A Week in Photos: May 4th

Spring has sprung!  I know, I know, I said that before- but then it snowed a couple days later.  I think I can say it with confidence this time.  SPRING HAS SPRUNG.  I declare it!

This is one of those weeks when so much happened that I don’t even know where to start.  I don’t think I’ll try to describe it all, I’ll just put it out there and maybe the descriptions will come out over the next couple of weeks.  

-Grammy and Papa are here visiting from Montana.  YAY!!!!  They leave on Wednesday.  BOO.

-We drove to Lutsk last weekend (a town about 3 hours away)  to visit some of Grammy and Papa’s friends who pastor a church there.  It was fun to take the van on our first family road trip.  🙂

-A team from Hull Vineyard in the UK came to Ukraine for a Vineyard conference and spent a few days with us here in Zhytomyr.  They got to meet our Boys, encourage our church, and just be all around awesome.  Their visit was such a HUGE blessing to us as a family.  We were so sad for them to leave!  We posted an awesome video of the team on our Wide Awake Facebook page.  Check it out!

-One of the Vineyard team members was a speech and language therapist and she and I got to spend two days at Romaniv observing meals, helping with feedings, and advising the staff.  It was a very valuable time and the staff seemed very receptive.  Follow-up will be key.  Being at Romaniv for meals and in the early morning hours was very insightful for me, personally.  Peeling back the layer of what makes our boys and that place who they are and what it is.  I’ll probably blog about that at length on another day.

-We had a super fun game night with the young adults with disabilities.  How awesome to be able to meet outside in the sunshine!  Our pasty white skin needed that!

-My fingerprints were rejected again for our adoption- this time they were rejected for US immigration approval.  SO FRUSTRATING.  So, now I might be flying to London to get them redone.  Grrrrrrrr.  Apparently women who do a lot of dishes and nurses have a higher likelihood of having poor quality fingerprints.  Double whammy for me. 🙁

Now for pics.  If you have any questions, of course you know you can always ask!  🙂


Keeping up with the Joneses

Do you live in one of those neighborhoods where it seems like each guy is trying to outdo the rest of the block with his lawn care?

You know what I mean.

“I noticed Jim and Nancy put in some fresh bark chips and a row of boxwoods. I think I better go ahead and put the lighted fountain in that I was planning to do last year.” “Honey, make sure to use solar powered lighting like Russ and Deb have. We want people to know we care…. well, about the environment and all.”

As I fell asleep a couple nights ago, I distinctly heard God ask me to study Nehemiah. Not read it, not skim through and look for “life verse” to put on the fridge. STUDY Nehemiah.

I’ll get back to that.

The Johnson clan has been on the road for the last couple weeks, sharing the vision of Wide Awake International.

I left Kim and the kids in Montana, with my sister, and took a little jaunt to Colorado Springs to share with our dear friends at New Life Downtown and to attend a Missional Leaders Meeting with our group of churches.

I have been surrounded by beauty all week near Garden of the Gods.

I have truly met some amazing heroes. One couple, named Paul and Kristen, have been loving on orphans with special needs in Bolivia. They take them in to their home, get them medical care and love on them. They have been doing this for years, under the radar. Absolute heroes.

Another woman has been taking physical therapists and piles of wheelchairs into Kazakhstan, outfitting people with wheelchairs that fit their body and help them be mobile. Fantastic!

While we have known Tri and Nancy Robinson with i-61 Ministries, I have had the joy of meeting Sergio and Michael, who tirelessly work to mobilize people, passion, resources and the education needed to address injustice across the world. Intensity!

I wish I would have taken a picture of these folks and so many more. I want you to see the fire in their eyes. These people have given up everything to bring Dignity, Hope and Love to the marginalized, counted out and the broken. Heroic!

Well back to Nehemiah and the Landscaping.

On my first read through the book, I wondered if all the different families were just trying to keep up with the Joneses as they started to rebuild the wall around Jerusalem.

“Did you see Eliakim and his kids out there this morning? I can’t leave my section of the wall all tore down if they are gonna build their section. What will the neighbors think?”

Who knows? That is why I am studying the book, I guess.

All I know is that as I have been meeting all these amazing people, I have realized there are many people like Kim and I who have sold everything to address the inhumanity that spans the globe. There are people, just like us, who won’t wait another minute to do something about the injustice that breaks the heart of God.

I have met the “Joneses” that I want to try to keep up with. I have seen the hands of Jesus in the hearts of great people who are loving their neighbor.  They are heroes, each one.

A Little Slice of Heaven

Yesterday was perfection. Yesterday was one of those days where you look around and wonder how in the world you got to where you are and try really, really hard to take in every single moment so you can treasure it forever.

Yesterday we, and the couple who are hosting us spent the day waaaaaay out in the boonies of Idaho at Tri and Nancy Robinson’s ranch, Timber Butte. Tri was the founding pastor of Boise Vineyard back in 1989, and he had Nancy are ranchers extraordinaire. Tri is also the founder of I-61 ministries, a part of Vineyard Missions.

Homemade ice cream!

The ministry of i-61 is a highway to do the ministry of Isaiah 61, fulfilling this commission to care for the broken, the oppressed, the captive and the extreme poor under the promised anointing of the Holy Spirit. It is an organized effort to train and send authentic disciples to those Jesus referred to as ‘the least of these’.”

Addy could have stayed in that little spot all day!

When I met Tri at the Vineyard Conference in Anaheim I quickly saw that I-61 is where Wide Awake International and the Johnson family fit within the Vineyard Missions family. These are our peeps. Tri and Nancy are all about justice, mercy, compassion, and going to the forgotten. Not only that, but they were homeschooling in California back in the day when some people didn’t even think it was legal, and started a homeschool co-op to try to help other parents, raised their kids an hour out of town with no electricity, packed their kids out on horses and homeschooled in tents. Oh man, I think I found my heroes. 🙂

We spent the day with great people, eating great food, and having great conversation. Not to mention my kids thought they’d died and gone to heaven. Thank you Tri, Nancy, Rand, Lori, Gary, and Lynette for such a perfect and special day! We will never forget our time together.

The Guest House

I big boy! I feed the sheep!

You Can Never Make Enough New Friends!

Well hello there!

I have had such an interesting time here in Zhitomir so far.  As I walk around town I find myself trying to memorize everything I see, like I’ll be tested on it later.  Which, I guess I kind of will be tested on it, say, come November?  If I see a nice store I try to lock it into my brain and remember the sign.  If I see a nice park with kids playing I tuck that one away for later.  I take notes in my phone of bus and marshrutka prices, grocery prices and what food you can find where.  Who knows if any of this will really help later on, but it makes me feel better, so don’t knock it.
Yesterday morning I woke up with absolutely no idea what we were going to do that day.  (Remember the whole staying awake stewing till 1:00am?  Ahem.)  I woke up at like 7 and called Jed on skype.  
“What are we going to do today?  If we don’t make contact with anyone will the day be wasted?”
Jed, being ever wiser than I said “Just go outside, walk and pray.  That’s the most important thing you can do.”  What a guy.  
So, I headed out the door, headphones on, walking and praying for our new city.  I want to see these people the way God sees them.  I want Him to completely have His way in our lives and in Zhitomir.
I had been walking and praying for a while when my phone rang.  It was Tammy Swailes, one of the contacts I had hoped to make here in Zhitomir!  Okay, funny story: back when I was a kid my parents had a friend named Mary Jill.  I think maybe she was from Alaska, and I’m pretty sure we met at least once. (Hi Mary Jill!) Throughout the years I would hear her name, but I never really knew her.  Anyway, when we started to tell people we were moving to Ukraine, my uncle and my dad told me that Mary Jill was now a missionary in Hungary.  “You should connect with Mary Jill!  Maybe she knows people in Ukraine!”  Hmmm, maybe?  So, at one point we connected with Mary Jill, and when she found out we were going to be living in Zhitomir, sh told us that lo and behold one of her dearest friends lives near, and works in Zhitomir!  Enter Tammy Swailes.  🙂

Tammy called me as I was walking and praying and asked if I was up for a coffee.  Hint: I’m always up for a coffee.  So, she swung by, picked me up, we picked up Olya and headed for a place in Zhitomir that Tammy said I needed to know about.  While we drove we tried to figure out how we were connected.  Funny how small the world is and how the foreigner population in Ukraine is even a much tinier world.  I love it!  
Oh my, was Tammy right about me needing to know about the absolute gem she took us to!  Thank you Tammy!!  I am forever indebted.  She took us to “Global UA”, basically a huge shopping mall with a ginormous grocery store called “Караван” (Caravan).  It also has a big electronics store, a second hand clothing store, and all the other more expensive type stores that malls usually have.  The second hand will come in handy (haha) since clothes here are so expensive.  We looked around and then had a coffee together.  Tammy has lived here for like 12 years.  Wow!  I just found my how-to-live-in-Zhitomir mentor.  Are you up for it Tammy?  🙂  
For Addy, look!

We had the greatest time.  Tammy is so warm and comfortable.  Olya and I both agreed that we are big Tammy fans.  So, thanks Uncle Steve, Dad, and Mary Jill for making that happen!  God is so good to look out for us and bring friendship from the least expected places.  

After coffee Olya and I said good bye to dear Tammy and decided to browse a bit more around the mall to see what we could see.  A few minutes later my phone rang and it was Alla, the second contact I was hoping to meet here in Zhitomir!  At this point I just had to laugh at myself and my pointless worrying.  I’m sure God already had a good chuckle at it.  I would love to say I learned my lesson that God has everything planned out and I don’t need to worry, but I have a feeling my learning is just beginning.  🙂
Alla is Ukrainian, and she is a part of a small group here called Bible Orphan Ministry (BOM).  BOM does great orphan outreach and I’ve followed their blog for quite some time.  All this past year I thought they were located in Kiev, but I was really happy to find out they live in Zhitomir!  I had no idea that Zhitomir is kind of a “hub” for orphans with special needs for this region- and even other regions.  Hmmm…curiouser and curiouser… 🙂  Fascinating that God would plant us here, eh?
Olya and I met the BOM team, Misha, Alla, Nadia, and Oksana at their church and then we set off for an orphanage about 30km away.  Every Friday they visit this orphanage and teach the older kids about Jesus.  The Director loves them and totally allows them to preach the Gospel.  We went on a Tuesday because they were going to do the final class for the kids who are “graduating”, or we like to say, aging out.  This week they will leave the orphanage and who knows what their futures hold.  

Three of the kids will go to study at a trade school a ways away.  A few of them have families, but they are pretty poor, so they won’t have the opportunity to pursue any studies.  At least one of the boys can’t read, so that’s not an option for him anyway.  Some will be on their own.  
There are several people we know of who focus ministry on typical kids who are aging out of orphanages.  I always knew this work was important, but never felt a particular passion for it.  I definitely felt a passion for the disabled who age out to mental institutions, but honestly hadn’t given a ton of thought to the typically developing teens.  All I needed was to meet some of them face to face and that all changed.
These kids are babies!  They are just babies!  The BOM team gave them gifts of bedding, a cooking pot, a bowl, and a spoon.  The kids were ecstatic.  Such treasures!  
After BOM shared with the kids and gave them gifts they asked me to introduce myself and let the kids know why I was there.  Oh my, how humbling to share just a bit with those precious kids.  How is it that I have the life I have and they have theirs?  How is it that I was raised by parents who loved me and taught me to love?  How is it that I have the choice to move here and care for others, when these kids have no choices?  Why them and not me?
Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!  
Luke 12:48 (MSG)
Humbling.  Wow.  Praise God for people like Alla, Misha, Nadia, and Oksana who spend their lives equipping these kids who have so few people rooting for them.  Alla told me they make it a point to often tell the kids that Jesus loves them and He created them special.  They are precious to Him.  May that truth dig deep into their hearts and settle there for good.  
After we left the orphanage we went out to eat and chat.  The BOM team got comfy with Olya and I and we had some good laughs.  Eating together does that.  Don’t you love a good laugh over dinner?  
Don’t buy the serious face.  Misha’s a joker 🙂
So, for a day with absolutely no plans, God managed to fill it up quite nicely!  Ha!
Today I said good bye to Olya (boohoooooo) since she needed to head back to Kiev for work.  I explored Zhitomir, did a thorough investigation of available foods at the big grocery store at the mall (gluten-free pasta!  Who knew?), and skyped with family and friends.  Tomorrow I’ll spend the day at MTU and hopefully look at some apartments with the realtor.  
Best news?  Jed is on his way to the airport and tomorrow night he’ll be with me!!!!  I am so ready to have him here.  I hope the day passes quickly until he gets here.  🙂
That’s all I got for today.  Off to bed now, dreaming of my babies at home.  I miss them a ton, but God is so gracious to help all of our hearts.  Thank you family and friends for loving on my babes.  Knowing they are with people who love them dearly keeps this Mama from becoming a hot mess.  THANK YOU!
I’ll leave you with a glimpse of the cuteness that is my babies 
(minus Addy and Ez because it took me a minute to figure out how to take a screen shot)

Lucky me.

The Nitty Gritty

The details for our move to Ukraine are chugging right along.
Love, support, and encouragement from family and friends? Check.
Destination city? Check.
Amazing organization doing outstanding work to volunteer for?  Check.
Huge, God-size dreams burning in our hearts and faith that God wants to make it happen?  Check.

All systems are a go.  We feel great peace and a big smile from our Father as we step forward into major unknowns.  The need that remains at this point is the money to fund the vision. 

Yep, this is the money post. 

We haven’t talked much at all about money so far on this journey.  There was so much preliminary work to be done, so many unknowns to figure out first.  But now we are in full support-raising mode and we are excited to fill you in on the need.  We’ve lost count of the number of times God has spoken to us through other people
“Do not worry about the money.” 
“God will supply more than enough.”
“Money will not be an issue.” 

 Whenwe spoke with our friend James, a pastor in Pasadena,  our worlds were rocked.  James encouraged us that people want to give to big vision.  Yes, people will give to help us barely get by, but big vision inspires, big vision is God vision. We told James a number and he basically said “You need to at least double that.  Let God have a chance to show His stuff.  What have you got to lose?”  Amen to that! 

 So, it is with great faith and assurance in the One who called us that we move forward, getting the word out to whoever will hear.  This is God’s work, this is His passion and we are simply the hands and feet. 

Without further ado, we present you with the numbers. 

Alright, there is our proposed budget.  Once the Wide Awake board is assembled we will present this budget proposal.  We’ll also discuss, as a board, what tithes and offerings will look like.  We are local church people and it’s important to us to give financially to our local church in Ukraine, we just aren’t sure how to navigate that quite yet.

   Now, let’s talk about how we can build Wide Awake International from a dream to a reality during the next five years.    We are telling our story so a team of passionate, “wide-awake” friends can join the effort and make a radical difference in these precious children of God.  Will you consider joining our Wide Awake Development Team by committing to monthly giving

At this time we are receiving donations through our church, Salem Vineyard, so the donations can be tax-deductible.  We are still in the process of setting up and incorporating the Wide Awake International non-profit and hope to be finished with that process at the end of April.  At that time we will be able to accept donations via Wide Awake directly.  We will definitely keep you posted on our progress in that regard.  Right now we are assembling board members, and our awesome attorney friend is helping us with the loads of paperwork that come along with non-profits.  Thank you dear friend!

There you have it!  The nitty gritty details are all laid out. 🙂  If you have considered supporting this ministry financially we are so extremely thankful!  If you have been waiting to begin giving, unsure of when to start now’s the time!  We are ready!  100% of the donations sent through Salem Vineyard will be given to us.  Just be sure to note with your giving that the money is for Wide Awake.  We have opened a separate bank account for Wide Awake funds and will account for any and every donation.

Mail tax-deductible donations to:

Salem Vineyard Church

4750 Salem Dallas Highway NW

Salem, OR 97304

Or you can give via Salem Vineyard PayPal!  
(see the nifty PayPal button on our sidebar)
*Info on how to give will always be available at the top of this blog under the new “Give” tab.

Due to popular demand we are looking into how to add automatic withdrawal as a method of giving.  We won’t begin that until donations are being received directly by Wide Awake.  We will let you know when that’s an option.  

Whew!  Thanks for making it this far with us.  I hope we haven’t overwhelmed you.  If you have any questions at all please contact us by email or in the comment section.  We are happy to talk more with you about all of this.  

You are welcome to give anytime!  If you would like to be a part of the Wide Awake Development team as a monthly supporter could you please drop us a line and let us know?

THANK YOU for your love and support.  This simply can’t happen without many hands and many hearts being spurred to action.  We appreciate you more than we can say.  This is not “The Johnson‘s Mission”, this is God’s mission and we all get to play a part.  Everybody gets to play!  We are honored to join with you on this great mission of love.  

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”     
Ephesians 3:20-21