He was emotional as they waited in the airport for their flight, and quiet for the next twenty-four hours as his homeland, friends and everything he knew slipped away. She shed tears as she said a final goodbye to her past life and the people in it. I can only imagine what these two young teenagers were feeling as they left it all behind and headed into the unknown.
Put yourself in their place for a moment and imagine what it must have meant to Oleg and Anastasia as they left everything familiar to begin a new life in a new country, with a new family and a new home: No one speaks your language. You listen intently, trying to understand what people are telling you. You often just tune it out, too tired and frustrated to keep up, and you live silently inside your own head as others around you laugh and converse and communicate easily with one another. From time to time you gather up your courage and try to step out of your shell, searching for ways to say what you want to get across through the few English words you know, and pantomime.
Your new mama and papa are sweet and you know they love you, but their ways are different than anything you have ever known, and they have a whole new value system different than anything you’ve ever witnessed before. They seem to truly love God and His Word and praying to Him, but you don’t know Him yet yourself and it all seems very strange. Even your new brothers and sister live as though they know God personally. How can that be? What is it all about?
You long for the tastes of home. There are some new foods that you enjoy, but many other things—not so much. What is the American fascination with pizza, anyway? And spaghetti sauce? You prefer the noodles plain, thank you very much. Oh, for some good Ukrainian home cooking! Mama is trying, but if you want a good bowl of borscht you’ll just have to make it yourself! Mostly you settle for Ramen noodles. It’s not Ukrainian but it’s noodles.
The culture in America is new and very exciting; the stores are huge and filled with everything in the whole wide world; and birthdays? Вот это да! [Wow!] You’ve never had anyone celebrate your birthday with you before! “All these presents and decorations and a cake—for me?” There is a new culture, and traditions and holidays to celebrate—but the colorful costumes and dances and festivals of the old country will be just a distant memory now.
As scary and difficult as it was to leave their old life behind, both Oleg and Anastasia knew it was for their best. Their futures in the Ukraine loomed even more dismally than their pasts had been. When they were allowed to choose American names as part of their adoptions, Oleg chose to begin his new life as James, while Anastasia added Hope to her name—a fitting choice for a new beginning.
Anastasia has blossomed in the month since she has been here—a different child than the one she was back in the orphanage. James has only been here a couple days, but according to Julie, has not stopped grinning from ear to ear and walks around with stars in his eyes, thrilled with what has happened to him. Both of them hug and kiss David and Julie over and over daily, returning their love and thanking them for rescuing them. Yes, leaving all they knew was difficult, but facing the unknown with courage, and trusting this loving couple with their futures has changed their lives.
I am often amazed at the story of the Israelites after God led them miraculously out of Egypt. He parted the Red Sea and saved them from the pursuing Egyptian army. He fed them daily with manna—bread from heaven—in the mornings and quail at night, and provided water in the wilderness. Lying before them was the Promised Land—a new and better home, theirs for the taking if they would only trust Him and be faithful. I Corinthians 10 tells us that they were an example to us—of what not to do! “Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted… Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” (vs. 1-6, 10, 11)
After all the Lord had done in guiding, protecting and providing for them, they dared to murmur and complain and question God’s motives! They yearned for the leeks and onions and cucumbers of Egypt, the land where they had been held in slavery for hundreds of years, rather than focusing on the land of milk and honey that lie before them. Because of their lack of trust and their disobedience, a whole generation of Israelites did not live to see the Promised Land.
We wonder how the Israelites could have been so foolish when right before their eyes God had done one miracle after another for them. How could they have been so foolish as to long for their past life of bondage when He promised them a new, prosperous life?
We, too, have the promises of God for a new life, a new home and a new future. We are new creatures with new names when we trust in Christ for our salvation. “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” (II Corinthians 5:17) “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knoweth saving he that receiveth it.” (Revelation 2:17)
There is much work to be done yet for the entire Sanchez family in blending their new family together. James and Anastasia especially have much to learn in the weeks and months and years ahead of them, beginning with English. We pray, though, most of all, that very soon they will come to know Jesus as their personal Savior and begin not only their new earthly life, but a new eternal life, as well. Being teenagers, they will not forget their past life in the Ukraine, and we would not want them to, but we pray that they will come to embrace their new homeland, their new family and this new life with all the love with which it has been offered to them. Leaving the past behind, whether it be a past of pain and disappointments, or one filled with successes and happy memories, we must all press on for what the Lord has in store for us next. Philippians 3:13, 14 says, “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
God has called us on to new and better things with Him, but we must let go of the past in order to reach for the new. It may be a scary thing, it may not be easy, but “Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it.” (I Thessalonians 5:24)