The First Month: The Hard and the Awesome

One month ago from almost this exact moment we touched down in Ukraine. One month ago all 6 of us + 12 suitcases + 8 carry-ons + 1 guitar touched down in our new home. Has it only been one month??? It feels more like one year! Not in a bad way, but in a really strange way it feels like we’ve been here a whole heckofalot longer. I guess kids do that to you; they make you settle in real quick like. πŸ™‚ Our new reality set in fairly fast and we’ve been on a ginormous learning curve ever since.

This is my take on the past month. Jed doesn’t do much blogging here (ahem…) so these are my thoughts. He’d give you a different perspective, and it would probably be more profound, but I’ll share mine just for the fun of it.

The Hard Things:


Duh. Yeah, at this exact moment Russian is my enemy, my worst nightmare, my insurmountable mountain. Russian is stinkin’ hard y’all.

But, we actually have picked up quite a bit, and when we remind ourselves we’ve only been here for one month we start to feel a little better about our progress.

Everything’s labeled…

Still, Russian hates me. Holy moly. My brain hurts just thinking about it.


Shopping is an interesting beast. The hard part isn’t finding delicious foods. Ukraine has loads of deliciousness available! The hard parts are prices (WAY TOO EXPENSIVE) and lack of car. These things aren’t impossible, just a little harder than in the US. I’m learning to cook like a Ukrainian in order to be able to afford groceries. Cooking like an American just doesn’t cut it here. The foods that would be frugal back in Oregon aren’t really frugal here, for the most part. Lucky for us we all love Ukrainian food! I just need to find out how to cook more of it so we can have a bit of variety in our lives.

The store we walk to most often

We use public transportation all the time since we don’t have a car. It’s pretty sweet that we live super close to a really busy bus stop. We can easily catch a bus whenever we want one. So, that’s no biggie, except when we want to do “big shopping”. “Big shopping” doesn’t mean Costco Big, it just means we need to buy for more than just today. Like last night for instance, we needed to buy diapers, pull-ups, and some stuff for the house, along with our normal purchases (cabbage, potatoes, beets, carrots, sour cream, milk, coffee, butter, and flour). That’s all fine and dandy…but how are we gonna get it all home??? Oh, that’s right…we’re gonna carry it! Ha! So, basically, we can only buy what we can carry, and when you factor in slippery sidewalks, kids bundled to the nines, dark at 4:30pm, a bus ride, and little hands that need to be held, you realize you really can’t buy all that much. Jed and I are shopping and debating what’s too heavy and what we can handle. “Sure, we can buy those mandarins, they aren’t too heavy. Oooooh no, we can’t get eggs…there’s no way we’re making it home with those babies still intact!”

On the bus with my sweetie after shopping last night

It’s an often hilarious, and an unexpectedly hard thing. Big time learning curve there. (And I didn’t even mention label-reading. Forget about it!)

Time Management.

Up to this point, we’ve pretty much been in survival mode. Not in a bad way, it’s just reality. Schedules and time management have been a work in progress.

Starting a non-profit from scratch is a lot like starting a new business. We have to account for expenditures, thank our givers, get the word out, stay accountable to our Board, and seek God for direction and vision, all while living in a world where every.single.thing is new.

It’s easy to get focused on just living every day and get backlogged on Wide Awake “stuff”. That’s been a hard one that we are far from mastering, but we’re plugging away at it. Again, let’s remind ourselves that we’ve only been here one month, mmmmk?? πŸ™‚

The Awesome Things:


I know, earlier I said not having a car is hard, but it’s really only hard when we go “Big Shopping”. Otherwise, I can honestly say that I enjoy walking everywhere. It’s so beautiful!!! We have to shop a bit almost every day (that’s the way it works here with a fam of 6), and I love our daily jaunts to the store.

On the way to the store

Usually, just Jed or I will head out in the afternoon with a kid or two and pick up the few things we need for that evening’s dinner and the next day’s breakfast. I love walking down the street in the fresh air, holding on to Addy’s hand just enjoying being with her. No radio blaring, no traffic to navigate, just me and my girl or sometimes my boy, walking down the street to our corner market. It’s precious. We’re learning labels together, learning what stores we like for what items, stretching our legs, breathing in fresh air, and feeling the sun (wishful thinking) on our faces. I like it a lot.

New Friends.

Duh. This one is HUGE. We have some wonderful friends here in Zhitomir. Thank you Jesus!!! Our friends Oleg and Tanya have been so good to us. They’ve ordered water for us for home delivery, helped me buy boots for my frozen Oregonian feet, taken us for coffee, celebrated a birthday and Thanksgiving with us, calmed my nerves when I heard unexpected fireworks and Jed was gone for the weekend (I was a wee bit nervous…), told us which brands of food are better, translated for us with our landlady, translated for us with our neighbors when we got the unfortunate “don’t flush the toilet paper” news hehe, helped us figure out our address, called taxis…and on and on and on. They’ve pretty much saved our bacon way too many times already. They probably feel like it’s been a heckofalot longer than one month too!! πŸ˜‰

(Insert cute pic of friends…apparently we’re too busy drinking coffee and such for pics. Will remedy soon!!)

Mission to Ukraine friends have been AMAZING too. From the moment we walked in their doors on November 14th we’ve felt so incredibly welcome. They are excited to have us and we are so excited to have them!!! The MTU staff puts up with our blundering Russian with such grace. Bless their hearts!! They invite us to church, find lawyers to help us with our visas, feed our kids cake, hug us and kiss our cheeks, and on and on. One special family from MTU (mom and daughter both work there) has especially taken us under their wing. I feel like they are God’s special precious gift to us. Sigh, God is just too good. And that’s just the Zhitomir friends! Don’t even get me started on the treasures He’s given us in Kiev…



Oh, my precious Romaniv! I was there again today and I am in love. Last week Jed and Nina, the AMAZING volunteer from Zhitomir that comes each week to the isolation room, discussed implementing more structure for the time we spend in the isolation room. Today Nina and I followed the plan the best we could and the boys responded immediately. Our time was so much more peaceful than the last time I was there! At one point we were feeding the boys bananas and Nina and I looked at each other in disbelief. It was SILENT in the room. The boys, for that moment, were content and quiet. It was such a moment of hope. God gave us all a bit of wisdom and then He blessed it. The boys responded fabulously and I can’t wait to see how they do after the structure is implemented week after week. Yay!!!!

On the road to Romaniv

Those boys have our hearts, big time.

Nina helping wash hands πŸ™‚

Today I got to hold Andrei, one of the most active boys, on my lap for a bit. I figured out if I tied a long piece of cloth to a plastic slinky it would catch his attention and he would sit still for a moment. He let me hold him, rub his head, and hum into his ear for almost 10 minutes while he bounced the slinky up and down, up and down. Wow. That may not seem like much, but for a boy who never ever stops- always stimming, always shrieking, always running- this was big. For a moment he was at peace. For a moment his brain was developing a little further up the brainstem. For a moment prayers were whispered in his ear. Magical.

There’s so much more I could share. So many memories made, so many funny and embarrassing stories…it’s rather humiliating to live here, FYI. We make fools of ourselves all the time, everywhere. πŸ™‚

Off to go make some embarrassing Russian blunders!

Just know that life is good, very good. It’s not all sunshine and roses and some days we struggle, but we have not one speck of doubt that we are exactly where God wants us to be. Things are quite crazy in Ukraine right now. We have no idea how it will all play out with the current government and the wishes of the people. Ukraine is at a very critical point in its history and we are here for such a time as this. It’s no surprise to God that we arrived right at the birth of a revolution. Who knows why…only God. But we do know that there is purpose in it and we don’t plan on missing out on that purpose.

Would you pray with us for Ukraine? This place and these people have grabbed our hearts. We’ve only made Ukraine our home for a short month, but we are all in. These are our people. Please pray that God has His way in Ukraine and that His Kingdom will come here and now. Pray that many, many hearts are turned toward Him during this unstable time.


Thank you, friends! Thank you for your love and encouragement this first month. It has been awesome to journey with you!




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How it Went Down

We are here! We are here! Holy, moly, the outpouring of support has blown us away. We feel so loved and spoiled! Our friends and family rock. So many Viber messages, so much facebook encouragement, so many emails. Thank you all for loving us so well.

Here’s how it went down.


We said goodbye to my family and it was p-a-i-n-f-u-l. Picture Addy clinging to the window, sobbing as our family walked away and you’ll be able to picture the level of sadness. Our family has so fully released us to this and we know it is hard. I can’t imagine how we could even do this if they didn’t let us know that they are behind this 100%. Thank you dear fam for letting us go. WE LOVE YOU!

We were feeling rather pathetic, so we hurried off to distract ourselves with a long security line. That line made us want to poke our eyes out, so the other sadness was forgotten for a bit. It felt like all we had ever known was that line and our 4 roller carry-ons + 5 backpacks + 1 guitar. All time stopped and we were lost in the vortex of shoe-taking off, pocket-emptying, luggage-heaving, and luggage-scanning and re-scanning. Did I mention the miracle that we got to check all 12 bags ALL THE WAY to Kiev, and 7 of them were a couple pounds overweight and they made us pay nothing? Oh the cheering that rang out at the American Airlines ticket counter!! Did I also mention that TSA officers have a knack for opening the bags stuffed with loose legos? Yep, they chose the lego bags without fail. Hehe…it was like an explosion of legos every time. Annnnnd it never stopped being funny.

Flight #1

This flight was pretty uneventful. As we were heading down the runway I explained to Havalah that we have to go really fast before we go up in the air. She said “Oh, when we start to drive really fast will our hair blow back?” πŸ™‚



TSA really had a ball with our luggage this time. They must have scanned Ezra’s backpack 4 times. I think the nerf gun bullets were the culprit…or maybe the scary shark toy? I guess it will always remain a mystery.

We ate some yummy food, took a train, changed terminals and we were off again!

Flight #2

This was the biggie. We were flying from Chicago to Istanbul and it was a 10 hour doozy. The kids did AWESOME!!!! They really couldn’t have done better. We watched movies, ate, and slept. I won’t bore you with all the details…


Before we arrived in Istanbul we explained to the kids that when we got off that plane we wouldn’t be in America anymore, so they needed to expect things to be different. The first sign of different was when we went through the security check. O.M.G. As Havalah went through the x-ray scanner deal-io the TSA officer (a woman) grabbed Havalah and started smothering her face with kisses. HAHAHA!!! It was so awesome. She was going on and on in Turkish, grabbing, kissing, talking, more kissing. At that point we were certain we weren’t in Oregon anymore. Seth got the same smooch treatment and we were on our way. I’m not sure they took note of anything in our bags, they were just too enamored with our kids. I loved every second of it, and Hava and Seth didn’t seem to mind it much either. πŸ™‚

Flight #3:

This flight was less than 2 hours long, so I don’t have much to say about it. Quick and painless, and before we knew it we were in Kiev! The feelings as we touched down in Ukraine were like nothing I’ve ever felt before. Jed and I met eyes and were like “Holy cow. We did it. We made it. God did this. After 3 years of dreaming, we are here- with our kids. WOW.”


Once we got down to baggage claim in Kiev we were in good hands. We looked out the glass doors and could see a group of our dear friends from the Kiev Vineyard waiting for us, waving and smiling. YES!!! All we had to do was get our bags from the carousel to the door and then we had many hands hugging us and helping us. Praise God for the Body of Christ. Praise God for family in Kiev. We love them so much!

Want to know the biggest miracle of all? ALL 12 BAGS MADE IT TO KIEV. Jed and I were literally whooping with joy when we grabbed the last bag off the carousel. It was definitely a moment to celebrate. πŸ™‚

Our friends helped us to the van we had hired and we were off on the road to Zhitomir! All the kids except Seth fell asleep on the two-hour drive, so that was easy peasy. When we arrived at the house our friend Oleg was waiting with keys to let us right in. He even brought food for breakfast this morning! All our friends here made us feel so loved and welcome. Then we logged in online and all our friends from the US were cheering us on like crazy! It’s like one ginormous hug fest and we are loving every second of it. Thank you, dear ones, both near and far.

All in all, the travel couldn’t have been more perfect. Tomorrow I’ll show you pictures of the house, so stay tuned! Woot! πŸ˜‰

We are so unbelievably thankful that God has brought us this far. He has covered every single detail. It just goes to show you that the children we’ve come to serve are so stinkin’ dear to His heart. He will stop at nothing to have His way. He will stop at nothing to bring light into darkness. All of this is for His glory. He continues to pave the way and we simply can not wait to see what He has in store next. He is changing the atmosphere and softening hearts. He is opening eyes and we are humbled to be His hands and feet in this place.

To God be ALL the glory for the great, amazing, fantastic, unbelievably good things He has done.

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Today We Fly

And we’re off! Thank you dear family and friends for showering us with love these past few days/years. πŸ™‚

We have been drowned in love and we leave with full hearts knowing that we have been fully released to our destiny. We go “fully loved, and fully free to love.”

We can’t really comprehend that this is really happening, or what this really means, but we know that God goes before us and His plans are gonna rock.

Bye for now! So many hugs and so much love to family and friends. We LOVE YOU!!!!!

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