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June Happened.

Hello July!

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.

Recap:

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. ūüôā

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. ūüôā

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. ūüėČ Hopefully this week I’ll have something to show you. Thank you for your patience!

Now for pics.

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Camp theme for the Isolation Hall: “Fun in the Sun and Shade”

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We had stations for each of the 5 senses. For some boys every station became the “taste” station. Ha!

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Thank you Barry and Tom for all your hard work on the deck!

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Americans at work, picking Colorado bugs off our potatoes. Welcome to Ukraine. hehe

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Village life is gross sometimes. 

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The German team arrived! (plus Ava, not pictured)

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Thanks Hands of Hope for the great party!

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Sweet Friends. Thank you for refreshing my soul!

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Taking a break from training ūüôā

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I can’t believe they finished the deck! Photos will follow in the next post.

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Team training: Respect, appreciation, safety

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So much love entered the Romaniv gates over the past month. We are so immensely grateful for all the sweet moments our boys experienced. May they hold those moments in their hearts forever. I know we will. 

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The Front Lines

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.

BUT

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.


Two other families are still working hard to adopt Isaiah and Jonathan.  They have hit many roadblocks along the way, but progress is being made and we are confident that God goes before them.


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 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 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.

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Please pray for our new little one who is so sick.  I will give details as I am able. Thank you! 

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Meanwhile, Back in Ukraine…

We made it! ¬†We’ve been back in Ukraine for almost a week now, and all is well. ¬†We hit the ground running. ¬†I guess I’m learning that that’s kind of our style. ¬†We don’t really know how to ease into anything. ¬†ūüôā The travel was great (minus a four hour stint in a Kyiv parking lot due to a busted belt on the van…but that’s another story). ¬†Our puppy made it with us safe and sound too, for all the curious animal-lovers out there. No one left behind!

It’s great to be back with our team, with our friends, with our church. It’s a relief to know that our family is all together and we’re going to stay that way indefinitely. ¬†No more trying to live on both sides of the ocean at once. ¬†It may take a while for my heart to settle into that fact. ¬†Whew!

The big, huge news is that on Monday we purchased the Wide Awake property!!! ¬†It’s official!


The property is in a nearby village called “Ivanivka”. We chose Ivanivka because it’s super close to Zhytomyr, but with plenty of awesome land for sale. ¬†We will be within a community and close to the city, but with space to grow and garden, and space for our boys to enjoy nature and peace without being isolated. ¬†Our team and friends can easily take the city bus to Ivanivka, and our property is not far off the main road, so it’s easily accessible, since most of our friends don’t have cars.
The property itself is a little under 2 acres. ¬†There is an old house at the front of the property, and our family will live in that house after we do some renovating. ¬†It’s not a house that would ever be ideal for our boys, but it will suit our family just fine. ¬†There are established gardens behind the house, several mature fruit trees, and a big grassy field where we plan to build two more small houses that will be home to 4 boys each. ¬†The back of the property is bordered by huge trees. ¬†It’s just beautiful! There are several small outer buildings on the property that have had various uses over the years. ¬†We’ll keep some of them and tear down others.



The plan of attack, after deciding on a contractor and work crew, is to tackle plumbing, kitchen, and heating.  The floors have to be taken out to do the heating, and right now there is no indoor bathroom or kitchen, so those three things have to be done before our family can move in.  Once we are in we will begin work on an addition to the back of the house.  The addition will be home to the first four boys who come out of the institution!

So, we’ve got our work cut out for us! ¬†The house is old, but structurally sound. ¬†The property has great potential, but a lot must be done before anyone lives there. ¬†It can be a bit (or a lot) daunting when we think of how much needs to be done fairly quickly, so it’s imperative that we just put one foot in front of the other, one day at a time. Yikes. ¬†In the meantime we’re renting an apartment that we lived in during our first year in Ukraine.


We are so thankful to each one of you who gave to make this property a reality.  Thank you for your generosity.  Thank you for believing in the vision.  Thank you for loving our boys and for loving us.  Thank you for your YES!


For more pics of the land check out this link: https://wideawakeinternational.org/2016/05/17/wide-awake-property/

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An Invitation

We would like to invite you to a very special event!

Thursday, June 30th at 7pm we are hosting “An Evening With Wide Awake” at the Kroc Center in Salem, Oregon.

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!

We’ll share about where we’ve been, and where we hope to go in this next year: land purchase, freedom for the first four boys, interns, adoptions…and all that good stuff.

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).


If you have any questions about this event, please don’t hesitate to ask. ¬†You can comment here, or email me at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org

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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. ūüôā

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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!

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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. ¬†ūüôā

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 Met, Fighting 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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Introducing…Interns!

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: –•—Ä–ł—Ā—ā–ł–į–Ĺ—Ā–ļ–ĺ–Ļ –ú–ĺ–Ľ–ĺ–ī–Ķ–∂–Ĺ–ĺ–Ļ –¶–Ķ—Ä–ļ–≤–ł (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. ūüôā

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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Indiana Adventures

I gotta tell ya, we just had the most encouraging week!  

I’ve written before about Hands of Hope, our fabulous partners in Indiana.  Hands of Hope provides awesome support to adoptive and foster families in Indiana, and they also do great orphan care through child sponsorship.  Through the Hands of Hope Romaniv sponsorship we are able to bring fresh fruit to the boys three days a week, pay the salary of two teachers who are working full-time to teach the boys, and more.  Hands of Hope is an immense help in bringing greater quality of life to our boys.  Because Hands of Hope pays for much of the work that is done at Romaniv now, Wide Awake is able to put funds away to prepare for the future: group homes instead of institutionalization.  

Their partnership and investment into our boys is priceless. 

This past Tuesday Jed, Vladik, and I were able to fly to Indiana to spend some time with the Hands of Hope peeps and talk a whole lot about the boys we adore so much.  It was a fast and fabulous trip!  Jed flew in from Ukraine on Monday and we flew out to Indiana on Tuesday morning.  At this point I’m pretty sure Jed could go 10 years without stepping foot on another airplane and be pretty happy with that. 

   

 

On Tuesday night we got to spend the evening with some lovely people who sponsor sweet Boris and Zhenya.  And then on Wednesday night there was an open house for “Friends of Romaniv”.  Basically sponsors and any and everyone who loves our boys could come and just hear about what’s happening at Romaniv and how they can pray.  It was beautiful.  Many of the people who came Wednesday evening have visited Romaniv before and dearly love the boys.  We always love talking about our sweeties, but talking about them to a room full of people who have loved them for years (in many cases before we even knew they existed!) takes it to a whole new level.  Love-fest level!  ūüôā 

The highlight of our Wednesday was a lovely young lady named Renee.  Renee visited Romaniv on a mission trip when she was 16 years old.  She fell in love with Vladik on that trip, came home and became his sponsor through Hands of Hope.  Renee prayed and prayed over the years that Vladik would find a family.  She LOVED our son before we did.  Well, now Renee goes to college in Kentucky.  She found out Vladik was going to be in Indiana and drove over 3 hours to come and see him in person.  

  
 

What a special reunion.  Vladik was clueless of the importance of that night, but someday he’ll understand.  

Thursday night was just beautiful.  Hands of Hope had an event called “Sip and Savor”.  It was so classy!  Free lattes and people walking around with trays of cheesecake?  Yes, please.  ūüôā  

The three main focuses of Hands of Hope were presented at the event: Orphan Care (child sponsorship), Foster Care support, and Adoption.  Jed and I did the presentation about adoption because we received a matching grant for our adoption through Hands of Hope.  THANK YOU!!!!!  It was doubly special because Vladik was the first Hands of Hope sponsor child to be adopted.  Cool, eh?  I say hopefully the first of many! 

Man, it was just wonderful to be in a room full of people passionate about caring for the orphan.  There are so many different ways to say YES and hearing about all the ways people can say YES by partnering with Hands of Hope is just rad.  It’s the real deal.  

  
 
  

Besides those official meetings, we just had plenty of time to drink coffee and eat yummy food with our friends.  All of these friends we met in Ukraine at one time or another through Hands of Hope, World Next Door, or Mission to Ukraine.  They were all so happy to see Vladik in a family and we were so blessed to spend time with people who know our boys and our friends in Ukraine and love them.  Common hearts + coffee + cozy couches = a whole lotta good times.  We got to stay with our friends Christopher and Lois and it was seriously like a vacation.  They spoiled the heck out of us.  SO FUN!   

  

God has blessed us so much with this partnership with Hands of Hope.  Again, we are just amazed at God’s love for the boys.  How is it, why is it that He has drawn so many hearts to this one institution in the middle of nowhere Ukraine?  We believe it’s because God has something very special for our boys.  He has been drawing them out of darkness into light for such a time as this.  I’m just thankful we get to be a part of His unfolding plan.  

To God be ALL the glory for the GREAT things He has done!

  

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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.) ūüėČ

We are so excited to introduce you to…drumroll please….
ROMANIV CHILD SPONSORSHIP!!!

Wahooooo!!!

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?

CHILD SPONSORSHIP!  

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? ūüôā

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The Skinny

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. ¬†ūüôā

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 too 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.

  

Here’s the skinny on what is happening in our life. ¬†Deep breath, here goes:

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”, never mind 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 point, 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 son.  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. ¬†ūüôā ¬†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 friends at Romaniv! ¬†But, our top priority is getting our new son healthy, so we will do what it takes to make that happen. ¬†ūüôā

  
 

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. ¬†ūüôā

  

  

 

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