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.

 

Offended by the Goodness of God

Here are some reflections from Jed. Warning: extreme passion ahead.  I hope you can read this with an an open heart to what the Father wants to say to you.

Church songs are great, right?

  
The lyrics pick us up in hard times, they carry us through the week and we are so glad to have the simple melody and words to express an emotion to God.  
Or, they comfort our broken heart: songs of His goodness, faithfulness, love and on and on.  
We’re walking through Gap whistling the tune, “You make all things work together for my good,” as you find your favorite pair of jeans on sale. The person in front of you buys your drink at Starbucks, “Hallelu,Hallelu, Hallelu.u.Yah.” Ok, that might be a bit off topic. 🙂

Good stuff.
Have you ever had a moment when a dear friend shares the depths of pain as a relationship crumbles, or the newsfeed reads of another child dying while escaping a war torn country, and all of the sudden those worship lyrics start to fall flat?  
For us there is the oh-so-often overwhelming sense that there is not enough time or hands to give each of our boys the time they need. And even when we do get time and have plenty of hands, we still have to return them to their extremely traumatic lives.

  

The religious prose no longer feel robust enough to contain the suffering caused by human injustice. 
You might find yourself saying, as we find ourselves saying “These lyrics don’t ring true. God, you certainly don’t seem like a good, good father. Where are you????”
Or, maybe you’ve been on a missions trip and when you came home you could barely stand under the weight of western excess in light of the severe poverty witnessed afar. Perhaps you found yourself slamming your fist down, “God, how can you allow this injustice?! This inequality! Why have you forgotten those lovely people?”
“I can’t sing these songs to you God.” You may have even felt some bitterness swelling up in your chest. Dare I say, Doubt…?

Well, if you are brave enough to sit with these feelings for a spell and not ‘numb out’, not head back to the mall or app store to ‘buy out’, you may hear God speak his answer to these questions that haunt our faith.

Think of the story of worship leader Kevin Prosch, who met God in the closet his dad locked him in and learned to play the guitar and worship in the midst of the abuse.  
Or, think of the miracle tree growing in the midst of a shanty in the garbage dumps of Nicaragua that provides medicine for the family living there.
Or think of our boys and their amazing capacity to love, despite their circumstances.  
God speaks. Are we brave enough to listen?

But, maybe you need more than testimony. Perhaps you still can’t reconcile the goodness of God.  

This is me, by the way.
 
But are you still brave enough to sit with these questions, these accusations…?  
Most aren’t.  

Many have quietly walked away from God, shaking their heads.
“I’ve just got too many unanswered questions,” is the statement as they make their curtain call from church community. In that case, there is a world waiting with open arms to receive your weary soul, clinking glasses, “Three cheers for one less fool, duped by faith.”

My dear cousin Brett sat outside of the garbage dump in Nicaragua, having seen the immensity of inequality and suffering caused by poverty. But then he noticed the healing tree I mentioned earlier, and he saw the comfort siblings were able to provide their dying baby brother.
As he held these accusations out to God, “How are you working all things together for their good…? How are you perfect in all of your ways?” God met him and said, “You equate my goodness with material wealth and well-being. But goodness looks far greater than what you deem as good. You don’t get to define me and my goodness. You won’t see all that I do for my people and don’t assume that my “lack of material provision” means that I am unmoved by their suffering.”

  

As Kim and I sit in the midst of suffering with our boys, we hear God say, “I am so near to these precious ones. Their capacity to love comes from my nearness to them, despite all that this world has done to their bodies. I am holding them close.”

Yesterday, I was reflecting on this while watching Cousin Brett sing songs with my boys, who were rocking, singing, clapping, crying, screaming, self-harming or off in their own world. 
A thought came to me, maybe a revelation. When time wraps up and we stand before God we will see the truth. We will see how He has been with each of us in our highest joys and our deepest suffering. We will see His goodness, the way He defines it, for everyone, and we will say “God, you are righteous and just in all of Your ways.”  
And at that point some real worship is gonna go down.

Until that day comes, we have some great words in the book of Psalms to help us process, petition and bring our accusations to God. Psalms is a book in the Bible where the writer rages at the sight of injustice, pours his heart out in the places of pain and loss, and at the end of the day he still has a price on his head and a heart full of love.
Maybe Psalms and all its honesty and sometimes offensive accusations might be a little more helpful than quoting pop church songs, when we’re struggling through life’s deep questions. God is not surprised by our questions, nor is He offended by them.  
Maybe that big book in the corner needs a little dusting off.  

The Most Important Post, Revisited

November is a good month. We have two family birthdays, it’s Thanksgiving, the holiday season begins, the weather is cozy, and it’s National Adoption Month! Did you know? Have you heard? There is a whole month designated for sharing about the plight of orphans and the blessing of adoption. Yep, that sounds just about perfect to me.

I wrote this post last November.  I wanted to share it again (revamped a bit) in honor of National Adoption Month.  It’s crazy because when I wrote this a year ago I had no idea we would adopt Vladik.  Now this post means more than ever to me.  There are many different great responses to the orphan issue, and your response will likely be different than mine. But for the sake of our Boys, every response is important.

  

The work we do, and Mission to Ukraine has done for many years at Romaniv is important and necessary. It is life-altering for our Boys. Boys who were once strangers that flinched at touch and cowered from any human interaction are now dear loved ones who come scooting and crawling and hobbling as soon as they hear our voices. One boy who used to avoid eye contact at all cost now seeks out our gaze and will sit forehead to forehead with Jed as the guitar is played- just looking into Jed’s eyes. No words, just a look. It is enough for us to see that God is doing miracles.

And yet.

No work we do could ever be more beneficial than a family.

No treatment could ever be as effective as the love of a family.

No weighted vest could be more comforting than a mother’s arms.

No helmet could offer better protection than a father’s embrace. 

This work we do is a stopgap. It is the next best thing possible in this situation. But it is not a family, and it is not nearly enough. There is no future for our Boys here. Even when our dreams come true and we build group homes where they can be loved and cared for, it still won’t hold a candle to a life spent as part of a loving family. There are nannies at Romaniv that do care for the Boys deeply, but they face an impossible task. How can 2 nannies care for more than 20 boys with severe disabilities and do an even satisfactory job?

Most of the boys and men at Romaniv are not legally free to be adopted. Either their parents still maintain their parental rights, or the boys are over the age of 18 which prevents them from being adopted. To those boys and men we commit to doing whatever we possibly can to love them, care for them, and give them a future worth living until they day they are made whole in heaven.
  

Some of our Boys, though, ARE available for international adoption.  After some hesitation, and prayerful consideration we shared them with you.  There are many layers to this. We feel protective of our Boys and the work that is being done; we want to avoid any exploitation; we have a relationship to maintain with the orphanage directors that requires vigilant care. Nothing about this is simple, so we have been treading lightly with steps full of prayer. And yet, our boys are just not thriving, and they never ever will in an institution.  They need families.  ALL our boys need families, but Alex, Micah, Stephan, Aaron, Ben and Isaiah actually have the opportunity for family- a life saving opportunity.

So I’m asking that you see our Boys. I’m asking that you stop and see them for the treasures they are. See their immense value. See their precious beauty. Consider their lives as weighty as your own and ask the Lord how you should respond to this knowledge that some of them are waiting for families. If you follow Jesus you are called to care for the orphan in some way. Even if you don’t believe in Jesus I bet you can agree that this is a justice issue that can not be ignored.
                                                                    

                                                                 “Learn to do right; seek justice.

                                                                            Defend the oppressed.

                                                                 Take up the cause of the fatherless;

                                                             plead the case of the widow.” Isaiah 1:17

Maybe you are supposed to pray. A million times thank you! Prayer is important and essential. Any of the progress that’s been made has only come through the power of the Holy Spirit. Our Boys need prayer!

Maybe you are supposed to give financially to help improve the quality of life for our Boys. Yes! Thank you so very much! None of this would even be happening if we didn’t have faithful financial supporters on the team.
Maybe you are supposed to adopt. Please don’t dismiss this response. I am confident that some of you who read this are called to respond through adoption. Children were made for families! Children were not made for institutions. One hour spent at the institution will prove that point. I must warn you though that any romanticism concerning the adoption of one of our Boys ends with the fuzzy feelings you may be feeling as you read this post. It will not be romantic. It will be a hard road and much faith will be required. But- it will be a road worth walking. I am confident of that. Orphans are very important to our God and He has gone to great lengths to prove His love for these particular Boys. He will not allow the world to forget them now, and He’s not about to forget them when they step out of Romaniv’s gates.

  

I have spent hours with these boys. I have held them in my arms. I have kissed their cheeks. I have held their hands so they won’t harm themselves. Now I call one of them my son and he is asleep, warm and safe in the next room.  They are real people. They were created with purpose and God has good plans for them. When I look at Vladik now and think of the life he lived there and was destined to live for the rest of his days had he not been adopted I can’t help but cry.  Friends, he is precious.  He is a joy in our lives.  He is smart and funny and loving and worthy of this life he’s been given.  All the love and attention and cuddles we can heap on him- he deserves them all.  Hopes and dreams of retirement and empty-nester days fall flat when weighed against the life of a child.  

There you have it. Now you know, and I now I humbly ask you to respond. I ask you to stop and pray and ask the Lord what He would have you to do. Say yes and don’t look back.  Please pray that adoptive families would step out with boldness and faith. Any serious inquiries can be emailed to kjohnson@wideawakeinternational.org and I would be happy to talk with you more. 

Please share this post and give our Boys a voice this month. Thank you!
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute.” Proverbs 31:8


Alex, Micah, Stephan, Aaron, Isaiah, and Ben all wait for families of their own.  A friend of ours is doing a wonderful fundraiser/giveaway to help raise adoption grants for them, so that when their families do step up the expense will be defrayed a bit.  If you feel that your response is to give financially, then please, please visit this website and drop some dollars in their accounts.  Thank you!  

 

Alex

  

Micah

 
 

Stephan

  

Aaron

  

Isaiah

  

Ben

 

 

 

 

 

All About Vladik

Our Vladik (aka Vladchik, Vlad, Sonichko, Lyubime…and on and on) has been home with us for 12 days now and it sorta feels like it’s been forever.  He is just the perfect fit for us and we are the perfect fit for him.  It’s like it was always meant to be.  

After 15 years in institutions, and the last 11 at Romaniv- in one hallway, he is doing AMAZING.  It’s actually pretty miraculous. We aren’t sure all what Vladik does and doesn’t understand, but one thing is for sure: He was READY for a family.  From the day he left Romaniv with Jed in his new clothes and shoes he has never called us “Jed and Kim” again, only “Papa and Mama”.  He knows.  It’s a miracle.  

  
 Here’s the lowdown, for all the Vladik-lovers out there.  🙂

Siblings. Vladik is SO SO SOOOOOOOO happy to have siblings!!!!  He absolutely loves them all, being especially partial to the boys.  He likes to take them to school and walk them to their classrooms.  He gets super excited when it’s time to go pick up Hava and Seth (half-day kinders).  Like, even if he is on the swing (his most favorite thing), he’ll gladly pause if it means going to pick up the kids.  When he sees them standing in line with their class he runs over and gives them big hugs.  Vladik and Seth are great friends!  Finally Seth has someone who’s interested in cars and balls and all things BOY!  When Vladik and Seth are both home they are playing together constantly, joined at the hip.  They are truly God’s gift to each other.   

 

Sleep.  Bringing home a newly adopted child is a lot like bringing home a newborn from the hospital.  Everything changes, the new “baby” requires a lot of mommy and daddy’s attention, you spend a lot of time figuring out eating and pooping habits (not so fun with a 15 year old..hehe..but then, is dealing with another person’s poop ever fun??).  But, I gotta say, after 8 straight years of constant newborns (foster and bio), I can fullyappreciate  Vladik’s amazing sleep habits.  He is a GREAT sleeper!!!  

For now, Vladik sleeps in his own bed in the room with Jed and me.  It just makes good sense to have him close to us at night, for his own sense of security and our peace of mind, until we feel the time is right to move him in with the other kiddos.  He goes to sleep easily and he sleeps all night.  The only issue, and it’s a big one, is sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea is a common problem with kiddos with Apert Syndrome, and we have big concerns about it for our Vladik.  He snores loud all night long.  He can’t really breathe through his nose, so that’s an issue too.  He sleeps with his back arched and his head thrown back, which is a common position for kids who are struggling to get air.  He stops breathing and hacks and coughs all night long.  Making it possible for him to sleep safely is our number one medical priority for Vladik. 

We have a great routine of a nightly shower and then massage before bed.  The other night he said “Papa, I’m going to sleep with mama tonight.  You sleep alone over there.”  hahahahahaha!  What a sweetie. 

  
Language.  Vladik’s language is exploding!  He literally does not stop talking.  We aren’t speaking English to Vladik at all, we’re just sticking to Ukrainian.  If we were going to be living in the US we would start teaching him English, but there’s really no point since we are going back to Ukraine.  He is surrounded by English, since our family speaks that to each other all the time at home, so I’m sure he’ll pick it up.  But really, it is in everyone’s best interest to keep Vladik speaking Ukrainian.  We are improving our skills and he isn’t losing his.  Win win.  🙂  Vladik’s speech is super hard to understand, due to all the structural issues with his face, but we are understanding him better all the time.  I don’t know if that’s because his speech is improving or because we are just used to “Vladik speech”.  Either way, he is able to make his needs and wants understood, and we are able to communicate just fine.  

  
Food.  This is the hardest thing at this point.  Vladik is used to eating the same 4-5 foods every.single.day.  There is not much texture in the Romaniv food because many of the boys have swallowing problems and very few teeth with which to chew.  Feeding time at Romaniv is CRAZY town.  But, I digress.  🙂 Anyway, Vladik has a hard time with new textures and new flavors.  So, the struggle is to find foods he’ll eat without me having to cook two different meals all the time. (Ain’t nobdy got time for that!)  If I have a pot of mashed potatoes and a pot of soup in the fridge to fall back on, then all is well. But heaven forbid we should run out of mashed potatoes! 😉  We’re just trying to slowly intro new foods and at least make him try them before flat out rejecting them.  It’s hard to know which struggles are sensory and which are structural.  Baby steps, baby steps.

  
Medical. Last week we started Vladik’s medical journey and it’s gonna be a long one, folks.  We had an appointment with our primary pediatrician and she basically referred us to every specialist known to man: neurosurgery, genetics, ear-nose-throat, Shriners for hands and feet, craniofacial, dentistry, ophthalmology, radiology (for scoliosis x-rays), occupational therapy,  and speech pathology/feeding.  The referrals have been made, so now we just wait for everyone to call us to schedule appointments.  Let’s get this party started!  

Social/Attachment.  Our Vladik is one smart cookie.  He understands that we are his family and he belongs with us.  He is appropriately shy with new people and there is no danger of him wanting to walk off with some random person.  He’s a naturally cautious kiddos, so he’s also not really a “wanderer”. During the adoption process we prayed that God would pepare Vladik’s heart for a family and He has totally answered that prayer.  The boys at Romaniv have absolutely ZERO concept of what a family is.  They never seen family modeled to them.  They have no books about families.  They are completely isolated from society and most have never experienced family life.  So Vladik’s entry to our family is something we were super curious about.  But he gets it.  He really does.  We have been building this bond for a couple of years now, so that has made everything a whole heck of a lot easier.  He already knew us and we were already the “good guys” in his life.  He accepts affection and is starting to be the one to initiate affection more every day.

  
As far as Vladik being 15 years old, and coming from a really horrible environment, and being in the home with our little kids, we are not worried. He is definitely the youngest, developmentally, and does not at all take on a dominating role.  That’s just not his personality. We are taking appropriate precautions though, and we know we need to be wise. We have seen where he came from. 🙁   For instance, for now Vladik sleeps in our room. We always have the kids in earshot or in our line of sight when they are playing. We are trying to teach our other kids a bit more modesty (they’re not very good about that here at home) 🙂 and explaining to them why it’s important that we be modest in front of Vladik: “To teach him how he should behave in a family…” But all in all, we have no big concerns. He is appropriate and very much still a little boy. We knew that about him before we ever decided to bring him into our family.

Emotional/Spiritual. Vladik is absolutely amazing. He is a miracle. How in the world did he keep his joy throughout all he endured? He is ALWAYS happy. He is the light of our family’s lives. He is thoughtful and obedient (most of the time) and pure sunshine. He brings us immense joy. 

The only time he has really acted out was at the doctor’s office. He was very nervous and stressed. He wouldn’t listen and was acting so crazy- as in, I’ve never ever seen him like that before. Then he started talking. He spoke of Romaniv and people there, things they did. To each other. To him. Our hearts were broken. To the average person, it’s hard to imagine, by looking at our boy, how immensely he has suffered. I can almost forget it myself. And then he talks. Then we remember that one month of freedom doesn’t erase 11 years in hell on earth. His journey to complete healing will be a long one, but he is already well on his way. 

  
Many people have asked us if Vladik misses Romaniv or his friends there. It’s a good question, especially when so many people love our Boys there so deeply and associate that love with “Romaniv” as a whole. But I have to tell you, that to ask that question is to not understand what Romaniv truly is. I don’t say that to look down my nose at you, or to shame the askers, I’m just saying that if you spent 10 minutes just observing Romaniv life, not playing there, but just observing, you would never even wonder about that question. Life at Romaniv consist of fences, walls, benches, neglect, abuse, survival of the fittest, and horrors most of us would never imagine even exist in this present time. NO person, let alone child, should have to stay even one night there. 

You all know how deeply committed we are to Romaniv. You know that we have hope for change and we are committed to change there. You know we love the boys, and we also love the staff and administration. We do! God has called us there- to give our lives to these boys, these nannies, these directors. And because of that deep love and commitment I feel I can speak honestly and frankly about the reality. I hope you understand. 

This morning Vladik was looking at the pictures on our fridge of some of the boys and he saw the Isolation Hall, his home for 11 years, in the picture.  He pointed to the window that he used to spend hours staring out of and said “My bedroom.” I said “Yes, you used to sleep there, but not now!” He just looked at the picture and said “I don’t like that room. I don’t want that room. Foo! (Ukrainian for ‘yuck!’) It’s bad! I don’t want that picture.” Then with a glance at me for permission, he took the picture off the fridge and handed it to me. “All done!” He said. Then I asked him to show me his bedroom. We ran into our room and flopped down on the comfy bed, all giggles and cuddles. 

That’s right. All done, sweet baby. You’ve got your whole life in front of you. 🙂 

Did you know several other boys at Romaniv are available for adoption? They can have the same future as Vladik, if only a few brave families will step up and say yes. Could you be one of the rescuers? You can read about the boys here and here. Please, read about them with an open heart and see what God might say. Thank you! 

A Love Story, Part 1

This is the first in a series of posts about our adoption story.  It’s a miraculous story and I pray God uses it to speak to other families who are considering adoption.  So many boys and girls like our Vladik wait and wait for their lives to begin.  Every child deserves the love of a family.  Would you read with an open heart and ask God how He would have you respond? 

This is a love story.  For God so loved Vladik, that He preserved his life until the day his mommy and daddy would find him.  For God so loved our family, that He picked us up out of our lives and dropped us across the world so that we could find our baby.

One night, in August 2010, with newborn Seth, our foster baby asleep at my side, I was browsing online.  I have no idea what I was looking for, but somehow I came across the blog of a woman who had just returned from Ukraine, having adopted two little girls with Down Syndrome.  Her story caught my attention and I ended up reading her whole adoption story in one evening.  One blog led to another, which led to another, and pretty soon I found myself immersed in a world I had had no idea existed, the world of special needs adoption.  My heart was broken in two, never to be the same.

  
Jed and I always knew we would adopt someday.  We believed in orphan care and it was important to us.  Since before we were married we had dreamed of moving overseas to care for orphans.  That’s why I became a nurse!  While we waited for God to send us overseas we fostered medically fragile babies.  So yeah, adoption was on our radar, but not orphans with disabilities, or kids with disabilities in general.  We just hadn’t thought of it.  Well, maybe that’s not all true.  We had thought of it, and then rejected it.  “Yes, we’ll adopt- but only healthy kids.  We could never raise a child that would require our hands-on care forever.”  We fostered babies with special needs, but that wasn’t permanent.

 

Jed with baby Seth, during our fostering days 🙂

 
A while later I came upon Julia’s blog.  Julia was advocating, and still does advocate, for orphans with disabilities.  Fun Fact: We have since met each other twice here in Ukraine, and Julia even got to come to Romaniv to meet our Boys!  Isn’t God fun?   Julia was advocating for a little guy in Ukraine with Apert Syndrome.  Did you know our new son Vladik has this same syndrome? Like I said, God is fun 🙂  I had never heard of that syndrome, didn’t know anything about it, but that boy struck me.  I read her post and learned that he was 4 years old and about to be transferred to a bad place- an institution.  He needed to be adopted quickly.  I’m telling you what, I fell for that baby hard.  Jed came home one night to a red-faced, sobbing wife and was a little confused.  Ha!  I started rambling to him about Ukraine and orphans with disabilities and mental institutions and teenagers in cribs and “aging out” and he stood there shocked.  I told him “We have to DO SOMETHING.  We can’t just sit by and let this happen.  We have to do something!!!”  He was a little shell shocked, but agreed to pray about it and see if God laid it on his heart as well.  What a guy.  🙂

In the meantime “Jonah”, the little Apert guy was constantly on my mind.  His face was in my dreams.  I would weep over him and all the little ones in cribs as I did the dishes. My heart ached and the ache wouldn’t stop.  The Holy Spirit was at work.  God was working in Jed’s heart too, and soon we were both praying about how to respond to Jonah, specifically.  We prayed for many months.  We sought council from our parents and our pastor.  We prayed some more.  Then in early 2011, after much prayer, many miracles and confirmations (SO MANY), it became abundantly clear that God was asking us to move forward to adopt Jonah.

 

The first photo we saw of Jonah

 
We were so excited!!!  This sweet one who had captured our hearts would be our son!  Gone were the worries about raising a child who would need our care forever.  We could have cared less.  All of our old worries and hesitations seemed so selfish.  In the light of what these babies suffer without a mommy and daddy to fight for them, in the light of what Jesus did for us…how could I be worried about losing our “empty nester” years???  Our baby needed us.

So, we sent in the initial committment paperwork and money to say to the adoption world “You don’t need to advocate for this one anymore, we’re coming for him!”  In Ukraine there is no referral given to adoptive families before they travel.  You can pursue the adoption of a certain child, but until you actually get to Kyiv and request their file there is no guarantee that you will actually get that child.  Another family could go there first and adopt them, not knowing your intentions.  You could get there and that child may not even be adoptable.  There are many unknowns.  We were aware of that, but when we got the email a few weeks after we had sent in our initial paperwork, letting us know that another American family who was already in Ukraine was adding our boy to their adoption, we were utterly devastated.

Shocked.  Heartbroken.  Confused.  Happy for our Jonah, that he could have a mommy and daddy so soon, but heartsick that they were not us.

We had loved Jonah from afar for many months and now we would never even get to meet him.  God had spoken so clearly.  We had researched the heck out of Apert Syndrome and felt so well-equipped.  Miracles had paved the way for us to begin the adoption process.  God, what was that all about?  What were you doing?  Why?

Then God spoke again.  Jed was out mowing the lawn, praying, asking God what He was up to and he felt God speak to Him so clearly,

“Jed, I am so much more interested in the process than in the end result.  You have one end result in mind, but I’m taking you on a journey.  I needed you to love Jonah like a father.  I needed you to love him with abandon.  I needed you to have that father’s heart for Jonah because I need you to love lots of little boys and girls like Jonah.”

And so it happened that a little boy with Apert Syndrome caught our hearts and led us to Ukraine.  A little boy with Apert Syndrome broke our hearts for Ukrainian orphans.  He helped us to fall in love with children with disabilities- so in love that we would give up everything and cross the world to touch them and smile at them and hold them in our arms.  God used Jonah to start us on the best journey of our lives- the journey to our Boys and our own little treasure, our Vladik.

To be continued 🙂