Are you facing an impossible situation? Do you need a miracle? Did you know that with God, you can scale any wall? (Psalm 18:29).
I found myself facing what seemed an unscalable wall in December 2019, when Natalia, the guardian of a teenage Ukrainian orphan, handed me the girl’s medical file and thanked me for helping Iryna obtain medical help. Humanly speaking, it seemed an impossible task.
My husband Tim and I had been looking forward to hosting Iryna and providing her with exciting experiences, but Iryna had suffered significant physical abuse as a child, and her leg needed major reconstructive surgery. Finding a surgeon who would be willing to provide that care for a foreign citizen with no insurance hadn’t been on our agenda.
We’d met Iryna the previous July as a result of my bumping into a lady’s shopping cart at HomeGoods. Olena and I both smiled and apologized for blocking each other’s way. When she spoke, I immediately noticed her strong Russian accent.
Olena was kind, and we struck up a conversation. I shared how I had adopted two children from Russia. She lit up and told me that she and her husband, David, were ambassadors of a Ukrainian orphanage called The Father’s House. They organized trips to Florida for children who lived in the orphanage. They were hosting a group the next week.
I offered to provide a day of water sports at our home for the kids. Olena accepted our invitation and brought Iryna to our house a couple of weeks later. The girl seemed unusually comfortable with our family and enjoyed being on the water. We were surprised when she accepted our invitation to spend the night.
Iryna visited one other time before returning to Ukraine. Two months later, Olena and David asked if we would host Iryna at our home during December. She had progressed significantly emotionally, spiritually, and physically during her stay in America, and they thought it would be beneficial for her to visit again. We agreed.
It was soon December, and Tim and I were waiting at Orlando International Airport. Excitement filled the air as we waited alongside other host families. Soon, Natalia came into view with the children, looking like a mother duck with her ducklings. We exchanged hugs, and that is when she handed me Iryna’s medical file and thanked me for helping her. How in the world did a random bump into a stranger’s shopping cart turn into something of this magnitude? God was obviously at work; if not, I was in trouble. Only He could bring about such a surgical miracle.
I tucked the file in my purse, and Tim, Iryna, and I went home. In the weeks that followed, we enjoyed many wonderful holiday activities. I especially remember our trip to a local farmers market one weekend where she met an American Santa Claus. I think I was more excited than she was.
When it was her turn, Iryna approached Santa’s throne, timidly met his high five, and stood beside him for a picture, but not too close. Santa asked what she wanted for Christmas. Her reply was unusual.
“I…want…leg,” she replied in broken English while pointing to her lower extremity. Santa looked stunned and sheepishly replied, “I’ll see what I can do about that.”
I quickly let him off the hook. “Don’t worry, Santa. God will take care of the leg.”
Our time with Iryna soon ended, and once again, we found ourselves at the airport. It was an emotional goodbye. Iryna, a stoic young lady, tried hard to maintain her composure, but tears soon got the best of her too.
“Oh Lord, comfort her,” I prayed.
The next day, I began pursuing medical help. “Lord, I know that Your hand is upon Iryna and that you have big plans for her. I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of her life story, but I have no idea how to get her the medical attention she needs. Please show me what to do.”
I wanted God’s wisdom because I’ve learned the hard way that forcing a solution only makes a mess of things. Besides, finding the answer wasn’t my responsibility. It was God’s. My part was to trust Him, pray, and obey.
It’s hard sometimes to know what trusting God requires of us. Do we sit and do nothing while we wait for Him to act, or do we start knocking on doors? I’ve discovered answers come when we move forward prayerfully while wisely using the resources, skills, and connections God has given us.
I have relationships with skilled orthopedic surgeons across the nation through many surgeries of my own. I reached out to three of them for advice, and through them, God showed me the next step. They all advised me to apply to Shriners Hospitals for Children for Iryna’s care.
I had no idea Shriners Hospitals would provide care for international children. I had seen the touching commercials but hadn’t considered it an option. Immediately, Olena, David, Natalia, and I set out to complete the application process.
Reading through the final documents, I discovered I had been named Iryna’s legal guardian, which meant I would be the one to accompany her to the hospital. I had no idea how my busy travel schedule would allow it. Also, we were moving to another state in May. I suppressed my worry, reminded myself that God would work out the details, and uploaded the requested documents.
Then I asked the Lord if there was anything more I should do. A question arose in my heart: “Kristi, what is it that I have gifted you to do?” I immediately responded, “Write people’s God-stories, Lord.” I’ve been doing it for nearly a decade as the publisher of this magazine. “Then write her story and submit it to the hospital.”
I sat down at the computer, and the words began to flow. Iryna has experienced much trauma at the hands of others, which is why she needed medical care. Finished, I submitted her story online and prayed that God would move on hearts to accept Iryna. He did.
On March 12, Dr. David Westberry informed us that he would perform Iryna’s surgery free of charge in Greenville, SC. My heart leaped with joy. We received a surgical date of May 29, 2020.
And then COVID-19 struck. Suddenly, the world as we knew it shut down. A hospital representative called to inform me they were closed. Then, Natalia reported the US Embassy in Kiev had closed as well.
“Lord,” I prayed, “nothing can stop the good plans You have for Iryna—not COVID-19, international travel bans, or closed embassies and hospitals. What You have purposed for her life shall come to pass, according to Your Word. Amen.”
The delay wouldn’t have been a huge deal, but Iryna was turning 18 in the fall; she’d soon be past the official admittance age for the hospital. I was afraid Shriners might not take her case once she became an adult. But then I remembered Philippians 4:6–8, that teaches me not to be anxious over any situation. Instead, I’m to tell God what I need and thank Him for what He has done and would do. The Bible promises that, if I do this, the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard my heart and mind in Christ Jesus.
I have experienced that peace through all the uncertainties of 2020. That doesn’t mean I didn’t have opportunities to doubt. There were plenty. I just had to keep fighting the good fight of faith (1 Timothy 6:12). Some days I fought better than others, but in the end, faith moved every obstacle (Matthew 17:20). It helped that Olena, David, and Natalia were fighting the good fight with me (Matthew 18:19).
On May 2, we received an incredible answer to our prayers. At that time, travel bans were still in place. The US Embassy in Kiev and the Shriners Hospitals remained closed as well. But that didn’t stop God; He wasn’t quarantined or closed for business.
Wait until you hear!
I was in a deep sleep when my phone rang. Natalia, in Kiev, was on the other end of the phone yelling, “Kristi, get up. Is good day. We have miracle!” She praised God loudly in her beautiful Ukrainian accent and shouted with joy. Tears stung my sleepy eyes as I listened to her explain.
Early that morning, a representative from the US Embassy in Kiev had called and requested that Natalia bring Iryna to the US Embassy immediately. Bedhead and all, Natalia grabbed Iryna and rushed to the embassy. A man met them in the parking lot, took Iryna’s documents, and told them to wait in their car. Then he went inside. A little while later, he returned and presented Iryna with a six-month medical visa to come to the United States. It was like a dream.
The miracles continued when Iryna entered our closed borders on May 20, three days before our family moved out of state. She made the move with us.
The hospital remained closed, but that was okay. God was giving us time to prepare for her big surgery. We signed Iryna up for free English classes at the local community college and hired a private tutor to accelerate her learning. She worked hard studying English. I, on the other hand, studied Iryna. I sought to understand her likes and dislikes and learned to read her moods. With time, I knew when to press in with conversation and when to leave her alone. God used our wait to intertwine our hearts. She has become family.
Time passed, and I ramped up my prayers. “Lord, You know Iryna’s birthday is in a month. She’ll be 18. Her medical visa is expiring soon too. We need You to work a miracle.”
In August, we attended a special prayer service. I asked Iryna if she wanted to go to the altar and pray for the miracle she needed. She shyly refused. I understood her reservations and didn’t push. Nonetheless, I felt the Lord wanting me to go forward and stand in the gap for her.
I walked to the front of the church and found a prayer partner. The auditorium was loud as people prayed for God’s intervention in their lives. I felt like I was screaming as I shared Iryna’s need. Breaking every social-distancing rule, the lady and I grabbed hands and prayed together. And the next day, God answered our prayers.
I was driving when the phone rang. I answered it, not even thinking about my prayer the night before.
“Kristi, did you get my email?” It was Lisa from Shriners Hospital. “We have Iryna scheduled for surgery, and we need you both to come next week for a preoperative appointment.” She explained that, while the hospital wasn’t scheduling international patients, Dr. Westberry had agreed to operate on Iryna.
It’s been nearly two months since that phone call. As I write, Iryna and I are waiting to be discharged from Shriners Hospital in Greenville. Iryna’s surgery is behind her, and the recovery process is underway. I’m in awe, looking at the evidence of God’s faithful love and unstoppable power sitting next to me in her hospital bed.
I smile as I recall all the “what if” scenarios that have challenged my faith over the last year. Not one of them was ever an issue. Because of COVID-19, my travel commitments were all canceled, so I had plenty of time to entertain and care for Iryna. The Lord kept us healthy despite the virus that raged around us. Communication wasn’t a problem. Often, we understood each other without speaking a word.
Insurance wasn’t an issue either. All medical costs were covered, including my meals at the hospital. Nor did it matter that Iryna had turned 18. To God be the glory for all He has done and will do!
Today, I asked the Lord why He chose me to be a part of Iryna’s life. He could have chosen anyone. I sensed Him say, “So that you could see how faithful I am to care for My children’s needs, yours included. And also, so you would tell others about My faithfulness.” Hence this story.
I don’t know what God has planned for Iryna and our family once her recovery is complete. We are willing to do whatever He asks. I certainly don’t want to miss any adventures God might have up His glorious sleeve. And I would encourage you not to miss any either.
Every day, God extends an invitation to us to join Him in the miraculous—sometimes even while we’re shopping at HomeGoods!
Whatever you’re facing, keep your eyes, ears, and heart open and be willing to say yes when the invitation comes. And then, get ready to be amazed. There simply is no obstacle that’s too big for God.