Why Quit Social Media?

Oof. This is a doozy to write. Ha! But, I just have to be me and be real and honest with you, just as I’ve attempted to be all along this journey. There’s no point in trying to be someone or something I’m not. I just don’t have it in me. 😉

A couple years ago I started really disliking how attached I had become to social media. I didn’t like the comparison game I allowed it to incite in me. I didn’t like the time I wasted on it. I didn’t like the demands it made of me to give “all or nothing”. If you want to do well at running social media for a nonprofit you can’t just “kind of” do it. Because of the all-powerful algorithm, you are bound to posting very frequently, or your posts go on the wayside, missed by most people and buried under the next political debate.

I bemoaned the need for social media and wanted to quit, just for my own mental health, but felt I had no option to opt out because of Wide Awake. We HAD to be on social media or we would become obsolete. That’s what I told myself. So, we stayed, even though I often didn’t feel good about it.

Over the past couple of months I’ve been deep-diving into all aspects of tech and how we, as a family, interact with technology (By tech, I mean screens and devices. We’re still okay with washing machines and lightbulbs). Tomorrow we’re concluding a 30 day screen detox as a family and it has been really cool. During our detox Jed and I used screens for our work, but as a family we did zero screen time. We said no to tv, movies, video games, and browsing online. But we said YES to playing tons of games, yes to evening conversations on the couch, yes to just being together and yes to fighting boredom with things besides screens.

During the detox I’ve spent a lot of time educating myself on the impact of screens and social media on our society today. I’m a mom of teens, so I don’t get to turn a blind eye to these things. I need to know what is happening online and I need to be savvy about it. I went into the education aspect of it with a desire for a game plan for how our family would move forward at the month’s end, but I came out with so much more.

Like I said yesterday, social media can be great. Some of our boys’ lives have literally been saved because of the reach of social media. Wide Awake has been on social media since our beginning, and we have experienced great friendship and wonderful blessing from people we have met via social media.

But, Friends, there is so much wrong with social media. So so much. Sex trafficking and pornography and hate and incitement of fear is right at our fingertips. If we at Wide Awake value every human life, and if we believe in bringing dignity and hope, how can we rely on social media to relay our message? Social media can be great for some, but honestly, it greatly benefits a very few and brings great harm to many.

When I started to feel that gut feeling, that prodding from the Holy Spirit that we needed to change course and share our message in a different way, it scared the heckouttame.

A glimpse of my stream of consciousness: I mean, isn’t that like non-profit suicide??? How can you even have a successful non-profit if you aren’t on social media??? People will think we’re some kind of fanatical crazy people. People might think we’re lazy. No one reads emails anymore. People will forget about us. People will forget about us. People will forget.

I’m still battling many of those thoughts as I sit here writing to you. A big part of me is so afraid of what this will mean for Wide Awake- BUT I know that I know that this is what God is asking of us. He is asking us to do things HIS way and not our own way. He is asking us to redefine success. He is asking us to rely on Him for our provision- and not Instagram and Facebook. He is asking us to trust Him to bring us the helpers we need. He is asking us to allow Him to be our provider, our friend, our source, our encouragement, our reason. He wants to be all those things and when He follows through on His promises He will get all the glory. It won’t be because I posted at 1:00pm Monday through Friday. It won’t be because a post had a beautiful photo or a high engagement. It will be because this is God’s work and He is for it. He is FOR US and He will complete His work here in Ukraine with or without social media.

So, we are choosing to trust, even when it may seem ludicrous to some. It’s okay if you don’t understand. We can still be friends. (Just not FB friends…hehe 😉

The work will continue here and we will continue to faithfully share the joys and the pains- just in other ways. I hope you will join us because it’s gonna be AWESOME.

PS: I was thinking of doing a post with resources I learned from on this journey. Would you be interested in me sharing those in a future post?

We’ll be sending out weekly email digests with all the photos and updates you would normally see on FB and Instagram. Sign up below!

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As always, if you have any questions, ask away! We are open. You can message below or reach me by email at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org

Back to the Basics

It’s hard to imagine that I started writing on this blog more than 9 years ago. It feels like not long ago, but it also feels like 5 lifetimes ago. Back in those days Seth was our foster baby and we were hoping to adopt from Ukraine. We had 4 small kids, owned a house, worked our jobs. We had a pretty typical American life.

Now, 9 years later we have 6 kids, plus 3 adults under our guardianship. (Also a dog, 2 cats, 14 chickens, 2 bunnies…and a partridge in a pear tree) We live in a village in Ukraine and our life is kind of the opposite of typical- by American and Ukrainian standards. We’re some kind of strange, no matter how you look at it. 🙂

When I started this blog we had no intention of moving to Ukraine and I started it just as a way to get the word out about our adoption. Then when the tides turned and we ended up started Wide Awake International and moving to Ukraine, the blog remained a great way to communicate. When I felt inspired, I wrote. When I had nothing to say, or when times were particularly rough, I was more quiet (hence the “more quiet” of the past year or so). It was easier to post on social media during those times, because social media posts didn’t require the “inspiration” that I’ve always felt the blog deserved. So, the blog has kind of fallen a bit along the wayside.

But now, now it’s time for the blog to shine again. 🙂

After much consideration, prayer, and studying, we have decided that in two weeks time we will remove Wide Awake from social media (Facebook and Instagram).

I think social media can be a great thing when it is used in the right way. It can even be beautiful and it can help save lives. Almost all of our boys, who now live in loving families, were found through advocacy on social media. A big number of Wide Awake supporters would have never found out about this work were it not for social media. We will always be thankful for how those platforms helped us share our dream of dignity and love with so many people.

At the same time, we find ourselves more and more at odds, personally, with what social media has become over the past couple of years. We have wanted to “pull the plug” numerous times, especially over this past year, but have felt like it was impossible to have a successful nonprofit without social media. But I guess it all comes down to how you define “success”. If we measure success by the size of our audience and the amount of applause, we may be throwing away our chance of success by leaving social media. But if we measure success by our obedience to Christ, then this is the path to ultimate success. So, this is the direction in which we will walk.

Over the next couple of weeks I plan to share more about how we came to this decision, but I wanted to at least get the word out there so people will know where to find us online and we don’t lose any friends along the way.

Here’s where you will find us online:

  • Here on the blog! I plan to write here at least once a week. Make sure you subscribe below so you never miss a post.

  • In our email newsletter! I’ll admit, we’ve not always been the best at newsletters. But that’s about to change. We always want to be transparent about our work here and we always want you to be able to follow what is happening here in Ukraine. So, we will be sending out a weekly email digest with all the photos and updates that you would normally find on social media. Fill out the form below to sign up for the weekly newsletter. I promise to never send you spam. I would never do that! 🙂

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Thank you for loving us and trusting us along this journey. We aren’t going anywhere, we’re just switching up the mode of communication. No need to say goodbye! If you have any questions don’t hesitate to comment or send us a message below.

BeLOVE[d]

The First Time

Her heart pounded in her chest and her stomach churned as the van turned onto the gravel road lined with trees.

Two weeks earlier she and he had left their four small children and flew all the way across the world to visit that place. They had heard the stories and knew deep in their souls that they were supposed to DO something about the injustices being done in that place and others like it.

She had cried countless tears over the past year as she washed dishes and changed diapers and swept the floor in suburban America. Her heart was broken for the helpless ones who were trapped in their suffering with no future, no hope. Though she had never met them, in her heart she already loved them. Her mama heart ached to hold them and make everything better.

The van pulled up to a gate and stopped. They stepped out of the van and instantly she heard them. She heard the sounds of the ones she had dreamed of and longed to know. The yelling, the moaning, the cries of excitement intensified- visitors had arrived!

She and he walked hand in hand down the sidewalk of the institution and the noises became louder. She saw curious faces peeking through windows and her heart skipped a beat. Would her heart deny her? Would her body betray her? Would all their preparations and prayers leave them reeling in the depth of their naivety? What if they met the boys face to face and wanted to run away from them instead of embracing them? What if this was not the YES they had hoped it would be?

But then a door opened and she was among them, punched in the gut by the smells and the sounds; all five senses assaulted in an instant.

As she and he were swarmed by faces and hands and bodies, fear melted away and her heart became alive. In that moment she realized that her soul had been longing for those souls in front of her. Her hands were covered in their saliva and their scent, and yet she couldn’t contain the joy and the “rightness” she felt in that moment. She glanced in his direction and their eyes met. He gave a slight nod, yes, he felt it too.

This was what they were put on the earth to do. These were their people. This was their path.

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That first day at Romaniv will forever burn in my memory. I met my boys that day. I met my future that day. I loved them instantly and fiercely that day and I promised myself I would fight endlessly for them. It was a naive love, most definitely, but it was true.

Mama Bear awoke that day. Circumstances and disappointments have made her cower in her cave these last months, afraid to love them like she did before. Living with them was harder than she imagined it would be. In the midst of their overwhelming trauma, her love has not been enough. Their hearts are like bottomless pits that can never be filled. No amount of her love will ever be enough. So she cowers in her cave, afraid to give more, afraid to bring more boys to freedom because of the damage, pain and disappointment that is sure to follow.

But she can not fight for them from her cave. She can not fight for them and remain safe from pain. To love them is to feel their pain and to walk with them through it, even if that walk takes forever.

I am their Mama and I will not be afraid.

Wide Awake International “Live-In Assistant” Role Description

In the last blog post “A Call to a Small Life” we hinted at the soon-to-be-revealed job descriptions. The time is come!

Below is the Role Description for “Live-In Assistants” for the new duplex.

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We are actively seeking individuals, couples or families to live in community with us, our boys, and the ones we have yet to bring out of the institution. We are looking for a commitment of at least one year after a successful 90-day trial period. An openness to a longer commitment would be amazing, but is not required.

We are seeking foreigners and Ukrainians to grow this community together. 

Because of the nature of this work and the experience we have had thus far with the deinstitutionalization of our boys, we are not currently open to families with small children living in the home. If you have small children and are interested in joining our team we definitely have a need for “Live-Out” assistants as well. So, please inquire by email if that interests you. kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org 

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Live-In Assistant Job Description

Live-In Assistants are people who choose to live in a Wide Awake International home with adults who have intellectual and possibly physical disabilities, the “core members” of the community. Assistants share life, laughter, and friendship with the core members. Assistants provide skilled direct care supports to core members, ensure their safety and well-being, and support their integrated participation in all aspects of daily life. They are committed to mutual relationships with core members and other assistants in which all parties are recognized as having something to share with the others.

Live-In assistants participate in community prayer, retreats, trainings and celebrations.

To apply:

  • Please read the job description and qualifications below

  • Contact Kim Johnson for an application at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org

Live-In Caregiving Assistant Purpose: Assistants accompany and assist core members in their activities of daily life: creating home and supporting core members in sharing their gifts within the house and the larger community.

Responsibilities relating to:

Community Development

  • Uphold and share the vision and hope of the community and maintain the simple life style of the community

  • Help extend warm welcome to visitors, including community members, families, neighbors, and merchants

  • Encourage households members to develop and nurture friendships within, and especially outside the community

  • Attend team and community meetings, community nights, and community activities.

  • Help plan celebrations for birthdays, anniversaries, and days of special importance to household members

  • Accept community mentoring from more experienced community members

Core Members 

  • Develop caring and loving interpersonal relationships. The most important aspect of the “living with” spirit of Wide Awake is that of fostering relationships.This area calls forth both the assistant and the core member in their personal growth, as well as the growth of the community. It is a process of discovering one’s own gifts and helping the other to find theirs.

  • Carry out core member training programs where applicable and teach skills needed to be learned (personal hygiene, personal appearance, laundry, room management, household cleaning, cooking, budgeting, job skills, shopping skills, appropriate behavior)

  • Help core members to look at alternatives, anticipate consequences, make decisions, and accept responsibility for their actions

  • Listen to and respect the desires of the core members.

Home Management/Administration

  • Assume responsibility for the health, safety, and care of core members

  • Do assigned housekeeping chores and take initiative to keep house (inside and out) clean and in repair. Assist core members with their chores if needed. Aid in motivating core members to complete needed tasks

  • Plan and prepare balanced meals. Assist core members to help cook and prepare meals.

  • Maintain and operates house vehicles in a safe manner

  • Maintain accurate financial records of core member and house money

  • Be conscious of budgeting and keep within house and community budgets

  • Take initiative, be resourceful and creative, think out problems, be willing to use own judgment when deemed necessary

Spiritual Life

  • Support the community and carry in prayer the homes, each member of the community, their families, friends, and concerns

  • Maintain and respect the home as a Christian home in terms of values and prayer. Encourage prayer in the home and in the community with assistants and core members.

  • Respect days of worship. Attend with core members their choice and place of worship.

  • Share faith life with the community. Be responsible for communicating needs and meeting personal worship needs.

Qualifications

  • Interest in living in a faith community founded on the Beatitudes (Matthew 5)

  • Minimum age of 18 years

  • Desire to work with individuals with disabilities (Experience with people with disabilities is not a requirement)

  • Creativity, flexibility, attention to detail, and ability to organize time

  • Commitment to living in the community for at least 1 year after a successful 90-day trial period

  • Verbal and written communication skills

  • Physical ability, with reasonable accommodation, to fulfill role responsibilities, including ability to transfer adults from wheelchairs to vehicles, beds, etc. and to lift wheelchairs into and out of vehicles

  • Ability to work as part of a team

Other Details:

  • Assistants are responsible for funding their own way to and from Ukraine

  • After a successful 90-day trial period, assistants are responsible for the costs related to obtaining a visa and temporary residency in Ukraine. Wide Awake International will assist with the legal process in obtaining residency

  • Food and lodging will be provided by Wide Awake International

  • Assistants will be responsible for providing for their own toiletries, food needs beyond the community meals, and personal spending money

You can also find this role description on our website: http://wideawakeinternational.org/volunteer

Much of our language, like “assistant” and “core member”, and some wording for the role description was adopted from an organization with a lot more experience than us. Thank you, L’Arche Communities, for paving a beautiful path of dignity for us to follow.

A Call to a Small Life

Our life and world here in Ukraine is quite small. There’s a simplicity about it that I have grown to love and cherish. Sure, there are things about it that are far from simple. The emotions are not simple. Dealing with trauma is not simple. Speaking Ukrainian is not simple. Navigating local school and raising kids outside of our passport country is confusing and without simple answers. Figuring out how to help our guys become human after living all their lives as animals is about as unsimple as it can get.

And yet, our lives still have a sense of simplicity. Our lives are simple because we have a very singular focus. We aren’t trying to accomplish a bunch of different things in a multitude if different spheres. There are different facets to our work, for sure (family life, internship, building project, funds management, donor relations, legal stuff, budgets, medical care, advocacy, education…and on and on) and much of that is more complex due to where we live. But still, it all revolves around the one focus of building a community of love, dignity and hope for our friends with special needs.

Because of the nature of the work we do and the people God has brought into our lives to love, our world is quite small. Logistically, almost everything happens at.our.house. This house is the hub of everything. The duplex is being built right outside our back door. It’s a little more complicated at the moment because Anton and Ruslan are in apartments off-site, but still, the majority of life happens right here at our house.

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Also, because of our guys and their needs for structure and order and consistency, our lives have a very “small” nature to them. We can’t do all the things and go to all the places. We can’t be out late at night and running our kids to lots of activities and spending all day on Saturday at the soccer field (that’s not a thing here anyway…). Not that those things are bad, they just don’t work in this context. We all need to be home for dinner. Our guys need that. Boris needs to be in bed at 8 each night. He does best that way and so we give him that early bedtime nearly every night. Living in the village makes a busy life inconvenient, so the reality is we are just home more. Our relationship circle is also much smaller here than it was in the US. Our friends are mostly our team members and that’s okay. They are the ones who understand this life we’re living. They’re the ones who are with us day in and day out. They are our “people”. They are our Ukrainian family. 🙂

I resented that need for routine and “homebody-ness” at first, but now I see it as a wonderful gift. Having our team here every day means big group lunches every day at 13:00, and B-mo’s need for an evening routine means family dinner together nearly every single night at 18:00. It’s rare for someone in the family to not be at the table for dinner. Our team has spent countless hours at our table eating and laughing and just being together. What an enormous gift.

I’ve been reading a lot these days about the monastic life and I see a lot of similarities to our life here. The rhythms of morning worship and meals together and working together, giving ourselves to each other is reminiscent of some sort of “Order”. God has called us to a kind of simplicity here, a cutting out of the extras, and even though I don’t always love it, I am growing to appreciate it and how He is using it to shape us. My desire to pull back a bit from the digital world this year is a response to this call to a simpler life; it’s a desire to focus on the main things.

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As the duplex construction draws nearer to completion we are beginning to think more about who will join us in this life. We don’t want to just look for warm bodies to fill the needed spaces, but we want people to join us who are looking to answer that call for community. We are looking for and praying for people who desire to give their lives to this vision of hope, love and dignity. We don’t necessarily mean give your life away, like the rest of your life, but to give your life away for a season. Though some may decide to give the rest of their lives away, and we will be glad if God sends those people our way. 🙂 To do this life well, this life of living with people with disabilities, you have to die to yourself daily. You have to be willing to serve and live a “small” life- one in which you are not applauded and the sacrifices are rarely seen by others, but you do it anyway because you love the One who has called you to it and you love the one right in front of you.

I know “simple living” and living a “small life” are kind of trendy topics as of late. It can sound really romantic, but we have to remember that in order to live a small life we have to say no to quite a few things. It can be a painful thing to cut out the excess so we have time and energy for the mains, but if we look with an eternal perspective I’m pretty sure we’ll find that pain worth it. It’s not a romantic life here on the homestead in Ukraine, but it is a full one, one that will change its inhabitants forever. I know it is changing me.

If this resonates with you, please send us a note at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org. We are currently finishing up role descriptions and will share them when they are ready.