By David R., Regional Director for Eurasia
Abandoned at birth, Sophia (not her real name) was taken to a cold, gloomy Eurasian orphanage. She was one of 250 children living in a three-story building. Strict and sometimes abusive government teachers raised the children. In this oppressive system, Sophia would attempt to survive until she was 16-years old.
Most of the kids in her institution had lice. The food was bland. Chores were rigorous. Punishments were severe. At age six, after committing a minor infraction, Sophia was forced to hold up a heavy chair for an extended period. On some occasions, the teachers beat the kids with phone cords and then placed them in hot showers.
In this lifeless environment, Sophia bonded with some of the other orphans. They defended one another against the harsh treatment of the teachers. They were her brothers and sisters through elementary and high school. But
she would lose those friendships at age 16, when the orphanage forced Sophia to leave without any money or relational support.
As a result of this harsh and loveless upbringing, Sophia says that her heart increasingly filled with anger toward her mother, whom she had never met.
“I was very angry in high school,” said Sophia. “I wanted to find my mother and hurt her with words. I knew from my experience at the orphanage that words couldbe very heavy and painful. I wanted to use words to make her pay for what she had done to me.”
Despite her hardships, Sophia managed to enter college. She moved into a student house and lived with some Russian girls from her orphanage. A Christian woman would come to visit them. Through that woman, Sophia met a Navigator missionary, Jenna (not her real name), who began caring for her and reading the Bible with her.
“Jenna was a woman of integrity,” she says. “Until I met her, I had never seen words and actions together in a person. She was always caring for the poor. During one of our Bible studies, Jenna showed me verses that said that God had adopted us all—that without God everyone is an orphan.”
In 2006, Jenna invited Sophia to a camp for young people who had an interest in knowing more about Jesus. Sophia attended the camp and surrendered her life to God. This humility before God opened her to revolutionary change by the power of the Holy Spirit.
“God showed me that I was not perfect, and that God also loved my mother,” Sophia recalls. “I began to realize that I had no right to judge her. Because of God’s Spirit and His Word, I could see that my anger toward my mother was caused by pride.”
Jenna continued to help Sophia mature in Christ through the spiritual disciplines—reading the Scriptures and prayer. Sophia also became strongly connected to a community of Navigators in Eurasia. By God’s power, she realized that her mother must have been suffering with guilt and pain, and she longed to remove that pain. God had replaced her anger with compassion.
Through a remarkable series of events in 2009 to 2010, Sophia discovered that her mother lived with other relatives in a rural village. They arranged a time for Sophia to go to her mother’s home and meet her for the first time.
“That first moment—I was praying. It was hard to believe,” Sophia said. “I was dealing with a lot of pain. My mother was very nervous. But I was thankful that God had removed my anger. I sat with her and told her that I forgave her. She cried a lot. I told her that I could forgive her because of my faith in Jesus.”
Today, Sophia has a growing relationship with her mother and extended family. She also serves as an integral part of our Navigator team in Eurasia. Her long-term goal is to finish a post-graduate degree that will enable her to work with orphans as a teacher or counselor.
“I want to share the Gospel with them. I can be a reference to help them survive after they leave the orphanages. I understand them and their needs,” Sophia said. “Maybe when they graduate I can help
them join a faith community like I found.”
What about you? Do you need to forgive someone? Sophia’s story demonstrates that if we humble ourselves before God and walk closely with Him, He will transform us and give us the power to move from anger to forgiveness.