, but we homeschooled in the US before, so this will be a new adventure for us. We know our new son will need a TON of medical care and there is just no way I can meet his needs and homeschool 4 kids, so this feels like the most peaceful decision. I’m a little nervous about it though! Eeeek!
TIMING. We aren’t exactly sure how long we will be in the US. The working plan is that Jed will stay for about 2 months, and then return to Ukraine. There is a TON of work that needs to be done here (always) and he just can’t be gone for a long time. The kids and I will stay behind in Oregon until our new son gets the medical care that he urgently needs. We don’t know how long that will take. We anticipate more than one major surgery with specialist surgeons. Things like that just don’t happen fast. I’m prepping myself to be gone from Ukraine for at least 6 months. I can’t think about it too much though or I turn into a basket case. Oh my Romaniv babies! But, our top priority is getting our new son healthy, so we will do what it takes to make that happen. 🙂
WIDE AWAKE. Are you signed up for our newsletters? If you aren’t, you should. You can do it here. I’ll confess that we have not been stellar about sending them out super regularly this year. But it’s in our hearts to do better with that. Anywayssss in our last newsletter we talked about Wide Awake’s partnership with a local church here in Zhytomyr. Christian Youth Church is the church our family attends here in Z-town and we love our friends there. The vast majority of Wide Awake’s volunteers are from Youth Church, and they are our fam here in Ukraine.
Wide Awake gave a grant to Youth Church to be used to carry on the work with our Boys while we are in the US. The grant pays for the work of volunteer recruitment and management, and will pay for the drivers and gas to get the teams to Romaniv while we are away. Vika, our friend and volunteer, is in charge of the Romaniv work for Youth Church and she has already done an amazing job of growing the work while we were away at camp. She has recruited many new volunteers and we have now added a Saturday team! So now the boys get teams coming AT LEAST three days a week, and many weeks they get even more visits than that. Praise God for Youth Church and their love for the Boys! We are leaving the work in good hands and we know that our teams will continue to be faithful, even though we will be so far away. What a huge relief!
That’s the skinny! It’s a lot. I know. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask. Thanks for coming along on this wild ride. We could never do it alone. 🙂