June Happened.

Hello July!

What in the world? June was a tornado. It was a tornado of awesomeness and craziness and life-changingness. But yeah, it was definitely a tornado.

Recap:

May 31: Our sweet Sara left after a month of massage and intern-training. We miss you Saramama!

June 7: We celebrated our kids’ completion of one year of Ukrainian school and our precious Seth’s birthday at a water park in Kyiv. Yay!

June 10: We moved to the Wide Awake Homestead! MONUMENTAL DAY.

June 11: Tara and Christiana arrived! Tara and Christiana are both American girls who came to bless our boys and our team. Their presence was so refreshing. They served and smiled and brought every one of us so much joy. Internet friendships can turn out to be real-life awesome!

June 12-16: Tara and Christiana started going to Romaniv with our team and interns, getting to know the boys. Addy went to a day camp at school and made new friends. ๐Ÿ™‚

June 17: The team from Hands of Hope arrived! Hands of Hope is our wonderful partner in Indiana. They have poured much love and support into Romaniv and Wide Awake over many years. They came to help with a Romaniv Day Camp that was put on by Mission to Ukraine and Wide Awake. They also brought an awesome builder with them who served us by building a deck at the Homestead!!!!

June 19: Day Camp begins and a team of medical professionals from Germany arrived to help at the camp and observe our team.

June 22: Sydney, an American friend and long-time Wide Awake supporter was “in the neighborhood” and arrived to visit, help, and see all the craziness we are up to. ALSO a crazy awesome American arrived to begin the in-country process of adopting our sweet Stephan!!! His presence was just the hugest encouragement to our team. We were so blessed to see him open his heart to Stephan and say YES to what God has for his family. Just wow.

June 23: Final day of Day Camp! Hands of Hope threw our team a party and it was awesome. They encouraged us and blessed us all. Our hearts needed it.

June 24: Hands of Hope headed home.

June 25:ย Our church had a beautiful baptism and picnic at the river. All our German friends and American friends joined in and it was just a really special day.

June 26: The German team provided a training for our interns after observing their work over the past week. Their insight and wisdom, how they saw the boys and the work with fresh eyes was invaluable. They challenged us and pushed us in new ways. ย A little pushing can hurt, but when done in love it can foster so much growth.ย We really so appreciated their hearts and hard work!

June 27: The German team did more training for the interns, and then a training for our team. So much good stuff!!

June 28: Good bye German team! Thank you!! Please come again. ๐Ÿ™‚

June 29: Good bye dear Tara, Christiana and Sydney. Your wide open hearts and contagious laughter will be greatly missed. Come again!

So there you have it. Tornado.

It was quite the balance of scheduling and transportation and feeding, but the goodness far outweighed any stress that came along with it. I mean, all those wonderful people came because they love our boys and they believe in the vision of what we are doing here. They believe in God’s dream and they see the incredible worth of our boys. They gave up their vacation time and spent a lot of money to come pour into our boys, our family, and our team. We are forever grateful and super humbled by their giving.

I know I promised you a walk-through of the Homestead and I haven’t forgotten. With all the craziness of June we really haven’t gotten a chance to settle at all, and speaking of tornados…well, you get the idea. I’d like to tidy up a bit before sharing with you. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Hopefully this week I’ll have something to show you. Thank you for your patience!

Now for pics.

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Camp theme for the Isolation Hall: “Fun in the Sun and Shade”

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We had stations for each of the 5 senses. For some boys every station became the “taste” station. Ha!

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Thank you Barry and Tom for all your hard work on the deck!

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Americans at work, picking Colorado bugs off our potatoes. Welcome to Ukraine. hehe

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Village life is gross sometimes.ย 

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The German team arrived! (plus Ava, not pictured)

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Thanks Hands of Hope for the great party!

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Sweet Friends. Thank you for refreshing my soul!

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Taking a break from training ๐Ÿ™‚

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I can’t believe they finished the deck! Photos will follow in the next post.

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Team training: Respect, appreciation, safety

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So much love entered the Romaniv gates over the past month. We are so immensely grateful for all the sweet moments our boys experienced. May they hold those moments in their hearts forever. I know we will.ย 

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A Week in Photos: August 7th

I think I’ll try to get back into posting photos of our daily life here.  I know lots of people (besides just the grandmas) are interested in our daily life, and posting weekly pics forces me to get on here and share even if I don’t feel like I have a heckuvalot to say.  ๐Ÿ™‚ 

The kids are adjusting pretty well to life back in Ukraine.  Seth acts as though we never left.  Ha!  He easily picked back up with little friends from church.  Ukrainian life with all the walking and more naturally active life suits him just fine.  Hava, Addy, and Ezra are all doing fine.  School hasn’t started yet, and we still haven’t nailed down exactly where they will go and which grade everyone will be in, so they’re still in our family/church bubble.  Things may get a bit more dicey once we get closer to beginning school…we’ll see.  I’m nervous about it, but what’s new?  Today all is well, so I’ll just be content with that. Vladik is doing great.  He was pretty emotional and regressed quite a bit in our first week here, but he seems to be coming back to his old self.  I could do a whole post on that…maybe I will!  

Bluebell is adjusting to Ukrainian life as well!  It’s killing her to not be able to just run and run and run.  But, we have LOADS of stray dogs in our neighborhood so she has to be on the leash at all times.  We take her for several walks a day, but I know she misses her freedom.  Soon!  Bluebell will LOVE village life!  We are so glad we brought her.  I see the kids going to her for comfort and joy often throughout the day.  What a blessing.  I could do a whole post on that as well!  Maybe I will! ๐Ÿ˜‰ 

On Sunday night a bunch of our church family came out to the new property to check it out and to pray.  It was awesome!  We felt so loved, and it was massively encouraging to see so many people from church interested and engaged in what God is doing.  It was a beautiful time. 


A friend from church, Andriy, brought his camera along and took some cool pics while we were all out at the property.  I love them!!!  There are SO MANY super old things left at the house.  Like serious antiques.  It will be so fun to use them in decorating.  EEK!  I’m horrible at that kind of thing.  I need Fixer-Uppers International!!! Seriously though, our house would be so super fun for someone who is good at that kind of thing.  It’s like a museum!  


We have a small team here this week from the UK Vineyard, and one friend from Ventura Vineyard. Oh man, we love those guys so much.  They’re mostly here to help the Ukrainian Vineyard pastors, but a couple of the team members are Speech and Language Pathologists and they came just to support our interns at Romaniv.  They have all been such an encouragement to us.  They also makes us laugh a ton, so that’s a big bonus.  We are so thankful for their love for Ukraine and her people, and their love for us.  We don’t want them to leeeeeeeeave!!!!  (I don’t have pics of them all, but you get the idea.  They rock.) Thank you Jim, Jeremy, Josh, Sophie, and Ali!  ๐Ÿ™‚

And, of course we have our boys.  Our sweeties.  Our urgency to get them out grows more every day.  It’s hard to trust God’s timing, but we really don’t want to push ahead on our own.  We are certain to fall flat on our faces if we get ahead of ourselves.  So, one foot in front of the other we say yes.  And in the meantime we try to give them all the love we can while they wait. 

On Leavingย 

How to begin?  We head back to Ukraine in 12 days.  What the what??????


My last blog post was June 3rd. I have known I needed to write, but it felt like there was too much in there to adequately put into words.  Also, I realized that at some point over the past couple of years I started censoring myself.  I’m not sure exactly why.  I think a big reason is because the more I grew to know and love our Ukrainian friends in Zhytomyr, and the more time we spent away from our beloved friends and family in the US, the more I have wanted to make sure nothing I say is misinterpreted by anyone on either side of the ocean. 

That’s the struggle of this cross-cultural life.  Everywhere you go you are missing one person and glad to see another. Every time you go you are sad to leave one place but excited to reach another.  

All those feelings could be taken the wrong way, misinterpreted, hurtful…if you are the one being left you may feel rejected because we are excited to see the other.  When we are excited to leave Ukraine and get to the US I’m afraid it will appear that we don’t like Ukraine.  When we are excited to leave the US to get back to our life in Ukraine I’m afraid it will appear that we don’t appreciate the US and are “above” our old life. Ugh.  The people-pleaser in me does not have a clue how to navigate that, let alone write about it.  So I go silent. Sorry for that.

It’s just a fact that living between two worlds is very sticky business with no instruction manual.  

How do you leave a place and people well? 

How do re-enter a place well?

How do you leave a place where you are outgoing and confident, a fixer, and a leader and return to a place where you are a learner, an outsider, a person on the fringes of society with a first-grade handle on the language- and not crawl into a shell and hide?

How do you maintain friendships from across multiple time zones while also being fully planted and rooted where you are?

How do you invest in new friendships without feeling like you are letting your old ones slip away?  

How do you fully embrace your overseas life without feeling like you are a traitor to the ones you love across the ocean?

How do you look at pictures of your old friends and their kids all together and not feel guilt and sadness that your kids are not there to join in and grow up together?

How do you leave your mother and father and take away their grandchildren without feeling massive guilt?

How do you be fully where you are when you feel like your heart and life are split in two?

I don’t have a clue. 

One thing I know is that I failed in many of those areas last time we were in Ukraine and I am hopeful that this time will be better.  Last time I lived with A LOT of guilt. Everyday. No one put that on me; I’m awesome at doing that to myself. ๐Ÿ™‚

I felt like I was a bad friend to my American friends, but my Ukrainian life took so much energy that I simply couldn’t be the kind of friend I wanted to be to the ones I have loved for many years.  

I allowed all my confidence to be stripped away and socially became a shell of my former self. (Lack of fluency will do that to ya) Making friends was hard for me and I’m not used to that. I ached to be understood and known. (See, just writing that makes me worried that my Ukrainian friends will think I’m saying I had no friends in Ukraine. Ugh! Ha! )

We spent those first two years just learning how to survive and didn’t really get the chance to become fully planted.  Our kids felt that.  I know that couldn’t really be helped.  We had to learn to survive and the learning curve was/is steep. Grocery shopping, banking, post-officing, cooking, schooling, transportation, church, utilities, LANGUAGE…everything was new and we were like aliens on a different planet. There was a lot of everyday living to figure out before any roots could begin to take hold. 

But this time, I think this time is going to be different. Our mindset is different.We are purchasing land and settling in for the long-haul.  We have committed our lives to these boys and once we begin to take them out everything changes. Of course we’ll still come to the US for visits, but my heart and mind need the opportunity to settle in and make a home in Ukraine. I need pictures up on the walls.  I need to know in my heart that until God says differently, Ukraine is our home. No guilt allowed. 

So, if you see us in the coming days, just know that our hearts are confused and there is no easy answer to the question “How are you?” We’re so happy and so sad.  We’re excited and dreading.  We’re confident and scared.  We’re ready and we’re not.  

I’m only resolute one thing: I know that I know that this is the life God has created us for and I WILL NOT allow guilt to rob me of the joy that comes with following Jesus and saying yes. 

So there. That’s the *pretty much* uncensored version of my heart.  If you are a person who prays we would sure appreciate your prayers over the next several weeks.  The kids are struggling with all the change and the chaos in our home is great at the moment. We need peace and knowing and joy in the journey.  

Thank you for walking with us! 

An Invitation

We would like to invite you to a very special event!

Thursday, June 30th at 7pm we are hosting “An Evening With Wide Awake” at the Kroc Center in Salem, Oregon.  

Our family’s time here in the US is quickly winding down and we are itching for an opportunity to meet face to face with the ones who have helped to make all of this possible.  I can blog the heck outta this thing, but there is truly nothing like being in the same room and telling stories, live, in person.  

If you are in, or around the Salem area we would absolutely LOVE to see you there!

We’ll share about where we’ve been, and where we hope to go in this next year: land purchase, freedom for the first four boys, interns, adoptions…and all that good stuff.  

And just to sweeten the deal a bit, I’ve got to tell you that our friend and partner Denis Dmitrov will be there too- all the way from Ukraine!  Denis is our pastor in Ukraine.  The church that he pastors, Christian Youth Church, is where we, and almost 100% of our volunteers attend.  Christian Youth Church has taken on Romaniv as a ministry of the church and it is a miraculous partnership that only God could have planned.  Denis will be visiting the US for the first time ever and we are super excited for Wide Awake supporters to meet him and hear a bit about the work from his perspective.  

So, please come!  Invite a friend! This is the perfect opportunity for people to be introduced to what Wide Awake is all about. I can’t wait to see you and give you a big fat hug (and I’m not even a hugger…that’s how excited I am about this).


If you have any questions about this event, please don’t hesitate to ask.  You can comment here, or email me at kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org

Wide Awake Property!

Jed came back to Oregon on Friday after spending the last month in Ukraine.  He had a great, full time working with our church community, interns, spending time with the boys, working on a special project, meeting with partners, and generally just gettin’ stuff done.  
One HUGE, major, important thing he has been working on during his last two trips has been scouting out land for us to purchase.  The dream of Wide Awake is deinstitutionalization.  We want our boys out. In order to get them out we have to have somewhere for them to live, right?  Right.  We don’t want them to live just anywhere.  We want them to live in nature, surrounded by beauty and land and gardens and fruit trees and people who love them.  We want them in a neighborhood, not in isolation. We want them to have occupation, purpose: working the land to help provide for themselves as they are able.  That dream requires a special piece of land, and Jed has been on the hunt for the perfect place.  

We think he’s found it! 


The land he found is approximately 1.3 acres and will be a great beginning spot for our first three Wide Awake homes.  It is in a village a couple kilometers from Zhytomyr, has an existing reeeeeeeally old home on it, and space to build 2 other cottages.  Thanks to our outrageously generous donors and outlandish end-of-the-year giving, we have the funds to purchase the land and renovate the house (it has no indoor plumbing…yikes!).  We plan to add an ADA standard addition to the house as soon as we have the money for it.  

Things are getting very, very exciting. 


The current plan is that Jed will return to Ukraine mid-June to purchase the land on behalf of Wide Awake.  We are also beginning the process, as a family, to obtain Ukrainian permanent residency.  Because we are the parents of a Ukrainian citizen, we have the possibility of permanent residency, and that will work in our favor on many levels.   

As a family, we are planning to return to Ukraine at the end of July or the first week of August.  The idea is that we will live in the old house and four boys will live in the addition with loving caretakers.  There are four boys, actually men, who turn 35 this year.  We need to be ready to intercept them before they are sent to an adult institution.  That means we need to move quickly and be ready for them come winter.  

It’s crazy.  It’s all becoming more real every day.  There are many, many logistics to work out as far as care of the boys goes.  Three of the boys we hope to bring home are non-interactive.  If you were to visit Romaniv you would not notice them.    We weren’t even confident of their names until they were confirmed on paper.  The nannies didn’t know their names. They are some of the ones who sit on benches all day every day, alone in their own minds.  They are not very receptive to human touch and do not respond much to interaction of any kind.  The fourth boy is social and interactive.  Everyone knows him and loves him.  They are all survivors.  Anyone who has lived that long in Romaniv is a survivor and we believe their potential is great.  You know, we are ready to love them just as they are.  We have hopes and dreams for them: hope for healing, dreams for full lives, but if all they ever know is that they are safe and loved and they never resp0nd to us as we dream- that’s okay.  They are our sweet boys and we love them.  They deserve the best. 


So, one step at a time we move forward.  There are many unknowns, so please pray for us that we are not fearful and that we will simply listen and obey.  It’s easy to get overwhelmed when we think of the big picture.  We really need to hear from God.  

We can not thank you enough for giving of your love, your finances, and your prayers.  This would be absolutely impossible without people praying and giving money.  There is no way we could do any of this on our own.  THANK YOU for journeying with us.  It’s about to get crazy up in here, so stick around and enjoy the ride!  

If you would like to give a donation specifically for the Wide Awake Building Fund you can do so here.