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!

  

Hands of Hope to Romaniv

This is a post that has been in the works for many months, but I think you’ll find it worth the wait.  (Even though you didn’t know you were waiting for it…I did.) 😉 

We are so excited to introduce you to…drumroll please….
ROMANIV CHILD SPONSORSHIP!!!

Wahooooo!!!

You asked for it, and we are so happy that you are getting what you asked for!

Here’s the deal. Wide Awake is super blessed to have an awesome partnership with a non-profit in Indiana called Hands of Hope Adoption and Orphan Care Ministry.  I wrote about them before, here.  Hands of Hope has been involved in helping to improve life at Romaniv since March 2012, after Suzy, the executive director, and Lois, the Romaniv liasion first visited our Boys.  

 

Suzy and Lois with Romaniv Administration

 
Hands of Hope provides the money that we use every week to buy bananas for the Boys.  They give money for special projects around the orphanage, like outfitting a sports room for the Boys that they can use during the long winter months when they are cooped up inside for hours on end.  They pay for Leysa, one of our awesome team members to go to Romaniv three days a week to teach the boys music, and lessons about Jesus.  They have also partnered with Wide Awake and Mission to Ukraine to pay for the two new teachers who have begun to teach our Boys 5 days a week.  They let us know how much money has been given by sponsors, and we, Wide Awake, work together with Hands of Hope and Mission to Ukraine to decide the best way to use it to most benefit our Boys.

Hands of Hope has poured a ton into our Boys over the past three years.  And how do they pay for all of the awesomeness?

CHILD SPONSORSHIP!  

Hands of Hope is no new kid on the block when it comes to child sponsorship.  This is their deal.  They rock at it. We have been working hard with Hands of Hope to update many of the profiles of our Boys and we are so excited to share this opportunity with you.  

Want a way to tangibly change the lives of the Boys?  This is it.  100% of sponsor support goes toward improving the quality of life for our Boys.  100%!!!!


Here’s how it works on your end:

1.  Go to Hands of Hope website and choose a boy.  (I know, how can you choose?  They are all amazing!)

2. Click on your adorable choice and set up your tax-deductible monthly sponsorship of $35/month.  You can give by debit, credit card, or check.

3.  Hands of Hope sends you a welcome pack with more info about Romaniv and your special boy.

4.  You literally become “hands of hope” for our babies.  THANK YOU!!!! 

Here’s how it works on our end:

1. Hands of Hope sends the sponsorship money to Ukraine, to Mission to Ukraine (the fiscal agent), and lets us, Wide Awake, know how much money was sent.  

2.  We use the money to buy bananas three days a week, pay for teachers, and collaborate with the orphanage director, Hands of Hope, and Mission to Ukraine to pay for special projects around the orphanage that directly improve the Boys’ quality of life.  

3.  We update Hands of Hope on the Boys, give prayer requests, and keep them posted on any significant happenings and needs around Romaniv.

 
That’s the scoop!  Cool, right?  This is the real deal.  Suzy and Lois, our friends at Hands of Hope love the Boys so much.  They visited in March and for us it was like love at first sight.  They are AWESOME.  I can also guarantee you that the money donated is used with only the Boys’s best in mind.  No money is ever in the hands of the orphanage administration. We are the ones who do all the paying and purchasing. We try to use the money prayerfully and strategically so we aren’t just throwing money at need, but we are truly using it change the culture of Romaniv.   And it’s happening.

God is doing big things .  Won’t you join us? 🙂

The Skinny

I’m here!  I’m here!  Oh.My.Gooooooodness.  It’s been such a long time. 

I had this whole introspective, from-the-gut-post in the works, but, while trying to finish it up I realized I just don’t have the energy for that right now.  So, you get a not-from-the-gut informative post instead.  🙂 

There are a whole lot of emotions goin’ on around here, that’s for sure.  We are gearing up for our first visit back to the States, as a family.  We leave on Tuesday.  WHAT????  Pure craziness I tell ya.  Our life is never boring.  All my introspective writing was on our feelings about leaving our Boys and it was UGLY.  The thought of being so far away from our Boys for several months brings on an instantaneous sob-fest, so I’d rather not delve to deep into that topic.  Let’s just say that we don’t want to leave them, but we are excited to be with family and friends.  It’s confusing, and not black and white.  So, there.  

   
 
Here’s the skinny on what is happening in our life.  Deep breath, here goes:

ADOPTION.  We are in the home stretch of the adoption process!  In fact, we were supposed to have court today, but it was rescheduled for August 31st.  There were no jurors available today and yeah, it’s frustrating, I cried a lot, but we know that God’s timing is perfect.  After court on August 31st there will be a 10-day mandatory waiting period and then we will get to take our boy out of Romaniv forever!!!!  I can’t wait to introduce him to you!  

TRAVEL TO THE US.  We had already planned, before our move to Ukraine that we would head to the US as a family for our first visit in August 2015.  Many, many months ago my parents planned that when we arrived, in August 2015, they would take all of their kids and grandkids to Disneyland.  Well, the time is upon us!  Woohoo!  The timing is a little stinky, with our adoption court rescheduling, but oh well.  We are just thanking God for this last big hurrah before we have another son and our lives change forever.   Don’t people call that like a “babymoon” or something crazy like that?  Let’s call Disneyland our “babymoon”, nevermind that our baby is 15 years old.  Hehe.  (details, details)        

So our family will leave Ukraine on Tuesday and fly straight to California.  We will have a few days to catch our breath before my family joins us for Disney.  Jed will leave Disney early (on the 20th) to fly back to Ukraine.  He was supposed to be picking up our son at that pointt, but then court was rescheduled and yada yada yada.  We couldn’t change his ticket.  Whatevs.  The kids and I will head to Oregon after Disneyland and start to get settled a bit, get ready for school to start.  I will fly back to Ukraine for court on the 29th.  I’ll leave the kids with family and friends in Oregon.  

After court I will come back to Oregon and Jed will stay in Ukraine to finish up all the documents for our new baby.  Then he and our newest Johnson will fly and meet us in Oregon.  Together at last!!!

   
 

HOUSING.  We decided right after we got home from camp that it would be best to move out of the house we rent in Ukraine and put our stuff in storage.  We really can’t afford to pay for a house that’s not being used here, and a house that we’ll be using in Oregon.  So, we’ve been busy packing up and moving out.  FUN.  

While in Oregon we will be renting a house from some crazy-generous friends who are giving us a screaming deal.  Praise God!!!  Friends and family are letting us borrow stuff to set up a temporary Oregon home.  🙂  Thanks!   We don’t know where we’ll live when we come back from America, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.    I can’t think about it now or my head will explode.

SCHOOL.  Our kids (minus the new arrival) will be attending school in Oregon!  This will be a first for them.  Addy and Ez have been to school in Ukraine, but we homeschooled in the US before, so this will be a new adventure for us.  We know our new son will need a TON of medical care and there is just no way I can meet his needs and homeschool 4 kids, so this feels like the most peaceful decision.  I’m a little nervous about it though!  Eeeek!          

TIMING.  We aren’t exactly sure how long we will be in the US.  The working plan is that Jed will stay for about 2 months, and then return to Ukraine.  There is a TON of work that needs to be done here (always) and he just can’t be gone for a long time.  The kids and I will stay behind in Oregon until our new son gets the medical care that he urgently needs.  We don’t know how long that will take.  We anticipate more than one major surgery with specialist surgeons.  Things like that just don’t happen fast.  I’m prepping myself to be gone from Ukraine for at least 6 months.  I can’t think about it too much though or I turn into a basket case.  Oh my Romaniv babies!  But, our top priority is getting our new son healthy, so we will do what it takes to make that happen.  🙂  

   
 

WIDE AWAKE.  Are you signed up for our newsletters?  If you aren’t, you should. You can do it here.  I’ll confess that we have not been stellar about sending them out super regularly this year.  But it’s in our hearts to do better with that.  Anywayssss in our last newsletter we talked about Wide Awake’s partnership with a local church here in Zhytomyr.  Christian Youth Church is the church our family attends here in Z-town and we love our friends there.  The vast majority of Wide Awake’s volunteers are from Youth Church, and they are our fam here in Ukraine.  

Wide Awake gave a grant to Youth Church to be used to carry on the work with our Boys while we are in the US.  The grant pays for the work of volunteer recruitment and management, and will pay for the drivers and gas to get the teams to Romaniv while we are away.  Vika, our friend and volunteer, is in charge of the Romaniv work for Youth Church and she has already done an amazing job of growing the work while we were away at camp.  She has recruited many new volunteers and we have now added a Saturday team!  So now the boys get teams coming AT LEAST three days a week, and many weeks they get even more visits than that.  Praise God for Youth Church and their love for the Boys!  We are leaving the work in good hands and we know that our teams will continue to be faithful, even though we will be so far away.  What a huge relief!

That’s the skinny!  It’s a lot.  I know.  If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask.  Thanks for coming along on this wild ride.  We could never do it alone.  🙂               

   

  

                                                                                                                                                 

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!  

   

                 

   

                 

   

   

About a Boy, and His Love

Do you remember back in January when I came to you with a desperate plea for one of our darling boys who was absolutely wasting away?  I wrote about him here.  We, and the orphanage staff feared for his life.  He was dying before our eyes.  At that time I asked for a family to please step up and adopt him, but then shortly after that post, issues with his documents made him unavailable for adoption.  We mourned that loss of opportunity, but still, God had his way with that post and hundreds of people contacted us, letting us know they were faithfully praying for our sweet Danya.  

Today I want to encourage you and let you know that your prayers have not been in vain!

 

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”

-Unknown

Meet Mira.

 

Mira first came into our lives when our local Ukrainian church’s discipleship school began to volunteer for Wide Awake.  Wide Awake was the “outreach” portion of their discipleship training, so we instantly had 12 volunteers every week at Romaniv!  Mira was on the team.

Romaniv is a pretty extreme place.  The whole team faithfully served there for this whole past school year whether they liked it, loved it, or…didn’t really enjoy it at all.  We could never thank them enough.  They have been the hugest blessing to our lives!!  Most of the team members had no idea places like Romaniv, and people like our Boys even existed in their country, so hidden is Romaniv from society.  Serving at a mental institution isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay!  But for a few of the team members it was completely life-altering.  Mira was one of those people.

The discipleship school ended a few weeks ago, and still many (most!) of the team members come to Romaniv every chance they get.  In between university exams they’ll squeeze a visit in, filling up our boys’ love cups, and getting their own filled in return.  They are pretty much the best group of teens I have ever known.  I wish I could have been half as cool at that age.  😉

Mira never EVER misses a trip to Romaniv.  During every day of Romaniv day camp, she was there.  Every day of the German medical team’s visit, she was there.  She is just always there.   And she is making a difference.

 

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 You see, our sweet Danya loooooooves Mira.  And the feeling is quite mutual.  Over the past month or so Mira has been at Romaniv almost every single day, and the changes we have seen in Danya over that time have been nothing short of miraculous!

Mira is not a therapist.  She’s not a medical professional.   She’s just an 18 year old college student with a fierce love for one small boy.

 

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When she is at Romaniv Danya gets her whole self.  He gets her hugs, her tickles, her eye contact.  They walk together, they run together, they smell flowers together and feel the grass together.  They sit together and rock together.  Mira truly SEES Danya, and Danya comes alive.  His heart is so ready to accept her love, and her heart is being changed in the process.  It is a miracle for them both, and all glory goes to God.

Danya in January, and Danya last week 🙂

I think that sometimes we humans operate under the thought that unless we can do something “big” that is noticeable by a lot of people, and impacts large populations that it’s not important.  I think we miss so many opportunities for love while searching for the next “big thing”.  Me too!

What about the people right in front of us?  What if there is one person out there that is desperate for someone to truly SEE them and your eyes are just the ones equal to the task?  They don’t necessarily need someone more qualified or smarter or more important.  Maybe they just need you- to walk together, smell flowers together, sit together…just BE together.  Maybe.

I know one boys whose life is literally being saved by that kind of love.

Praise God for His never-stopping love for our Danya.  Praise God that He knew just what Danya needed, and praise God that Mira said, and keeps saying YES.

One foot in front of the other, Friends.  One YES at a time, with eyes wide open, with hearts Wide Awake

“I am only one, but I am one.  I cannot do everything, but I can do something.  And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  -Edward Everett Hale

Mira and Danya from Wide Awake International on Vimeo.

*Please keep praying for Danya.  He still has far to go, but as you can see, he’s on the right track!   THANK YOU!