01 Jul How are you – really – feeling? Anna tells her story of loss, trust, and change
Capturing Grace on a three week journey through Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Uganda
Anna | Orphan Outreach, Latvia
During mine and Dasha’s time in Latvia, searching for solutions to her being unable to return home to Ukraine due to the war, we had the opportunity to work with one of my favorite ministries, Dallas based Orphan Outreach.
In 2017 I had the privilege of working with Dace Rence, Orphan Outreach’s Latvian director for partner ministry Miera Osta. You can learn more about this ministry through the stories I have shared on my blog.
In Latvia, Orphan Outreach goes by the name of Miera Osta, Latvian for Harbor of Peace. During Dasha’s interview with 28 year old Anna, we can definitely testify that Miera Osta is appropriately named.
It was hard to fathom the losses that Anna has experienced in her short life, the loss of her parents at the age of 5 followed by the loss of her husband only three years ago. After our time with Anna I am more grateful than ever for the ministry of Orphan Outreach and for their commitment to walk beside those who are in need.
I hope you will be inspired by this story of faith that my Capturing Grace team members Daria Shastun and Joy Mazahreh worked hard to tell.
This is Anna’s story.
The first time I heard Anna speak, she had a big smile on her face. As she shared about her immense losses, she continued to emphasize, maybe as a way of reminding herself, how she is remaining strong. She is still a smiling even after suffering from significant pain and times of grieving.
She warned us that her story is difficult, yet with a smile. “Actually, I have two stories,” she continued, “I lost my mother, father, and my two older siblings in a car accident when I was five. I have lived with my aunt and uncle since then.
This is my first story.” She continued, “Three years ago, I met a man. We were blessed and got married. But he passed away three weeks later. I did not know I was pregnant then, and he didn’t know he was going to be a father. Now, I live with my little girl who is two years old. This is the second story,” she shared.
Anna continued, sharing encouraging words, “everything happens for a reason,” and “God only gives us burdens that we can bear,” before ending the interview with a smile.
After working on Anas’s story back in the US, I asked Dasha to interview Anna again by video chat. We wanted to ask her, how are you – really – feeling?
This time, she told us of her memories, not only of her loved ones who had passed, but of their names and of how much they meant to her. She shared about how she processed her feelings as a teenager and is still processing now as an adult. What surprised Dasha and I, though, was she did not only share about her past, but she shared about her current relationships with Orphan’s Outreach. She talked about the future she dreams of, little by little, every day.
I think it takes so much courage to say, “I still don’t know what “All things work together for our good” in the Bible means.” Anna, 28 years old, told us how she is learning this now, day by day, with her daughter Avelina, now 2 years old, who she calls her “little friend.”
Anna told us how she does not recollect a lot of moments or memories with her family, since she was so young. She remembers pictures and buildings, but fewer faces and voices. Her last memory is the tragic accident, which changed her life forever.
“I remember being stuck in the car after the accident, as I was calling for my mom and dad… but no one answered. I remember the ambulance… I remember the hospital… I also remember how as the rescuers pulled me out from the trunk, I saw my little brother, who was two and a half years old, bleeding. This is my only memory of him.”
Anna also remembered her teenage years. Processing the loss and the pain was very difficult, even while she was living in her aunt and uncle’s loving home with her biological older sibling. “I remember dealing with different feelings, I was angry, and I was sad too… I thought ‘Why does nobody love me? Why do I not have a normal family like everyone else?”
Oksana, Anna’s counselor from Miera Osta, knew Anna since she was a little girl and has been there ever since. She has stood close to Anna for most of her life, providing emotional, spiritual, and practical support. As Anna suffered from another loss, almost two decades after the accident, Oksana and Miera Osta continued to support her. Mentors were supporting Anna financially and emotionally, and even helping to raise her baby girl, Avelina.
Anna experienced the loss of her husband differently. She talked about how this time it felt “bigger” because she expected her own family would last forever. She lost her husband, Anthon, but also her dream of having the family she dreamed of. After this tragedy, Anna started asking God in an honest moment, “Why do you want my daughter to be fatherless?”
Dasha asked her again, how are you – really – feeling now? Anna replied, it gets a little bit easier as each day passes. She recalled one of her first memories the week her husband passed, when someone told her that it is God’s plan. Anna remembered, “In my heart, I wanted them to stop saying that. I wanted them to stop saying something I can’t see.”
Loss, trust, and change are difficult. At first Anna was angry as one of her close friends tried to help her, as she was not interested in a relationship with God after suffering from two very hard losses. Five people closest to Anna all passed away. Anna begun trusting God for strength and healing while she was pregnant, though. She knew who to turn to for comfort and healing, as Miera Osta walked alongside her.
Anna enthusiastically shared a new memory, her daughter’s first summer. “I remember taking her on a walk and seeing a flower and a bird,” Anna shared. “I remember telling Avelina that God loves these flowers, birds, and you. Then I paused… I was the one who wanted to hear that all along… God loves me.”
Some days are still difficult, and Anna is learning that is okay. She is learning to identify one positive thing each day. Avelina helps Anna to smile, as her giggles make all the difference.
Orphan Outreach / Miera Osta has walked alongside Anna since the beginning, and helps to remind her of better days ahead.
In the process of change, Anna trusts Orphan Outreach to help her provide daily needs. Anna shares, “I don’t only receive food that I wouldn’t have been able to provide for myself and my daughter, but I receive Christmas and birthday gifts too!”
Anna recalled a wonderful memory of a coat from Orphan Outreach for Avelina on Christmas. “It lasted two winters,” she added. “After my loss, there have been changes as I trust God and His people to provide for me, just as He provides for the flowers and the birds we saw on that summer day.”
Dasha always concludes her loving interviews by asking where our newfound friends see themselves in five years. Anna answered, she imagines herself traveling in the mountains, then she added with a laugh, “but Avelina will be in school!” She also expressed how sometimes it is hard to dream.
Anna’s story is a good reminder for me to ask, how am I – really – feeling? In times of loss, as we process pain and experience grief, we have a lot to say and feel. Oftentimes more than we can name and remember. As we try to digest our past and embrace our present, sometimes it is difficult to dream. But oh, how our heavenly Father cares for the birds and allows the lilies to grow. He says,
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” Matthew 26:34
I invite you to learn more about the work of Orphan Outreach in Latvia.
I encourage you to be a part of this life-changing ministry.