One of the saddest things I’ve ever heard was the sentence above—“I thought no one would ever love me again.” The sweet little girl who uttered those words is Nastia, an orphan in the Ukraine who very soon will be my granddaughter. She went on to say, “When my father died and my mother started drinking so much that the government took me away and put me in an orphanage, I thought I would never have a family again.” Can you imagine the feelings of hopelessness and helplessness she must have felt? It brings tears to my eyes when I hear the despair in the words of this child. I am not sure how old Nastia was when she went into the orphanage, but she is only thirteen now—so young to have such a sad history already. Unfortunately for most of the orphans there, their future will probably be just as sad—or even worse.
Tom Benz is the director of Bridges of Faith, which is the organization through which my daughter and son-in-law Julie and David met Nastia and Oleg, the other teen they are adopting. In Tom’s words: These children, through no fault of their own, live incarcerated in institutions. They live there because of choices other people made. Most of the thousands of orphans in Ukraine are social orphans. They were abandoned – at birth, as babies, as toddlers, or as school aged children – by the very people who, by all natural rights, should have staunchly and nobly protected them.
If these children live in those institutions until, at age 17 or 18, they graduate, they face a dour statistical future. Five years out, 10% of these kids commit suicide. More than 10% go to prison. Only 10% make any kind of reasonable life. Unbelievably, 60% of the girls land in prostitution. They become involved with drugs or with the Mafia and if they have not died through suicide they have at least attempted it.
Overwhelmingly, these kids have never even seen a healthy family, a wholesome relationship between a man and a woman, or a happy home. How can they hope to hit a target that they have never seen?
Julie and David feel compelled by the Lord to rescue children such as these. They want to at least give them a chance to know the Lord; to give them a happy home and good role models; to have a better future and life than that which is a part of their statistical probabilities. Nastia’s words to Julie the other day were heartbreaking, but then she went on to say, “I cannot even begin to tell you how much it means to me that you love me already and want me to be a part of your family.” It was then that she told Julie that she would like to start calling them mama and papa. There is joy today in the heart of this young girl—matched only by the joy in the hearts of her new mama and papa, brothers and sister.
What Nastia does not yet know is that she has a big extended family waiting to welcome her with open arms and open hearts. Grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins—she will have more love than she can begin to imagine! This grandma and grandpa truly love her and Oleg already even though we have yet to meet them.
What Nastia may not have known before is that she was always loved whether it was in a sad, highly dysfunctional home, or in the orphanage. There was One there who loved her and held her in His arms and had a better plan for her life. He knew her past; He knows her future, and whether she knew Him or not, He would always love her. Nastia has been introduced to Jesus now. We do not yet know if she has accepted Him as her Savior, but as she sees Him working in her life and feels the love He has for her, we pray that she will be drawn to Him and will want to love Him and serve Him as her Lord and Savior.
We all want to be loved. The cry of this little girl’s lonely heart was to be loved, to be a part of a family again. People the world over have that same basic need, and when that need is missing from their lives, it leaves a large empty hole in the human heart. One of the questions Nastia had for Julie the other day was, “What is your last name? I don’t even know what my new last name will be!” When Julie told her it was Sanchez, Nastia tried it on for size. “Anastasia Sanchez—I like it!” To be loved and to have the family name—what could be better than that!
The Bible tells us that before we even knew Him, God loved us. John 3:16 says it so simply, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” Romans 5:8 makes it even clearer: “But God commendeth [or demonstrated] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Can you imagine? Not only did we not know Him, but we were actually His enemies—and yet He loved us so much that He was willing to die for us. “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (I John 4:9, 10) We didn’t know that we were loved, but we were—so much that the ultimate sacrifice was made on our behalf!
The love of God did not simply provide for our salvation when we trusted Him, but it also made us a part of His family! Galatians 3:26 says, “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” and Romans 8:15-17 tells us, “…Ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” We are not merely converts, but His children! We will not enter Heaven as His friends, but as His children!
Oleg and Nastia lost their birth families, but they can never be separated from their Heavenly Father once they become His children. Romans 8 goes on to say, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vs. 38, 39) Our Father’s love is forever! Our place in the family is secure.
Nastia and Oleg will soon see what a happy home is and will feel the security of loving parents who will protect them and care for them. The way may not always be easy, but with God’s help Who brought them all together in the first place, they will go on to become one family, not only in name, but in love. We pray they will finally know and understand the love of God in their lives and will cherish their places in the family of God. After all, Christ died for that very purpose.
Aren’t you glad that He did the same for you?