Stories From Ukraine | Meet Yana

Stories From Ukraine | Meet Yana

Stories aren’t just found in a good book, they’re hidden behind the eyes of the person right in front of you. They have flesh, they have feelings, and they have a name.

But are we willing to listen?

When we hear a story that moves us, we are inspired to do the same. Stories give to us the gift of understanding someone’s beginnings and struggles. They have within them the power to move us from being overcome to overcomers. And they remind us that we’re not alone.

Over the next several days I plan to share a few stories from friends that opened up their lives to me while I offered a listening ear and willing heart. My hope is that you’ll take the time to read, share, and consider slowing down the pace of your life to listen to the stories of the people around you today.

MEET YANA…

On the first night our team sat around the campfire everyone was asked to introduce themselves and tell the group a bit about why they were there. One by one people shared basic insight into their lives like where they were from and what they did for a living, but when it came time for Yana to share something incredible happened. After a few moments into her introduction Yana mentioned something about her family and Lydia, one of the girls in our group, about fell off her bench seat and asked some details. In that very moment Yana learned that Lydia was her cousin she had never met before and, add to that, they were wearing the exact same shirt and green colored pants (see this post if you don’t believe me). But this is just a snapshot of Yana’s story.

Yana shared that she grew up in a Christian home and that her father was a pastor in a charismatic church. She shared her life with four siblings – two brothers and two sisters. Although she grew up learning bible verses and attending church services she watched her father preach a life of Christianity, but live as a hypocrite. Yana felt manipulated and walked away from the church in her late teens. She decided that she would try to “rebel” a bit, maybe as a means to punish her father, by smoking and going to dance clubs. But Yana didn’t enjoy smoking and her conscience weighed on her so she quickly departed from her rebellion. She still struggled to see a God that Christians call “father” to be compassionate and loving because she only knew of a earthly “father” that was harmful and selfish so she did not return to church.

This continued throughout her university years until she was introduced to a couple that hosted people in their home to learn english. Yana had been invited to attend a camp where she met the Copland’s and they both encouraged her to pursue learning english so that she could apply for a job that she had desperately dreamed of having. So Yana leaned into their offer and began meeting with them and a group of people to study english every week in the Copland’s home. This is where she was introduced to Jesus in a way that she had never experienced before.

Steve and Natasha Copland shared food and talked about the Christian faith while explaining hard truths – not just platitudes and moral lists. Yana learned that Christ’s love could not be manipulative or harmful, but it is one that’s pure and redemptive. She also came to a revelation that gathering in a church building and speaking of scripture does not mean that you are a follower of Jesus. Yana shared with me that she now saw “church” as a people imitating the love of Christ and not just a building of people sharing information about Christ. So she meets with her church every week in a home of other followers of Jesus Christ.

Yana has now studied english for two years and works in her dream job speaking english to clients all over the world. She even translated for me throughout the week I spent in Ukraine. But the most profound part of her story is that she’s found a tangible expression of Christ’s love through a home church and because of this the Holy Spirit has given her the strength to forgive her earthly father.


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