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I Came to the US for the American Dream. I Found God Instead.

Written by Ekaterina Nelson on

I grew up in Russia in a broken family—with unbelieving parents, alcoholism, and abuse. I longed for a safe happy home. As I became a young adult, I tried to find the belonging of “home” in all the wrong places. I searched among the wrong people for the wrong reasons. That led to thirty-one years of spiritual blindness, something Paul speaks to in his second letter to the Corinthians:

In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (2 Cor. 4).

Abandoned by my earthly father at the age of twelve, I found a giant hole in my heart that I tried to fill with anything and anyone except God. Little did I know that the hole could only be filled by my heavenly Father. I longed for home. I longed to love and to be loved. But without any earthly fulfillment, I fell into deep, chronic ten-years depression and social anxiety.

Moving to the United States

I thought I would leave my worst past behind me when I moved to the United States in 2009. It felt just like the American movies I’d watched on VHS as a child in Russia—I was married, was a part of a big “happy” American family, and enjoyed family gatherings at Christmas and Thanksgiving.

The fairytale did not last long though. Divorce was finalized in 2013. In a heartbeat, I lost my big American family and succumbed to six more years of loneliness, depression, and sin. It was extremely hard to build friendships or relationships in my late 20s in the worldly, American culture. I felt misunderstood and out of place. Eventually, my introverted personality and pride took over completely; I lived to be my own hero, to “do it myself.” I was self-centered, depressed, and lonely—preferring loneliness because it began to feel safer. But deep inside, I was still longing for home.

In 2018, I received a marriage proposal. I said yes. But in his love, God saved me from going through with it. Even in my unbelief, he was pursuing me. I continued to wrestle with my identity and loneliness, though.

Meeting My Heavenly Father

On the outside, it might have looked like I was doing great. By the world’s standards, I was “living my best life.” But I was still dead on the inside. I was thirty-one and I did not see any purpose to wake up every morning. When I wasn’t working, I would stay in bed for all three to four days straight, binge-watching the “Cold Case Files.” That is how I felt on the inside—cold. Still longing for home.

One evening after work, I broke down in tears and shared with my co-worker/employer that I did not know how to carry on with this life anymore. Her eyes filled with tears as she looked at me and said, “Kat, you do have a Father! A heavenly Father who loves you so much!”

At that moment, I was baptized by the Holy Spirit and God opened my blind eyes.

Suddenly, I knew that God was real, and I longed to follow him as a sheep who knows the Shepherd’s voice (John 10:27). He was speaking to me and I was not blind anymore. Though I couldn’t explain what had happened within me, I realized I could see God and the truth clearly, for the first time. 

My employer took me to the store and bought me a Bible. That evening, I went home and the Word of God became my everyday food—that day and every day since. I began studying the Scripture, thanking God that he had given me a new heart:

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezek. 36:26).

I was encouraged by passages like Psalm 34:18 that reminded me, “The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit” and that because I am in Christ, I am a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).

When God Became Real

I felt loved for the very first time, truly loved. I immediately knew I have a Father who loves me, who has loved me throughout my whole life (even when I did not believe in him), and who will always love me.

I was dead and now I am alive. Born again. I see how he has been guiding me all these years. The heartache and pain now give me great joy because I see his great plan through it all. And, not only has he been with me but he has also given his life for me. In his love, Christ died for me on the cross of Calvary, so I would be set free from my sin and free to love and live for him.

In that July of 2019, my world changed—my heart and soul were transformed. And my outside world was about to change too.

Finding Family

Ever since my Savior adopted me into his family, I have felt the deep loneliness ever again. Yet, as a baby Christian, I had a strong desire to be surrounded by mature followers of Christ. I wanted to be where Jesus is. I wanted to be with his body—listening and learning, serving and giving, praying and worshiping.

In his grace, the Lord honored those desires and has blessed me with a family of faith and a church home that is filled with selfless and compassionate sisters and brothers; loving mothers; mature rooted-in-love-fathers; wonderful teachers; and beautiful children to care for.

He has given me an amazing Small Group. We recently celebrated our one-year anniversary as a group, and it reminded me just how thankful I am for each and every one of them. I simply do not know how I could do life without their prayers, guidance, and friendship. I’m also finding friendships through the Young Adult Ministry at church. And I’ve even had the chance to become a spiritual big sister and mother, myself, serving in Children’s and Student ministries.

I cannot be grateful enough for God’s blessings of family and community that I was longing for three decades. He is a good, good Father!

Ekaterina Nelson

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