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 ūüėČ)

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

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‚Ķalmost normal? ūü§∑‚Äć‚ôÄÔłŹ

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. 

‚úÖ 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.

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

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

‚úÖ 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. 

‚úÖ 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.” ūüėÜ 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]

‚̧ԳŹ ūüáļūüᶠ‚̧ԳŹ

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ONE YEAR!!!

One year.¬† ONE YEAR!¬† Today marks one year since we landed in Ukraine to start this crazy new journey.¬† ¬†¬†We‚Äôre calling today our ‚ÄúUkraine-iversary‚ÄĚ.

I remember the elevator door opening in to the baggage claim at the airport in Kyiv.  I remember looking around and wondering how on God’s green earth were we going to get all 12 suitcases, all 4 carry-ons, all 5 personal items, the guitar, and all four children from baggage claim, through customs, and to the van that we hoped was waiting for us.

And then.  Then I saw frantic waving through the sliding door as it opened and closed past customs.  There were at least 8 friends from Kyiv Vineyard with HUGE smiles on their faces, waiting to help us out the door.  Oh the relief.  Those dear, sweet friends will never understand what the moment meant to me.  We were not alone.  We had loved ones waiting for us.  And that’s how it has been along this whole journey.

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Now some of those who greeted us are like our Ukrainian family.  Now Vasya, the driver who I hoped and prayed really would be waiting for us, is a loved friend who drives us to and from Romaniv almost every single week.

What a journey.  What.a.journey.

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This year has been full.

Full of laughter, and full of tears.  Full of hugs and kisses, and full of loneliness.  Full of learning, and full of humility.  Full of intense joy and intense grief.  Full of being a stranger, and full of absolute belonging.

But most of all, this year has been full to the brim, and then overflowing with blessing.

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God has blessed us this year beyond our wildest dreams.  His goodness has been without end.  This has been the hardest year of our lives, but also the absolute best year of our lives.  There have been days when we felt like the craziest people on the face of the earth, but God has walked beside us every second.

You know what’s exciting?  This is just the beginning!!!  One year is like nothing!  We’re just scratching the surface of the plans God has for the special boys and young people we serve.  The dreams He has been giving us are even wilder and crazier and bigger than before.

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THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU a million times THANK YOU for walking with us on this journey.  Thank you for your prayers, your encouragement, your comments, your emails, your financial support, your care packages, your love.

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 We are blessed to have you on the team.

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To celebrate this most awesome Ukraine-iversary we have brought back the BeLOVE[d] t-shirts! 

We will be selling the shirts until the end of the month, and 100% of the proceeds will go toward the transportation of our volunteer teams to and from Romaniv.  They are Jesus’ hands and feet to our Boys and your support helps them (and us!) get there as often as possible. 

Check out the sale at www.booster.com/wideawakeinternational

(God’s) Timing is Everything

So yesterday was basically amazing.

We had the extreme honor and pleasure of meeting with a woman in Kyiv who has worked for twenty years to provide rights for, and secure the rights of people with disabilities.  She and her team have worked tirelessly to rewrite laws and create legislation and lobby for the ones we love.  This incredible woman was fighting for our Boys before we even had a clue they existed.  This incredible woman deserves a standing ovation.

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As a mother of an adult son with disabilities she recognized the holes in the social system of Ukraine.  She saw how her own son would fall between those cracks.  She knew the value of his life and decided to do something about it.

As Ukraine attempts to move toward European Standards of Care for institutionalized children and adults it has become obvious that the current model of care can not continue “as is”. ¬†Major overhauls must happen. ¬†Major change must come. ¬†And it will have to be MAJOR.

Before we moved here we told people that the whole social system here in Ukraine would have to change in order for the dreams God has given us to come about. ¬†We dream of community living for people of all abilities where they are not isolated, but are active members of society. ¬†We dream of homes where children are not confined to their beds, but they are truly living and thriving, surrounded by loving support for all their days. ¬†Those dreams are legally impossible with the current system. ¬†BUT, change is coming. ¬†We don’t know when (but we do know it will be soon), we don’t now how, but now we know the people who have been dreaming this dream long before we arrived.

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Timing is everything. ¬†The harvest is so ripe. ¬†How can we honor those who have gone before us? How can we thank them enough for their tireless, unrecognized efforts? ¬†It’s truly humbling and so encouraging! ¬†I mean, think about this: we knew at some point we would have to hire a legal team to dig in to, and fight to change the laws here concerning people with disabilities. ¬†Then yesterday we learned that there are people here already doing that- and with much success!

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There is much, much work to be done, and many battles yet to be fought, but we are not alone. We are a teeny-tiny piece of a great big puzzle here in Ukraine.  There are others who care, and it is personal to them.  We met one of them yesterday.

I’m a concrete thinker. ¬†I like to know what to do next. ¬†All these policies and plans and multi-year projects are nearly impossible for me to wrap my brain around. ¬†But, in our meeting we were given a solid next step to work toward. ¬†We learned that it is important to register Wide Awake International as an NGO here in Ukraine. ¬†That will be to our benefit once the big changes start to take place. ¬†So, we’ll get working on that right away.

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In the meantime we’ll keep in touch with our new contact in Kyiv, and faithfully serve the Boys God has put right in front of us. ¬†It’s more and more obvious as time goes by that this is the exact place we are supposed to be at this exact time in history. ¬†Because of that we can rest. ¬†Even though Ukraine is at war and the task before us seems insurmountable, we can be confident that God is truly in control. ¬†Yay for that!!!! ¬†Thank you all for your continued prayers and support. ¬†You are making a difference in many lives!

The photos are from last week at Romaniv. ¬†Little Ilya was cracking us up with his absolute love for music. ¬†It really helps him to regulate. ¬†He even tried to climb inside the guitar! ¬†Don’t miss him on Jed’s lap in the pics. ¬†Hilarious and awesome. ¬†

 

 

Coffee Chat

On the eve of tomorrow’s presidential elections here in Ukraine, there is much that could be said. ¬†Things are getting more and more crazy in the East. ¬†I can’t even keep up with the news properly. ¬†People on both sides of the conflict are dying and no one knows what will happen next. ¬†Please join us in prayer for tomorrow’s elections! ¬†Pray that people would not be hindered from voting. ¬†Pray that there would be loads of courage and wisdom on each person who decides to make their voice heard. ¬†Pray for honesty and that corruption would be far away from these proceedings. ¬†That almost seems impossible, but we are praying it anyway. ¬†God is doing a new thing here and we choose hope. ¬†

Let’s chat. ¬†Let’s pretend you and I are sitting down for a nice, hot cup of coffee and you just asked me, “So, what have you guys been up to?”

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We’ve been great! ¬†I’m so glad it’s almost summer break. ¬†One more week of school and we’re done!!! ¬†Addy and Ezra had testing last week in reading, writing, and math and they both did fine on all the tests. ¬†Yay! ¬†They both recited poems in their class program and did awesome. FIVE MORE DAYS!!!!! ¬†Good thing too, because it’s really hard to think about school when it’s 80 degrees with blue skies and all the neighbor kids get to stay out playing till after 9:00 every night. ¬†ūüôā

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Speaking of neighbor kids, we have a couple that have started to come over faithfully to invite the kids to come outside and play!  They are sweet little girls that are both 11, and they really enjoy playing with the kids.  They usually bring an assortment of siblings and other tag-alongs with them.  One day they were so desperate to communicate that one of them actually ran inside her apartment and came out with an English-Russian dictionary!  Thank you Jesus for fun kids to run around with.

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The little girls made our kids this picture as a gift. Notice the bottom, “Set, Hava, Ezra, and HARRY” Hahahahahaha!!!! Looks like Addy’s got a new nickname!

So, in case you didn’t know, Ukrainians have a thing for hedgehogs. ¬†Everyone loves hedgehogs here. ¬†You can find candy named after hedgehogs; they are a super common theme in kids’ books; many families have stuffed animal hedgehogs in their houses, and the kids have homework that involves hedgehogs at least once a week. ¬†I love it! ¬†I don’t get it, but I enjoy it. ¬†Well, a couple nights ago there was a hedgehog on our street! ¬†I’d never seen a real one before! ¬†Coooool. ¬†One of the neighbors lightly kicked it until it rolled in to a ball and then he picked it up. I’ve got to admit, I’m becoming a fan!

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We had our second Youth Night at MTU last week. ¬†It was karaoke night and we all had a blast. ¬†We got to be outside, we ate food, chatted, sang, laughed, bowled. ¬†So many smiles…I am absolutely in love with Youth Night.

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Jed even pulled out the air guitar. Intense.

Last week classes at MTU ended for the school year. ¬†Now we enter the summer schedule, which is shaping up to be pretty stinking fun. ¬†I’ll do a post about that later. ¬†Over the past couple of months my friend Tanya and I had the best time meeting with some of the moms whose kids are served at MTU. ¬†Normally while the kids are in classes, the moms meet with Olya, a staff member of MTU. ¬†They chat, pray, and study the Bible. ¬†Olya is pretty busy, so Tanya and I took a couple of her groups and have met with them several times. ¬†We had such fun!! ¬†We drank tea, prayed, chatted…I absolutely loved getting to know some of the moms of the children and youth we serve. ¬†These are some awesome, strong, brave, and loving women. ¬†I adore them!

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Mommies and Me

Today was such a fun day here in Zhytomyr!! ¬†They hung up a record-breaking, HUGE HUGE HUGE Ukrainian flag on a building in our city center. ¬†There was a big gathering today at the flag to hear from some important people in the city, to hear some beautiful music, to sing the National Anthem, and basically just to show support and love the for this wonderful country. ¬†Many, many people were dressed in traditional clothing, there were flags everywhere…it was AWESOME. ¬†I was so thankful we got to be there to participate! ¬†Zhytomyr, as a city, has honestly been a bit sleepy when it comes to all that has been happening these past few months. ¬†But now, a few days after the attack and deaths of some of our own Zhytomyr soldiers who were fighting in the east, Zhytomyr is sleeping no more.

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The view from the other side of the city center. Massive!!!

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University students in traditional dress marched and chanted in the streets.

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Johnson kiddos feelin’ the love…

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Our dear friend Olya helping Havalah in the sidewalk chalk competition. Kids were supposed to draw something to symbolize their love for Ukraine.

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Addy, hard at work. Her writing says “I love Ukraine” -in Ukrainian! Nice job sis!

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Showing our flowery support with traditional hairbands ūüôā

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Some of our favorite people: Oksana, Nastya, Tolik, Victor, Katya,Olya, Oleg, Tanya, and baby Zakhar. (Seth was sooooo done. Haha)

Thank you for loving the Ukrainian people alongside us.  May God have His way and may many hearts be turned to Him during this time.

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