Hi! We are the Johnsons: Jed, Kim, Vlad, Adelina, Ezra, Havalah, Seth and Evie Joy.
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.
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.
“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.
We take teams to Romaniv three times a week and our five 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!
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 spent that year renovating the existing house on the property and our family lives there. In December of 2017 we were granted guardianship of our friend Boris who lived at Romaniv for the last 19 of his 26 years. We are his forever family and, Lord willing, we plan to keep him with us as a part of our family at the Homestead for the rest of his days. In September 2018 we took guardianship of Ruslan and Anton, who are both in their 30’s and lived at Romaniv for 20 years. We are now a family of 11! Pinch me!
In April of 2018 we purchased the neighboring property here in the village and have space there to build 3 duplexes. The plan is to bring more men from the institution to live there with families like Boris, Ruslan and Anton live with us. We are so excited to get our boys OUT so they can know the love of a family here on earth.
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.