Lena’s Story

I was taken from my home when I was four. A neighbor had called social services because they heard my brother and me crying and hitting the front door.  Our parents had locked us in the house and left us for three days; we were scared and hungry. First I went to a children’s home for young children and lived there three years. My parents were stripped of their rights because they were chronic alcoholics. When I was seven, I went to live at the orphanage, and there I started school which was on the orphanage property. Because I was always tall and skinny, I was seen as weak and therefore constantly bullied. Kids took my food and called me names like “mop,” “giraffe,” and “worm” because of my height.

Sometime in middle school a team of Ukrainians and American missionaries started to visit our school, and I was interested in them. I enjoyed spending time in their company, and wherever they were, I was. Through this team I came to know Christ, and I accepted him as my Savior. I didn’t live like it, though. Around 9thgrade I started to feel strong enough where I could strike back at all the kids who bullied me. I took everything that was done or said about me in the subsequent years and turned it into anger and aggression. Teachers and staff were afraid of me. I started hanging out with a group of friends, and we smoked, drank, and did marijuana. I didn’t want to spend time with the Christian team anymore; I was much more interested in boys and partying.

However, soon it was time for me to graduate. About a month before I finished school, a couple from the Ukrainian missionary team, Bogdan and Anya, met with our whole class and shared about their transition home family, Safe Haven. They asked each and every one of us if we were interested in living there. I said no, because my friends said that Bogdan and Anya were part of a sect.  A month later, I was sitting there after graduation, crying. The school was closing the next day, and I realized I had nowhere to go. Luckily, Bogdan and Anya said I could live with them for the summer. I loved it at Bogdan and Anya’s. For the first time I was part of a family. I felt loved. After summer, they asked if I wanted to stay longer and I said yes. I enrolled in university, and things were good. I got baptized.

Unfortunately though, I started going down the wrong path once again. I was skipping class, partying, and doing whatever I wanted. I remember sitting down with Bogdan and Anya and telling them I wanted to move out. They were crying, but I had already made my decision. I lived in the dorm for a while, but I was kicked out of school because I had skipped so many classes and tests. For a while I lived at different friends’ house, but soon my money ran out. One night, when I was desperate and everything was just terrible, I prayed and said I would stop drinking and smoking, and that I would read my Bible every day. Something had to change.

I used the last of my money to get to Bogdan and Anya’s house, and I asked if I could come live with them again. They said yes. They gave me another chance, for which I am forever grateful. From that point on, my life turned around. I saw how Christians lived; I grew in my understanding and faith. I was once again part of a family. Vitaliy had also come to live at Safe Haven, and with Anya and Bogdan’s blessing, we began dating.  I was able to finish university, find work, and get married.

Looking back, I’m glad I grew up in the orphanage. I’m glad I had the opportunity to live with Bogdan and Anya. Without all these experiences, I wouldn’t have come to know God. Because of everything that had happened, I wanted to serve kids who were like me, and so in 2016, my husband Vitaliy and I became the house parents of a children’s home. We want to follow in the footsteps of our parents, Bogdan and Anya, and serve God in this way.

First Love International

We are an interdenominational mission agency founded for the purpose of bringing the life-giving message of salvation through Jesus Christ to un-reached people residing in impoverished regions of the world.

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