By Larisa Khokhlova, Kiev, Ukraine DBF
My only Friend Was a Gray Cat—Until JESUS FOUND ME
1. Life without direction
My name is Larisa Khokhlova. I'm a student of the first course of Kiev National University. I was born in 1984 in a small town in Ukraine. In my childhood, on sunny days I liked to hide in the grass and see the sky through the blades. I grew up as a joyful and cheerful child. My birth was like a miracle because my parents often quarreled and my mother had many abortions. My father never recognized me as his daughter. Once he drank too much and hit my mother. She received a severe skull injury. She was hospitalized for a long time. Now she's an invalid. She had to relearn how to read and write. I was just a little child when this happened and this event influenced me badly. My mother had several operations and I was afraid that she would die. I had the fear of death, pity for my mother and hatred toward my father. I could never forget what my father did to her. Our family moved to different places many times. I changed schools four times and I tried to study hard in order to fill the emptiness of my life and receive attention from my parents. I felt lonely. I had no friends and I had no affection from my family. In my inner heart grew anger, unforgiveness and irritation. It showed up when I lived with my sister's family. From the first day I could not have a good relationship with her husband. We fought and threatened each other. In the end my father kicked them out of the house. They had to live in another town with their little child. My sister said to me that with my character I will be a curse to those around me. In reality I made my grandmother cry many times and my parents quarrel. I hated and couldn't change myself. I thought my life was an accident. I couldn't see any purpose and meaning in my life. I was in deep depression. I complained about my destiny. Because of my sins, my only friend was a gray cat.
After graduation from my school I felt no sense of victory or satisfaction in spite of achieving the highest grade. My last hope was to enter the university. In 2001, I graduated from a special academic high school and entered the Physics Department at Kiev National University. My roommates were very different from me. Our room was the center of dormitory life. We had many new friends, a new environment, a discotheque, and corrupt companies. I started to meet with my boyfriend. I had romantic feelings and wrote poetry. Once early in the morning my boyfriend came to me and I started to seduce him. But my mother came at this time to my room. She looked at me like I was a stranger. I felt dirty. I despaired in my studies more and more. Then I fell deeply into my own world.
2. Jesus is the way, truth and life
At this time I began to read the Bible. John 1:4, "In him was life and that life was the light of man," touched my heart. I saw that in Jesus there is light that can drive away the darkness and despair in my life and he can grant me his light and his joy. Through the message on the cross of Jesus at the 2002 Moscow Conference, I understood that Jesus died because of my anger, selfishness and fatalism. When I came back from this conference, my grandmother died. I felt that part of my soul left me and I had an empty dark hole in my heart. This was Satan's beating on me and I suffered under the power of death. I suffered because death took from me my favorite people. I wandered in darkness. I was only existing, not living. In despair, I cried to God with tears in order for him to have mercy on me, listen to me and answer me. God answered my prayer. He gave me new direction through 2 Corinthians 5:20b, "Be reconciled to God." I felt that God was near.
After a short time God allowed me to live in common life. This helped me grow spiritually and God gave me much grace through living with many sisters. My parents were against this. My mother said with tears that she could never come to me if I lived in common life. But I overcame this and learned faithfulness. I came to all the meetings in church and Sunday worship service and grew in a personal relationship with Jesus.
Through the study of Isaiah 1:18, '"Come now, let us reason together,' says the LORD. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool,'" I understood that I was a sinner and very dirty before God and I was not worthy. I cannot stand before God with my strength and self-righteousness because God is holy. Only his forgiveness enables me to come to him. God helped me to repent and gave me the grace of forgiveness. I saw a great vision of God for my life. Through me the Lord can raise up Ukraine as a source of blessing for the world. God encouraged me and helped me to stand firmly. I became a shepherd for Ukrainian students and served them. I began to preach to my classmates and have Bible study with them. They left me but through this God taught me to serve and pray with tears for one soul. God taught me to depend on him and wait on him for sheep. Soon God gave me Sister Lena. In the beginning she asked so many questions that Bible study lasted three to four hours. God taught me to have patience and humbleness, and to love her. Through helping her God trained and helped me to be a good shepherd for one soul.
This summer God taught me to have absolute faith in the resurrection. Unexpectedly, my mother became sick. She needed an operation. Later my uncle died unexpectedly and soon after my grandfather. A few days later my brother-in-law was taken by ambulance from his job. Satan tried to conquer me with the power of death. Before, after the death of my grandmother, he succeeded but now I know that in Jesus there is no death. Jesus is risen. He conquered death and Satan lost.
God showed me that the worldly value system is stupid. I understood that Jesus for me is very important. He became for me the way, truth and life. He gave me his life. Only through him I can come to God. I received the kingdom of God like an heir and also eternal life. I understood that I need to give 100 percent of my life to Jesus and use my life in order to save many dying souls from sin. I want to know Jesus deeply and personally and value Jesus as my greatest treasure and live for his glory. Jesus became my Savior and true friend. I pray that God may use me as his instrument to make disciples of Jesus Christ in Ukraine. I pray that God may raise up two mothers of prayers through me and in his time send me as a missionary to a Muslim country. I pray God may raise Ukraine as a source of blessing for the whole world.