We Are Safe

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nina and her son, Seriozha

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

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

❤️ 🇺🇦 ❤️

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Massively Exciting News!

This was originally shared in our newsletter (last Friday), but I wanted to make sure everyone got the news. If you aren’t signed up for our newsletter you should be! Sign up below 😊

So, last week I told you all a bit more about Zhanna and Vanya and about how much they have come to mean to our family and team. Well, you didn’t know it, but I was prepping you for this week’s news: Zhanna and Vanya will soon be moving into the duplex!! Ohhhhhh yeah, you read it right. They are officially becoming a part of our team and family here on the Homestead and we are so thankful and excited. 

Years ago, before we even had land in our village, before we adopted Vlad or had guardianship of any of our boys, we would sit and imagine how the dream God had given us would play out. We wondered who would come to help us, who would want to live with the boys, and Jed had an idea. He thought about how amazing it would be if parents who already had their own children with disabilities would want to come live with our boys in community. That way, our boys would have loving people in their lives who already see the value in every life, and our team could help support the parents as they raise their children into adulthood. We thought it could be a win-win for everyone.

When we met Zhanna last spring it was obvious from the start that she shared our same heart. We clicked right from the beginning. Back in the fall I shared our dream of parents like her living with our boys and offhand mentioned “Hey! Wanna come live with Anton and Sasha?” We laughed about it and moved on. Then on Chrismas day, when we were having a quiet day with the boys, Zhanna and Vanya were with us and she brought up that conversation. She asked me if I really meant what I said about parents like her living with our boys. I told her I definitely meant it! Parents like her already “get” our life. It is not a big adjustment to live with our boys, because she has already adjusted her entire life for Vanya. She is committed to him for life- she’s not going anywhere. Zhanna told me she was seriously considering it, and we started to discuss details. Then on New Years Eve, she came to me and told me “I want to live here with the boys. I feel in my heart that it is the right thing for us.” ❤️
We met later to talk details, and the decision was made. Our family just grew.

Next week Zhanna and Vanya will begin to spend their days at the duplex, and then sleep at home at night. We will all take our cues from the boys and over the next couple of months they will slowly transition to living full-time with Anton and Sasha. At the end of February Grant will join them. 💪 It will require each and every one of us to grow and change, but we are all ready. One of our values is to be a welcoming community- and we are ready to live that value out. Zhanna and Vanya will no longer be alone, and we will have more of the help we desperately need so that we can bring more boys out of Romaniv and into family life. 

I really can’t thank you enough for praying. God was working on Zhanna’s heart for months and we had no idea. Anton and Sasha are in the perfect spaces, emotionally, to be able to accept new people into their home. It is just right. 

God is so good to us and our boys. He doesn’t miss a detail. 

BeLOVE[d]

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Redefining Family

Back in May we had our first “Open Doors Day” for Dim Hidnosti, the Ukrainian arm of Wide Awake. Open Doors Day is a time for our organization to open wide our doors and invite people from the community to come see and learn about our work. Many of our volunteers have joined us after coming to an Open Door Day. We’ve had 3 so far, and each has been a success. I think it’s time to do another!

So back in May, we planned and prepared, anticipating our first time of opening up our doors. We had no idea who would come and if it would be worth all the time and effort. I remember the day of, it was a beautiful day- so sunny and warm- until it wasn’t. Just as people started arriving the floodgates opened and it began to pour down rain. We had planned to gather outside, so everyone was running around like crazy, bringing everything inside and adjusting plans last minute. We had a great turnout; the house was jam packed. It was not ideal to be crammed inside, but we were all just happy that so many people came.

That day turned out to be a super significant day, although we didn’t know it at the time! That was the day we met our dear friends who we now call family, Zhanna and Vanya. Zhanna is mom to Vanya and a psychologist. She has worked tirelessly in our city for the rights of people with autism. She has counseled moms who have a newly diagnosed child and worked with the high-ups in the city toward inclusion and support for families who have a child with autism. And all the while Zhanna has single-parented her son Vanya, who is 15 and has autism. I’m not sure how Zhanna found out about the Open Doors Day, but she came, and it turned out to be a life-changing day for all of us.

Zhanna and Vanya started coming to just about every single gathering and event that our team provided. They were present at every art class, every party, every outing. It was just a natural fit from the very start. We love them and they love us. It feels like we have always been together. Zhanna and Vanya spent Christmas and New Years with us, and yesterday we all celebrated Vanya’s 16th birthday together. It was really special. Vanya understood that it was a special day and he was so happy!

Yesterday at Vanya’s birthday Zhanna told us it was the first time she really felt like she and Vanya were accepted in a family just as they are. They are not expected to be something they are not, or something they can’t be. They are loved just because they are Zhanna and Vanya, and they are precious to us. They have become a part of our big Wide Awake Family.

When our family moved to Ukraine and left our biological families behind we began to redefine “family” in our hearts. We had no choice but to open our hearts to the possibility of finding family in Ukraine, or else be alone. Then, of course, we added our boys to our family and redefined “family” once again. When someone asks me how many children I have I always stumble on my answer. “Well, I have 6 Johnson kids, but then 4 more who call me ‘Mama’, but a couple of them are in their 30’s and they don’t actually live in our home…”

Nope. No. No more. I decided I’m done with that. I’m done with the stumbling and mumbling and explaining. If I am “Mama” to our boys, then they are my sons. In my heart they are my sons, and in their hearts I am Mama, so why do I need to stumble over my words? Jed and I are committed to them for life, and we have ultimate responsibility for their health and well-being, soul, mind, and body. They are our family. I am a mother of 10. 😆

We still dream that in the duplex there would be house parents (a mother and a father figure), but we also have learned over the past couple of years that the nuclear family is not the only type of family that can be amazing. Friends who are committed to each other through the good times and the bad can also create a wonderful family. When Max and Morgan moved back to the US we worried that Anton and Sasha would feel that loss of house parents and that it would affect them negatively, but we have learned an amazing truth over the past 4 months: our team is Anton and Sasha’s family. Yes, they have our Johnson family always and forever, but that’s not where their family ends. They have our entire team who is committed to them and loves them: Lesya, Masha, another Masha, Tanya, Tonya, Luda, Nina, Oleg, Maxim, Ruslan, and MIra. No matter who is sleeping at the duplex with them each night, they have been just fine, because it’s always someone from their family there with them, and they know they are safe and loved.

Last week Jed and I met with Zhanna and we were talking about our future together with her and Vanya. We discussed our commitment to them as a part of our family, how in our hearts “family” is not reserved just for those who live in our home or who share our blood. We have team members who have basically no biological family and we are family to each other. Zhanna and Vanya have been very much alone and there is no reason they should stay that way: we can be family for each other. ❤️

Family is a place to know and be known.

Family is a place to forgive and be forgiven.

Family is a place to serve and be served.

Family is a place to love and BeLOVE[d].

I thank God for the beautiful family he has given us, both here and in the US. We are blessed to be loved by many people, and to be able to open our hearts to others who have been alone for so long.

Do you know of anyone who is need of family? Maybe your next YES is opening your heart to someone who is lonely. ❤️ Why not give it a try?

BeLOVE[d]

BeLOVE[d]

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Where to Find the Wide Awake Podcast 😉

Hey Friends!

Just an FYI, that we published two new episodes of the podcast this weekend. I don’t want to clutter this blog with podcast info, so…you can find everything podcast-related (direct link to different listening platforms, transcripts of the episodes) on the podcast website here.

The purpose of the podcast is just to provide another avenue of storytelling from here in Ukraine. We truly desire that our work here would always be transparent and that anyone who is interested would never have to wonder “What’s actually going on over there in Ukraine?” We want you to know it all so that you can be a part of this journey. The more you know the better you know how to pray and how to best join us on this journey.

Episodes will be published twice a month and can be found wherever you normally listen to podcasts.

Let me know what you think, and also, please speak up if you want to hear about a certain topic. I’d love to know what you want to hear! 🥰

BeLOVE[d]

Introducing the Wide Awake Podcast!

Oooooooh yeah. That’s right. We’re starting a podcast!

We wanted to try something new in 2022 and decided that trying our hand at podcasting could be a really fun way to keep on sharing the story of Wide Awake. Because, why not? 😉

I’ve been a longtime fan of podcasts. I think they are a really fun way to learn new things and a really great way to tell stories. I’ll still blog a bit, but the main way I’ll be sharing the story of Wide Awake will be on the podcast. 

What you can expect: 

  • We’ll put out two podcast episodes a month. This weekly newsletter will continue, and I will always link to new episodes of the podcast here in the newsletter.
  • We will transcribe the podcast onto the blog. If you aren’t a fan of listening and would rather read, we’ve got you covered. 
  • The podcast will soon be available wherever you normally listen to podcasts. So make sure to subscribe so you don’t miss an episode!

I think this will be a really fun project for us. I hope you enjoy! 

(One little correction: at the end I said that the podcast can be found everywhere you normally listen to podcasts, but it actually will take a couple of weeks to show up in all the podcast places. 😉)

Wide Awake Int. Trailer Transcription:

“Hi Wide Awake Community! This is Kim, and welcome to the Wide Awake Podcast. I’m so excited to be sharing all of our stories with you this year in a new format.

If you’re new to Wide Awake, if you don’t know us, I’ll let you know that we are in Ukraine and our vision is to bring hope, love, and dignity to people with disabilities. We’re doing that through deinstitutionalization. We’re working to bring our friends out of institutions and into family life because we believe that every person is valuable. and every person deserves to know the love of a family here on Earth.

So, that’s what we’re all about, and we’ve been sharing our story for 10 years! Actually, I just went back and looked at our blog today and guys, I’ve been writing on this blog for 10 years. Ten years!! I started it in June 2011 and I just.. really , it’s no wonder I need a new adventure, a new format! I’m so tired of blogging. 😂 I’m not going to completely abandon it, but I really want to try something new.

Back when we started the blog, My husband Jed and I, and our four kids (we thought our family was so big… yeah, it was so tiny!) were living in Oregon, and we were starting the process to adopt a little boy from Ukraine with Apert Syndrome. At the time, they said for anybody who’s adopting it’s a really good idea for you to start a blog just to let people know how your process is going. So of course I jumped on the blog bandwagon! And if you remember back in 2011, everybody was blogging. It was the thing to do. Everybody was there. And now in 2022 I guess everybody’s podcasting, I’m jumping on that bandwagon!

You know, sometimes something amazing or something super funny will happen here and I just want to tell you about it. But then I sit down to write and it just falls flat. It’s just, it’s just not the same. And so, I’m really excited to share our stories with my voice. And I hope that it will bring new life and an interesting new way to share what’s happening here.

What you can expect from us is we’re going to put up new episodes, two times a month, and we’re just going to tell our story. I’m going to start next week with our origin story. I’m just gonna start from the beginning. How did we end up here in Ukraine in a tiny little village with goats and chickens and cats and dogs, and a lot of adult men with disabilities? I never would have guessed that 10 years ago!

I know some of you have followed us for a long time and you already know how we got here, but I just think it’s really good to go back and remember. I think I actually need that reminder. Sometimes I can get kind of stuck in the day to day, the everyday life stuff of parenting and groceries and cooking for everybody. And I can just kind of lose sight of that passion that we had those first couple years. I really want to relive that. I want to go back and remember how we got to where we are.

So we’re just going to start at the beginning, and then we’ll see where it leads. I’d like to interview our team members. I’d love to hear what you’d like to hear about! Go ahead and ask questions, request topics. 😊 I’d love to know what you’d like to hear. The main purpose of this is just it’s just another way for you to join our life and our work here; to share our joys and our sorrows here. I hope that you’ll enjoy it. I think it’s going to be really fun.

You’ll be able to find our podcast anywhere where you normally listen to podcasts. Of course, you’re going to need to subscribe so you don’t miss anything.😉 Also, if you prefer to read instead of listening, we’re going to try to transcribe the podcast so that they’ll come up on the blog in a written form for anybody who prefers not to hear my voice. I won’t judge you. Ha! So we’ll see here next week for the origin story. And I hope you’ll join us. This is going to be a really fun adventure. Bye!”