My name is Tanya

I grew up fast at the age of 15 after my father died in terrible torment. Cancer was killing him slowly but surely but I was so naive that I couldn’t even imagine that death was able to take away the most precious and the closest person in my life.
After the passing away of my father, my mother went into the deepest depression and almost completely stopped communicating with me. I was in so much pain and in desperate need to talk to someone but my own mom didn’t even notice my presence. The cemetery where my father laid became the only place I could go to. At my father’s grave, I spent a lot of time telling him how my day was, what happened at school, who was the boy that I liked, and how much I missed him and how lonely I felt. I was lonely and hated the whole world!
At only 19 years of age, I gave a birth to a child and soon after that began to use drugs! It wasn’t too long when the father of my child who encouraged me to try opium and actually administered to me the first injection, all of a sudden vanished from my life. That betrayal became the beginning of my six year long journey of drug addiction and degradation - my personal degradation as a human and as a woman.
My brother and my mom stepped in and took my son Stas away from me to raise him. As for me, I traded my son for endless chasing of a daily dose. In the insane lifestyle of a drug addict there is no place for feelings, so I had to forget everything my father had told me about myself: That I was his princess, his little beloved girl, and that one day I would meet a wonderful handsome young man. I had to throw this out of my heart. Now was not the time for sentiment and silly dreams. Now was the time to be cruel and cynical.
However, I still missed my son and he was the reason of my multiple attempts to get clean from drugs. Every time, after such an attempt, I realized that my drug addiction was much more powerful than I was and that the treatment was useless. I gave up. I gave up my dream that one day I could be a healthy sane human being. I gave up my dream to be loved and not just used by men. I gave up my dream and yearning for new life!
In the end, how was it possible to fall in love with a drug addict whose entire body was covered with oozing sores as a result of injections? Could my son be proud of a mother like me?

After having discovered my drug addiction, my mother attended a worship service in a Baptist church in Odessa, Ukraine. Her ultimate goal was to save me. God had a bigger plan and He took my entire family on a long journey of salvation.
My mom was no longer embarrassed of her daughter’s addiction. Now she was pleading with the church to lift me up in their prayers. The Lord gave her faith and hope that I would live.
The entire church, my mom, my older brother, and my little son were praying for my soul. God answered their prayers and reached down to my desperate soul and rescued me, even when I was not searching for Him! God is good! The Bible verse that says “God showed his love to us in this- that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” was proven powerfully in my life. I was hopelessly lost to everyone else while the Lord had never left my side. Finally, He entered my life! My Savior! My Lord! My true Father! Because of His grace, love and patience with me I was also freed from the prison of drug abuse and despair.

There I was, thinking that that was the end of my pain, that the worst was over, that from that point on there would be only joy, happy family, wonderful marriage with a fine Christian man. Now my son was supposed to be happy that his mommy was home safe and drug free. I was so terribly wrong and the reality of life happened to be not so joyful. The reality was that I didn’t have a job, that I had no idea how be a mother, how to take care of my son and how to love him, how to live my daily life, how to take responsibility not just for my personal life but for my own child’s life also. My child had been praying and waiting for me. What could I give him now? How could I restore in his life everything I had taken away from him? I desperately needed God’s wisdom to become the woman and mother after His own heart. God saw my desire to be changed and began the transformation process in my heart.

I went to college where I obtained a degree of psychologist/social worker. During college, I was accepted into Ukraine Reformed Seminary. At the church, I got a position of psychologist and social worker and my life was changed in the most miraculous way. How happy was I! At times, I couldn’t believe that it was happening to me! But the Lord had a wonderful plan for changing me as a person just as I had always prayed for.
However, I was still arrogant, stubborn, self-confident. How could God use a person like that for His own glory?! I know that He didn’t’ want to see me in that condition. In 1999, I was diagnosed with tuberculosis in my left lung and main bronchus. Previously, I was misdiagnosed with and for a long time treated for asthma which I didn’t have. As a result, I ended up in the hospital in extremely bad shape. I was coughing up blood and couldn’t talk. It was the beginning of a long, dreadful and very painful treatment process in a TB hospital in Ukraine. I could have written a book about it but to make long story short, to survive a Ukrainian TB hospital is a miracle in itself!!!
At the hospital one tiny room was shared by ten patients with open form of tuberculosis and all of them were coughing up blood. I spent 11 months there without seeing or hugging my son so he would be protected from the infection. It still hurts my heart when I remember seeing him through the window outside the hospital.
“Mommy I am praying for you! Please come back home soon! I miss you!” he shouted under the window. After visits like that, I cried out to God asking Him to heal me or take me to Himself. Although the pain was unbearable, from my first minute in the hospital I knew why I was there and I wasn’t angry with God. He was so close to me, so gentle and caring that I thanked Him for that terrible place every day. He was changing my heart. It is in that place that I had learned to be more compassionate to people around me. I prayed for them. Some passed away praying to Christ while others died hating Him.
There in the hospital, I never met an atheist. It was a place where every day someone went into eternity. It was a dreadful, dark, full of pain and yet incredible place because it is when we are in pain that God is closer to us than ever.
When I was sharing about God, one of the patients would leave the room demanding that I stop talking about Him and insisting that God didn’t even exist. After few months, she began to hate Him. A little later, she asked me to pray for her. She passed away with the Bible in her hands. How good is God!
In the face of death, many humble themselves. In my case, God humbled me. Now I was ready to go to my Father. But… there in the hospital, I met Sergey. I was finally discharged from the hospital and soon afterwards we got married.
Just a year later, the disease was back and I found myself in the same hospital once again. The doctors said that I wouldn’t survive without my left lung removed entirely. I didn’t have any alternatives so I agreed to have a surgery. Again, scary time in the hospital, painful recovery and long conversations with the Lord. I prayed to God if He could only take away my pain. Little by little, step by step, God was healing me and leading me back to normal life. Now I was a new Tanya and I was thankful to God for that.

I began a ministry as a psychologist in the “Ark” Rehab center for alcoholics and drug addicts where one day a mission team of Christian counselors from Birmingham AL arrived.
It was amazing time of learning and fellowship. The deepest impression on me was made by an older gentleman Dr. Langston Haygood.
His wisdom, amazing kindness, confidence and confidentiality encouraged me to share with him everything that was taking place in my life. At that time, my marriage was falling apart due to my husband’s uncontrollable aggression and physical abuse. I also discovered that I was pregnant so there was no way I could divorce him. I accepted my marriage as it was and lost my hope for any positive change.
Langston became my spiritual mentor. Not only did he oversee and provide financial support for the Ark rehab center. He also became like a father to me, someone who heard me and saw in me more that even I saw in myself.
Langston visited Ukraine every year which allowed so many people to learn from him personally and from other counselors that came along with him.
The priceless knowledge we got from him was not only applicable to our work but was life changing on a personal level also.
After eight years of marriage, I discovered that my husband had been having affairs for a long time. I really can’t find the right words to describe this part of my life. One of the best descriptions of the way I felt is this: I thought I died! Although wait… A dead person doesn’t feel anything and I did. My soul was troubled and hurting. Day and night, my soul was afflicted by the unbearable pain.
I took all the responsibility for my husband’s affairs and decided to become a better wife. Also, I thought my son needed a father. It continued in that way for few more years until, on top of everything, my husband started to drink. I made a decision to get a divorce. The last two years of my marriage were the time of prayers and deep evaluation of myself and my marriage. It was the time when I realized that I couldn’t continue in that abusive relationship. My sons suffered witnessing the scandals in our home. It was time for me to make a decision, and I found the courage to make it.
The Lord had taught me a lot of good lessons and showed me how much He loved me. I was His child and couldn’t let anyone treat me in that abusive manner. I realized how valuable and precious I was to Christ. Fear no longer had control over my life. On the contrary, the Lord gave me confidence and a great desire to live in freedom.
I walked through this valley of death with the help and guidance of my now good friend Langston. He wisely kept quiet, wisely asked questions, wisely avoided telling me what to do, wisely showed compassion when I made unwise decisions. He was just present in my life. I am not sure he is even aware of the magnitude of the influence he had on my life. It was Langston who restored my faith that not all men were unfaithful to their wives. Dr. Langston Haywood is a true gentleman and professional!!

The first weeks after my divorce, I couldn’t have enough of quiet and peace. I remember my first dinner with my kids: we talked and laughed and there was nobody to yell at us. We took such a delight in great food and fun the way a family should. It was so peaceful, happy, and safe.
A new stage of my life was beginning. I was able to explore myself as a mother and a psychologist. I was absorbed in my job, catching up with friends and my children since I was deprived of that all for 10 long years.
I lost my oldest son, Stas’s, early years. He needed me and I was too busy and preoccupied with my relationship with my husband. Now I was becoming the mother that he needed. He showed me such grace as we built our new relationship.
Soon after the divorce, Stas graduated from high school. He received a scholarship and was enrolled at one of the most prestigious universities in Ukraine. Here he was, a university student, a future computer engineer. He has since graduated from the university, gotten a job, and married a wonderful Christian girl. The time passes by so fast.
My younger son, Elijah, has been growing and healing from the effects of those early years as well. His love for me is evident every day and I am thankful for the closeness of our relationship. He is in high school and he has a bright future ahead.

Back in 2009 I was invited to head a powerful ministry, “Journey To Freedom.” Our mission is to reach out to every person who is striving for positive changes in their spirit, mind, and body. We believe in transforming power of Jesus Christ through small groups. It was so amazing! It is what I still personally need every day of my life! I love to learn and I believe that changes are possible.
I started psychological support groups for people who don’t want to drown in their problems, who understand that it’s impossible for them to change on their own, who desperately need God’s wisdom and the support of others.
Through all of the difficulties, tragedies, and pain, and all the triumphs, miracles, and healing of these years, the Lord has been consistently at work in my life. He has taken an empty broken vessel and changed it into a whole, purposeful, overflowing one. Saving me, if that was where he stopped working in my life, would be enough. I deserve and expect nothing more. But God has been so gracious to me by adding physical healing, the return of my sons, and a ministry where I can serve him and help others. The Lord’s goodness to me has been unending and marvelous.
After several years of a successful ministry and the healing of past wounds I began to sense within me a longing for one last part of my life that had thus far eluded me. As these desires for a true Godly husband rose up inside me I constantly pushed them down, suppressing and denying them.
“Didn’t I go through this before only to be disappointed?”
“There are no true men in this world.”,
“You can’t have everything you want in this life.”
All this went through my mind any time even a hint of romance and love crept in. As the Director of a successful Christian ministry I had heard story after story that mirrored my own: Unfaithful, abusive marriages that left the victims broken and without hope. I would not go back there- ever. I was a strong ministry leader and both mother and father to my children. I was afraid to think about becoming the “weaker vessel.” But this desire of my heart continued so, being the smart woman that I am, I devised the perfect plan: I would allow myself the idea of being a woman, but I would set the bar so high for my mate that no one could achieve, thereby keeping myself safe. I didn’t want to just “be married “. Of course, I wanted to marry a successful, hardworking, smart man with a great sense of humor, but the most important requirement was that he would love God more than me! Is it too much to ask for? Of course not. So, I decided to wait no matter what.
As a friend of mine advised me to, I registered at a Christian dating website and only a week later I got a funny smiling face from a man Michael.
I checked his profile and based on what he wrote about his personal relationship with Jesus, I decided to respond to him. We started writing each other, talking on the phone for a long time, and in few days I deleted my page from the website as I realized that he was the One! A month later we met each other in person. I flew to the United States on a business trip and our dream of a long-awaited date finally came true because before that we had only talked to each other on the phone without being able to see each other. It was breathtaking! Michael embraced me and his first words were, “Thank you, Jesus!”
A month after our first date, Michael asked me to marry him, and I said, “Yes! Yes! Yes!”
“Why so fast?!”
“Maybe, you should’ve waited a little longer to get to know each other better…”
“Are you sure he is the one?”
Yes, I was sure. At 46 I had gone through a terrifying marriage and ugly divorce. God was restoring me for these past eight years. I worked hard to become a completely new person, to become a woman, to trust again, to know who I was and what I wanted in life, to discern who could be allowed into my life and who couldn’t.
Yes, I was sure! I saw and discerned in Michael the character of my man and I didn’t need too much time to realize it! He is a man from God, predestined for me and he loves God more than he loves me!
Then there was the long process of waiting on my and my son’s visas and our transition to the United States.
On October 27 of 2019 we got married by Dr. Langston Haygood who played key role in my long transformation process.
My marriage with Michael has been the happiest years of my life. I have never been loved more than I am now, and I have never lived more than I do now.
Yes, this once cynical, tough person, I have changed into a woman I have never been before. And it is my marriage with Michael that God uses to discover that part in myself.
Today I continue to lead my ministry with an amazing team God has blessed me with.
Now I am able to listen to others, to be compassionate to them and help them in their transformation process.
Now, I can clearly see how my life circumstances God had led me through helped me to become a new creation with a new heart of flesh.
I love my job and am endlessly thankful to God for it. It is a great honor for me that God entrusted me such a ministry through which we seek to glorify the Triune God and get capture for Christ many, many hearts that have not met Him yet.