My God, My Protector – by Eugenia Bilobrova, Ukraine
Jun 17, 2016 2298
I live in a small village in Ukraine, a long way from the nearest city. I can often hear the wolves howling in the forest near my village. They remind me that from the beginning, my life has been threatened by wolves of one kind or another. I have lived with danger, or the threat of anger, always. Always, that is, until the Gospel of Jesus Christ shone its light over me and banished the wolves. But I need to tell you my story from the beginning. Then you will understand why the light is so bright for me.
I was born to a poor family in Cherson, Ukraine in 1984, when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union. My grandfather was an alcoholic; my mother had no education, so didn’t work. Soon after I was born, my father and mother left me with my grandmother (my father’s mother), and went off to Russia to find work.
A Taste of Christian Happiness
This was how God gave me a brief period of sunshine in my very early life. My grandmother had become a Christian, thanks to a chance discussion with a carpenter repairing the floor of her house.
Back then, being a Christian required great courage, because the Soviet government had outlawed religion. My grandmother was a very courageous woman, and those brief childhood years I spent with her were the happiest of my life. She cared for me as if she was my mother, and most importantly, she sowed the seeds of God’s truth in my heart. She told me Bible stories, prayed with me, and took me to the church services.
My memories of that special atmosphere of love and fellowship have stayed with me and encouraged me throughout the most difficult times of my life. One day, my mother returned, and darkness descended on my life. My parents had divorced, and she had come to take me with her. I still remember that terrible day when she came to the house, shouting threats and tearing me away from the grandmother I loved. She forbade me to see my father and grandmother. This bitter, angry woman was a frightening stranger to me.
I felt as if the wolves had emerged from the forest and were circling me, snarling and threatening to tear me apart.
I felt as if the wolves had emerged from the forest and were circling me, snarling and threatening to tear me apart. My life became a hell on earth. The people around me were strangers who terrified me. I could see evil in their eyes, in their faces and in what they did. My mother seemed to hate me because I reminded her of my father. I was never good enough for her. She even tried to strangle me once, but my grandmother, her mother, prevented her. My only protection was to retreat into myself. I became shy and reserved, afraid of talking to anyone. I believed I was strange, ugly and annoying, and that no one liked me.
God Was My Protector
Life became unbearably miserable. One day when I was twelve, I stood on the balcony of the flat where we lived, wanting to jump off and kill myself. Somehow, God intervened, and I didn’t jump.
The memory of God and my grandma was my only comfort. When I felt particularly frightened and miserable, I would ask God to help and save me. Many times as I became older, I found myself in frightening and threatening situations, and called out to God. On dark winter nights I was often forced to walk home
alone through dangerous conditions. I was even attacked a few times, and I endured frightening situations at the hands of crazed men. Each time, I would call “God! God! God!” I think God became like a mother to me – the mother I didn’t really have.
Life became even more difficult. We were so poor that my grandmother could only afford one loaf of bread each day to feed five people. She would cut it into five pieces, and that was all we had to eat for the entire day. Sometimes I was so hungry I would put my finger into the saltcellar and just lick the salt to feel some taste on my tongue. I wore the same clothes all year round. Even when the temperature was minus 20°C, I had only sneakers on my feet and no covering for my head. I was so poor that I had no friends, but continued to do my best at school.
About this time, my mother lost her sanity, walking around naked and believing the mafia was chasing her. My uncle, who also lived in the flat, began to show a sexual interest in me, and I was terrified of him. Many times I wanted to jump off the balcony and end it all, but the tiny reminder of hope in God saved me. My father had begun visiting me secretly, about once a year. He told me that one day he would take me away from that place. Finally, when I was fifteen, he suggested I could go with him to the village where he now lived in his wife’s house. I was too frightened and distressed, so I just ran away. Eventually, the police found me, there was a court case, and my father got the legal right to take care of me.
My father and I were strangers to each other, and I believe God performed a miracle and gave him the courage to rescue me. I visited my mother from time to time, but her problems became worse, and eventually she committed suicide by jumping from the same balcony where I had so often wanted to end it all.
God performed a miracle and gave [my father] the courage to rescue me.
My stepmother grudgingly allowed me to stay until I completed school. I won a scholarship to Cherson Pedagogical University, and began studying to become an English teacher. A friend of my father gave me shelter and some poor food during those years.
After so many years, and so much misery, I finally visited my grandmother, who had cared for me so lovingly and who had introduced me to God’s love when I was a child. How good it was to learn more about the Bible and to go to church with her!
Struggle and Surrender
Later, my boyfriend and I attended an evangelistic programme, and I was baptised. Although we were very young – about 20 years of age – we got married. We were so poor we had to live with his parents, who made no secret of their contempt for me, and my belief in Jesus. I tried to follow the Christian path, and believed I would surely be happy, and would always do everything right. I did not understand that I was a sinner. I told myself: “Now I know what is bad and what is good, I will become a perfect Christian.” I was eager and tried hard, but after about a month I gave up in desperation. I began to understand what a sinful nature is. I could not do what I believed and knew to be right. My life grew more and more empty and meaningless while I struggled to do all the things right. I was trying to be perfect without accepting Christ’s perfection as my own. I didn’t understand that I still had a big lesson to learn.
By this time we had moved to the village where my husband was born, far away from any church. Other wolves circled. My husband and I gradually drifted apart as we lived without God in our hearts. We even contemplated divorce. This was a very dark time for us. Then a memory came to me, and I said to him, “Let’s invite God to our life again.”
My husband agreed to try, and we began praying and studying the Bible together. We read Bible stories to our children, and attended church in the distant town when we could. My husband decided to be baptised. It is amazing how God can revive the lives of his beloved children! One of my favourite verses is, “The one who comes to me, I will by no means cast out” (John 6:37). We found that promise to be true!
Joy in the Gospel
I know God has always been by my side, gradually teaching and leading me. As I allowed God to change my way of thinking, everything around me started changing too. His peace now fills my heart and he is the best, most important and constant Friend to me. Nobody can love me as he does. He has showed this by dying on the Cross for me. He tells me, “If you have Jesus, you have everything you need for an abundant life.”
I know I am a sinner, but Christ takes my sin away. He accepts me as his beloved daughter. I love my God, my Saviour, for his incredible and unconditional love!
My unhappy childhood has resulted in many health problems, psychological problems, and low self-esteem. Even now, sometimes I feel I’m nothing: stupid, ugly and incapable. But God helps me even then.
Now God has opened new opportunities for me to serve him. Although I am an English teacher for young children, it has always been my dream to be an interpreter, especially for the message of the Gospel. However, I had never had the opportunity to do this work, because of where I live and my background.
I danced around the room repeating, “Oh God, you are incredible and have given me so much joy in life!”
Earlier this year we heard about the evangelistic programme that was coming from Australia to Kherson. My husband encouraged me, I rang someone on the phone, and offered my services as a translator for the evangelistic programme presented by Dr Philip Rodionoff and Dr Eliezer Gonzalez. How excited I was to learn that they needed me! I danced around the room repeating, “Oh God, you are incredible and have given me so much joy in life!”
This is how I came to take part in the evangelistic programme in Kherson in April. It has been my first experience of working as part of a team of Christians. The feelings can hardly be described. You are constantly feeling the influence of the Holy Spirit, every person with the same aim, and God’s peace between everyone. It is a special feeling of friendship with God and other believers as you do Christ’ work.
I am so grateful that God allowed me to work with these special evangelists, Eliezer Gonzalez and Philip Rodionoff. I never met such tactful and kind people. When Eliezer was making a call for baptism, he spoke so gently and so convincingly, that a Christian woman sitting next to me told me that if it were possible, she would respond, and be baptised again. Philip’s kindness was shining in his eyes and in his gentle manners when he preached. It gave special value to his serious arguments for the existence of God and the trustworthiness of the Bible. As I interpreted for him, I was able to reaffirm my Christian faith, thanks to the scientific and theological evidence he presented.
I am so grateful for Eliezer’s and Philip’s encouragement. They praised me as nobody has ever done in my life, and they taught me that I can be useful in God’s service. My life will not be the same again! I believe it is God who sent them to tell me that I must have courage and not remain on the sidelines of his work. Through Eliezer, I have more interpreting assignments, and I have been asked to translate a book for Good News Unlimited into the Russian language. What a blessing and pleasure it is to serve God by doing your favourite work!
Now, when I hear the wolves howling in the forest near our village, I smile. They no longer remind me of danger, but of how my loving God protects and guides me. I thank him daily for his blessings and for the people he uses to teach others about his love and salvation. Make a decision to serve God, and he will show you the best way for you; and best of all, you will enjoy it.
Friend of GNU from Ukraine.
Edited by Eliezer Gonzalez
If you are struggling with issues in your life, GNU encourages you to get appropriate professional help, knowing that faith in God and Christian community can also support your recovery.