A Little About Us

Hi! We are the Johnsons: Jed, Kim, Adelina, Ezra, Havalah, Seth, Vladik (and baby on the way).

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In August 2010, our hearts and eyes were awakened to the plight of orphans with severe disabilities in Ukraine and we knew right away that God was asking us to respond. What would that response be?  Would He have us help from the US by advocating, raising awareness and money, and praying?  Or would He have us move our family to Ukraine to help, hands-on, in that place?  Jed and I visited Ukraine in April 2012 to explore, see the country, meet people firsthand, and to hear from God.

While in Ukraine on that first trip we fell in love.  We saw glimpses of God’s Kingdom come everywhere we went. Our last night in country we both knew that God was asking us very clearly to move our family to Ukraine to serve Him there.  He has given us dreams and plans that sound outrageous and impossible, but we believe with God it’s impossible to dream too big.

The dream is to establish small family-style homes for orphans with intellectual and/or physical disabilities.  These homes will be forever homes for those who live there.  There they will find love, dignity, and safety all the days of their lives.

The dream is to work in conjunction with the local church to train Ukrainians to care for the children.  We would love to help mobilize the local church to care for their own. We recognize that as foreigners we are merely a spark. Ukrainians are the ones best suited to meet this need.

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The ULTIMATE dream is for God to establish a network of these family-style homes all over the country with community living for people of varying levels of abilities.
Sounds impossible?  Yep, we know.
But,

“Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’” Matthew 19:26

In the summer of 2013 we founded Wide Awake International, and our family moved to Ukraine in November of 2013. We began by volunteering for our first year at Mission to Ukraine in Zhytomyr.  We learned a lot from the great work that they do.  We are so thankful for their faithfulness and the foundation of trust they laid with the directors of our region’s insitution for boys and men with disabilities in the town of Romaniv.

The work of Wide Awake is now is focused at the institution in Romaniv.  We take teams there three times a week and our three interns work with the boys in the Isolation Hall of the orphanage three different full days a week. The goal of our time spent at Romaniv is to bring hope, love, and dignity to the boys and men living there.  Our teams are a consistent, positive presence in their lives. We work with the boys to increase their functional skills and to help each boy move forward in his development.  We also advocate for the adoption of the boys who are adoptable.  In fact, we adopted our son Vladik from Romaniv in the summer of 2015!

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Most of all we sit with the boys and simply love our friends.  We play.  We sing.  We rock. We hug.  And we ask God to come with his healing power and do the impossible.  We ask Him to come make all things new.  We love to be with our boys at Romaniv, but our goal is not to forever visit them in their suffering. The biggest goal of Wide Awake is deinstitutionalization. We want our boys OUT.

In the fall of 2016 we purchased a large piece of land in a village outside of Zhytomyr.  We are currently finishing up the renovation of the existing house on the property.  Our family lives there and that will be where we bring the first boys out of the institution into freedom.  We are working on gaining guardianship of one man in particular, at this time.

There is space on the property to build 2-3 small family-style homes for our boys.  We are so excited to get our boys OUT so they can know the love of a family here on earth.

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Our family is sent as missionaries from our home church in Salem, Oregon.  Wide Awake International is the non-profit founded in 2013 to fund the dream.  The Wide Awake Int. board of directors helps guide our work, councils us in decision-making, and oversees the financial aspect of the work.  We are so thankful for their care and oversight!

Thank you for your prayers, support and encouragement of our family and Wide Awake as we dream big and say YES to Jesus.

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8 comments

  1. Ben and Melanie · October 26, 2013

    praying

  2. Allie · March 4, 2014

    I just watched the documentary above and my heart is totally broken for these children. God has obviously called your family there because he loves these children and people so much. Oh Jesus, help us to respond to your will when you call us. May God open doors for the work you are doing in Ukraine!

    • kimnjed · March 10, 2014

      Allie! Thank you so much for taking the time to watch it and to write a note. Thank you for the prayers. Yes, He loves them so much. 🙂

  3. Anna · January 13, 2015

    I am wanting to watch your documentary, but know it will be so overwhelming. My children (6, 5, 3) and I “met” Boris and Vladik this morning. My daughter(6) was particularly interested and asked so many questions. I was in tears. Thank-you for posting these and giving insight into the people behind the disability. I loved the long shots of Boris and could see so much in his eyes. Praying for you all and for how God would like me to be involved.

    • kimnjed · January 18, 2015

      Anna, thank you so much for your note. If you have any questions or if you would like us to send a note explaining some things to your daughter we are happy to do it! Our children love Boris and Vladik so much. They are both just precious. I wish so bad I could know what Boris is thinking! I can’t wait till heaven when we can talk all about it. 🙂

  4. Amanda · October 6, 2015

    This amazing!!! This work is SOOOO needed there, bless you for doing it and praying for abundance in your support and blessings on your works!!

  5. jodipollock · September 26, 2016

    I just ran across this blog, and I am so touched by the amazing work you are doing in Ukraine. This summer, the Lord called us to adopt two siblings from Ukraine. We met the older sister through a hosting program and knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Lord’s plan was to expand our family to include her and her brother. I am excited to read your blog and follow your journey, as our journey is now closely related.

  6. Laura · October 6, 2016

    I’m so impressed by the work you do in Ukraine. I’ve been in Zhytomir last summer with a huge group from Holland, and even in the Romaniv orphanage. I cried a lot because of what I saw. We played with the boys, hugged them and gave them love. But I had never seen a place like this. I wished I could take all those boys to my country to give them a life in wich they would be someone, and would be respected by who they are. I know how hard it can be to be there, but that’s why I’ve so enormously respect for you and the things you do. I wish you all the best in the things you do and I’ll pray for you.

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