Of the countless stories that circulate around Mission to Ukraine, there is one that is especially close to the hearts of the women that work here.

Larisa’s story is one of heartbreaking beauty. She has lived through numerous trials and hardships. And although they are not over, she will tell you that the Lord has brought her through it.

This is Larisa’s son, Alyosha. He’s bright and happy and full of energy.

I met Larisa right before camp. In a group meeting, we discovered we were to be in the same small group. As I got to know her and her son at both camps, I saw a bright and unique light inside of her. There was something about her that made me want to be around her. And the more time I spent with her, the more I grew to love her and her precious little son.

Larisa is a strong woman, an inspiring teacher and a faithful member of her church.

I had heard snippets of her life’s story on different occasions, but I got the full story after dinner one evening at my host home. As she told her story, I saw an incredible picture of one woman depending and relying on God in a way I have never seen.

Larisa was a believer and her husband was not. This, along with several other things, caused marital problems and a difficult time with their first child. After a few years, and a visit to MTU, Larisa found out she was pregnant again. She knew her husband didn’t want any more children and she was terrified to tell him the news.

Larisa waited for two weeks, all the while attempting to decide herself whether she was going to keep the child or not. She finally went back to Mission to Ukraine and through the help of many of her close friends and sisters in Christ, made the decision to keep the child, no matter what her husband thought.

When she told her husband that she was pregnant again, his first response was that he was making an appointment for a doctor who would do an abortion. She simply refused. As time went on, she stayed strong in her decision through countless threats and emotional and physical abuse.

This is a place of healing and hope for many women in Zhytomyr.

Six months into her pregnancy, Larisa had an accident in which a metal object fell and struck her on the head.  This caused her to have an endless throbbing pain that invaded every aspect of her life. Of all the doctor’s visits and unanswered questions, there was only one neurologist who said that she could continue in her pregnancy. But she did anyway. She was determined to carry her child as long as possible.

She continued visiting MTU for counseling and Bible studies and attended church at every opportunity. Her husband began ignoring her, claiming no responsibility for her well-being or for the child that she was carrying.

During a time when it looked like she had no one, when she could have been completely alone, she wasn’t. She relied on her sisters and brothers in her community.  Over time, her church replaced her husband: they helped pick out names, they gave her advice, and Mission to Ukraine provided her with the baby supplies she couldn’t afford. The Lord tangibly provided for her in her greatest time of need.

But it didn’t stop at the birth of her precious son, Alyosha. For a year after he was born, his father continued to completely disregard his existence. He didn’t help Larisa with anything she needed. Instead he left her on her own through her persisting medical issues.

The community that is provided at MTU is a haven for those who are left alone when life gets hard.

I wish I could say that the story has a happy ending for all, but that’s not how life is. Things are better, but they are not perfect. As soon as Alyosha started walking and calling out for his daddy, his father’s heart was melted. And though he does not live with them, he is somewhat involved in his children’s lives.

But there is something good we can see in the life of Larisa and her son: a testimony of the Lord’s providence. Her faith has grown through these trials and you can see her heart in the way she talks. Her heart belongs fully to God. Her strength is totally from the Lord. Her love is completely founded in her Maker.

She ended her story to me in these words, “No one will ever be able to tell me that there is not a God.” Though she questions why she was given these trials and these stories, she knows that in the end, her life can be used to glorify God. God used the people in her life, from MTU and from her church body, to cover her in His love.

And this is where I see the one image that I keep coming back to as I’ve been here in Ukraine: a glimpse into the perfect design of the Body of Christ.

People surrounding a scared mother in the midst of her hardships. The beauty of life born despite a multitude of obstacles. Love that shines through the darkness.

This is how it’s supposed to be.

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About the Author: Lauren Schneider was a summer intern with World Next Door in 2010. She is a Journalism/Mass Communications major at Samford University in Birmingham, AL. Lauren loves writing and photography and could eat Chick-fil-A every day for the rest of her life.

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  1. Jim.M said... 


    August 11th, 2010 at 7:04 am  

    Lauren, I read this story the day it came out and have been thinking about it. This story and the one before it are mind boggling. I found myself reading both stories, and looking at them from a slightly different perspective. Wondering again…where are the fathers? I asked myself why are these guys MIA here? Is there any effort to help them in their brokenness? Could the story be different if there was also a men’s ministry there, helping men who’s compass needs some fine tuning. How can they find their way back to the wholeness of fatherhood, and family. I am sure I misunderstand the culture, and these thoughts may seem naive, but these would not be the first lost men God has bumped into.

    Thanks again for a compelling story.


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