One meets amazing people with incredible stories in the most unlikely places.
Yesterday in the village of Ekaterinovka I shared God’s Word with some people from a local church, some rehabilitating drug addicts, and a woman named Nona.
Nona is an immigrant from Armenia. About 15 years ago, she came to Russia to visit her two brothers who were working here in the town of Bezenchuk. Somehow they acquired a debt they could not pay back. So they offered Nona as collateral. (Yes, as a prostitute.) Not exactly the way she expected to spend her summer vacation. Her brothers never returned for her. Back home in Armenia, her two small children were told that she had deserted them. She hasn’t heard from them since, although she sent many letters, which her mother (their guardian) held back.
After some time passed, a guy “rescued” her from the prostitution arrangement and offered to let her live with him. The situation was only slightly improved, as he drank, used drugs, and worshiped Satan. Somehow during this period, she got a college degree at the agricultural university. About three years ago, she came to Christ and moved out, with no where to go. A woman from the church, Luba, invited her to live with her until she could make other arrangements.
Last year she acquired a deserted, run-down village house with only a wood furnace for heat and opened a rehab center there. They remodeled the inside and made it habitable. But everyone, including the pastor of the local church, was sure they would freeze to death during the winter.
He was wrong. By God’s grace, they survived (barely) and the owner of the house has extended the “lease” for another year. Now they are planting a garden and making more improvements. In the meantime, she is praying for a bigger house (one with gas heat), and better insulation. We celebrated their anniversary with a backyard picnic. Tanya and I were the center’s first guests.
She recently acquired her Russian passport – meaning she is now a citizen and able to buy property, travel, and reclaim her legal persona. Oh yes, I forgot to mention her brothers stole her documents before they hightailed it back to Armenia. So she has been essentially a person without a country, without rights, without a family, and without resources of her own for the past 15 years.
Why am I telling you this incredible story?
Because these are the people to whom I go. These are the ones whose hearts are ready for the message He gives me. And these are the ones who teach me about complete surrender, trust, and generosity.
The Nonas of this world–the broken, abandoned, homeless wanderers whom we too often ignore–possess a treasure most of us will never truly understand: Grace for the moment.
Because nothing else matters.