After a wonderful week-long visit with Becky & Daniel, friends from the States, it was time to take them to the train station as they continued on their journey. I volunteered for the early morning job of leaving the house at 4:30 a.m. Little did I know, God had more in store for me that morning.
Upon arrival at the train station, I noticed an elderly lady we passed, but thought nothing of it since we pass older women in Lviv every day. After helping Becky & Daniel get settled in their ‘room’, I headed back to the car. Again, I passed the same woman at the bottom of some steps and noticed she had 4 bags. Thinking she might need help getting them up the stairs, I stopped and offered to help. After introductions, Maria told me she had actually arrived earlier that morning, heading home from burying her daughter, and was now waiting for someone who was supposed to pick her up. This person was late though, and Maria didn’t want to call her because it was so early. Maria was just passing through and asked if I would check the schedule for the next train she needed in case the woman never showed up to get her. I found out her next train wasn’t for another two-and-a-half hours, to which she replied she would just wait there. She didn’t want to go sit somewhere, because it would be too far then for her to carry her bags to the train. I told her I had a car and offered to take her somewhere to meet this woman if that would help. She said the only place I could possibly take her to was on the other side of town where she could catch a bus home instead and it would leave earlier than the train. I finally convinced her to call the woman who was supposed to meet her so that if she wasn’t coming I could take her to the bus station. She did, and found out this woman’s plans had changed, and would be unable to come. Maria was visibly confused and didn’t know what to do. She said she would just stand there and wait for the train. Even I have a hard time standing for 2 1/2 hours! Finally I convinced her it was no trouble for me to take her to the bus station.
As I put her bags in the car, she began to thank God for sending me and began saying, “I’m not worthy, Lord!” During our 20 minute drive, she shared a little about her life; she had once served in the Russian Orthodox church singing the liturgy each week, but had left due to some ‘bad’ priests that disappointed her. I could tell by things she said, she felt she had messed up really bad and was hoping that God would forgive her.
After buying her bus ticket, our conversation continued and I stayed another hour with her, talking about God, forgiveness, & faith. Continuing to hear the turmoil inside over her past ‘sin’, I finally asked her if she knew that Jesus was the only way to be saved – all she had to do was repent of her sin, believe in Him, and God would accept her. Her response blew me away. Typically the response here would be something along the lines of, “yes! Mary, the Mother of God, is so wonderful. I pray to her every day.” with no mention of Jesus. Maria’s response though was, “Yes! Jesus is wonderful! He is my rock, my strength, my hope. I love Him so much!” She then showed me a beautiful prayer that she prays to Jesus from her prayer book. I almost asked her if she knew she could also pray to Him the same way as talking to a friend, but something held me back – I would soon find out why. She said I should go, so I hugged her and prayed for her. As soon as I said, ‘amen’, she began to pray for me – I had my answer, she knew how to talk with Jesus as a friend, because she already has a relationship with Him! As she prayed, tears began to roll down my cheeks as she basically rededicated her life to God!!! “God, thank you for bringing us together. Thank you that there are still people who love you and serve you. I want to join them! I want to sing with them again.” And then she began to sing softly in my ear as she hugged me. She sang two beautiful songs about Jesus, while I cried, and people looked at us, wondering who on earth this young woman and old woman were. But we just kept on hugging and worshiping our Jesus! As I said goodbye, she pulled me close again and said, “I’ve been water baptized. I’ve never told my sister, even my daughter didn’t know. But in September, 1992, I had repented and received water baptism.” Again, I was blown away! That is not something you expect to hear from an 86 year old Orthodox woman in Ukraine, as they believe in christening as babies. This woman knew who Jesus was, had followed Him in baptism, but due to religious tradition, she still had a hard time resting in the assurance of His forgiveness, love & mercy. I reminded her that she had repented, believed in Jesus, & God would certainly accept her. With that, we said our goodbyes and I headed home to catch up on sleep.
Two days later I called her to make sure she’d gotten home ok. She thanked me again, and said that morning was truly a miracle from God and He had used me to restore her joy and hope. Wow! How God can use me, a simple 25 year old girl, to bless an 86 year old woman, is beyond me! But He does. He simply needs willing and available people. This is my goal, to live everyday available for Him, and aware of the people He puts in my path, because sometimes they are a beautiful old woman – an everyday sight, but a hidden treasure and blessing.