A Christmas Wish: Meet Boris and Vladik


We are having a cozy day at home, just the six of us.  We’re cuddling in, eating yummy food, playing with toys,sipping coffee.  It’s perfect.

Today, on this glorious day, I have just one Christmas wish.  Today I have a wish that all of our Boys at Romaniv would be truly seen.  I have a wish that they would be seen by many as the beautiful souls that they are.

When I first met our Boys all I could see was their outward appearance.  I saw the filth, the snot, the vomit, the disabilities, the deformities.  I smelled the stench.  My ears were full of the awkward noises.  I knew God had called us to give our lives to these Boys, so I prayed that He would help me to see/smell/hear past all that.

And He did!

That was then.  Now, when I see our Boys I see Boris, Slavik, Yaroslav, Misha, Valera, Orhan, Irakli, Ivan, Dima, Andrei, Seriozha, Vova, Zhenya, Vitya, Vladik, Ilya, and Danya.  I see friends.  I see my babies.  I see my treasures.  When I hear the awkward noises they mean something to me.  They are cries of joy or yells of anger or first babbles or moments of sadness and pain.  They are not inappropriate noises now.  They are communication.  They are voices I love.  I’m not gonna lie, I still smell the stench 🙂  Hehe…I’m only human…that’s for stinkin’ sure.  (pun intended)

My Christmas wish is that today you, and many many more will see our Boys as individuals worthy of dignity and love.  I know that if people will really look- past the differences and into the eyes, they will see.  They will see our Boys as they were meant to be seen; as children of God.

And if you really see, then you will never be the same. I’m changed forever for having known them.

So, will you take a Christmas moment and meet my friends?  You won’t be sorry.  🙂



A Christmas Miracle: Part 2

To fully grasp the awesomeness, read Part 1 here.

On Christmas morning Jed and our friend Oleg headed over to Pastor Pavel’s office to start working on the invitation letter.  The goal was to get that letter written and submitted to the Ministry of Culture before December 31st so our letter *hopefully* wouldn’t end up on the bottom of someone’s stack once the offices opened back up after the New Year.  Like I said before, the Ministry of Culture “generally” takes about 3-4 weeks to write their letter of approval, and January is FULL of holidays in Ukraine.  New Years is the big deal here, then they celebrate Christmas on January 7th, then there is some other kind of celebration on the 13th…so time was not really on our side.


Havalah turned 5! (She liked her present) 🙂

Jed and Oleg sat down with Pavel and got started on the letter.  Then Pavel remembered he has a friend at the Ministry of Culture.  “Let’s call him and make sure we’re doing this right.”

Well, he called up his friend and the friend tells them to just come on over right then and he would help with the letter.  In Ukraine, if you get an invite from a government office to “just come on over” you better snatch it right up because it might never come again!  😉


Christmas Eve program at a church in Zhitomir

They got in the car right then and drove over to the office.  Remember this is the office where our invitation letter would be be submitted for approval (which could then take several weeks).  Pavel’s friend proceeded to help them rewrite the letter to make it worded the best way possible,  and then decided to just write the approval letter right there and then.  I mean, they were sitting right there…why not?  HA!  He wanted to make sure he got it all right so he called in the man who provides policy clarification for the Zhitomir region.  Every region interprets the laws differently here, so this guy is key to our visa success.  Policy-clarification guy comes over and helps them finish the letter of approval.  While that’s being written he suggest they just write all the letters we’ll need when we come back from getting our visas.  Remember once we leave the country to get our visas and return to Ukraine we have 45 days to “register” with the local offices.  That registration includes lotsandlotsandlots of documents.  Well Pavel’s friend just sat right down and proceeded to write every single document for our registration that could be made ahead of time.  WHAT THE WHAT???????????  I’m gonna estimate that that act right there saved us approximately 57 trips to the office + 58 hours of headache.  Jed was sitting in that office holding back tears, astounded at the goodness of God.


Once all the letters were written and stamped Pavel’s friend said he would hand-deliver them to the lady in the office who gives the final approval.  “Otherwise it may take weeks.  I’ll just ask her to approve them today.”  He walks out of the room to her office, but she wasn’t available.  No worries, he left the papers with her with her word that she would inform us as soon as they were signed.

All of this took several hours and several cups of tea and coffee in the government office.  4 Ukrainian people spent their whole day going above and beyond to help us.  Our friend Oleg told Jed “This just does not happen.  All the right people being available and in the same place, willing to help is like a one in a million chance in Ukraine.”


Our biggest blessings

Two days later we got a call that ALL the letters were signed, stamped, approved, and ready to be picked up.  A process that should have taken 3-4 weeks took exactly 3 days.  Not to mention all the documents we’ll need later on that are already done.  That will help us tremendously when we return with our visas!  God’s care for us is astounding.  I don’t even know why we were shocked by this, I mean this has been His way with us along this whole journey.  He has been over the top faithful at every point.

This miracle has a second part that is just icing on the cake.  So, way back when, in like August of 2012 some friends and I were advocating for an orphan here in Ukraine named “Heath”.  Remember that?  Heath is now home with his family in Texas (AND I got to meet him in person in Kiev last month!) but during that advocating time I “met” another woman, Sandra,  who was fiercely advocating for Heath.  Funny thing is, she was advocating for him all the way over in Switzerland at the same time as us in Oregon.  We became online friends bound by our mutual love for Heath and the fatherless.  Sandra has been a big encourager to us as we prepared and moved to Ukraine.  One time she mentioned how awesome it would be if we would come to Switzerland at some point to share about Wide Awake at her church.  I thought “Oh yeah, that would be cool, but it’s not like we’d ever just randomly be able to pop on over to Switzerland!


Heath (now named Boden) and me. This cuddle was one of the highlights of my year…maybe of my life.

Fast forward to this past fall.  Sandra emailed and said that she talked with her pastor, and the leadership of the church was interested in hearing more about Wide Awake and they would pray about supporting us as a church!  We gave them letters describing Wide Awake and they voted to take us on as a ministry to support!  Well, guess what just happens to be in the same city in Switzerland as Sandra and her church?  A UKRAINIAN CONSULATE!  Soooooo, with documents and passports in hand we will head to Switzerland in a couple of weeks to obtain our visas, visit Sandra, and share Wide Awake at her church!  Are you kidding me????  God you are too ridiculously amazing.  Why are we your favorites?????  😉


Excited to receive our first piece of mail from dear friends

Did you know that you’re His favorite too?  My dad taught us that we are each God’s favorite.  If there was no one else in the entire world He still would have sent His Son JUST FOR YOU.  Maybe 2013 was a really hard, painful, and trying year for you.  Maybe you ended 2013 feeling forgotten by your Father in Heaven.  Maybe you have no clue what I’m talking about.  Let me just tell you that 2014 is a time for you to discover or re-discover God’s great love for you.  You are His favorite!  You are not forgotten.  Consider the children in Ukraine that He sent us to love.  They lay in cribs, limbs stiff and contorted, lame from lack of use.  Some have never felt the grass on their feet, never felt the sun on their face.  By all appearances they have been completely forgotten by God.  How could a good God allow that kind of suffering?  Guess what?  He’s not allowing it.  He loves them and cares for them so deeply that He uprooted our family, comfy in our middle-class wealth, and planted us right here to devote our lives to their care.  We are no great gift.  I’m not saying we’re are the answer or that we’re super special, I’m just sharing how we get to be a part of God’s demonstration of love to them.  Each of those are His favorites- NOT forgotten.

You are not forgotten.  God has good plans for you.  All you have to do is say Yes to Him.  Living for yourself will only bring disappointment.  Let 2014 be a year of YES.  You will not regret it.


A Christmas Miracle- Part 1

*Photos courtesy of the extreme cuteness found at an MTU Christmas party*

Upon coming to Ukraine there was one thing that was hanging over our heads: VISAS. We'd heard nothing but nightmare after nightmare about the process of getting visas to live in Ukraine. It's kind of like when you're pregnant with your first baby. Suddenly every woman with a bad, or extra difficult birthing experience comes out of the woodwork to let you know their horror. Every gruesome detail is recounted, as the squirming Mommy-to-be tries to gracefully escape the clutches of the bitter birther in front of her. Terror fills the preggo's mind and she can't imagine how she will survive the inevitable. Yeah, that pretty much sums up our pre-entry feelings about visas. “So and So was denied at the border…So and So had to pay x amount of money to FINALLY get their visas after traveling to 52 different government offices in one day, trudging through the snow uphill both ways….and so on and so on.” You catch my drift. The visa process was not something we were looking forward to, per se. BUT, like a birth, painful as it may be, it had to happen.

While in the US we fretted about our visas. We tried to pursue getting our visas while in the States so we would have them in hand upon arrival, but that didn't work out. In trying to ease our minds and get things taken care of in advance we just could not feel peaceful. We got the feeling that God wanted us to just wait and trust Him. He had brought us this far, so He wasn't about to start failing us now. The visa situation was never out of God's control and that's all we had to go with. So we did!

Here's a simple run-down of the not-so-simple visa process here in Ukraine:

1. US citizens can stay in Ukraine without a visa for 90 days.

2. So, within the first 90 days upon arrival you must obtain the official documents you need for your visa, and then you leave Ukraine to head to a Ukrainian consulate outside of the country to apply for your visa.

3. For the “D Visa” (long-term visa) basically the only way we could go about it was to be invited by a church that is registered here in Ukraine. The church doesn't have to be registered in the city you live in, but it is a considerably easier process if you can take care of everything in the city where you reside.

4. The registered church writes an official letter of invitation, complete with stamps and signatures (stamps are muy importante here). That letter must then be submitted to the Ministry of Culture (a local government office) for approval. Everyone we talked to told us that the office generally takes around 3 weeks to give their approval.

5. After you have both approvals you take those letters, and some other official stuff to another country and apply for your visa.

6. Once you have your visa you come back in to Ukraine and then have 45 days to register where you live and such with the local government offices. That involves awholelotta documents with awholelotta stamps. The end results of all the documenting and stamping is a temporary residency that is good for one year, but may be extended for another year (with rumors of a second renewal???).

All that to say, once we got to Ukraine we knew we had our work cut out for us, and with all the holidays looming right after our arrival, the clock was not on our side. Mission to Ukraine (MTU) has strong relationship with a couple churches here in Zhitomir that said they would consider inviting us. The Vineyard churches here are not registered, so that was never an option. Shortly after our arrival in Ukraine the pastor of the Central Baptist happily agreed to inviting us for our visas, so that was a HUGE answer to prayer! Pastor Pavel is such a kind man with a huge heart. He has already blessed us so much, going above and beyond to help. 🙂 MTU is an amazing service here in Zhitomir and people who love MTU are happy to help however they can. Yay for that! Praise God for MTU's influence and good standing in this community. It really says a lot about the people who work there and the quality of care they give. It even says more about God's Kingdom and it's expansion in to Zhitomir through MTU. He is at work and it's an awesome sight to behold.

So, on Christmas Day (In Ukraine Christmas is celebrated on January 7th, so December 25th wasn't a holiday for offices here) Jed and our friend Oleg headed over to Pastor Pavel's office to work on the invitation letter with the hope of submitting the letter to the Ministry of Culture before the 31st.
And the miracle began to unfold!
To be continued…

I know, I know, how suspenseful can a visa story really be? We've got a real nail-biter here folks! 😉 I just want you to be all fresh when you read the really exciting part, so I didn't want to make this a marathon post. Just you wait. God's goodness is about to blow your mind!


Oh Christmas Tree…On a Bus

Once upon a time we went Christmas tree hunting in Ukraine…

Uuuuhhhh  how’re we gonna get this baby home??

We’ll take the bus of course! It’s the only way…

A Christmas tree on a bus, check that one off the list of things we didn’t think we’d ever do!

We trekked down the street happy with our find and feeling pretty proud of ourselves too!

Home to our favorite decorations for the tree 🙂

We love our sweet tree, what a beautiful sight

Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!