Some time ago (13 weeks, to be exact), Justin asked how I became a Christian.
As most of you know, I live in Ukraine. It’s not a part of Russia (due to the popular belief and relentless efforts from the Russian president’s side), but it used to be a part of Soviet Union before ’91. We gained independence in that year and along with it got rid of the stupid communism. During the USSR, there were Churches around, but the “allowed” ones were Orthodox and I am, frankly speaking, not a fan of those. To be honest, if our Orthodoxy was the only Christianity I knew, I would never even consider believing in God (well, at least it would take MUCH longer).
I was 6 years old when the USSR fell apart and mom was a teacher of English back in those days. One day, her friend asked if she wanted a side job as an interpreter for a couple of Americans. Mom agreed… and that was the beginning of adventure for our family.
That’s Jim and Donna Welchly, the couple on the left, and that’s my mom and I on the right. I am not sure who the other two kids were.
Jim and Donna were the first Nazarene missionaries here in Ukraine and they started a Bible study. Soon the group started gathering together every Sunday at a rented theater. Also we had street ministry right in front of the biggest mall in Kyiv. Ahh, good times when all that was allowed freely.
That was the beginning for me. Since mom was involved with the Church, I naturally tagged along everywhere. I loved being with the Youth in Mission teams that came over here – I didn’t go to kindergarten since my grandma was retired and she took care of me on the days when mom was at work, and the rest of the time I spent with mom and the youngsters from the US of A who played with me and fed me Big Red gums and who spoke the language I did not understand fully but I was determined not to ask mom to translate. I wanted to learn.
I was active in Sunday School (primarily because I liked crafts and activities and foreign sweets – I often joke that the only reason I went to Church back then was for sweets) and soon I learned most of the “correct answers.”
Fast-forward a few years. We started having summer camps and in every single camp, when there was an altar call, I went forward. Seriously, I have no idea how many time I’ve “asked Jesus to become my Savior” – I did not really know that one time is enough. Besides, I thought I was being a good girl showing my friends an example.
Time went by, I was already out of Sunday School (over here it’s only for kids) and in youth group, involved in everything possible. Since my mom was a pastor already, I had three places I usually spent time at: my school, my home, and Church (where mom’s office was). So I thought that I was all set with being a Christian.
All set… at the same time feeling that something was missing. I wasn’t sure what it was because admitting to someone that I wasn’t alright felt wrong – how could I admit that when I was involved in youth ministry and I was a pastor’s kid…
It was May 9th, 2000 (as everyone across the CIS was celebrating the Victory Day) that I finally understood what was missing and finally fixed it… or, rather, had it fixed. At the youth conference, I realized that I knew so much about God and Bible – at least all the right answers… But what was missing – I did not know God.
It wasn’t a smooth ride since then. There were ups and downs; moments when I felt like I was flying with Him above the storm clouds and moments when I felt as if I was free-falling into the unknown. However, when I look back, the beginning of my journey has taught me a lot – lessons that I now can share with others when they are in a similar situation (even if it is asking Jesus to become their Savior too many times 😀 )
These days, I admit that thankfully I don’t know all the answers and He gives me courage to admit that I am not always perfect. I am glad for the lessons He has taught me already and I am looking forward to the day when I will see His master plan in retrospect, understanding every little detail. In the mean time, I live, getting to know God better, and trying to walk the walk.
When did that moment happen for you?