KAZAKHSTAN – Is it possible that three little words can heal the life of someone sexually assaulted as a little girl? That “God loves you” is really that powerful?
Impossible? I can say that, with God, even this is possible.
Growing up in the former Soviet Union, I was shunned by my parents, both abusive alcoholics. My dad deserted me; my mom hated the sight of me. Starved of love and food, my younger brother and I had to scavenge in the garbage to survive.
But far worse was to come. When I was 10, my mom’s drinking companions attempted to rape me. It was as if my soul was suddenly torn from me.
I was actually glad when I was sent to live at the orphanage. At least I’d be safe from evil men who wanted to abuse me, and I wouldn’t have to feed myself from the trash.
At the orphanage, I experienced something else completely new.
Visitors came, talking about someone called Jesus. “God loves you,” they’d tell us, over and over. I had no idea what “love” felt like. But these people didn’t just say it. They actually showed me what this “love” looked like. Larissa and others came every Saturday from their local church. They were full of joy, and they’d sing and pray with us. My favorite time was when I could sit with Larissa as she told us a Bible story. She’d always give me a big hug.
I’d never felt anyone care for me like that before. It was like being wrapped in a blanket of love, warmth and light — all rolled together.
When Larissa asked if I’d like to go to a kids’ summer camp hosted by her church, I wasn’t even sure what she meant. No one had ever invited me to go anywhere. Camp, I learned, promised a whole week of playing with friends, good food, and hearing more about God’s love. My heart almost exploded with excitement.
Could God Really Heal the Hurts?
During that week at camp, I heard that God not only loved me but also wanted to heal all my pain and give me a new life. How I wanted to believe that! But I just couldn’t let go of my childhood hurts, the shame I felt. I told myself: “God couldn’t really love me.”
When I turned 18, I left the orphanage and wound up in a terribly abusive relationship. I wanted to kill myself. I cried out to God: “Where are you? I thought you were supposed to love me!” I experienced some very dark days — depressed, hating life, lashing out at people, swearing, cursing, and on the edge of a breakdown. It seemed my life was over. But God had not forgotten my cries.
‘God Loves You’
Out of the blue, in my darkest hour, I heard three words from the past, precious words from those days at the orphanage and church summer camp years earlier: “God loves you.”
It was like waking up from a long sleep. In tears, I asked God to help me get rid of the burden and pain of my past. And when I mouthed the words “forgive me,” I felt God’s love swarm all over me.
This is the “impossible” love thousands of hurting children — like me — experience every year through faithful Christians like Larissa and the local churches they belong to, ministering arm-in-arm with an American evangelical mission called Slavic Gospel Association (www.sga.org).
Now, as a Sunday School teacher, I’m privileged to share God’s love myself with needy children — as well as be part of a much bigger ministry that will share the love of Christ and the Gospel this summer with as many as 40,000 orphans, hurting kids and unwanted children at hundreds of children’s camps across the former Soviet Union.
Three little words “God loves you!” transformed my life. And this summer, by God’s grace, those powerful words will bring hope to thousands of children who’ve never known love.
Don’t you think it’s incredible that God uses you and me to be channels of his great love? Never stop sharing the “three little words” that can work the impossible – “God loves you!”
Annika Antonov – a pseudonym to protect her safety – is now happily married and helps teach Sunday school at her local church in Kazakhstan. This summer, Slavic Gospel Association (www.sga.org) and its network of local evangelical churches across the former Soviet Union will host up to 40,000 underprivileged children at Christian summer camps, in partnership with U.S. sponsors.
Source: Slavic Gospel Association, Official Website