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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Keeping Up


Hi Friends

All is as well as can be expected here. I wanted to encourage you to sign up for our newsletter if you want more frequent updates about what’s happening here. I simply can’t keep up with the blog in times like this, but I am sending out frequent emails to our newsletter subscribers so people won’t worry (or will worry a little less 😉)

Thank you for your love and support. We need it now more than ever! ❤️

BeLOVE[d]

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We Are Safe

Dear Friends,
Thank you for all your love and care for us during this uncertain time. We are still in Ukraine, on the Homestead, and we are safe. There have been rumors that some kind of invasion could happen today, but so far all is well. Assistants are with the boys, I took the kids to school, and am now sitting down with coffee to write to you. It feels almost like a normal morning, except Jed is on the phone right now with Ruslan planning the route for picking up all of our families in the city, if there were to be an invasion. And the kids’ school wrote that they are stepping up emergency drills with the kids. Sooooo…almost normal? 🤷‍♀️

We are watching the news very carefully and have made plans for every scenario we can think of. What will we do if we lose cell service?  What will we do if we lose internet?  What will we do if public transportation stops running? What will we do if there are Russian troops actually in our city?  We have done our best to prepare, and now all we can do is live our lives and see what happens. 

✅ On Monday we bought :
50kg of buckwheat
10kg of sugar
50kg of rice
20L of oil
50kg of oats
60kg of carrots
120kg of potatoes
40kg of onions
60kg of beets
5kg of garlic
Salt
So we’re all set to feed our crew of 40ish, should we all need to hunker down here in the village.

✅ Yesterday we filled all the vehicles with diesel and have plenty of fuel on reserve that Ruslan has been buying over this past month.

✅ Yesterday we finally purchased 3 generators (one for each home) and tomorrow they will be installed.

✅ Today we will hopefully hear that Sasha’s passport is ready. It’s past the date when it should be ready, so we hope to hear good news today on that front. 

✅ All important documents for everyone are compiled and scanned onto thumb drives as well. 

We are as ready as we can be, and I have to tell you we feel at peace. We really don’t feel afraid. We know we are exactly where we are supposed to be, and we will stay here as long as God has us here. We aren’t being hyper-spiritual about it, but also, we are not going to panic. Moving our huge group is too much of an undertaking to do it just for rumors. We will wait and see if it is actually necessary to leave before we make any big moves. We are committed to being here. Ukraine is our home and we are committed to our Wide Awake Family. 

We wanted to thank everyone who has reached out recently and shown their love and support for us and our team. We feel absolutely loved and cared for by you. Many of you have asked how you can help and our main answer has been “pray and donate so we don’t have to worry about money, should an emergency arrive”. You have stepped up in amazing ways. In the past month our partner churches in the Pacific Northwest, plus many generous individuals have donated $20,000 specifically towards helping the Homestead become more energy independent. Thank you thank you thank you!!  We are blown away by your giving hearts. Having the generators in our possession brings us a lot of peace of mind. 

Grant is still coming and is scheduled to arrive next week. We have plans for how to get to him if the airport is inaccessible or if commercial flights are not allowed to fly in Ukrainian airspace. He told us “I’ll walk to you guys if I have to.” 😆 We are eagerly awaiting his arrival and are thankful for his commitment to this work. 

Please pray for Vasya. He is the husband of our team member, Nina. He is stationed on the front in Eastern Ukraine. He has been stationed there off and on since the war began in 2014. But of course, now it feels quite a bit more stressful for Nina to have him there. Pray for Vasya’s safety and for Nina’s heart to have peace. Thank you.

Nina and her son, Seriozha

President Zelenskyy made a great speech on Monday and declared today, the possible day of attack, as the “Day of Unity”. Ukrainian flags will fly and everyone is encouraged to show their support of Ukrainian sovereignty. I encourage you to read his speech and dare you not to fall in love with Ukraine even more. 

We will let you know if our situation changes. Please continue to pray and reach out. Never apologize for writing to us and checking in! We are not annoyed, we are only thankful and we feel the love. BeLOVE[d]

❤️ 🇺🇦 ❤️

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