We all have a story. How easily I forget mine. How faithful that God has been in my life. I really have NOTHING to fear- for He has already proven to me how REAL that He is and how nothing can separate me from HIM. How this roller coaster only pulls me closer.
So today I was reminded about a piece of my testimony. Billy Graham is celebrating his 90th birthday. You can wish him a happy birthday here. A few months after my dad died, my sister FORCED me into going to one of his crusades. I hit the floor weeping when it was all over: a pivotal moment in my life. I knew there was so much more than being good- but somewhere there was a God who wanted to speak to me. Me.
Recently a friend and sister that I had the privilege of meeting in Bulgaria sent me her story. It amazes me. Mainly because I have only seen her as an incredible leader. Someone who is transforming her generation. I never saw the "before"- the person that God chose to use. The girl he believed in. The daughter He placed His hands on and in His power and strength changed. This makes me remember why I so loved the Lord when I first felt Him at the Billy Graham crusade. I believed in the unseen. I believed in the power to transform our lives here on earth. I believed that even in the midst of pain, He knew.
I'm 31 years old. Even though it is very hard for me to write about myself, I think you will be blessed be my testimony.
I was born in Burgas by a young mother who was not able to take care of her baby and because of that she left me at an orphanage. So since then until graduating from high school I have grown up in different orphanages- 3 years in Burgas, 3- 6 years in Grudovo, 6- 15 –in Nevestino, and since I was 15- in my favorite city- Stara Zagora.
As a child I was very rowdy and wild. At the orphanage in Nevestino I lived during communism. Life then was very different then now. At that village the law of the jungle ruled. As soon as I got there the kid that bossed all the other kids around saw a potential leader in me and decided to take me under her wing to train me as such. So I had to start smoking at the age of 6 and a half. By 5th grade I was ready to take over her "job".
So in 5th grade I became the new "alpha- kid". I used to beat everyone there- the young and the older ones. The people from the whole village had given up on me. Of course, I enjoyed that very much. I was fearless. I had learned to control my emotions. I was a very cruel and evil kid. I liked to talk back to my teachers and even to hit them. Very often I had dealings with the police. In seventh grade I was even in prison for minors for a month.
I'm not going to get into too much detail about all the troubles I've gotten into. I just want to share a story so you can get the idea of what I was like before I met Jesus.
I was not more then 12 at the time. One evening, because of a serious beating I got from a teacher, I decided to get back at one of the kids who had told on me. During the night, after the teacher was done beating me, I went and got the poker, put it in the fireplace for a few minutes, and when it got really hot, I took it to the girl, who was already asleep, and hit her on the face with it. When she woke up crying, I hit her on the other cheek. The kid started crying uncontrollably. I warned her that if she tells on me, something even more painful will happen to her, so she did not tell on me. I really was very aggressive and mean. I was filled with hatred towards people. I used to beat and torture the kids a lot. I also was a lot of trouble for the people in the village.
Until I turned fifteen, I had never heard about God. When I came to Stara Zagora I saw a very different world. First of all, there were kids at the orphanage who had parents. The teachers were nice and did not beat us. The orphanage was like a hotel. There I heard about Jesus for the first time. Some of the girls there attended Zion Christian Church. One of them was Diana. She can testify of how nuts and spiteful I was then.
I did not accept the things they told me about Jesus, because I thought: "If there was God and He really loved me, how then could He let me live such a horrible life, full of pain? If there was God, I would live a lot better, I thought. I would not be a mistake of nature."
Before I accepted Christ I really thought I was some kind of a mistake, a very big mistake. I drank heavily, gambled, etc. When I was 9th grade, my teacher from the orphanage even took me to a church (an Orthodox church) to be baptized, so the Devil would come out of me. Well, she had some problems the first time she tried, but the second she got me baptized. Even though I did not believe I went to get the presents they had promised me. I don't know how many of you are Orthodox Christians, but there actually was some change in me after the baptism. Maybe my teacher, who became my godmother, believed and prayed for me so much, that it actually made a difference. Well, not as much as me becoming a Christian, though. Then I graduated and left the orphanage.
I went to live in an apartment, given to me by the municipality. I was paying a very cheep rent. I was surprised to find out that some of my neighbors were Christians. I can't get away from those people I thought. For about a year and a half they had talked to me about God so much, that I was sick of it. I was drawn by the world. I went parting almost every night. I thought this would make up for my past.
One evening I went as I often did, to visit my neighbors. They were praying. I was very impressed by the love I saw in them. They invited me again to visit their church and this time I said yes.
After the first service I went to, my neighbor asked me to never come to church with her again. If anyone dares to act in our church the way I acted that time, I would be the first one to kick him out. I was arrogant, rude and made fun of the people in the church. The next day at work I spread out the "great" news about me going to church. I told spicy stories like "they turn the lights off and…" (you know what I'm talking about). The next evening though, I noticed a strange desire to go to church again.
The next Sunday I left for church with my neighbor's son. I was planning to have some fun again, but the guy I went with warned me very seriously as we entered the church to shut up because God was there. At that service I prayed for the first time- if there is a God that He would change something in my life…
Ten days later, my colleges told me that I have changed- I don't cuss and don't use bad words. I tried to prove to them that I can still cuss, but not even one vulgar word could come out of my mouth. I was shocked.
I got my stuff and almost running from work to home, I was thinking what I'm going to do to my neighbor for having me brainwashed at her church. As I arrived at her house, I grabbed her by the throat, pushed her against the wall as I blamed her that her church has brainwashed me and that hurt my image before my colleges and friends. She just kept exclaiming joyfully: "Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!" Then I remembered what I had asked Jesus to do for me.
I think that was the moment when my heart broke before God. I started to go to church since then and the Lord began to work in my life. Almost right away I stopped smoking and drinking. A little later God delivered me from gambling as well. It took longer for me to forgive my parents who had abandoned me and the teachers I hated. But now I can say that God is very merciful and patient with me. God's love makes me whole and happy.
Five years ago I was challenged by the Lord to work with kids from the orphanages I had been at as well as two more. Some believers from a church in Montana, USA who we have a relationship with, decided to come to Bulgaria to donate some money and volunteer at an orphanage.
My pastors knew I grew up in an orphanage and asked me what I think about that. I told them this would be great, but we also need to follow up on it and be consistent. Just to bring gifts is not as effective as having an going relationship with the kids if we want to win them for Christ. People think about those kids during the holidays, but the rest of the time they are nowhere to be found.
This is how the social ministry was started. Two other ladies and I are the core team. There are many other people who are involved. For some events even the whole church gets involved.
Little by little we build strong friendships with the kids from those orphanages. I won't go into detail how exactly we work with God's help on that field. I just would like to encourage you that during the time we had the Alpha course, 25 kids got saved, 12 got baptized in the Spirit and 15 in water. For some this is not much, but for me, knowing the life and worldview of those kids, I know that it is not little at all. For me it is important that they understand that God is the One who can help them in every situation. He is the only one, who can make them happy.
There is the right time for every soul. During those 5 years about 500 kids have heard the Good News. Just because not everyone has gotten saved does not mean that we were not good workers. God wants us to sow and He is the One who makes it grow. This is what I think. While I was in the orphanages no one has ever celebrated the birthdays of the kids. Now we do it and every kid knows that there is a special day when he or she is paid attention to. This really is a great joy for the kids.
Usually after they graduate, the kids have to leave the orphanage with no one to be there for them. Many of them make bad choices. Since we have been working with them though, many of them are able to become good citizens of our country. I think they will never forget what they have heard about God. I know that in time each one of them will be drawn to Jesus. I believe that and I know that God hears our prayers for all those kids.