15 December 2017

Trusting God!

Interview with… Elena Drozdova

Many of you will remember the Chernobyl Nuclear disaster in 1986. As a consequence, in the years following many children came to visit families in Northern Ireland. Now 26 years later we meet up with Elena who was one of those children. She tells us a little of what her life has become in the intervening years.

Tell us a little about your background and how you became a Christian.

raI was born in 1982 in Minsk, Belarus. There were 4 children in our family – 2 boys and 2 girls. I am the second oldest. I was a normal child but when I was 11 years old I became weak and could not play a lot and a few weeks later was diagnosed with diabetes. After finishing school I went to Minsk State Linguistic University. I graduated with a degree in Language and Literature and following graduation taught English and also did some work as an interpreter until my eyesight became a major problem for me.

My grandmother was a Christian and she taught us about God. However my father was not a Christian and he did not allow us to go to church, though secretly we went along from I was 9 years old with my mother, who is also a Christian. At the age of 16, I made a public personal commitment to God. I attend Bethany Church, a pentecostal evangelical fellowship with a congregation of approximately 480 members.

Do you remember the Chernobyl Nuclear accident?

No, I don’t remember the accident. I was only 4 years old at the time. We live 388km from Chernobyl. People in Minsk did not know about the disaster. They were working outside in the vegetable gardens and in the fields; children were playing outside…it was normal daily life that day and in the days following.

Due to the Chernobyl disaster you were brought to Northern Ireland. Tell us how this came about.

I was 16 years old when I first visited. Ronnie Dawson from Drop Inn Ministries had visited Belarus and knew my pastor. I came on one of the Holiday Programmes they organise for Chernobyl children. Five years later I returned with another team but this time as an interpreter.

You have major health issues. Tell us a little about these and how your faith has been affected as a consequence.

I am an insulin-dependent diabetic and have other major health issues as a consequence, which makes life very difficult. At the end of 2005 my eyesight deteriorated. It was a few months before I was seen by an eye specialist and hadlaser treatment to both my eyes. Despite treatment, my eyesight has continued to deteriorate and I now have no sight in one eye and only very slight peripheral vision in the other. When I was in hospital 3 years earlier there was a girl called Olga who was blind due to diabetes. A few months later she died as she also had serious problems with her kidneys. In Jan 2006 when I went back to the hospital I was in the same ward and also the same bed as Olga had been. I went to my doctor, the doctor who had also looked after Olga and me in 2002. When I asked her about the results of my eye test she said, “Do you remember Olga?” I knew what she meant! At first I could not believe it and even tried to smile saying, I believe that God will heal me. Then the doctor asked me, “Did God tell you that He will heal you?” I answered that Jesus was healing people from all diseases…but my faith was not strong. I was very fearful and cried a lot. Then in the ward I found a New Testament and I read the story of Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples when the storm arose and the disciples were very afraid. Jesus said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” I had so many questions about all that was happening and even if God was there at all. I then remembered my granny and the many miracles she had experienced in her life. I stopped the questioning and the “rubbish” thoughts of doubt and fear. I realised that I didn’t need to panic! God is real and He is in control!

When I got home from hospital I read again from the Bible, “I am the Lord your God who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Is. 48:17). This answer came directly to my heart. I started to re-evaluate my life. I was a Christian but there were many worldly things in my life. I concentrated more on God and made Him first priority in my life. This was a crucial decision time – deciding to trust God again, and believe that He was doing His work even though I couldn’t understand. These two passages gave me strength – gave me faith not to be disappointed in my Christian life or in what God was doing!

You featured in the newspaper and on internet. Tell us what happened.

Just after I developed my eye problem, I had a dream and somehow I understood it was God telling me: “You will undergo big trials but I will do great things through you.” Last summer, a similar prophetic word was given to me: that God is going to do great things in my life and all these trials are testing my faith. A day after that I was going with my older brother to see my granny and suddenly on the road a dark blue BMW car with dark windows and no number plate, was swerving across the road in front of us. It eventually appeared alongside our car. I had my window opened slightly and the driver of the car also opened his window. He was wearing dark sunglasses; he had a pneumatic gun and he started shooting at my car door.

When we stopped, the driver of the car behind told us he couldn’t understand how we didn’t have a crash! Reports of what happened to us were on the internet and in the newspaper.

This happened at a very significant time for me spiritually – a time when there was a battle going on in my mind and heart over trusting God fully in all aspects of my life. Sometimes I think God is testing me, and my faith, and He wants me to trust Him. I also know the enemy is against God’s people and at times it seems like the devil wants to destroy me either by destroying my faith or through physical circumstances. I don’t understand why these things happen but God’s promises give me hope and a reason to live and enjoy my life. If it were not for God I would be miserable and suffer depression. I believe God has purpose for every person. He has given me a gift of language and I want to use it. You were strongly advised not to make your last trip to NI.

What was your response to thisnews?

I asked one of my consultants if I could make the trip and she said, “Yes! Go!” Two weeks before setting off I was then told I couldn’t go as my health was worse and I had to go to hospital. She told me I had to decide which was most important – the trip or my life? She asked, “Do you want to be carried from the plane on a stretcher? Do you want to risk your life?” I told the consultants that I believed God would heal me and that He would take care of me. They told me that they had never seen anyone with such serious diseases ever be healed completely – even those who went to Dalai Lama never got better! But, I know “Nothing is impossible with God!”

I was very upset and prayed much that God would guide me as to whether I should go on the trip and if I would be ok during and after it. I didn’t want to risk my life. I believe God gave me promises from His Word, “Bestrong and do not fear…” (Is 35) and “I will protect you…” (Jer 51:36).

I was in hospital for 9 days for very intensive treatment before making my trip to Ireland. On the day before I left, the doctor told me my blood results were no worse than they were a year ago! God was in control! The following day, my brother-in-law and I set off to travel to Ukraine by car to break up the long journey. I had a wonderful trip and arrived home safely again!

Your life journey has been very tough thus far. Is there a final message you wish to share with our readers?

It is now 7 years since my eyesight began to deteriorate and for 5 years now my vision has been extremely poor. Life is very difficult for me for various reasons. However, I am very grateful to God! God wants us to have a good life and He is a great healer BUT His priority is that we would have eternal life. I am encouraged by the story of Joseph who, after all the difficult time in prison and slavery, became ruler in Egypt. God uses the hard times for our good. Thank God He is changing me. I am not what I used to be and there is still much that He can change. He is leading me and using the difficulties to teach me. My story is not yet complete because God is still at work. “My suffering was good for me, for it taught me to pay attention to your decrees” (Psalm 119:71).