Grief. The last few weeks, amidst the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve heard the word a lot— many are grieving—grieving loss of jobs, normalcy, graduations, weddings, Senior years, proms, vacations, friendships, family they can’t see, and the list goes on and on……..
Six years ago, like an eighteen-wheeler barreling out of control through a car-packed interstate, my life was hit full-force by grief. My brother died of cancer. I stood at the grave of two dear uncles. And I walked with some of my closest friends as their son also battled cancer and entered into Heaven. As if this wasn’t enough, during those short months, a special personal relationship ended.
For a while, the grief was overwhelming.
One particularly difficult day, I sat alone in my home crying when my phone rang.
On the other end of the line, my dad said, “Allison needs us, and I think YOU are her answer.”
When I first met Allison on the streets of Eastern Europe, she was fourteen and the most spirited, kind-hearted, angelic girl. I loved her immediately. I loved her even more as her story unfolded. She was an orphan. Her orphanage, in a very poor village, was closing. Allison had nowhere to go but the streets, an extremely dangerous place for young girls in Eastern Europe where human trafficking is rife. Her future was scary, to say the least.
But, as I left her that day, I felt God whispering that he would use me to help her. I had no idea how that could possibly happen. She was in Europe. I was in America.
Several miracles, including a summer hosting program, opened the door for Allison to visit my Oklahoma family for a few weeks. She was getting a once-in-a-lifetime trip to America, and I was getting to see this sweet girl I had fallen in love with. We were all excited!
While Allison was in Oklahoma, the deep sadness in her eyes haunted us. She wanted a forever family but believed she was too old to be adopted. With her 16th birthday right around the corner (the cut-off for being adopted out of Eastern Europe) she was right. The odds were against her.
Desperate to find a family for this special girl, my mom advocated tirelessly and talked to God relentlessly. (Mom and Dad were deemed “too old” by European authorities and I was “too single”.) But Mom’s prayers prevailed. And, On Allison’s 16th birthday we got another miracle—an American family signed the papers to be Allison’s forever family!
Occasionally, my family would hear from Allison, with her cute broken-English accent and sweet gratitude for our family’s efforts on her behalf. We rejoiced at the answered prayers of a child who’d wanted a family, and now had one. Never in a million years did I expect God to ask me to help Allison again. But, he did.
Sadly, just a few years later, Allison’s adoption failed, and she was once again orphaned, homeless, and hopeless.
My dad called again. This time, he asked, “Can she stay with you?”
I looked up at the empty, spare bedroom in my town home and thought, “God, is this why that bedroom is empty?”
Even in my brokenness, God desired to heal others who were also broken. So, Allison came to live with me.
“God Heals the Broken-Hearted and Binds Up Their Wounds.” Psalm 147:3
Over the next six months, Allison’s life changed. She smiled again. She loved life again. And, she began to hope again. Something else happened, too. I began to smile again, love life again, and hope again.
As followers of Christ, we are called to bear with one another in sorrow–to suffer with those who suffer. It’s been said that God never wastes a hurt. I believe that our own sorrow better equips us to bear that of another. Amazingly, as I shared Allison’s pain, I, too, began to heal.
In the middle of my deepest suffering, God used me to bring hope to another. In the midst of YOUR sufferings, He can and He wants to use you too.