The One Left Behind

Today our precious “Kayden” met his adoptive family. That means that Aaron is the only boy available for adoption at the institution- and he ages out at the end of this year! SEVEN of our boys have been advocated for and are now living in families. SEVEN boys who were once lost are now found.

Aaron is the only one left behind who has the chance for a family. I wrote this post a couple of years ago. Will you please help me share Aaron’s face? He is so in need of the love of a mama and daddy. 

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Today I want to help you get to know our precious Aaron.

I haven’t done much advocating specifically for him.  Out of all of our boys who are available for adoption you probably know him the least.  That’s my fault.  My faith has been small.

This is the thing: some kids are really easy to write about.  Every picture you take of them is adorable and people can’t get enough of their cuteness.  Maybe they smile all the time and our cameras seem to find them on every visit.  I can’t keep cuteness like that to myself!  It just wouldn’t be right!  😉

Other kids are more difficult to write about.  Maybe they don’t photograph well, or maybe they just never sit still long enough for anyone to capture more than a blur of movement. Maybe their behaviors are really difficult to manage and it’s hard to know what to say.  Maybe there aren’t many cute stories to share…maybe none of their history is known so it’s hard to paint a whole picture.

Aaron is one who has been difficult to write about.  I haven’t quite known what to say.

One of my biggest concerns with advocacy is that I want to be very, very certain that I am writing with honesty. I have nightmares about adoptive families arriving at the institution, meeting their child for the first time and saying to me “You didn’t tell me this!”  I know that adoptive families can never truly understand what our boys are like, or what Romaniv is until they arrive and see it firsthand: smell the smells, hear the sounds, feel the pain.  But I’d like them to at least feel that I was honest in my description of the son they have fought so hard to rescue.

Because of that, it’s more difficult to advocate well for a child like Aaron.

He’s so difficult to photograph. His behaviors are extremely tricky to manage.  He is not liked by many of the orphanage staff. His quality of life is so poor, I can’t even accurately describe it.  He is loud. When we first met he was like a wild animal: a sensory-seeking boy in a sensory-deprived environment.  His life is pure nothingness so he searches for sensory input however he can get it.  If that means he has to literally climb up a team member’s body to get their attention, he’ll do it.  He absolutely LOVES water, but never gets access to it, so we have spent many a visit with one team member’s sole task being to keep Aaron from ripping the sink apart in his desperate attempt to feel the water.

He needs so much more than he is getting- in every single area of his life.

But the thing is, all the reasons that make advocacy difficult are the reasons why Aaron needs a voice maybe more than any of the other boys who are available to be adopted.

It’s almost impossible to get a good picture of him.  But I think he is absolutely beautiful.

He is loud and he screams and he has no words.  I hear the plea of a baby boy asking for his mommy.  I hear a sweet little boy whose voice is never heard.  I hear a child crying to be rescued.

He is a wild man who drives the nannies absolutely crazy with his quest for sensory input.  I see a little boy who is desperate for a big backyard and a dog and a hose on a sunny day.  I see a sweet soul who needs to be able to swing for hours on end, feel the wind in his face and the grass under his toes.  

God has given us a very special love for our boys that goes beyond reason.  It’s a supernatural love that could only come from him.  He gave us mommy and daddy love that sees the beauty of our boys, even when they do things that would not be considered beautiful, or even cute. He gave this love to us so that we would have the umph and the passion and the drive to fight for them.  He gave us voices so that we could speak for the voiceless. He made us totally biased, because our boys need people who are on their side and are completely biased for them.

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I am biased in my love for Aaron.  It’s true!

So today I speak for Aaron and I tell you that he is a treasure. He has boundless energy and so much curiosity. He wants to learn and soak in all that life has to offer. And this most precious treasure is desperate for a family.  His situation is dire.  He is unwanted and disliked and abused…and soon his time will run out. I want to talk all about the ways I believe he would change in a family, but I need to tell you how he is right now, because I can’t know he will or won’t change. A family that chooses him needs to come in with eyes wide open and love him just as he is.

See my boy.  Please see him.  Imagine if he was rescued and brought into a family where he could get love and care.  No doubt it will be a difficult road to walk, and the adoptive family will need to be prepared to devote a lot of time to Aaron, but oh my, it will be so worth it! To watch him come to life would be an absolute miracle to behold.  The parents who get that privilege are blessed indeed. I know from experience.  🙂

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God knew Aaron before he was even born.  He saw him in his mother’s womb and formed him there.  He created him for purpose and destiny.  He is as valuable as you.  He is as valuable as me.  He is as worth it as my Ezra, my Seth, my Vladik.  He is someone’s son- they just don’t know it yet.  He shouldn’t be spending his summers sleeping on a mattress to avoid attention and abuse.  He should be running in the sprinkler and going down slides and eating Popsicles.  Why not?  He’s just a little boy.  A little boy in a desperate situation.

So, please pray and please share.  Please pause and ask the Lord how you should respond to Aaron.  Don’t dismiss him because he sounds difficult, please.  He is made in the image of God and he will bring blessing and joy to some lucky family’s home.  Maybe yours?

 

 

You can read more about Aaron and donate toward the cost of his adoption here. Interested families are welcome to contact me with questions at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org

All About Vladik: One Year Free

Two days ago we celebrated one year of freedom for our sweet Vladik.  Our miracle boy spent the day at a Hungarian water park (long story…for another post) discovering his great love for enormous water slides.  He ran and played and splashed, yelling “Mom, look!  Dad, watch me!” He watched his brothers and sisters do things he was nervous to do, then conquered his fears and tried for himself.  He ate ice cream and pizza and laughed and asked “Blue slide again?”  

He truly lived.  


On one hand I can hardly believe a whole year has passed since Vladik came out of Romaniv forever, but mostly it feels like a lifetime ago.  When I go to Romaniv these days I can hardly picture him there.  He is truly a different child.  

It’s interesting because if you ask anyone who visited Romaniv and met Vladik there they would all tell you how happy he was.  He was always laughing and smiling.  ALWAYS.  But now that we truly know him we can see his behavior then for what it really was.  Yes, he was smiling, and yes he laughed a lot, but he was also afraid- ALL THE TIME.  His body showed his fear in the way he held himself; his shoulders scrunched up, his head down, full-on protection mode at every moment. His laugh seemed happy, but now we know that laugh as the nervous, afraid laugh that shows up when he is unsure. If you asked him for a hug he would sort of back up toward you and lean a shoulder in. You could see he was compliant but he didn’t feel comfortable and he didn’t enjoy it.  He was afraid of physical contact and always on guard.  He had a bright countenance that I believe came from the Lord, but it was just a dim flicker compared to how he shines now.  

The boy we knew at Romaniv was a shadow of the boy we know now.  And the boy we know now is amazing.  

Passport photo 2015

Passport photo 2016


He is funny and loves to make his siblings laugh. He comes up to me several times a day with his arms open as wide as possible, asking for a hug. He adores Bluebell, our puppy, and could play with her for hours. He likes ice cream and potatoes and pizza and soup. He’s a daredevil and wants everything faster and higher and louder. His bike is his most prized possession. He and Seth are still thick as thieves and when they get too quiet I know something is up…typical brothers. 😉 He speaks English and Ukrainian and a mish-mash of the two that can only be described as “Vladik speak”. Oh, and he pretty much never stops talking.  Motor.Mouth.

We think Vladik is doing miraculously well.  His transition to our family has been amazingly smooth.  BUT 15 years of institutionalization, 11 of those in a bad place, can not be erased in one year.  We have so many wonderful moments, and we also have so many difficult moments.  Parenting a child who has lived a lifetime of trauma is no joke.  It requires constant reassurance and truckloads of patience (of which I am guilty of running short).  Just when you think you’ve conquered a certain behavior or fear something triggers and you go ’round the mountain again…and again.  

Put your arms down. No beeping. We’re going home soon. Put your arms down.  No beeping. If you want to talk to someone just say “hi”, you don’t need to make strange noises to get attention. No beeping. Put your arms down. And on and on…

It’s no secret that extra struggles come with the fact that we are back in Ukraine.  Most every other internationally adopted child I know leaves their institutional life and it is over and gone for good; new life, new memories, old life gone forever.  That will never be Vladik’s reality.  Romaniv has stayed and will stay a part of his life.  It is our life.  As much as we would love for him to, he doesn’t ever get to fully forget. We will never ever take him to Romaniv again, and we tell him that all the time, but he knows we go there and he hears us talk of it daily. Some people might think it’s cruel of us to bring him back here where he is constantly reminded of his past.  We know that.  We know, and our only response is “God said so.”  Just like our other children have an unusual life because of what God has called our family to, so it is with Vladik.  And just like we trust that God is caring for our other children and giving them what they need, so it is with Vladik.  When we chose to say yes to adopting Vladik we knew this would be his reality and still we knew that we knew God was saying to make him our son.  So we did.  

Annnnnd God is making a way for our boy, even here in Ukraine.  He is surrounded by our team who knew him when he was an orphan and know him now.  In their eyes he is a celebrity.  He is what we dream of for all of our boys, in the flesh.  His presence in our church here in Ukraine brings hope and refreshment to those who work tirelessly on behalf of the ones Vladik left behind.  He brings joy wherever he goes.  🙂 


A local private school welcomed all our kids with open arms, including Vladik.  He gets to do PE, music, and art with the fifth grade, while having individual lessons the rest of the day.  I get to make his lesson plans and our dear friend has agreed to teach him.  She loves Vladik and sees him for the beautiful soul that he is.  Their lessons start next month and I can’t wait to see how he thrives.  So far the kids at the school have been kind and accepting of Vladik.  We are thankful. 

He gets to attend a weekly class at Mission to Ukraine where he will be treasured and valued.  Full circle. 


The other day we were visiting a beautiful basilica in Budapest.  We decided to pay the fee and go see the inside of the building. We approached the cashier and when he saw Vladik he smiled so warmly.  He almost pushed us into the church, “You don’t pay!  Please, please go for free” he exclaimed with a kind pat on Vladik’s back, and a look of tenderness in his eyes. I could see there was no pity there, only love. Oh man, the tears were flowing.  That man, he saw the beauty of our boy.  There was no look of disgust, no disdain, no mouth-hanging-open staring.  There was love.  For me that moment was a gift from God.  It felt like God was whispering over us “See, I see your boy, and I’m watching over him.” 

Vladik’s healing is a long road, but he is definitely well on his way.  He is absolutely flourishing and growing and LIVING.  We will never ever be the same because he is our son.  He is our gift and I pray we never take him for granted. 

On Going Home

Why would refugees decide to return home to a war zone? It’s a good question that I myself would have probably asked just a year ago. Now we are those refugees returning home to a war zone and it feels like the most obvious thing to do. It feels like the thing that makes sense. It feels right. It’s time. Yes, we and our team have decided to return to our home in Ukraine. Our Board of Directors is in agreement and have voted to that end.

There are so many reasons why people who have fled from war choose to return and I can’t pretend to know the mind and heart of every refugee. I can only speak for myself and the people closest to me. We have rehashed this a bazillion and one times and there are many reasons why we could stay in Germany, but there are so many more reasons why we should go home. We are blessed beyond measure that we even have a home to which we can return. When we left I wasn’t sure it would be the case. But as of today, our home still stands and awaits our return. We’ve explained here on the blog and in recent Youtube videos why life here in Germany has become unsustainable for our group, but that is not the only reason we have decided to leave. I know that returning isn’t the right decision for everyone, but it is the right decision for us, so I thought I would try to explain it to you.

Regardless of War, Home is Home. We have lived in Ukraine for coming up on nine years. Our children consider Ukraine their home in every sense of the word. As a family, we don’t really belong in the US anymore. Jed and I can feel more at home there than our kids because we both lived there for more than 30 years, but still, every time we return it feels more and more foreign. We moved to Ukraine when Obama was still president! So much has changed in the US, but also so much has changed in us. We are not the same people who left Portland, OR with 9 suitcases all those years ago. (For one thing, now Jed has less hair and I have gray hair…😅)

Our little piece of the world, the Homestead, is the only place on earth where our family truly feels at home. We have lived a hundred lives in Ukraine, brought Ukrainians into our family, our kids call themselves Ukrainians, yet we know we will never truly be Ukrainian. Those closest to us, our team, don’t see us as “The Americans”. We are simply their family. But I know other Ukrainians don’t see us that way. There have been so many times here in Germany when I have been out and about in town and have heard Ukrainians around me. I always wanted to walk up to them, to talk with them, to feel that closeness with them, but the few times I tried they were only confused. Why was this American acting like she was one of them? Like she understood their plight? We will never be Ukrainians, but we don’t feel much like Americans. Yes, I know, heaven is our home. But here on earth, our plot of land in our village in Ukraine is our home, and we desperately want to be there again. It is where we are known, where we are understood, and where we are accepted as one of the family. We simply want to be home.

We Want to Stand With Our Country. I know there is such a thing as compassion fatigue and that it is real. There is only so much one person can actively care about day in and day out. I know the attention span of the world is incredibly short and Ukraine’s moment in the spotlight has just about run its course. But while the rest of the world can move along to the next big thing, while most people have the luxury of putting their phone down or simply turning off the tv and forgetting for a while, we don’t have that luxury. Every hour of every day we are thinking about Ukraine and the war. It is all-consuming. But we live in a country where life moves on like normal. That is no slam on Germany! Of course, life moves on. My life has always moved on regardless of wars happening in other countries. I get it. But now our lives don’t get to move on. We go through the motions and watch the seasons change, but our hearts and minds are stuck on February 24th- the day when the world fell apart. We don’t want to be in a world where life goes on like normal and we are mute spectators with our feet stuck in the muddy mess of things. We want to be in a place where we are standing strong in solidarity with others. We want to be in a place where people understand. We want to show up for our country.

The Work Must Continue. The vision of Wide Awake International is to bring hope, love, and dignity to people with disabilities in Ukraine. That vision is lived out through deinstitutionalization. Guys, we have to get back to work. The need for this work didn’t stop because Putin decided to invade. The plight of people with disabilities who are wasting away in institutions hasn’t changed or gone away simply because it has become less safe for us to go to them. The reality is actually quite the opposite. Our boys at Romaniv and others like them need rescuing now more than ever. Our work has always been a frontline work and now is a frontline time. We must not retreat. Ukraine needs helpers and our team is full of them. There is no way for us to continue our mission while in Germany. Yes, we brought Yaroslav and Vova out of Romaniv to us in Germany, but that is the limit of what we can do from here. We simply must get back to work in Ukraine. There is no other way. This is hands-on, boots-on-the-ground work, and our boys can not wait alone for the war to end. We must go to them. While the eyes of the world are on Ukraine and while more people are becoming disabled each day we have to be in there, helping, advising, lending experience. We feel the urgency in our bones. This is what we were created for and the work must go on.

Our Goal is Not to Stay Alive. A dear friend reminded me recently of an important truth: “Our greatest goal in life is not just to stay alive.” If our goal is to keep our bodies alive, then we will all eventually fail because every one of us will eventually die. Our goal is not just to stay alive, but to LIVE. Yes, here in Germany our bodies are safe and they are alive. But in a way, we are not truly living. And while we are here not doing the things we are passionate about it feels like we are slowly withering away. Of course, there have been many beautiful, precious, wonderful moments in Germany. We have lived here, but we have not lived to the fullest. It’s like we’ve been stuck in a waiting room. Waiting for the next meal or the next news story or the next distraction. We have been busy caring for our boys, but we know we can do so much more. Our spirits are so much more alive when we are fulfilling our mission, when we are creating something beautiful together, when there is redemption and light moving into dark places. Of course, it goes without saying that we don’t desire death. I don’t want to die anytime soon and I don’t want that for any of my loved ones. But keeping our bodies alive is not the highest goal. Because at one time or another we will all die. In the meantime, let us be doing the things we love.

“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things —praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”

– C.S. Lewis Present Concerns

We would really appreciate so much your prayers as we make the move back to Ukraine. So many of you absolutely flooded the heavens with prayers as we were leaving Ukraine and since we’ve been in Germany. We are very, very thankful. Thank you for standing behind us. I know not all of you will understand this decision to leave physical safety and return to Ukraine, but I hope you will stick with us on the journey home. We are excited to get back to work in Ukraine. Your encouragement and support mean a lot to us, even though we can’t always reply to each one of you individually. This community is truly the best.

If you would like more details about our decision-making process, please feel free to check out these notes from our board chairman. For those of you who like details, it might help you understand how we and our board reached this decision.

Love to you, dear friends. Thank you for trusting us and loving us through this time.

BeLOVE[d]

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Refugees

Today I’m writing from a church in Kaufbeuren, Germany. We are in the little playroom and Evie is playing with her bag of toys that she brought from home. When fleeing from a war zone, it is recommended to bring along a bag of Barbies, FYI.

Last Saturday, March 5, 2022 we made the unimaginable decision to leave our home, not knowing when we will be able to return. The bombings in our city were becoming more frequent and it was becoming more and more clear that the Russians were targeting civilians. Nowhere in Ukraine is safe anymore. We agonized over the decision, as we had been determined to hunker down at the Homestead and wait it out, but the nightly low-flying planes over our home and airstrikes that shook the house and set off car alarms made us rethink our plans. We are responsible for some of Ukraine’s most vulnerable people and our boys couldn’t tell us how the war was making them feel. They could definitely feel our tension, see the fear in our faces, but their understanding was/is lacking. They couldn’t ask us to please bring them to safety, so we had to make the call for them. I’ll tell you what, I never in a million years imagined I would be crouching in the hallway in the dark with my children as our house shook from explosions a few miles away. I never thought Jed and I would be agonizing over when it might be “too late” to get out safely with our kids, should the fighting move even closer. I never ever dreamed we would need to flee from the home that we worked so hard to make a safe haven for all who entered the front doors. But, here we are, a week later, refugees in a country where we understand nothing and have no idea what our future holds. It’s unbelievable to us all.

There are 36 of us here in Germany together. That group includes 10 people with disabilities, and 14 of our group are teens and children. The rest are our team members and family members of our team. We are living all together in a church. The church body here has opened its arms to us and shown us such incredible love and generosity. I don’t know where we would be without them. They really made our evacuation possible because we knew we had a safe place to land. We will be forever grateful to them.

Back in Ukraine the rest of our team is busy on the Homestead taking care of each other and working with our city and village councils to distribute humanitarian aid to our region. We also have 3 moms with adult sons with disabilities from our big Wide Awake family who are living together at the Homestead. I’m so proud of our team both here and in Ukraine. The work they are doing is important and necessary.

You know before, when we lived in the US, I encountered a lot of refugees. I guess I showed them kindness, but to be honest, I didn’t really give them a lot of thought. I think I assumed they were just happy and grateful to be in the US. I knew they needed assistance getting their physical needs met in the beginning, but their emotional state was completely off my radar. I had no idea how emotionally devastating it is to be a refugee. I’ve never experienced such deep sadness before in my life. I don’t know how else to describe it, except that I am deeply sad, devastated at the loss, and unsure even how to begin to grieve and move forward. I’m stuck in my sadness of losing what was. Yes, I worry about the physical things- our house, the duplex, our dogs…but more than that I grieve the loss of the life we had that I know will never ever be the same. I remember the night before we left our home I was sitting on the couch with my Hava and she was crying. She said, “I’m just realizing that our lives will never be the same again.” Right as she ended her sentence our house shook from an explosion in the distance. Yes, we had definitely crossed over into a new reality: a before and after. One day we were celebrating another birthday party in the duplex with our big Wide Awake family, kids were heading off to youth group on the bus, doing homework together at night, dropping Evie off at preschool that she loved oh so much, grocery shopping, and planning IEP’s for our boys…and the next week we were seeing the sky light up as buildings in our city were destroyed by Russian missiles. In a matter of days, we went from planning the next fun outing for our boys to planning the evacuation of 36 people across the border. It still doesn’t feel real.

To be a refugee is to put all your hopes and dreams on pause, never knowing when or if you will get to pick them back up. To be a refugee is to fully and completely rely on the kindness and generosity of others. To be a refugee is loss and grief and pain. It is relief that your children are safe, but also guilt that you left so many behind. It is coming to terms with the fact that no one will understand how you feel because you can’t even understand yourself. It is realizing that your church is spread out across a continent, and not knowing where everyone is and when or if you will ever be all together in one place again. To be a refugee is to reassure your children that all will be fine, even though you know you have no business giving them that promise. Life has already shown you that everything is not fine and will not be fine for a long time. We had something so beautiful and now it is gone. So, we try to recreate what we had here, in this new place. We do this for our boys, for our children. We go on picnics and make borscht and play games. We hug and reassure and comfort. We try to live, not to just exist, not to just wait for the moment we can go home. Therein lies the struggle.

But, we do believe we will go home. We believe that Ukraine will be victorious. We believe that light will conquer darkness, that good will overcome evil. We believe that our soldiers are the bravest and strongest. We believe that our President is the best there ever was or ever could be. And, we believe that the work God began in Ukraine will continue. So we have hope.

Thank you for loving us, for praying for us, for donating, and for reaching out with contacts and offers of help. Please remember Ukraine. Pray for her victory and that it would come soon.

BeLOVE[d]

I didn’t make this video, it was sent to me. But I think it’s important, so I’m sharing it with you. 👇

BeLOVE[d]

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Redefining Family

Back in May we had our first “Open Doors Day” for Dim Hidnosti, the Ukrainian arm of Wide Awake. Open Doors Day is a time for our organization to open wide our doors and invite people from the community to come see and learn about our work. Many of our volunteers have joined us after coming to an Open Door Day. We’ve had 3 so far, and each has been a success. I think it’s time to do another!

So back in May, we planned and prepared, anticipating our first time of opening up our doors. We had no idea who would come and if it would be worth all the time and effort. I remember the day of, it was a beautiful day- so sunny and warm- until it wasn’t. Just as people started arriving the floodgates opened and it began to pour down rain. We had planned to gather outside, so everyone was running around like crazy, bringing everything inside and adjusting plans last minute. We had a great turnout; the house was jam packed. It was not ideal to be crammed inside, but we were all just happy that so many people came.

That day turned out to be a super significant day, although we didn’t know it at the time! That was the day we met our dear friends who we now call family, Zhanna and Vanya. Zhanna is mom to Vanya and a psychologist. She has worked tirelessly in our city for the rights of people with autism. She has counseled moms who have a newly diagnosed child and worked with the high-ups in the city toward inclusion and support for families who have a child with autism. And all the while Zhanna has single-parented her son Vanya, who is 15 and has autism. I’m not sure how Zhanna found out about the Open Doors Day, but she came, and it turned out to be a life-changing day for all of us.

Zhanna and Vanya started coming to just about every single gathering and event that our team provided. They were present at every art class, every party, every outing. It was just a natural fit from the very start. We love them and they love us. It feels like we have always been together. Zhanna and Vanya spent Christmas and New Years with us, and yesterday we all celebrated Vanya’s 16th birthday together. It was really special. Vanya understood that it was a special day and he was so happy!

Yesterday at Vanya’s birthday Zhanna told us it was the first time she really felt like she and Vanya were accepted in a family just as they are. They are not expected to be something they are not, or something they can’t be. They are loved just because they are Zhanna and Vanya, and they are precious to us. They have become a part of our big Wide Awake Family.

When our family moved to Ukraine and left our biological families behind we began to redefine “family” in our hearts. We had no choice but to open our hearts to the possibility of finding family in Ukraine, or else be alone. Then, of course, we added our boys to our family and redefined “family” once again. When someone asks me how many children I have I always stumble on my answer. “Well, I have 6 Johnson kids, but then 4 more who call me ‘Mama’, but a couple of them are in their 30’s and they don’t actually live in our home…”

Nope. No. No more. I decided I’m done with that. I’m done with the stumbling and mumbling and explaining. If I am “Mama” to our boys, then they are my sons. In my heart they are my sons, and in their hearts I am Mama, so why do I need to stumble over my words? Jed and I are committed to them for life, and we have ultimate responsibility for their health and well-being, soul, mind, and body. They are our family. I am a mother of 10. 😆

We still dream that in the duplex there would be house parents (a mother and a father figure), but we also have learned over the past couple of years that the nuclear family is not the only type of family that can be amazing. Friends who are committed to each other through the good times and the bad can also create a wonderful family. When Max and Morgan moved back to the US we worried that Anton and Sasha would feel that loss of house parents and that it would affect them negatively, but we have learned an amazing truth over the past 4 months: our team is Anton and Sasha’s family. Yes, they have our Johnson family always and forever, but that’s not where their family ends. They have our entire team who is committed to them and loves them: Lesya, Masha, another Masha, Tanya, Tonya, Luda, Nina, Oleg, Maxim, Ruslan, and MIra. No matter who is sleeping at the duplex with them each night, they have been just fine, because it’s always someone from their family there with them, and they know they are safe and loved.

Last week Jed and I met with Zhanna and we were talking about our future together with her and Vanya. We discussed our commitment to them as a part of our family, how in our hearts “family” is not reserved just for those who live in our home or who share our blood. We have team members who have basically no biological family and we are family to each other. Zhanna and Vanya have been very much alone and there is no reason they should stay that way: we can be family for each other. ❤️

Family is a place to know and be known.

Family is a place to forgive and be forgiven.

Family is a place to serve and be served.

Family is a place to love and BeLOVE[d].

I thank God for the beautiful family he has given us, both here and in the US. We are blessed to be loved by many people, and to be able to open our hearts to others who have been alone for so long.

Do you know of anyone who is need of family? Maybe your next YES is opening your heart to someone who is lonely. ❤️ Why not give it a try?

BeLOVE[d]

BeLOVE[d]

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