My Mate: My Gift from God

As a pastor, I often had young people question the Christian teaching of waiting for “the one” God had for them. Quite honestly, I can only infer this from scriptures such as Matt 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” and “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers” (2 Corinthians 6:14).

I do not believe God has necessarily pre-picked a perfect mate for everyone on earth. But I believe God knows who is best for each person. When you leave things to God, He will bring the right person into your life at the right time, the relationship will be blessed, and a happy marriage will result. I myself did not fully understand this until I met my lovely wife.

Our story starts with my wife’s mother sending her to Egypt to escape an abusive relationship, but God’s hand was guiding us together long before that.

God’s Hand #1: She was a young girl who attended Music School in the former Soviet union, and she was drawn to the “Italian-ness” of music. She loved the romance of Italian, and all things Italian. Her desire was to learn Italian, and grow up to be an Italian teacher. However, her monther could not find a teacher of Italian for her, and her mother opted for English, instead. The implications of this in the Soviet Union were that my wife would be destined for a life working for the KGB.

God’s Hand #2 and #3: When she was old enough to attend University, she was immediately accepted into the “Transportation University” where she would become an engineer for the State run railway system. However, she took an entrance exam at the premier English teaching university in the region and was accepted there. This was exactly 1 year after the Soviet Union collapsed, and the last year that Ukraine paid for the education of university students from government funds. Had she not been accepted to this particular teaching university, nor had her tuition paid, we likely would have never met.

Back to Irina going to Egypt… She visited the site of the Church of St. Catherine of Alexandria, long a Russian Orthodox pilgrimage location for those seeking spiritual direction in relationships.

God’s Hand #4: They have a ceremony at St. Catherine’s where they hand out rings to visitors, which are symbolic of relational strength. As my wife’s turn came up, they ran out of women’s rings and they gave her a man’s ring. At first offended, she then saw this as a sign of renewal of her life directly from God.

2 months after her trip to Egypt, she was at the university looking at a bulletin board where they post jobs. She was looking for a 3rd job to help support her and her daughter. She already worked full time as an English professor ($125/mo) and taught private students English ($50/wk), but she needed more income to afford to eat.

God’s Hand #5: There were two flyers posted looking for English language interpreters. She decided she would check one of these jobs out. When she went to pull the little tab with the phone number off the posting, the one she wanted suddenly slipped down behind the glass and landed behind another posting on the board – well out of reach and view. So she ended up taking the number of the second flyer which led to her 3rd job as a interpreter for a position that served English speaking clients.

God’s Hand #6: Exactly one month after she started her new job, guess who ended up on the other end of her interpreting? You guessed it…

When I spoke with “Diana”, I flirted (hey – I’m Italian – I can’t help it!) and she turned out to be an exceptionally well spoken, educated, and interesting person. I asked if we could speak again outside her work, and told her I wanted her phone number. She told me of the rules against giving out phone numbers (not to mention her fear of giving it out to some bozo from another country), but I persisted and she gave me a number… the wong number.

When I called at 5:30am my time the next morning (3:30pm hers – when she was “after class”) the gruff male voice that answered hung up on me. Thinking I had misdialed, I called again. What I did understand of the conversation was “stupid American”, and my heart sank. I did, of course, keep talking to “Diana”, invited my good friend John M to talk with her, and got her warned by her employer not to give personal information to us and waste time on us.

God’s hand #7: Exactly one month to the day after she started her job, at 4pm in the afternoon (2am her time) I was making an international phone call and misdialed the phone number. Guess who answered with a sleepy “allo?”

I did not know it was her at first. I asked “what are you doing?”. The unknown woman replied in perfect, but sleepy, English: “sleeping”. We continued to talk, with her thinking it was one of her students playing a joke on her and trying to figure out what student it was, and with me trying to figure out how this woman could sound so much like “Diana”, but realizing the impossibility of it happening by chance.

As they say, the truth is stranger than fiction. We spoke for several hours, and within a week she decided it was worth spending time talking to me to improve her English. Within a month she had quit her interpreting job, I had plans to fly there to meet her, and shortly thereafter we married in Ukraine and here we are today.

Our relationship is filled with many other exciting signs of God’s hand, which helped bring us together after that first series of events. There is the “gas incident” where, against my constant warning, she left the “cooker” (stove) light at night to heat the apartment. After she and our daughter fell asleep, the flames went out and the apartment filled with natural gas. A “hand” woke my wife and a voice told her to turn off the gas… but when she opened her eyes there was nobody there.

Then the “permission incident”, the “passport incident”, the “border patrol incident”, and the “ticket purchase incident”. These I will not discuss, due to family privacy, but they were clearly God’s hand in our lives allowing us to come together. If you know me personally, ask – I’m always glad to share these stories, just not on the internet.

Till next time, I leave you with this:

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,

what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
take God seriously.” (Micah 6:8 The Message)

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