Wednesday, 24 January 2018

the hard update

Where to start? Those who know us personally have received newsletters and updates over the last few months, which we could not publish publicly. In short, some horrible things happened within Transition Home. Once a family of 9, we are back down to 6. (including Sveta who is happily apartment-sharing with church friends but still very much part of the family). Really we cannot say more than that in this very public forum, without bringing unnecessary shame to those who we still need to seek to love and protect.

Whilst drama and heartbreak was unfolding in one area of our lives, God encouraged us in perfect timing in another area. When we were just about ready to give up in the rebuild of the fire-damaged house, we suddenly found a new set of of good builders, some more finances and most of all some good friendship and support.
This followed a year of very hard and pretty lonely efforts to make the house habitable again, so, when we could see the house suddenly transformed within 6 weeks, by new builders and friends who were motivated by their care for us to be home again, we were completely stunned. We moved in about 3 weeks ago and still find ourselves in an (open-mouthed, "are we dreaming?") kind of celebration that we are actually here. 

God used his people and his resources to turn around a stressful and very bleak situation into a miracle. Really, it's a miracle. For those who have watched 'changing rooms' or any other kind of home renovation TV show, it has nothing on this! There weren't stairs, flooring, lights, furniture or even plaster on all the walls only 2 days before we moved in. Josh and our friend Denis were working through the nights (after Denis's two other day jobs) with Denis's wife, Luba (expecting a first baby) working extremely unsociable hours to help. The actual house move itself also happened overnight, with me packing as the kids slept and Josh running back and forth with Sveta to bring things to the house and tree included... so we could surprise the kids in the morning.

Here are some snippets from a recent newsletter:   
We have just about unpacked and Zeb is now content in his “big boy bed". After 9 months in the apartment with just a few rooms and no oven, we are rather enjoying the space as well as the roast potatoes. Now we are on the other side of the annual onslaught of Ukrainian, international and Soviet public holidays and festivals, we have an important couple of months ahead of us.
From now until the spring, as well as finding a family rhythm in the new house and serving in the orphanages, we will be seeking guidance and wisdom in prayer and from experienced individuals and other organisations whom have been working in the same area as we have been. We want to better understand if/how Transition Home ministry can move onwards and upwards from the problems which occurred, as well as keeping ourselves open to what God has in store for us as a family.
One unavoidable big decision to be made soon is how to manage Joni’s education, she will soon be 7 and due to graduate from ‘sadik’ (ukrainian pre-school). Prayer in this area (as well as for Zeb, being new to ukrainian-speaking nursery) would be much appreciated. 

We will be happy to make time for skype calls with anyone who wants more of a chat. There is so much more, as always, that we could write about. For now, here are some recent photos:

Christmas at the apartment - in matching jumpers (thanks, Auntie Francine!)

our first day back home

Swedish DTS (Discipleship Training school) visiting Vinnitsa for January/February
Sveta's birthday
in the garden - just a little bit cold!
Tallulah & Joni

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Beautiful, New Things

“Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Isaiah 43:19


 God is indeed doing new things with Transition Home. Things that have sort of sprung forth from nowhere but have had His stamp all over them. 


Firstly, we are thrilled to announce that the Transition Home family is continuing to evolve and we will have a new girl joining us later this month! Natasha, just turned 17, will be studying floristry in Vinnytsia at the same college where one of our other girls, Miraslava, studies. Natasha is coming to us from the same state orphanage as Mira, Vika and Sveta. Her family background is very similar to our other girls. She is a real joy, less shy of us odd foreigners than the other girls were at first and she is just a little bit besotted with Tallulah.  

  Secondly, our dear Sveta will be moving out of Transition Home and into an apartment with a couple of girls from the church youth group. Sveta has just been asked to join the leadership team of the youth at church, after doing a great job volunteering and confidently sharing her faith at the church's summer youth camp. She is due to start her final year of university next month and it feels like the perfect time for her to make this big step of independence. And it is a big step.... the culmination of 4 years participating in Transition Home and all the investment, acceptance and love of the team here, members past and present. 


Sveta will be very missed in the house but we hope that she will find her increased independence and responsibilities to be strengthening and character-building. Regardless, we want to continue to be family together, with the door firmly open and the kettle on the ready.


In the early days of Transition Home, it took the determination of John and Fritha to drag Sveta to church every week. Sveta has since said she grew to appreciate John banging on the door to wake the girls up 5 minutes before church, because it showed his good character.  Many people within church (especially the thriving youth group there) and within the YWAM team, have encouraged her in her spiritual and emotional life. Now, Sveta herself feels able to approach a God who calls her beloved; and in doing so has cast off so much which the system had layered on since her early years.  


 To be in this position, presiding over one young lady's moving on, and another arriving, sets Transition Home and its reason for being in beautiful relief. When describing what it is all about we often say " We take in in young girls who need......". While that statement is correct, there is a natural emphasis on what we do, but the crucial part is on the young girls allowing themselves to be taken in.  That choice and the adventure that follows has changed the course of Sveta's life, Sveta has let it change her life through being taken in, not just the first time but countless times all the way to the throne of grace; it will change the course of Natasha's.... if she lets it.  So do please join us in rejoicing in the decision these young ladies have made so far and in prayer for the things yet to come.


The rebuild:
Progress on the house has not been quite as speedy as we hoped and it seems we could still be a couple of months away from moving in. Please pray for the team of builders to come each morning and do quality work, fast!

There are two big jobs that need to happen before we can start to address cosmetic issues. The most pressing of these is replacing part of the floor on the second floor, which had to be removed in order to construct the new staircase. Secondly, new pipework needs to be finished, which runs from the house to a sewage tank outside.


A massive heart-felt thank you to all who have contributed financially to the rebuild of the house following the fire. As it stands, we have enough funds to cover the main construction, electrics and plumbing. We can't tell yet whether the money raised will stretch to cover decor like re-painting and furnishing but all will become clearer over the coming weeks as the work continues.

Somehow, praise God, we stay afloat each month, but please do pray with us for more monthly help to keep running. We just heard Joni's school fees will increase just as we were feeling that Zeb needs to start nursery. This month and in coming months we will need to kit Natasha out with clothes, college supplies, college fees and all the other expenses that come along with supporting another teenager. 


Some Favourite Photos:

A big surprise! The government just turned our dirt track into an actual, proper road!!

Natasha has visited us a few times already; we helped her to enroll in college and went to her first parent-teacher meeting

visitors from England; friends and prospective missionaries

Tallulah's first taste of solid food

Sveta after youth camp
lots of progress in the house, but lots more to do
people have recently mentioned seeing rainbows when they have prayed for us, a beautiful symbol of a new beginning and God's promise to prosper and never to harm



Wednesday, 26 April 2017


More progress on revamping the transition home for girls! An answer to our many prayers. Praise God! Today we entered the transition home to witness another sign of new beginnings. The revamping of the walls and floors on the ground level is well underway. What a difference!
Thank you to everyone that already contributed to the repairs. Each step towards completing the necessary work brings our girls one step closer to being reunited with the Cleavers under one roof. However, we still have quite a way to reach our financial goal to complete the required work on the transition home. Please continue to pray over this need, and how you can be involved.
If you feel led to give, here is a link to our page.
Thank you, and God bless.

Update from Josh & Nina Cleaver:
Our new baby girl, Tallulah, was born on February 7th. We had some needed restoration time in England staying with Robin and Juliet Grayson who lead St.Marys Church in Langley. Since we became christian through an Alpha course at that church, they have been mentors and family to us, so it was a privilege and a joy to have them welcome Tallulah into the world with us and to offer us a resting place after the fire.

 Baby Tallulah:

We are now back happy to be back in Vinnitsa, Ukraine, re-united with Sveta, Vika and Miraslava. We can't wait to all be under the same 'Transition Home' roof again, so please pray as we continue to fundraise and work on the house.
Happy to be reunited!

Sveta with Tallulah and Zebedee (she is training to be a younger years teacher and loves spending time with the kids)

In other news, Joni has just re-started her Ukrainian schooling, please pray that she and the other kids will be blessed with easy language-learning and good teachers and friends.

With love, the Cleaver Family

Monday, 28 November 2016

YWAM Vinnitsa: Fire at Transition Home

For those not on Facebook, this is a post from YWAM Vinnitsa about the recent fire at Transition Home and a vision for rebuilding the house:

On the night of Thursday, November 17th, an accidental fire broke out at our transition home for girls here in Vinnitsa. The fire damage spread across all three floors of the home, calling for major renovations. The good news is that the family living in the home was evacuated, unharmed by the fire. Praise God! The three girls living in the transition home: Miraslava, Viktoria, and Svetlana are temporarily living with a family from the YWAM Vinnitsa community. The house parents from the transition home, Josh and Nina Cleaver, and their two children, Joni and Zeb, are staying at a hotel for now.
The girls transition home is a blessing from God, and it allows our staff here at YWAM Vinnitsa to directly impact the lives of the girls living there through daily life on life relationship, imparting practical skills and spiritual nourishment. Since Svetlana moved into the home, and then Miraslava and Viktoria this past August, God is allowing our orphan care ministry to see the fruit of our labor in the lives of these girls. We thank God for preserving the structure of the transition home, and we now believe that He is calling us not just to repair the home, but to expand our vision by rebuilding it more efficiently, and by extending the property to raise up a third building. (The second building is the transition home for boys, which stands adjacent to the girls home).
In this challenging time of transition for us all, our team is united in prayer, and remains strong in our faith that God will provide the finances and the expertise needed to achieve this new vision. During the rebuilding phase, we aim to construct in a way that is energy efficient, and thereby cost effective in the long-term by upgrading to a hybrid heating system fueled by wood, and gas when needed. As well, in the basement, we hope to create an additional bedroom, and we want to relocate the laundry room on this level too, allowing us to increase our capacity to welcome more teens who are transitioning out of the care of the orphanages with which we have relationships.
We invite you to consider partnering financially with our orphan care ministry to fulfill this vision. Once we have a final estimate on the cost of renovations, we will post details on how to give. Until then, please pray over this need, and how you can be involved.
From the YWAM Vinnitsa family, we thank you and God bless!

Monday, 14 November 2016

November update: another busy month. need a rest, need a babysitter!!!

Keep praying that the boys would stay part of our community and on the right path, even as they are exposed to potentially harmful influences in the college dormitories Monday-Thursday when they are not at Transition Home.  Here's a picture of us having coffee and cake with Serge (YWAM staff), Oleg and Miraslava...we want more of these moments with the boys!

Our team leader, Andrew, kindly came over with trees to plant a border at Transition Home... the guys and Joni braved the cold to get them planted before the ground froze.

Nepali food night with a dear friend (Julia) who moved to Dubai this week. It never gets easier to say goodbye to people coming and going in missions

Sveta is always braver to try new foods than the younger girls..who ate only plain rice and complained about everything else that looked unfamiliar without trying anything!

Our team is growing! Here's Justin (middle) joining us for his first Orphanage visit. We call this the 'Palace Orphanage' because it used to be a Polish stately home and it looks quite grand! We also had another Josh from Canada joining our staff this month... we now have a team with many single guys which is quite unusual in missions
a special event for girls at the 'palace orphanage'... Here's me teaching Isaiah 43:4 'you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you'... pray that this is a message the girls keep close to their hearts.
We took the girls on a first vacation to Ternopil. YWAM base was full so we had to book a hotel at the last minute, which was a new experience for the girls... it is such a JOY to see them experiencing cool stuff for the first time.
we took the girls to see some YWAM families in Ternopil, who blessed with amazing hospitality... we love our friends there so much. Here is Josh doing something silly with his friend Roman who loves gadgets

It rained so much in Ternopil but we had fun. I was utterly exhausted by the end of the weekend though, not so much of a break for Josh and I juggling the little children and co-ordinating the teenagers. I realised that we rarely relax into English language at home when the girls are around and it's hard work for my brain to keep up (even Joni's ukrainian is pretty good now and I am trailing behind)... Pray that our language would get better and better and we won't be discouraged in the learning process.

coffee in our favourite cafe in Ternopil
Amazing local food... we have never found as good a Ukrainian restaurant as this place in Ternopil.
Back to Vinnnitsa...and blocked drains. unblocking hair is one of the grossest things Josh takes on now that we live with the teenage girls! We also had blocked sewage pipes this month and it took so much time (and many gross conversations about poop, to the amusement of our team) to find the right plumber to come and clear them. I do miss how easy it is to sort out practical things like that in England.
Sveta and Zeb went to gather the last of the apples from the garden this year... sadly now we will see less of the beautiful fresh fruit and veg at market that we have enjoyed through the summer, as food is generally local and seasonal in Ukraine.
Friends we didn't see in Ternopil came to Vinnitsa for the 'Fire of Hope' youth conference that our team member, Igor, organised. His aim was not only to inspire youth about missions, but also to bring them together from different churches along with their muli-denominational pastors. Pray that churches grow closer and can work together as a united body of Christ in Ukraine.
A REALLY fun visit to an African/Portuguese church. The kids loved it. Oleg and Petya came and had real culture shock... they stood frozen staring at the African outfits and dancing around them. At least now they know church doesn't have to look 'one way'!
Surprise party for Igor's birthday
Josh goes to 'Zhmerinka' orphanage each week and is building lovely relationships with some of the boys and a little girl called Julia... you never know, they might end up living in Transition home one day!

Joni baked muffins for a neighbour called Vera (we want to get to know the neighbours more and more). In Ukrainian culture, many people cannot accept a gift without returning the blessing (so they don't feel indebted to you). So, Vera asked Joni for tea and gave her these amazing hand-made animal cookies... kind of made our muffins look feeble in comparison!
Mira and Vika are both creative and helped me when Joni's school told us "Joni needs to dress up as a leaf" with one day's notice!
Joni practiced her dance moves very seriously for quite a while, ready for this autumn celebration at school.

It's snowing!! A LOT!!
Sveta...big kid at heart!

Mira turned 17 last week and we couldn't let it go by without having a MASSIVE PARTY!! Happy BIRTHDAY, Mira!!!

All in all, another really busy month with lots of fun, stress, hard-work and prayer required. We had an outreach team of 10 arriving at the weekend so, as usual, we need lots of energy to keep going!

 As well as prayer points mentioned above, please pray for:

  • Continued health for us all, including the pregnancy (nearly 30 weeks now and counting!)
  • The health and continued care of Nina's mum, Alison in our absence. 
  • A growing of faith and interest in church/youth groups for the girls. Vika has spoken a little about being baptised whilst Mira has not been along to her youth/home group and seems quite unsure about church. 
  • Language learning
  • For us to find good babysitting options!!! We desperately need a regular break from kids and teenagers to spend time together as a couple. Josh and I also have a stirring in our hearts to go out together praying for homeless people from time to time which requires someone to help watch the little ones.

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

October update

on the way to go bowling...Joni tries to be very grown up around the teenagers

the cars still running well and we've managed to avoid the ducks so far
weather's got cold... we got the winter jumpers out and fixed up the fireplace

Zeb's favourite hide-and-seek spot

   we started a new women's Bible study... this is my homework set out at the airport whilst I waited to fly to England

the girls made a welcome home party when I came back... so lovely to be home again

Josh is happy to have some quiet space
our team (and teenagers) helped finish the 'summer kitchen' outside... now a prayer room which we opened with 24 hour prayer for our YWAM community

the team prayed together and blessed one another at the end of the 24 hour prayer time
Nintendo wii tournament at the yellow house for our weekly 'community evening'

Please pray:
  • For Nina's mum, Alison; now in hospital in the UK with Alzheimers and some other problems
  • For continued relationship building within Transition Home... especially as we take the teenagers to the mountains for a long weekend away (this weekend)
  • For the teenagers to make good friends at church and college and feel at home in Vinnitsa
  • Health for everyone, including my pregnancy (Zebedee has been being sick since yesterday and Vika has flu) 
  • Continued language learning
  • Financial provision each month to cover all of our bills