Three Months of War: On My Mind

Caution: Stream of consciousness post ahead. This is my brain vomiting into my computer. Read at your own risk. 😊

I’ve always liked old churches. I like to imagine people worshipping there over the centuries. I like to think about the people who built them and the incredible imaginations and skill they had. These days I think more about the function of the old churches in times of war. Churches have been places of sanctuary, where thousands of ordinary people over thousands of years have cried out to God for protection, for peace, for wisdom, for a way out. 

Yesterday I sat in an old stone church in a European village and I felt the most at home I’ve felt since leaving our little Ukrainian village three months ago. That little church was no stranger to grief, to war, to pain. My prayers joined the prayers of villagers from the time of Napoleon’s invasion, from the days of the Great War and World War II. My prayers of “Why us? Why our country?” and “God, how can you let this happen?” were not the first of their kind uttered in that place, and sadly, won’t be the last. As I sat in the stillness and the quiet I considered the centuries of war all over the world and how war has always been. After the garden, there has not been a moment in time when the world was absent of war. Somewhere someone is always suffering at the hand of war. I just never imagined that someone would be me and my family, my boys. I never in a million years imagined my children would be refugees from a brutal and devastating war. I never dreamed the sound of an airplane overhead would be, to them, the sound of fear and trauma. But why should we be the exceptions?  Why shouldn’t it be us?  In a world full of evil men with imperial ambitions, why should we be immune from the reality that men will always be at war?  Before Putin started encircling our beloved Ukraine with his troops war was always something that happened “over there” to “those people”.  We never considered the possibility that it would be right here and happening to our people – to us! But it has happened and it has changed our lives in every possible way. Our life has become the stuff of nightmares or the stuff of movies. You pick. 

As I sat in the cool of that little stone church, enveloped in the prayers of saints past I felt a tremendous solidarity with the human story. I felt a kinship with refugees all over the world who are clawing their path forward in a new life they would have never chosen. I felt unity of heart with the mothers all through history who have crouched in the dark with their children, covering them with their bodies as the enemy flew overhead, bent on destroying all they held dear. I felt a oneness with all the saints who have cried out to God to have mercy and to deliver them from their enemies. 

I am that clawing refugee. I am that crouching mother. I am that pleading saint. Come Lord Jesus. Save our land. 

These days I think we should just go home. The longing for Ukraine is something solid in the pit of my stomach. The longing for home. The longing for what was. The longing to be understood, to be able to make my own way, to be in a place that makes sense, a place where we are moving forward, building something beautiful together. 

In Germany our bodies are safe, but that is all. We don’t understand and we are not understood. We can’t make our own way but are at the mercy of bureaucracy and the kindness of others. We are in a holding pattern where nothing makes sense. We aren’t moving forward, building something beautiful together. We just are. We are frozen in place- uprooted and undecided. To move forward here would require a massive investment of time and energy- for what?  To build a life in a place where we don’t intend to stay?  So we stay on the fringes of society. Here, but not here. Home is always in the front of our minds. 

But what do you do when your world has been taken from you?  How do you choose next steps when the enemy is as unpredictable as Russia?  Do you stay away, in a holding pattern, hoping against all hope that this ends quickly? Or do you risk it and just go home because no other life makes sense?   

No decision feels right and I’m so angry at Russia for forcing this impossible decision on mothers like me. 

I remember when the biggest mothering decision I had to make was whether to let my baby cry it out or not.  Pacifier or no?  Do we give sugar before the first birthday?  Screen time before age 3? Public or private school?  From the small to the big, all those decisions now feel as simple as pie. Cuddle that baby. You 100% can not spoil a baby. But if sometimes, for your sanity, you need to let the baby cry and go eat some ice cream? No harm done. Sure, give your baby a pacifier if they like it. They won’t suck on it forever. 🤷‍♀️ Give your baby a cupcake. It’s hilarious to watch them eat it and they will be so happy and messy. If you have just one baby it’s easy to keep them off the screens, but if you have more and the baby watches a movie with their big brothers and sisters it’ll be fine.  All in moderation. Cartoons can be an amazing tool when wielded wisely.  Private or public school?  As long as your kids know you love them and are in their corner, any kind of school will be okay at the end of the day. The goal is to create lifelong learners and that happens mostly at home anyway.

I would give just about anything to be wrestling with those decisions now. These days I think about if it’s possible for us to go home and if my children will be safe there. There is no future for them in Germany so I know we can’t stay here, but are they too traumatized to go back to Zhytomyr?  What will they think of a childhood filled with the sounds of air raid sirens?  And what does it mean if they become accustomed to the sound?  You do all you can to protect your children from the evils of the world, but sometimes that evil comes too close to home and all you can do is try to help them live through it with their eyes on Jesus. My body can’t shield them from the reality that their beloved home is at war. But maybe they don’t need that shield from reality. Maybe they just need to be able to learn to move through it with bravery, with courage, and with their hearts set on Jesus, their shepherd and protector. Many of you have written and told us “Just go home” but I don’t think you understand that this a question that can never be answered with a “just” at the beginning of the sentence. There is no such thing as “Just stay in Germany” or “Just go home”. To stay in Germany means unwillingly giving up all that is dear to us- giving up our dreams. But to “just go home” means willingly moving our children to a war zone. One of those answers is right for us, but neither of them are “just”. They both come with a lot of baggage. War is never simple.

This week we will make a decision, to stay or to go. We are out of options here, so I think the decision is becoming more and more clear. Now we just need the courage to make it and to not turn back.

 

BeLOVE[d]

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24 comments

  1. Hannah · June 9

    Praying for you and thinking about you all as you make these really tough, huge decisions!

  2. Mariam · June 9

    Praying for a clear direction for you both, Kim and Jed .
    Where Gods will leads we can be sure His Grace will follow.
    He will shield you within His Everlasting arms. You’re covered by Grace … we’ll cry out. together.
    Sam and Mariam

  3. Stephanie Bacica · June 9

    I will pray for you that God will help guide you while making the decision. You are so right about “just”. Life is never ever that simple. God please bless each and everyone of you today and always.

  4. Heather McCormack · June 9

    Praying with you as you make that decision. Always remember, “but God”. He has gone before you and will be faithful.

  5. jennifer waters · June 9

    So very difficult with pros and cons both ways. i trust you will make the decision that ends up being the right one for you, and all those you are responsible for.

  6. Christina · June 9

    I feel that way in our old churches too (Sweden), some of them more than a thousand years old. What haven’t they seen, what haven’t they heard? I wish you peace of mind as you make your decision, and God will be with you wherever you go.

  7. Kathy · June 9

    Thank you for sharing your heart Kim. Prayers for clear direction with everything you need provided.

  8. Shelley Waia’u · June 9

    Holy big wow….all I can do is pray as you either move forward miraculously confident & full of revelation or in fearful stumbling leaps of faith.
    I am confident either way, He will be by your side…holy big wow…..

    Ke Aha will pray on!

  9. Kimber Klopp · June 9

    We pray for you and with you on seeking what He would guide you to do.
    We pray for all of Ukraine and the people who love Ukraine. 🇺🇦
    We love your family and team.

  10. Brianna Robbins · June 10

    Praying big prayers with you that you will have clarity of vision and purpose. I can’t imagine how difficult these decisions feel. We want you safe, but we also want you to be able to return home. I would never have believed that the rest of the world would continue to stand by for so long and leave Ukraine to stand on her own. While we are still a step removed from the situation, it is the first time that I have personally known people who are being threatened and having their lives turned upside down and it makes me sad and angry that it feels like there is so little we can do to make an impact.

  11. radams5722 · June 10

    I cannot fathom the decision you all have to make. And know it can’t be a “just”this or “just” that decision. I can’t imagine weighing a decision that could put you in danger or keep you in a place you know nothing about. It seems like it would also be hard making the decision when you have young men who cannot necessarily share their feelings with you on such a subject. I’m so happy you had a few days away. And I pray that the Lord makes your path so clear that their is no question as to what you all should do. ❤️

  12. EMS · June 10

    I echo the “eyes on Jesus” and “hearts set on Jesus”. As you pray and cry out to God, your kids will see your authentic relationship and this will show them their own way. A momma who follows Jesus in the highs and lows will always make the best choice and God, protector and provider, will take care of everything else. And oh how I pray with you that Jesus will come back and show the world who is actually on the throne!

  13. Amanda · June 10

    I am quite in your life but I do think of you so often. You were a part of my journey and you always will be. I will never forget the ice cream and laughs we shared in Zhytomyr or you visiting us in Kyiv once we had all of our children in tow. I always dreamed of visiting you on your homestead, imagining life there. I’ve honestly wanted to move to Ukraine since the moment we left it, and this war has not changed my heart but it has damaged it. I can’t say JUST do anything to you because you are right, it isn’t that simple, it never can be, and it never will be but I do hope and pray that your tomorrow, next week, and forever is filled with hope, laughter, safety, triumph, and courage. I hope you can move forward and away from fear. I hope that one day I can visit you on your homestead and bask in its fruitfulness and we can roll our eyes at this madness and chaos and just call it a horrid chapter in history. You have a huge heart and so much love. LoveMakesUsStronger.

  14. Deb Durrant · June 10

    Kimberly Psalms 23.
    If you look back, you will see one set of footprints, that is because Jesus has you and your family. In His arms.
    I pray everyday for your family, both here and there, and for Ukraine,
    Debby Durrant

  15. Denise Woods · June 10

    Knowing your heart and all you know and love is in a country being ravaged by war, yet your “homestead” is standing and ready to receive you, I trust you are at PEACE with the decisions you are hearing in your heart, soul and minds. Been praying for the Johnson Family, your adopted and fostered “boys”, and your staff. Whatever the decision, may you feel protected, and loved, and able to move forward. Stagnancy is no fun. It’s kind of what happened during Covid. Trusting the “boys'” needs are all met and they begin to once again FLOURISH.

  16. clararidings · June 10

    I am so sorry. Praying for y’all and Ukraine always.

  17. sueteague · June 10

    Praying for you, your family, and your ministry. It is just heartbreaking to see what is happening in yours and my “heart country.”

  18. Tara Aricha · June 10

    Praying for discernment and Peace. You are such an inspiration . Thanks for sharing . I appreciate your honesty and openness to share your challenges. Praying God’s Blessings.

  19. teddybeargirl84 · June 10

    I have felt in my heart that old behaviors that were resurfacing in Bmo was a sign that you all need to go back home to the home stead. Back to a home environment not a communal living style that is too reminiscent of their old institutional lives even if it was safter and more loving. In the USA group homes went from 10 max to 7 max now most homes are 3-5 max as it gives them a more home like feeling rather than a mini-institution. When you shared that Boris had to go back on meds etc. my heart sank as the safe living in the church as a large group I felt was bringing back old memories of too many living in one space. Prayers for this very hard decision. I love your boys and family too.

  20. Bruce Wilson · June 10

    Prayers for much wisdom. As you know the safest place is in his arms. I pray you know that for your tribe.

  21. Dustin Arenson · June 10

    My prayer for you all is to hear the Holy Spirit with clarity and that He would give you a peace about your determination. A peace that just does not belong but exists anyway. I am also continuing to pray for God’s mercy and grace over the people of the Ukraine that have been assaulted by the broken evil of our world. May God oppose the proud and power hungry.

  22. Denise Norby · June 11

    Oh I cannot even fathom the decisions you are trying to make. I pray that whatever decision you make, I pray for your and your family’s peace and comfort and courage and strength. Hang in there. Like you, I cannot imagine this happening.

  23. Ann M Wunsch · June 12

    Thank you for not letting us forget what is happening and for so eloquently sharing your heart and soul. We need to keep hearing the cry for all of those who are in refuge not of their choice. Praying in that refuge that the love and protection and wisdom and joy of the Lord will encompass everyone of you around the world!

  24. Julie R. · June 13

    I’ve been holding you all close in prayer, hoping the decision would become abundantly clear. I will continue to pray in this way, and once the decision is made, the prayers will follow accordingly. I know this situation is not a surprise to God, nor is your decision. I know He loves your family and your boys and your staff beyond measure. So I will continue to pray for that “abundantly clear” answer.

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