Hungry for the Word
When I was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped so tightly around my neck that it was choking me. Fortunately the doctor was able to unwrap it in time so that I could take my first breath.
By the time I was 3 years old, my parents divorced, and I did not see my father again.
Life became very hard for my mother and me and she often wished she could die. But she was worried about who would take care of me. Sometimes she would just hug me and cry.
One day all of the electricity in our small apartment was cut off because we couldn’t pay the bill. It was so cold, but without electricity we weren’t even able to boil water for tea. We hardly had any food, and I often went to school hungry.
We lived like this for many years, and my mother and I were always sad. One day when I was 12 years old, a friend invited my mother to a concert celebrating the birth of Jesus. The concert was at a Seventh-day Adventist church, and even though my mom didn’t know anything about Jesus, she decided to go with her friend to the concert. It was during that concert that my mom heard the story of Jesus for the first time.
When she returned home, my mother told me that there was a God who loves us, who wanted us to live and to be happy. As she was telling me about the concert, her face was very happy, and I could see that she wanted to live.
We wanted to learn more about this God, and especially wanted to have our own Bible—but where could we find one? It wasn’t easy to find a Bible in Ukraine at that time.
Bible or Food?
Then one day my mother learned where we could buy a Bible—but it would cost a lot of money—almost all of the money we had for two weeks. At that time my mom was working in a café, where she earned the equivalent of just two U.S. dollars per week. It was barely enough for us to buy food. We both understood that we didn’t have enough money to buy the Bible and to eat.
My mother looked at me and asked, “My son, would you be willing to go without food for two weeks, but have a Bible instead?” I told her, “Yes, I’m willing to be hungry so we can have a Bible.”
She bought the Bible, and as she began reading it, I could see that my mother was changing. She was happier. She started to punish me less and talk with me more, which of course made me happier, too!
Count the Cost
For several months my mom attended the Adventist church. But then bad things started happening with my neighborhood friends. They had heard that my mom and I had joined a “cult,”* and suddenly all of my friends were against me! They didn’t want to play football with me anymore—when I came outside, they would all go home. I thought maybe if I tried smoking, like my friends, that would bring them back. But nothing worked—I didn’t know what to do, and I felt very lonely without my friends.
Prayer Changes Things
Then one day the Adventist pastor invited us to stay with his family for a while. During worship time the pastor would pray for me, but I could feel a war in my heart—should I accept Jesus as my Savior, or should I try to be accepted by my old friends? Every time the pastor prayed for me, I would leave the room.
My mother was taking Bible studies from the pastor, and she often shared with me the things she was learning—about the seventh-day Sabbath, about how to live as a Christian, and other things like that. And I knew that my mom was praying for me.
Then things started to change in my heart. I could see how my mother was changing for the better. I was learning the Bible truths that she was sharing with me. I knew that she and the pastor were praying for me. All of these things had a big effect on me. I decided that I wanted to follow Jesus, and was baptized.
* a religion that is considered strange or dangerous