In Her Own Words
By Larysa Volynets
Student Week of Worship Speaker
As a child in Ukraine, Larysa Volynets never imagined the life she has today. Now she knows, as she shared in her Week of Worship message, that with God everything is possible.
Jesus looked at them and said; “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all thing are possible with God.”
Do you believe this? Do you believe this? Good. I did not believe this.
In 1995 an Adventist world conference took place in Europe. Many people from Europe and Asia attended. My parents also went. There they were introduced to the huge Adventist family for the first time in their lives. They returned with many interesting stories, books and magazines. At that time I was 9-years-old. I was fascinated by the many colorful magazines full of beautiful pictures of smiling faces. I was curious why the young people were smiling, why they were so happy.
Unfortunately, all of the magazines were in English, and I did not know a single word. I took a dictionary and started to translate. When I translated a few sentences I got to know that the magazine was about Adventist education and Adventist schools in the United States. That was the first time in my life I had heard there were Christian schools in the world; schools where students go to classes together and go to worship together. I could not image that. I closed my eyes and imagined myself one day at such an institution.
I was the only Adventist in my school. In my heart I desired to one day attend an Adventist school. But I could not even dream about it. That was impossible for me. But with God everything is possible. God saw me and saw my heart. But before He would do something for me, I needed to make the choice to follow Him.
I compare my life to this story:
There was once an old tree and an old log. The log said to the tree, “I have been looking at you for a long time. I have seen that many thunderstorms pour rain on you. A hot sun shines and burns your leaves. Cold weather freezes your branches. Strong winds bend your stem. I feel very sorry that you have all of these troubles. I am very lucky that I am a log. Nothing gives me trouble. No wind, rain or cold can cause me harm because I am lying on the fence. I am small and nobody sees me here. I am very proud that I am a log.” The tree answered, “Yes, you are right. It is true that you are resting and nothing troubles you. But there is no life in you because you are dead and you are decomposing. I face many weather changes, but I am alive and bearing fruits. In thunderstorms and hot weather people can hide under my branches.”
Were you born to be a tree or a log? Everybody was born to be a tree, but it is our choice what we want to be. The life of a log is very easy. The log says, “I am happy with who I am. I am proud of who I am, even though I am bad. I have everything I need, and I don’t care about anything. I do not think about God, my friends or my family.”
The life of the bearing tree is different. The tree bears fruits. What is a fruit? It is our good deeds and actions. The person of that kind thinks not only about himself or herself but about people around him or her. Life’s problems and sufferings don’t break our character but teach us to be a better person. One day in our life each of us must make a choice to be either a tree or a log. I also had that choice.
I was born in an Adventist family. My grandparents and parents were very good Christians. They taught me about Jesus and read many Bible stories to me. When I went to middle school I was faced with many decisions in my life. I was the only Christian in my class. The school system required students to attend school six days a week. So, every Monday I had to explain to my teachers why I was not at school on Saturday. First, I wanted to lie and give different reasons why I was not at school, but that could not last long because I missed every Saturday. My classmates also asked me why I wasn’t at school on Saturdays.
To tell the truth, it was very hard for me to tell the real reason. Christians in that society were considered crazy people. Ukraine at that time was independent, but atheistic and communist ideas were still in people’s mind. Many people believed that there was no God, and everyone came from monkeys. People said that if you are a Christian that there is something wrong with your mind and that you could be a danger to society.
To my shame, sometimes I was embarrassed that I was a Christian. I was like a Peter. One day I came home and opened the Bible. I read one verse from the gospel of John.
As Simon Peter stood warming himself, he was asked, “You are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it, saying, “I am not.” John 18:25
I knew that verse, and I did not want to be like Peter. I did not want to be a betrayer. OK, I thought. If I decide to be a Christian many students will make fun of me. My best friends told me many times that I was wrong, that I was not supposed to believe in what my parents believed. Teachers talked to me and they explained to me that if I choose to be a Christian many doors would be shut to me.
I was considered the odd person in my school. I was very shy and quiet. Finally, I needed to give my answer. I needed to make my choice to go to school on Saturday or not. I thought about who I was. I prayed a lot. I wanted to know what I was going to be in this world: a tree or a log. I realized that if I choose to be a tree I would face many weather changes and have many troubles.
I praise God that He helped me make the correct decision. Finally, I told my teachers and my friends that I was a Christian and I was not going to change my ideas and beliefs. God is more important than everything else in my life and Christianity is more important than society’s ideas and rules.
The same Peter that denied Jesus, a few years later said,
Peter and the other apostles replied: “We must obey God rather than men!” Acts 5:29
Of course, everybody rejected me. I had bad grades even though I studied very hard. My best friends would have nothing to do with me. That was a hard time in my life, but because of this I got to know a very good Friend. His name is JESUS. I have never known who He was until I began to be a close friend with Him. I realized that Jesus knocked on my heart for a long time. He knocked softly but all the time.
I joined a group of people in my church who were like local missionaries. They went from house to house and offered people Christian books to read. Christian books are quite expensive in my country and many people had no money to buy them, so our church bought some books and anyone who wanted to read a book borrowed it. After a few weeks we came back to that person and exchanged books. And if that person wanted to learn about Jesus we offered Bible studies. I remember when I knocked at somebody’s door.
In my heart I wanted the person to open the door, smile and say, “I have been waiting for you for a long time. I would love to take some books to read and get to know Jesus.” Unfortunately, not many people I met were friendly and only a few of them wanted to know about Jesus. But that makes me think about Jesus. He also stands and knocks at the door of our heart. He desires so much to come and to be in our home.
“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
Every time when we refuse to open the door, Jesus has to leave us with sorrow in His heart.
Jesus changed my life. I realized that my life is so miserable and so short compared to eternal. Every time teachers yelled at me at school I prayed in my head. Now I see that God wanted to make me strong to be ready for the real life. He wanted me to make the choice to follow His path. If your parents are Adventists it does not mean that you are already a Christian. You need to have that personal experience with God.
God helped me to finish high school. I wanted to have a good education very much, but I could not have it in my country. I could not imagine that I would study in an Adventist institution in the future, but with God everything is possible. When my family got the chance to come here and they came to the U.S., I realized that God was giving me a chance to study here but I needed to work hard. I started to study English when I was 20-years-old, and I want to tell you. It’s not easy. This language is hard. It is hard to study a new language.
There is an Adventist magazine, the GLEANER, in my hands. I open it and there is an interesting article about Walla Walla University. Everything is the same as it was many years ago when I was 9-years-old. I see many interesting pictures and smiling faces. At that time I didn’t know a single word in English. Now I can read and understand English. Now I am a student at Walla Walla University. At that time I could not even dream about that. I knew it was impossible. But for God everything is possible.
I studied very hard. I came three years ago, and now I am a sophomore at WWU. It is such a great blessing for me to be here. If I had been embarrassed about Jesus and rejected Him then, I would never be here with you. If you need to make the same decision I want to tell you to never be embarrassed that you are a Christian and follow Jesus.
For me it is a miracle for me to be here. I’m sure many of you have dreams. Give all of them to God and He will make them true. Many of you were born here in Adventist families and you went to Adventist schools for academy, college, or university studies. And maybe you think there is nothing special about WWU—an Adventist institution. But it is. Guys, God blessed you a lot and gave you the opportunity to be here.
You can go together to classes, you can go together to church, you can go worship together. There are many students all over the world who dream of studying here. They WANT to be here, and they do not have these opportunities. But you have! Have you ever thanked God that you are here? Think about that! If you have dreams, give all of them to God and He will make them come true! For with God everything is possible!
God wants us to be strong and have faith in Him. I am strong only when I am with Him. I cannot do anything without God.
Everyone is special to God. You are not an accident. You were created by God and for God. If I was born, it means that I have a special purpose in the world. God wants to prepare me for His eternal life. God created us to be trees. When a farmer plants a tree he is expecting to have a green tree—not a log that has no treasure.
Believe in God. Believe that He created you and chose you to be His son or daughter. He has the best Friend for you that you can ever have. He has Jesus who will be next to you every second in your life. You need to believe this and receive it. Receive Jesus in your life as your Savior and Lord. Receive everything that He gives to you.
I wish your prayer today was, “Jesus, I believe in You and receive You.”
“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.” John 1:12
Last update on September 23, 2008