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Monday, August 3, 2015

And Then God Brought Me To The Other Side...

 The day it all started...

I remember that day well. It was raining. I entered my high school
"Have you looked at the announcement board?" One of my classmates asked me.
I went and looked. The ad was talking about Future Leaders Exchange Program--FLEX. I didn't pay much attention to it. Good English--one of the main requirements. I was in school where English wasn't the strongest subject. My high school focused on math and science subjects. 
My teacher, who taught English, suggested that I will participate. I dismissed her suggestion.
Later during the evening my mom said that if I go and participate, I'll have a chance to skip school. Well... I agreed.


On that day my grandmother brought me to school where the contest was held. The auditorium was crowded-- 3,000 high school students and plus some with parents and other family members. We registered. The students were assigned classrooms. I don't remember the number of my classroom. I sat at the desk closest to front row window. First level, ten questions on a small card. 
Later that night we came in to hear the results.We knew that out of 3,000 were only 300 going to the next level. The names were not in alphabetical order. They were plowing through the names. The last name was mine. I screamed. Well I was only a sixteen year old girl.
The next day I was in a different classroom. The second level lasted few hours. It was dark when we got out. I was sure that I failed the second level. Basically, the entire exam was TOEFL test. My English wasn't good enough to pass the test.
But by the grace of God. I passed the test. My mom told me that in February.
Third level consisted of interview and group exercise. The exercise was the first part. There were several groups. Our group had ten people. I wasn't nervous much during the exercise. However, during the interview part I was a bit nervous. I remember how I said that if my host family would follow certain religion, I'll show respect to them by going to their place of worship. 
After that we had to do much paperwork, reference letter from school. In March 2006 I found out that I made it. Now I was one of the seven winners.  I was the only person from my school. 


At first many people were shocked. Most people in my school told me that I would not be able to adapt to the life in the USA. People told us that I have to give up on going to the USA. You see, while living in Russia I was told that I cannot do certain things because I have a genetic condition--achondroplasia.  I underwent limb lengthening surgery in Ilizarov Center. Now my arms and legs are long enough to live independent life. I a eve learning driving a vehicle. 
After long reflection we decided--I must go. 
Before I left, our group had to go to Vladivostok for an orientation. I had to miss my high school graduation in Russia. But I had graduation in the US. In Russia high school is only up to grade 11--no grade 12. 
While in the States many things had happen. However, the best part-- getting to know amazing people, making life-long friendships, and the main thing---encountering God. That's when I started going to a Christian church and studying the Bible. 
God found me when I didn't look for him. In fact, I never though that after my time in the States I will be a practicing believer. My faith became alive.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--Ephesians  2:8 

With our FLEX group and students from other region. I am first on the right side.


  1. Thank you for sharing this personal story. How nice to know that you have so wonderful testimony.God took you to North America,I think.

    You in the photo looks so pretty and young. When we feel down in our daily life,remembering our first days as believer often encourage us.It tells us both of where we were and where we are.May God bless you living in Canada as a faithful christian.


    1. Sanae, thank you so much for your comment. I would never be a strong Christian if it weren't for the USA.

  2. "God found me when I didn't look for him. In fact, I never though that after my time in the States I will be a practicing believer. My faith became alive."

    Oh, what a beautiful testimony, dear Irina! I saw the loving hands of God in each stage of your life including the part that you were chosen out of 3000 high school students. And yes, like Sanae, I love the picture! You look so lovely and cute.

    We just came back from the mission trip and I am so happy to have read your post today.

    with love,

    1. Thank you so much for your reply. Kinuko, I hope your trip went well. Thank you so much for complementing my picture. I can't believe it has been nine years. Feels like it was 2 years ago at most.

      God bless you,