Here’s a little tour of the Wide Awake/Dim Hidnosti property for you. ☺️ I think it helps to see the bigger picture of the Homestead and how it has changed and developed over the years. Plus, exciting new developments are underway! 👏👏
PS: Sorry my voice sounds annoying and Jed’s is so quiet. I’d redo it, except it’s raining…so…no. 😆
Yesterday I tried to get up the gumption to make a video, and then again today, but I just can’t seem to do it. The war rages on. So many lives lost. There doesn’t seem to be any end in sight and we are just hurting so deeply over it all. Words can’t express it. It’s a deep, deep ache at the core of me. I don’t know how it will ever heal. I only read Ukrainian news because any news from the west makes me want to scream and cry. Does anyone truly have Ukraine’s best interest in mind, or are all the people who hold the power only interested in preserving their own self-interests? I think we all know the answer to that by now. Ukraine continues to defend the free world, at the cost of so many innocent lives. How can this be? I’m tired.
It’s been seven weeks since we left our home but it feels like a lifetime has passed. The 5 months when Jed lived in the duplex with Anton and Sasha and I lived across the yard in our house with our family were hard. It was one of the most challenging and exhausting times of our lives. But I would go back to that life in a moment- in the blink of eye. We were tired but so happy. We were at home, in the place we love. Our kids went to school and youth group. We walked in the city and went to church. We dreamed about the summer garden and prepared the soil. We planned for the future and looked ahead with hope. Life in Ukraine was not without its challenges, but those challenges feel like nothing in comparison to what life has become.
Now our hearts are broken. We have survivor’s guilt and we mourn what was, knowing it will never again be the same. I hope and dream that we will go home, but it will be different. Will we feel safe there again? Will Ukraine ever truly be “safe” again? How will we even know when to go back? We lived in Ukraine for 8 years while the country was at war..but now things are different. German lessons are offered to us and I refuse to go because something inside of me feels like trying to learn a new language is accepting the fact that we are here for a long while and I don’t want that to be true. So I stumble along with my smattering of German words and mostly get by using English. I don’t want to ingrain myself into the culture here, not because I have anything against Germany, but because my heart longs for everything Ukraine. It feels like a betrayal to accept a life here while Ukraine fights to survive.
I see others going into Ukraine, delivering humanitarian aid and volunteering and I feel jealous that they are there and I am not. I also feel guilty that they are there and I am not, although I am a mom of (now) 11 and my obligation is to my children. Living in a church in Germany isn’t as sexy as being in Ukraine, at the heart of things, and I run out of things to say about life here. I change diapers. I take our boys to the doctor. I cook food. I buy groceries. I mourn for what was and worry about what will be. It’s not exciting or necessarily helpful to the cause of Ukraine, but it’s where I need to be. That’s a hard pill to swallow.
I am thankful to our friends here in Germany who have helped us so very much. I’m thankful that we have a place to all live together because living apart would never work. I’m thankful that my children are safe and have food to eat. I’m thankful that our two new boys, Yaroslav and Vova, are doing so well and that we have the opportunity to give them a life worth living. There are joys in the sorrow, and for that I am thankful.
Some days I feel God’s smile and his joy and some days I wonder where He has gone and how He can allow this to happen. My faith in His goodness is being severely tested and I don’t understand how to communicate with Him right now. Everything feels too complicated and I’m afraid to dig too deep into my own emotions. So, I change the next diaper. Wipe the next nose. Drive to the next appointment and wait. For peace? For home? For an answer? I don’t know what I wait for, but I feel too unsettled to call this life anything but waiting.
I know a house is just a building, and buildings can be made again. I know people are more important, and of course I would choose people over a building any day. But today I just want to see my house. Our house, to me, is so much more than a building. It represents the reason we live in Ukraine. It is an oasis of hope. It is the place where our boys first felt the love of a family. It is the place my children call home. It is a place of joy and beauty and hope. I’m so thankful it is still safe and standing. I wait, with longing, for the day we can return.
Please, don’t forget Ukraine. 💔
The roof is going up on the next home for our boys and I realize that I haven’t written a lick about it! In fact, if you follow this blog much you may have noticed that I haven’t been actually writing about much of anything at all. It’s been silent here on the blog, but that silence doesn’t reflect what has actually been happening here in Ukraine. It has been busy here, as usual. 🙂
We have room on our property for our current home, plus 2 duplexes. The plan is for each side of each duplex to have space for 4 boys/men from the institution, plus space upstairs for the people who will be their family.
The first duplex is well underway and it is HUGE!!! I’m kinda jealous and wish I was going to live in it! The homes are going to be fabulous. We’ve learned some lessons from our current home setup and have designed to meet those needs in the plans for the duplexes. For instance, the duplexes will have toilets separate from showers, more toilets, a “family space” upstairs for the family who will live in the home and for guests, a separate bedroom for each boy, and a lockable pantry in the kitchen that will also house the refrigerator. The homes will all be fully accessible and up to ADA standards. Not to mention, they’re just going to be flat-out GORGEOUS! So many windows, so much natural wood, so much light. So much excitement!!!
We are hoping to keep a steady pace on the build so that the first duplex will be completed in the late spring or early summer. We need another $30,000 to complete the project. In the meantime, we are praying about which boys will live in the first homes and figuring out the process for securing guardianship of them. If we take anyone under the age of 18 everything is done differently than if we take adults, so there will be a learning curve there. Also, most of the boys under the age of 18 have parents, so we will need to work alongside them to see what supports could be put in place for reunification, and if that is not possible, then we need to make a plan for how we can work alongside the parents in caring for the boys here at the Homestead. So much to consider! Right now the plan is that one side of the duplex will be for children (under the age of 18) and the other side will be for adults. The current children at the institution are all 13 or 14 years old, but developmentally much younger.
Our focus in choosing boys at this point is pretty much zeroed in on the Isolation Hall. The boys and men there have significant medical needs that will never be addressed properly in the Institution. They are the ones our work has pretty much centered around in the last 5 years with our interns and our volunteer teams, so it makes sense for us to put our attention there, in the beginning. But of course, we are very open to God’s leading in this. We need so much wisdom and clarity!
The elephant in the room of this whole project is the question of who will live in the duplex with the boys?
Yeah, that’s a good question. And the answer right now is…we have no idea.
We are currently working on a job description and ministry description because the time has come to look in earnest for who will join us in this work. We need people who will live in the duplexes with the boys like we do in our home, and we also need people who will live off-site and come in as daily help to the Wide Awake machine (Romaniv work, administrative help, in-home helpers, Special Wednesday helpers…the list goes on and on). It’s just gotten to the point where if we don’t bring more help in the growth will have to slow, or even stop, and we don’t want that to happen. Our boys need OUT.
Our dream is that a blend of Ukrainians and foreigners would work together to care for our boys. Ukrainians are the obvious choice. They have the language, know the culture, and already live here. But at the same time, we see the benefit of outsiders coming in to join as well. Westerners come into this with different eyes and a different perspective. Ukrainians have been raised to see people with disabilities in one way, and an outside perspective is just really, really helpful- especially when you’re fighting for change in a culture that, historically, does not accept or recognize our boys as valuable.
Another benefit to outsiders coming in would be friendship for us. 🙂 We have a Ukrainian team that we love so much. They are our family here and I don’t know where we would be without them and their friendship. We also long for friendship with people in our native tongue. We long for relationship with people who understand where we come from and who can understand us fully. It is a deep desire and need for us, personally, if this work and life is to be sustainable for the long haul.
So, here’s to hoping and praying that if we build it…they will come!
We have no doubt that God has the right people in mind to help on this journey. He has provided the land, the funds to build the home, and the boys to fill it. There’s just no way it’s going to sit empty because of a lack of helpers. So, we pray and begin to actively seek out who those helpers might be.
If this strikes a chord with you and you find that it’s something you just can’t let go, can’t forget, let’s talk. It’s certainly not a romantic call, but it’s an important one. I can promise a YES to this work will never leave you bored. Hehe.
To all who have given to help make this duplex a reality- THANK YOU! It’s really happening! Thank you for believing in this dream and in this work. We can’t wait to fill it to the brim with life and love.
I think I can rightly, without a doubt, call 2018 the biggest year of our lives. Wow. It was a doozy y’all. (Okay, I never say “y’all”, but it just felt right in the moment) 2013 and 2014 were big. We moved to Ukraine at the end of 2013 and then 2014 was our first full year here. I thought those years could never be beat- but I stand corrected. In those years, when we got overwhelmed by Ukraine and it’s differences and struggles we could just close our door and have our own little American island. When days at Romaniv were hard we could run home and love our kids and try to compartmentalize a bit. Not these days! Little America no longer exists. Romaniv has come to us. We are fully immersed and we are being changed to our core. Praise God. And….help us, God! 🙂
Boris joined our family! Technically, Boris came to us in December 2017, but you get the idea. Much of 2018 was spent integrating Boris into the family and helping him become human. Boris has changed us, challenged us, brought us to our knees and brought us more joy than we ever expected. You can read more about that journey here.
Evangeline Joy was born! Oh our sweet little Evie Joy, joy-bringer-extraordinaire, we had no idea how much we needed you. We could only see the unexpectedness of her arrival, but God foresaw the necessity of her arrival. In the darkest of moments Evie has been good medicine to the soul of every member of our family. We can not thank God enough for our sweet bundle. You can read about my Ukrainian maternity experience here and Evie’s arrival here.
Land was purchased. Praise God for our friends from the UK Vineyard and their amazing generosity! They gave a big ol’ chunk of money and we were able to purchase the property neighboring the Homestead. A road was built to access the back of our land and now we have space to build 3 duplexes for more of our precious ones who are waiting in the institution. We hope to break ground in the spring! More on that at the bottom of the post.
Summer in the USA. It was such a blessing to our hearts and such refreshment to our souls to be able to spend the summer with family and friends in Oregon. So many good memories were made and so much English was spoken. It was awesome! Ha. We also did a successful reconstructive operation on Vlad’s feet. You can see photos of the awesomeness here.
Ruslan and Anton joined our family! This one was a biggie. I’ve tried to always be very honest with you about the journey. That honesty includes sharing part of the struggles. It’s no secret that adding Boris, Ruslan and Anton to the fam has been the hardest thing we have ever done. But I want you to know that there is plenty of joy along the journey as well. In some seasons the hard overshadows the joy, but that is when we lean in hard to Jesus and ask him to carry us. We have zero doubt that this is exactly what we were created to do with our lives, so even though many days seem dark- hope shines through. We love our guys and see them growing little by little each day- becoming more and more human. Praise God, the Redeemer of the broken. You can read more here, here and here.
What’s Next? Why, thank you for asking! We are planning to break ground for the three duplexes when everything thaws in the spring. Then, as long as the money is there, we’ll hit the building project hard. Each side of the duplexes will be a home for 4-5 of our friends from Romaniv, along with those who will be family to them. We’re talking about providing forever homes for 24-30 more of our friends! EEEEEEEEK!
We have budgeted $160,000 for each duplex. Right now we have a very generous MATCHING GRANT from our friends and partners at Hands of Hope. They will match donations up to $80,000! Yes, that means if we meet the matching grant we will have the funds for one entire duplex!
Sooooo, if you’re looking for a place to give end-of-year donations, we will gladly accept them. 🙂 Let’s help more of our friends learn what it is to live in love and safety each day of their lives. Let’s help more of our friends to become humans after a lifetime of being treated like animals. Let’s help more of our friends experience the love of a family: brothers, sisters, mama and papa.
We’re ready for ya 2019. Let’s do this thing!
Click HERE to donate!
Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for walking this journey with us and helping to make it possible for our boys to know life. We are forever grateful.
I haven’t written much about it lately, but work on the Wide Awake Homestead has continued strong and steady. The process is slow going, and we are learning much patience, but someday soon it will be livable and all this impatience will be a distant memory. 🙂
To see pictures of what the house was like originally, check out this post.
When we first purchased the property we thought we would only need to install indoor plumbing, update the electrical, and renovate the upstairs (it was just one room without insulation). But, that was before we realized the roof needed replacing. Once we knew that we decided it was better to replace the upstairs while the roof was off and the walls were open.
So, considering all that needed to be done, we’ve come quite far!
At this point, the new roof is on along with an all-new second floor. The guys are laying the flooring in the upstairs and putting the tongue and groove wood on the walls upstairs as well. The electrical is complete and heating is done except for the bathroom and kitchen floors which will be heated tile. We’ve decided on the tile for the kitchen and bathrooms and are ready to place our order. We have a work crew working full-time (doing great, high-quality work!) and Jed also basically works full-time purchasing items and keeping things moving. Nothing happens quickly or easily in Ukraine, so his engagement in this building process is necessary.
What’s left to do? Walls and ceiling need to be finished upstairs and down, flooring needs to be completed upstairs, downstairs flooring needs to be laid, plumbing and septic system need to be completed, and then all the finishing things like kitchen cabinetry, bathroom fixtures like tub, showers, and sinks…
The outside insulation, stucco, and siding also need to be completed, but we can work on that this summer after our family has already moved in.
We have big hopes of moving in this spring…maybe April??? Please, please, please let it be so! We are dying to move in and have a place of permanency so we can begin the work of bringing our boys home. Oh, what a day that will be. 🙂
Originally we had planned to build an addition onto the back of the house and use that as a home for the first boys. Then we learned that in order to build an addition we would need city approval to begin ANY renovations at all. So we decided to make more bedrooms in the upstairs of the house for our family and use the downstairs bedrooms for the first of the boys.
The idea is that our family will sleep in 3 of the upstairs bedrooms, and we’ll use the fourth bedroom up there for an office/guest room. There are 2 bedrooms downstairs and those will be bedrooms for the first of the boys we bring out. So when we consider the first couple of boys we need to think of our kids and our nuclear family and who will fit best into our direct family life. Make sense? It’s different having boys in an addition or a cottage right across the sidewalk and having a few boys living right in the home with us and our little ones. We will need plenty of wisdom when it comes time to pursue paperwork for guardianship of those first boys.
We are super excited to have a couple of our precious ones living right in the home with us! I think it will help their adjustment to be living with us and included directly in family life. It is right and good and we are so lucky. As our kiddos grow and move on we can use the bedrooms upstairs for more and more boys.
As we build we need to think of the boys and what changing needs they will have as they age. They won’t stay young forever, and we want this homestead to be their home FOR LIFE. This is not a temporary solution. This is home. Because of that, we are working to make the homestead as accessible as possible, considering wheelchair accessibility and such. The main floor of the house will be 100% accessible, as well as the other homes we will build on the property.
The plan at this time is that our family will move into the house as soon as it is livable, hopefully this spring. We will then move forward with applying for guardianship of the first boy or two. It remains to be decided if we will bring out two boys at the same time, or one at a time. God will have to show us that and give us plenty of wisdom.
As soon as renovations on the house our fully complete we will begin work on the next family-style home and move on from there. The current property can sustain 2-3 more family-style homes.
We have much to consider as far as who will live in the homes with the boys and what model of care we will adopt. There are different variations and we have not made any decision about what that will look like. We only know that we want the boys to live in the context of family and we don’t have a desire to create a mini-institution. Each house will be an independent home and family system. We don’t need to know all of the answers right now. Just as the journey has gone thus far, God only asks us to keep stepping forward. He’ll give us the wisdom and answers we need when we need them.
If you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask! Thank you for your support in prayer and finances. We could never ever do this alone!