A 20 years history of life.
For 8 years I was a backslider and lived in captivity of the fear of hell. Quiet prayers at night – it was my cry to God without much hope. It turned out that God heard me.
Only when I was preparing this testimony of God’s love did I see that all the events of my life in backsliding went in a straight line and were pieces of a single mosaic. I seemed to put puzzles together and finally saw a holistic picture: God prepared for me the salvation through our congregation and, step by step, embodied His plan through different ministers of the congregation. He didn’t bother that I didn’t understand what was happening. He desired to save me and He could do it! Today, when I realized that all my life God didn’t let me go and He led me to His victory, my faith was renewed. I understood in a new way: with God, we have nothing to fear, only we need to fully trust Him.
It started very well
I came to God in 1999. These were difficult times for Ukraine, the economy was just getting better, salaries were very small, and they were delayed all the time. Then there were all kinds of network marketing companies that offered to quickly improve the financial situation. I got into Amway. I worked very gravely, devoting all my strength, time and family money. So 1.5 years have passed. There’s no money added, on the contrary, their lack was felt more and more (everything consumed by “business”), but relations with my husband began to break. I was often away from home, I left for several days, and paid less attention to my family.
Gradually, I faced a deadlock, then God found me. I repented through a woman who was also with us in this company, but she was a believer and always told us about God. With God’s help, I left the “business” and got out of depression. I started attending the church, reading the Word, praying. Life began to get back on the right track. A little later, the Lord saved my husband, together we were looking for God, and everything was fine. The second daughter was born, life went on as usual.
Terrible events in the church
But five years later, bad things started to happen in the church. They began to teach us that we cannot be God’s children, that the only one among whom God accepts is the pastor. We may have a chance of salvation if we become disciples of the pastor. And for this, you need to sell all your property (house, apartment) and bring money to the pastor; completely and without hesitation do whatever he says. Some people did just that. Scripture was not necessary for us to read, the main thing is to listen to what the pastor says. He, as it were, became a mediator between us and God. There were such services when people came, and the worship team didn’t go out, the pastor didn’t go out as well. There was silence, we sat in silence for an hour or two, without understanding anything. Then someone close to the pastor came out and said that we are so sinful that God has nothing to say. And if the Holy Spirit had come down now, we would all die from what sinners we are. Therefore, God is silent to us, and we cannot experience the Holy Spirit in our prayers. The home groups were also held the same way. All groups were led only by the pastor. We sit silently for two hours and go away feeling guilty. We constantly felt guilty and that we were not worthy. The pastor behaved very cheekily with the girls. Then we learned that there was fornication. This church no longer exists.
We didn’t fully understand what was happening, asked each other questions, but we had no answers. And my husband and I left the church. We were confused, trust in the church was so bad that we couldn’t go to another church. Now I understand that it would be nice to talk about what we saw with someone spiritual and experienced, but we didn’t at that time. And just leaving the church, without figuring out, was the wrong decision. But I just could not talk to anyone about the church, nor about God, nor faith, I closed myself and closed this topic to others.
However, as we were left without a spiritual family, the joy left me. I laughed at funny movies, among the friends I seemed cheerful and lively but I completely stopped rejoicing. Inside, there was invariably longing, fear for the future, hopelessness and emptiness. Most of all I was tormented by the understanding that we live without God and we go to hell. My children are going to hell. My husband is going to hell. I’m going to hell. We have no future.
I had trouble sleeping these days. I could lie for several hours, convincing myself to fall asleep. And then I prayed. I asked: “God if we have at least one small chance of salvation, give us this chance to take advantage.” During the day I didn’t pray, didn’t read the Word, didn’t want to talk about God with my sister, who was trying to help me. And at night I could not sleep from fear. I wanted to be with God, but I didn’t know how to return, because I didn’t believe anyone. And then I prayed and told God about everything that I could not tell people about.
I met God and didn’t die
And then our eldest daughter got sick. Regional doctors could not help us, and we went to Kyiv to be treated. So, we met with the senior minister of the congregation before we met him in person, and she helped us with housing. We stayed with Oksana Marchenko, and she invited us to the Shabbat service. Just to be nice, I agreed, although I was sure that Shabbat was not mine.
And so, my daughter and I go into the hall, are a little late – worship has already started. Everything was more than weird. Everyone is joyful, funny, smiling, singing funny songs, also dancing, running around the room in round dances. Not only that, they wave some flags – big, small, and shout! All this didn’t correspond to what I was used to. It wasn’t that strange, it just suggested that the meeting of believers cannot be so joyfully cheerful and something is wrong here. But I stayed for one reason. As soon as I entered the hall, still at the door, I experienced God’s strong presence. The Holy Spirit fell on me so powerfully, and my spirit missed God so much that I not only didn’t leave, I stayed until the end of the service. I cried and laughed, rested and enjoyed the Lord. I decided for myself: “Of course, these Jews behave very strange, why are they all happy? Why are they dancing like that? Perhaps this is customary in their culture. But God is here, here is the Holy Spirit, and everything else isn’t so important.” I was pleasantly surprised that when I met God I didn’t die, but very much the other way around, was filled and revived. I listened to the sermon very carefully, because, despite God’s presence, I didn’t believe people. And I prayed that no ungodly thing would cling to me. And although I was tense because of my distrust, it was a breath of fresh air.
Several years of my life have passed like that. We came to Kyiv twice a year and each time I went on the Shabbat service, and each time I met with God, was filled with the Holy Spirit and came to life little by little. Nothing changed at home: hopelessness and prayers at night. It only got worse. And I asked: “God, if there is even a small chance of salvation, give it to me.” But I didn’t take any steps. I didn’t go to church and still didn’t speak with anyone, I didn’t believe anyone. But I knew for sure – God is not dead, He is, He is alive, and I even knew a place where I can meet with Him. And people in the congregation knew God firsthand. I began to wait for these trips, it was my secret holiday. In my wildest dreams, I thought: if only we could stay in the congregation forever, but this seemed impossible.
“God, let it be as you want”
And in 2014, the war came. I went back to Kharkiv with my children (the eldest daughter was entering the university), and my husband and my mother were forced to stay at home. At this time, I began to pray more and always felt God’s support. Oksana often rang me up and invited me to come to them. I resisted for a long time, all hoping that the hostilities would end soon and we would come back home. Summer was ending, money was running out too, borders with uncontrolled territory were closed. I was exhausted mentally and tired. And then I prayed like this: “God, I have no strength to resist what is happening. Let it be to me according to your word.”
God didn’t keep Him waiting long. The next day, Oksana rang me up and very persistently invited me to come up to her. She asked if we have money for a ticket. There was already no money for anything: neither for the ticket, nor for housing, nor groceries. Oksana sent the money with plenty to spare. I want to emphasize that we were not relatives, friends, we just stayed in this family twice a year for several years.
We settled the eldest daughter in the dormitory, left her this reserve of money, bought tickets and left with the youngest in Kiev. We stayed with Oksana and her daughter Yana for two months under full care. We left in the summer, and it was already autumn. We were helped with clothes. God blessed us with finances so that I could send some money back to her. When I was going to Oksana, I already knew for sure that I would go to the congregation. I attended the Shabbat services, home groups and night prayers. During the Shabbat services I listened very carefully to the speakers – I was afraid to be deceived. I checked everything according to the Scriptures, prayed that God would save us from liars and fraudsters. I didn’t find anything suspicious and calmed down. But most importantly – every Shabbat I experienced God’s presence.
I kept praying for the opportunity to go home – my husband and mother stayed there. Every day I went to the terminal in the hope that the roads would open. I was looking for temporary work, but could not find anything. And although in all my prayers I cried about “going back home,” God comforted and encouraged me, I experienced His intimacy and support, as well as the support of the congregation. Every night, the girls and I got together and talked about God, about His Word, they prayed for us.
One day Yana came up to me and said: “Anya, I prayed for you, and if you go back home now, then everything will be in vain.” I realized what God wanted to tell me through her. I’ve already tried to live without God. I won’t do it again. Yes, the circumstances of my life were difficult: my family is torn, the future is foggy, there is no work, no housing. But the main thing appeared: God filled my life with His purpose, my daughters came to God (which means they didn’t go to hell), every Shabbat I experienced God’s presence. It was the only time when the anxiety for the family calmed down, I rested morally. And I began to pray for God’s will.
When my faith was small, others believed for me
Meanwhile, Sukkot came. They celebrated everywhere: on Shabbat, in the home group, in the prayer meeting for the pastor, everyone talked about gifts from the Lord. My mood was far from festive, but I was waiting for the biggest gift – my family reunion. Our region of the congregation also celebrated Sukkot. Without much desire, I went (Oksana was shoving me out wherever she could). At the festival, the regional leader and other ministers prayed for the needs. My need was complex and big: family reunion, job for me, housing for us and selling my mother’s house in the uncontrolled territory. How all this could be put into action, I had no idea. All ministers, along with the regional leader, prayed for me, and their faith was enough!
Very soon I found a job in Kharkiv. This job gave me a dorm right away. In Kharkov, we were already with the eldest daughter. In two months, God blessed me to raise money to rent an apartment. Half a month after I rented an apartment, my husband and mother were able to come to Kharkov! It was a real miracle! All this happened quickly (of course, I wanted it even faster) and as if by itself. And after another three to four months we sold my mother’s house!
An important role was played by the fact that in Kharkiv there was a daughter congregation of KJMC. I didn’t want to live without God, and before leaving I spoke with that senior minister of our congregation who helped me for the very first time with housing. She introduced me to the Kharkiv congregation and helped me to make the right choice with the ministry. And in the future, she was finding time to find out how I live.
I came to all prayer retreats, immersed in God’s love, communicated with many people. And I wrote my prayer requests to God. Each prayer request had a clause about my husband. He attended to the congregation in Kharkiv but his heart didn’t burn. I asked for his restoration and always wrote: “My husband is a minister.” I wanted my husband to serve the Lord and people.
Today, my life is filled with joy
For certain reasons, after a while we moved to Kyiv. And I went back to the congregation from where my salvation and the salvation of my family started. The senior minister, who I mentioned earlier, was always asked me about my life in Kharkiv. And when it was decided to move to Kyiv, I sought the help from her, because she was a very reliable person. It is hard to imagine our adaptation in Kyiv without the help of the congregation. We were greeted as if we were the most dear people. They helped with finances, furniture, groceries, offered advice, where it is better to buy the necessary. We felt support in everything. They came to us, they phoned us, we weren’t one-on-one with difficulties. My husband also found a job with the help of the congregation. But most importantly, in our congregation my husband has become a minister. His life was filled with new meaning. God restores him, and he changes, and I rejoice. Now I’m really happy, and there is a point in my life. We have found a real friendly family. When I come to Shabbat, I always experience keen joy. Here God is, here are my friends, we have a goal – our salvation and the salvation of other people, and we are moving towards this goal, supporting each other.
Upon completion of this long path of returning to God and restoration, which is still ongoing and will continue, I now understand that there is no need to hide from difficult issues. They need to be asked, go to knowledgeable people, look for answers.
The worst idea is to leave the congregation (church), thinking that I, with my efforts, will be able to stay on God’s way. That isn’t true. Without a congregation, our chances of salvation are nullified.
God always has a way out of all the deadlocks and hopeless situations. We must be able to surrender to God, even if it seems that only we know what is best for us. While we are alive, we have a chance.
God always sends us people through whom He wants to help us. No need to close yourself off from those who appear nearby. They are not random.
The congregation is a family of God in which there is a place for all.