Tanya was counting the days.
The little girl with chestnut hair and auburn eyes sat at home on her bed in Russia, wishing away the hours and daydreaming about the next time she could travel with her sister and mother to church. She loved the games of Kids? Club and the singing during worship, but most of all she loved talking to Jesus. She knew He could hear her prayers and she believed that He saw her tears.
"As a child I often cried and asked Him to help," says Tanya. "I always knew in my heart that I could cry to Jesus."
Tanya's tears were heavy for her fragile frame. Her mother dealt with severe depression, and her father, a struggling alcoholic, took his anger out on the family physically. Tanya recalls a life of sleeping in her street clothes, ready to flee with her mother and sister should her father come home in a rage.
Eventually, Tanya's mother stopped taking the girls to church, though Tanya saw her reading her Bible frequently. Her father continued to drink to extreme. Then, Tanya's teenage sister became pregnant. Although Tanya felt sorrow for her broken family, she could not bring herself to return to the church she had so loved as a child.
However, Tanya began to pray again. As she did so, something stirred in her mind. She recalled the safe harbor church had been to her as a child.
Crying out to Jesus, Tanya felt His strong hands helping her survive each day. Ten years after her disappearance from Kids' Club, one Easter Sunday she chose to return to the Nazarene church.
People were stunned to see the former little girl they remembered from so long ago. What could have been painful and awkward turned into something beautiful. The church welcomed Tanya back with open arms and hearts. She cried again"this time tears of joy for her loving church family who accepted her back where she belonged.
As weeks turned into months, Tanya attended church faithfully, growing in her relationship with Christ. One day Sergei Archakov, the pastor, announced plans for an upcoming baptism service for anyone interested in taking another step of faith. After the service Tanya approached Sergei with a request to be baptized. "It is so bad to live without God," she cried. "I want to be baptized in the name of Jesus."
Freshly baptized in Christ, Tanya's relationship with Jesus has strengthened since the days of Kids? Club and her longing to return to the safe haven of her church.
Last autumn, Tanya brought her faith full circle by bringing a harvest display to the sanctuary, representing God's faithfulness to the harvest cycle when seeds are planted. Proudly, she displayed the fruits of her labor, and worshiped Christ alongside her new church family.
Childhood is such a critical time in a person's life. Whatever storm may rage at home, sprouts of safety and Christ's love should be sown and cultivated lovingly by Christians.
Tanya's story is a reminder to plant and nurture seeds sown in the human heart, even if it takes a decade to see the growth.
"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9).
Lonnie Norris is field strategy coordinator for the CIS on the Eurasia Region for the Church of the Nazarene.
Holiness Today, May/June 2012