Introducing…Interns!

The vision of Wide Awake is to offer hope, dignity, and improved quality of life for some of Eastern Europe’s most marginalized children.”

If you’ve hung around here for a while you know that our big, God-size dream is to open small group homes for our boys to live out their days.  The dream is to remove the boys from their horrible reality and insert them into safe, loving, warm environments where they can get all the love and help they need for the rest of their lives.  They will play and receive therapy and sleep in soft, warm beds.  They will be surrounded by music and laughter.  If they are able to work they will garden and care for animals and work with their hands.  Our boys need occupation.  They need to contribute to the world around them.  It brings meaning to their lives.  The dream is for them to be IN the city, not hidden away from society.  The dream is for them to have the opportunity to become all that God has created them to be, surrounded by people who love them and treasure them and believe in them. 
We’ve got big dreams around here. We’re dreaming big, believing that God has great futures in mind for our boys.  

We will not believe that God’s best for them is to lay in bed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, staring at blank walls. We will not believe that spending the next 20 years rocking back and forth on a bench is God’s hope for their future.  
We know God wants more for our boys and we know that He uses people as his hands and feet in the world.  

Last year it became apparent that less money needed to be spent improving the physical living conditions of the boys, and more money needed to be spent placing loving, consistent people in their lives.  To answer that need, through a three-way partnership with Hands of Hope (funded by their child-sponsorship program), Mission to Ukraine (local non-profit acting as fiscal agent), and Wide Awake (hiring and training) we were able to hire two full-time teachers who teach the bigger boys Monday through Friday.  That  need is also being answered by an increase in the amount of time our team spends with the boys each week.  Since last spring there are teams going to visit the boys 3 days a week.  The team has grown in number and in love.  It is a truly beautiful thing.

Now I am so very happy to report that the need is being answered in yet another way.  INTERNS! 
 

Tanya, Mira, and Maxim

 

Our family attends a wonderful church in Zhytomyr: Христианской Молодежной Церкви (Christian Youth Church).  Youth Church is our family in Ukraine.  God has done a wonderful thing in partnering us together.  Almost all of our team comes from Youth Church, and Wide Awake gave Youth Church a grant to carry on the work of bringing teams to the boys while our family is here in the US.  Youth Church has done a FANTASTIC job of growing the team, and now the work in Romaniv has become an official ministry of our church!  Vika, the team leader for Romaniv, has just rocked it.  We are so proud of her and the whole team, and are honored to call Youth Church our Ukrainian home. 🙂 

Youth Church, in partnership with Wide Awake is now sending three interns to Romaniv three days a week!  The interns were picked from our team.  Maxim, Tanya, and Mira have been volunteering at Romaniv since October of 2014.  They have been faithful, loving, extremely dedicated and committed to the boys.  This is not a project for them.  This is their love.  The three interns are university students who are doing this paid internship in addition to their schooling.  They will be with the boys for six hours, three days a week and are an answer to prayer.  Jed began their training when he was in Ukraine in October, and then our dear friend Olya, an OT, continued their training when Jed came back to the US.  Thank you to Salem Vineyard, our sending church in Oregon, whose child-sponsorship helps to pay for this exciting new venture! 

Yesterday was their first day on the job and we are all so excited!  Maxim, Tanya, and Mira’s focus is on the boys in the Isolation Hall, since the teachers are not working with those boys.  They have divided the Isolation boys up between themselves  and will each work with the same boys every day they are there.  They are beginning with performing functional assessments on each boy and then setting individual goals for the development of each boy.  Their work is more focused and therapeutic because they have the ability to give their time and attention to the same boys each day.  

  
   
 

We are looking forward to awesome results!  Even just their consistent, positive presence is life-changing for our babies.

Do you know what that means?  That means that between our teams and the interns we have loving, energetic, amazing youth spending time with the boys SIX DAYS A WEEK!!!!!!  Freaking out excited!!!!!  That’s not even counting the teachers who are there Monday through Friday and teams who visit from other churches.  PRAISE GOD!

I remember back to the spring of 2014 when Jed and I decided to start going to Romaniv a second day each week. It was just the two of us going to Romaniv alone, asking God to bring more help…and now this.  God is so amazingly faithful.  

We believe that all of this loving presence is preparing the boys for the lives of freedom that await them.  

Soon my babies, soon you will be free. But in the meantime, I hope you can see how many people love you so dearly.

 

Indiana Adventures

I gotta tell ya, we just had the most encouraging week!  

I’ve written before about Hands of Hope, our fabulous partners in Indiana.  Hands of Hope provides awesome support to adoptive and foster families in Indiana, and they also do great orphan care through child sponsorship.  Through the Hands of Hope Romaniv sponsorship we are able to bring fresh fruit to the boys three days a week, pay the salary of two teachers who are working full-time to teach the boys, and more.  Hands of Hope is an immense help in bringing greater quality of life to our boys.  Because Hands of Hope pays for much of the work that is done at Romaniv now, Wide Awake is able to put funds away to prepare for the future: group homes instead of institutionalization.  

Their partnership and investment into our boys is priceless. 

This past Tuesday Jed, Vladik, and I were able to fly to Indiana to spend some time with the Hands of Hope peeps and talk a whole lot about the boys we adore so much.  It was a fast and fabulous trip!  Jed flew in from Ukraine on Monday and we flew out to Indiana on Tuesday morning.  At this point I’m pretty sure Jed could go 10 years without stepping foot on another airplane and be pretty happy with that. 

   

 

On Tuesday night we got to spend the evening with some lovely people who sponsor sweet Boris and Zhenya.  And then on Wednesday night there was an open house for “Friends of Romaniv”.  Basically sponsors and any and everyone who loves our boys could come and just hear about what’s happening at Romaniv and how they can pray.  It was beautiful.  Many of the people who came Wednesday evening have visited Romaniv before and dearly love the boys.  We always love talking about our sweeties, but talking about them to a room full of people who have loved them for years (in many cases before we even knew they existed!) takes it to a whole new level.  Love-fest level!  🙂 

The highlight of our Wednesday was a lovely young lady named Renee.  Renee visited Romaniv on a mission trip when she was 16 years old.  She fell in love with Vladik on that trip, came home and became his sponsor through Hands of Hope.  Renee prayed and prayed over the years that Vladik would find a family.  She LOVED our son before we did.  Well, now Renee goes to college in Kentucky.  She found out Vladik was going to be in Indiana and drove over 3 hours to come and see him in person.  

  
 

What a special reunion.  Vladik was clueless of the importance of that night, but someday he’ll understand.  

Thursday night was just beautiful.  Hands of Hope had an event called “Sip and Savor”.  It was so classy!  Free lattes and people walking around with trays of cheesecake?  Yes, please.  🙂  

The three main focuses of Hands of Hope were presented at the event: Orphan Care (child sponsorship), Foster Care support, and Adoption.  Jed and I did the presentation about adoption because we received a matching grant for our adoption through Hands of Hope.  THANK YOU!!!!!  It was doubly special because Vladik was the first Hands of Hope sponsor child to be adopted.  Cool, eh?  I say hopefully the first of many! 

Man, it was just wonderful to be in a room full of people passionate about caring for the orphan.  There are so many different ways to say YES and hearing about all the ways people can say YES by partnering with Hands of Hope is just rad.  It’s the real deal.  

  
 
  

Besides those official meetings, we just had plenty of time to drink coffee and eat yummy food with our friends.  All of these friends we met in Ukraine at one time or another through Hands of Hope, World Next Door, or Mission to Ukraine.  They were all so happy to see Vladik in a family and we were so blessed to spend time with people who know our boys and our friends in Ukraine and love them.  Common hearts + coffee + cozy couches = a whole lotta good times.  We got to stay with our friends Christopher and Lois and it was seriously like a vacation.  They spoiled the heck out of us.  SO FUN!   

  

God has blessed us so much with this partnership with Hands of Hope.  Again, we are just amazed at God’s love for the boys.  How is it, why is it that He has drawn so many hearts to this one institution in the middle of nowhere Ukraine?  We believe it’s because God has something very special for our boys.  He has been drawing them out of darkness into light for such a time as this.  I’m just thankful we get to be a part of His unfolding plan.  

To God be ALL the glory for the GREAT things He has done!

  

Wide Awake + Humedica = AWESOME 

A couple weeks ago we had the amazing privildge of hosting a volunteer team of medical professionals from Germany.  They were sent by Humedica, a German relief organization, and they were absolutely the biggest blessing to us.  

Jed’s parents volunteered for Humedica in Kosovo for 15 years and hosted many medical teams over those years.  It’s through them that we came to know the director of that wonderful organization.  

Humedica’s primary aim is to provide disaster relief.  They are often some of the first on the ground in earthquakes, tsunamis, and other disaster situations.  Their huge volunteer base of medical personnel is standing ready and waiting for their chance to serve.  Throughout the year Humedica also sends small medical teams to do short-term work in non-disaster areas.  That’s where Wide Awake came in!  

When Jed went to Switzerland last year he hopped over to Germany and met with Humedica’s long-term projects director to see what it would look like to get a team to Ukraine to help us at Romaniv.  Boy, are we so very glad they agreed to the idea!

  

Humedica sent us a general practitioner doctor, an ENT doctor, a physiotherapist, and a nurse.  They worked so hard for our Boys.  They literally saved our little Ben’s life.  They came to game night and helped out our graduates.  They held a medical clinic at a conference in Kyiv for the parents of kids with disabilities.  They did home visits to several of our graduates with disabilities.  They did a physical for every single boy in the Isolation hall at Romaniv.  They took boys for x-rays and looked at MRI results, bought special formula and made feeding plans, met with the Romaniv medical staff and helped them to troubleshoot their most urgent issues. 

They rocked.

Even now we are getting emails from the team checking on the boys and giving us advice.  We are so thankful!!

Thank you Humedica for sending us your best.  Thank you Sabina, Julia, Dominik and Hildegard for loving our boys and serving them so well.  Thank you for blessing our lives and bringing us so much hope.  It was our honor and our joy to work alongside you.  

Come again!  We’re waiting for you!  

   

                 

   

                 

   

   

A Week in Photos: March 8th

Oh my goooooodness! What an awesome week we had! It was go go go and packed with amazingness.

Jed was in America for 12 days and just got home last Thursday. He had an awesome time of connecting with supporters and churches. He went with the purpose of building a Wide Awake Medical Advisory Team and made lots of great contacts toward that end. It will be exciting to see what comes of it.  We realize that we are at the far limits of our own personal knowledge for how to best help the boys at Romaniv.  It’s time to pull in the big guns. The people Jed met with were so gracious and excited to help. Our Boys are loved by so many!

These past few days we had an extra special treat. You see Wide Awake gets to partner with some pretty special people, and two of them visited this past week. Suzy and Lois visited from Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care and we had a super great time. We got to talk about how we can best work together and how we, along with Mission to Ukraine, can best join forces to care for our Boys. It was incredible!!! We didn’t want them to leave!  Talk about kindred spirits… I’ll share more about that later. Now for the pics!

On Tuesday we celebrated Valera’s 30th birthday! He was over the moon excited!

That pink box was his only birthday wish 🙂

Suzy, Lois, and Romaniv Directors. All four, so precious to us

Baking, baking, baking in preparation for a BIG party for Romaniv nannies!

Four handsome MEN- all ready for their special performances

Addy and Ez came along to help with the party. They were so happy to see their Romaniv buddies!!!

Sweet nannies. We love them.

Stasik welcoming everyone to the special party!

Hands of Hope gave each nanny their own multicooker! They are all the rage here and cost almost a full month’s salary! The nannies were just a tad bit excited.

Meanwhile, the boys were busy being adorable…

Maxim’s first selfie 🙂

Our Friday afternoon team is back in action!

All in all it was a fabulous week. Good things are happening left and right. We are so blessed to partner with MTU and Hands of Hope.

On another note, our fam is battling some sickness and just all around exhaustion, so we would appreciate your prayer. We’re sick and tired of being sick and tired. Ain’t nobody got time for that! 😉

Till next time! Say yes to Jesus this week, okay?

Swiss Shock and Awe

Welcome December! How did that happen? November was like two seconds long. I was planning to do a Thanksgiving post, but then we lost electricity for 5 days, and then we had Thanksgiving, and then the next day Addy and left for Switzerland!

 

I have a lot to be thankful for. Even more so after this weekend. Oh God, why are you so good to us??? Wow.

I might have told you before about our Switzerland connection, but just in case I didn't, or you forgot, I'll sum it up real quick like.

 

Many moons ago, in my former American life, I loved a little boy in Ukraine. My friends and I desperately wanted to find this little boy a family because he resided in an institution much like Romaniv and we knew he needed out. A few friends and I decided we would organize a day dedicated to this precious boy (who now lives with a wonderful family in Texas!!!) and try to get as many people fundraising for him on one day as we could. Adoption is expensive and many times if the money obstacle is removed, it makes adoption more possible.

Well, as we were fundraising in Oregon a woman in Switzerland, Sandra, contacted me by email and told me that she too was fundraising for the very same boy! She desperately prayed that he would find a family, and our friendship grew as we advocated for our sweet boy.

 

Once we knew we were moving to Ukraine, Sandra chimed in and said if we ever made it over to Switzerland we should share at her church in Lucerne. We highly doubted we would make it to Switzerland, but thought the gesture was nice. Well, God knew better. It turned out that last January we needed to go to Switzerland to get our Ukrainian visas and we got to visit Sandra, her family, and her church.

 

The International Church of Lucerne embraced right from the get-go. They fell in love with our Boys and God broke their hearts. They began to support us in prayer and with some finances. I can not express to you how warm and loving is this awesome community of believers. They are the real deal and I can't believe we get the honor to partner with them.

Jed went to Switzerland in September for a family wedding and got to visit our friends in Lucerne. He told them of our need for a van to transport volunteers to and from Romaniv, and right there on the spot they decided to do a Thanksgiving fundraiser to buy a van for Wide Awake. Awesome.

 

So, this past weekend was the fundraiser and holy moly, I guess I set my expectations just a wee bit too low. God blew my itty bitty expectations out of the water. What a generous, loving, beautiful community we found in the International Church of Lucerne. In one weekend they donated thousands of Swiss Francs. THOUSANDS. Those thousands, in addition to gifts from their body given to Jed in September will buy us a van. Need met in an instant.

Blown away, humbled, joyful, tearful, THANKFUL.

Jed kinda kicked me out the door by sending me on this trip to Switzerland. He knew I needed a breather and a time of refreshment for my spirit. I felt nervous, and unsure, but excited to go. I brought Addy with me, and thought if nothing else it would be a special time for the two of us together.

It was that, and so much more.

Many of you have donated and donated and donated to this cause. Many people have given thousands of dollars to help improve the lives of our Boys. Many people gave before we moved, and many more people have given since. We are thankful for every single cent, and for every single bit of love that goes along with the cents. THANK YOU!! Because of the distance, all that communicating and giving is done online. Yay for internet! This was different though, because this was the first time I had seen a group of people, in the flesh, get behind this cause and get behind our Boys like this since we moved to Ukraine. It's different now that our Boys aren't just an idea or a passion. They are our friends and our loved ones. When I share about them now it's with a knowing that comes from hours spent together. Watching strangers work hard to prepare and then pull off an event like this just for our Boys, after really knowing our Boys is a whole new ballgame.

 

I just sat there, watching pies being auctioned off for my Boys and tears filled my eyes. How is God so good? How is it that He cares so much about our Boys and about us that He put it in the hearts of people thousands of miles away to give so generously and selflessly?

I wish so bad I could tell our Boys how much they are loved from afar. As I sat in that room on Friday night I wondered what each of the Boys would think and feel if they were surrounded by as much love as I was that night. I felt so honored, so loved- to overflowing. My spirit didn't see that coming. 🙂

 

To the International Church of Lucerne- your love and care for our family and our Boys is absolutely amazing. You tell us that you love and you care, and we believe it. Not just because of the money (which of course we couldn't appreciate more!) but because of your warm hearts and open arms. Your love is evident on your faces and we are just so thankful that God has brought our lives together. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for every bit of generosity poured out last weekend and in the months since we met. You have made a difference.

 

So, there's my Thanksgiving post. I'm not sure I've ever had a Thanksgiving where it hit home more. Praise God, it's time to go van shopping!! Yeehaw!

 

PS: Addy and I also got to spend some very special time with family. Brett and Rachel just got married and it was such a joy to be with them. Serious balm for my soul. Brett and Rachel, we love you and are so proud of you. Addy and I loved and savored every single minute with you. Ukraine is waiting for you!!! 😉