About Oleg & Anya
(Oleg) I never thought that I would become an invalid*. I was born a healthy person and like all children led an active life. I actively wore out, or rather "broke" four bicycles. I worked with model airplanes and often went fishing. I especially loved to go with my friends on hikes. My hikes normally began with my dad lifting my backpack onto my back (because I couldn't lift it). I would push ahead wobbling under the weight ignoring the sympathetic looks of my parents. On hikes, I was responsible for cooking, which was my specialty. Therefore, on the return trip, my backpack was practically empty. I also often dreamed of becoming a pilot. I dreamed of building my own little plane. I dreamed of sailing the ocean on a sailboat. However, when I was 13 I came down with the flu and there were complications, which turned into another sickness, miopathy-progressive atrophy of the muscles from the inability of the body to break down fat cells. It became very difficult for me to walk. From weakness, I could barely raise myself up after sitting or falling. In such a way, I unexpectedly became an invalid. I had dreamed of much, planned on doing much in life, but I never dreamed of, or planned on becoming an invalid.
*I know some may take offense by the word "invalid". However, no offense is meant and it is a direct translation of Oleg's words, which give a cultural context for his biography. Oleg lives in Ukraine, which like many countries of the world has not made as much progress as some western countries in relation to the disabled.
My friends slowly began leaving me, since I could not run with them and lead an active life. It seemed to me that life was passing me by. They had their life, and I had mine: hospitals, sanitoriums, operations. In search of doctors and new treatments, my parents and I traveled to various cities. I liked it very much, seeing interesting places and things I was never able to see before as a healthy child. Traveling also distracted me from reality. For me, it was very difficult to accept the reality that I was an invalid, since inside I was just like everyone else. With time, we ended the search for the "healing elixir", and with the end of school I became an involuntary prisoner of my own apartment. My brother became an onboard engineer in military planes. All my former friends and classmates went on to different institutes and universities. My parents worked all day and I was left alone, closed in by four walls. My sickness progressed and it became more difficult to move around, especially after one bad operation. I was increasingly locked up at home and rarely ventured outside. The window became my place of contact with the real world. I could sit all day at the window and watch everything pass by. I withdrew more and more into myself and even more rarely came out. It was easy for me to fall into despair and became harder to get out of it. Thus, began in my life the Period of Survival. I was suffocating from loneliness and from not even having anyone to talk to. I felt as if no one needed me. Inside, I was like everyone else. I desperately wanted to be loved and to love and be happy. My soul's silent cry was, "People! I'm here! I'm alive!" During that time, I started learning to play the guitar and began writing songs. Even now, I remember those songs. They were engraved on my heart with a dull, rusty knife. They are witness of my former life, a reminder of the deep ditch from which the Lord lifted me. For the songs expressed my pain, thoughts, dreams, hopes and despair. I was born into a normal, "upright", Soviet family, which did not know the Living God. Therefore, no one could show me a way out and fill me with real living hope. Often I would deafen my pain with television until 3 a.m., when all the programs went off the air. Television was another portal to the "real world". During my Period of Survival there was a light side. I have an interesting last name, Los, which means "moose". It attracted young girls who had nothing better to do after school than go through the telephone book. Finding my last name, they would call, saying things like, "Is this the zoo?" or "Do you need any antlers?" or "Maybe you need some hay?" I would always answer, "Yes, this is the zoo." and "Moose is speaking!" and "Have my own horns." and "They feed me quite well here at the zoo, thank you!" While the girls were at a loss of words, I would take the initiative to get acquainted with them. And in this way, I survived. With one girl, I conversed on the phone over a four-year period. Later I found out that she had been raped by her "friends". She was lonely and rejected in life. She was also trying to survive in this world.
When I was 20, my father died, and in my life began a new phase, the Period of Steps to Independence. During this time, I had the opportunity to hear about God. I went to learn how to drive a car using only hands. The course was held in another city and I stayed in a dorm with other invalids. There, I met a lady, who from time-to-time would come to the school to tell about God and offer baptism. She was Orthodox. She told me about God, how He had healed her husband from a serious illness and how He is merciful. Obviously, I had not been baptized as an infant, and wanted very much to receive baptism. She and her husband brought me to their house and invited their local priest, who performed the baptism. The next day we went to church and I received my first Communion, after which they took me home and we had a big celebration. Their relatives came and they prepared many delicious dishes and everyone rejoiced over me. For the first time in my life, I felt needed. I was warmed by their love and I felt good. Also to that school came Evangelical Christians. I would come and listen, waiting for them to sing my favorite song, "I've Found Joy in Christ", with the chorus, "From that moment I became His son." At one of those meetings, a woman recited poetry with such inspiration, that I thought she must really love God. After the meeting, she came and said, "I want to adopt you." I was shocked! I had to explain that I have a mother and that I'm only studying here in this school. I again felt needed and loved since someone wanted to adopt me. The love of those two women played a key role in my coming to the Lord. I had not yet repented before God. I was stupid and did not yet understand that God Himself loves me and wanted to adopt me.
Returning home, I continued with my life as before, four-walled loneliness. My brother returned, with his family, to live with us after serving in the Army. During a hot argument with him, he said to me, "Oleg, you have to understand, you have no future. You will never have a wife. You yourself are in need of help from others, so just sit and be quiet." Of course he didn't mean much by it and even forgot he ever said such a thing, but I remember very well the pain it caused, because it was the raw truth about my life. After three years, I said to myself, "Enough! I cannot live like this any longer." It was New Year's Eve and I watched on TV as everyone was wishing each other a happy New Year. I experience a terrible depressing loneliness. While my mother slept, I got up and swallowed sleeping pills along with various others. I curled up in bed under the covers and suddenly began to pray. It was the first time I had done so. I said "Lord! I know that I will end up in hell, but I can no longer live like this, because this is not life but only a pitiful existence." I put a bold period to the end of my life, but God corrected it into a comma. I remained alive, although my health sharply declined.
After the hospital, I returned home. And a miracle occurred in my life. I met a girl, Annushka, at the center for the disabled. There she organized and led a creativity group, where invalids read verses, sang songs, met with creative people, and most importantly FELLOWSHIPPED. Annushka is also an invalid with Cerebral palsy. She could not walk on her own until she was four. From a very young age she was left in special sanatoriums where she spent her summers alone. She also experienced the pain of loneliness and rejection. All of her feelings she expressed in poetry. I thought that Anya and I had a lot in common, and that she could understand me. We have a real kindred spirit, and when there was not creativity club we would talk on the phone for four hours at a time. Our relatives would ask us, what we could talk about for such a long time. But we did not need something to talk about, since we could understand each other without finishing a word. It was just good to be together. The more we conversed, the more I understood that she was the girl I dreamed of even to the 100th percent! Annushka is not only pretty and intellegent, but most importantly she is my very close and faithful friend. I did not consider myself worthy of her (nor do I now), so it was terribly frightful for me to propose to her. I loved Annushka with all my heart and could not imagine life without her, but I was afraid that she would reject me and our friendship would be destroyed. When I could no longer endure the uncertainty I decided to ask her and to my surprise she accepted. After a year, we were married. I was so happy! I walked around prideful and satisfied like a turkey. My dream was fulfilled: I have a friend for life. Sometimes I am asked how it came to be, that Anya married me. I always answer, that I don't know myself. She is my gift from the Lord! In her loneliness, Annushka prayed to God, that He would give her a friend. Annushka confirms, that God answered her prayer, and that gift is - me! That must mean that God gave us each other!
Within three years time, our family life became ordinary and dull, and I began to experience an emptiness inside. I just couldn't understand what was happening to me. Why was I again entering into despair? Before, I experienced despair and depression because all my dreams were crushed. But why was I depressed when all my dreams had been fulfilled? Why did I feel lonely? (They say that the worst is not just loneliness, but loneliness within a family.) I just couldn't come to grips with what had happened to me and Annushka. We were still friends, we lived in our own apartment. What were we missing for happiness? I was without answers and felt totally bankrupt. One lady, a violinist, with whom I had played at the center for the disabled, unexpectedly dropped by and asked me, "Oleg, what are you living for?" I tried to find something wise to say. Alone again after she left, I understood that I could not give an answer to the question, "What am I living for?" To lie to myself would be stupid. I saw myself as the cruel, hopelessly egotistical person that I was, unable to show love, forgiveness or to change anything in my life. That was most terrible. I perfectly understood, that unless I could find a way out of this dead end, my marriage fall apart from various circumstances, or I myself, by my own stupidity and stubbornness, would destroy my life and the life of the one dear to me. It was important for me to buy myself some time. I remember, how we sat holding each other in the kitchen as the teapot boiled on the stove and we decided to start afresh.
We thought that for happiness we didn't have enough money. We went for a walk, and met a friend who offered me a job as a shoe repairman. I happily accepted. Upfront I'll tell you, I worked for only one day, sewing only one pair of boots. The thing was that my friend had a partner who believed in God. He said nothing to me about God (he probably didn't get a chance to), but the Holy Spirit Himself touched my heart and opened my eyes. As I went home in my wheelchair, my heart burned because I knew the way out. And the Way Out was God Himself. I thought to myself, "How stupid I've been!" How many times had I heard about God, how He is merciful and heals wounds, and that only through Him people can find happiness? How many times have I felt His touch and His love towards me? Returning home, I lay on the couch and peacefully said, "Annushka, without God there will be no happiness." Annushka had already heard about God and Jesus Christ from her Orthodox grandma. She recognized that she was a sinner, but she did not know the joyful news of forgiveness of sins in Christ.
We began to fellowship with believers. We began to read the Word of God together. At first from a children's Bible and from a book about the first steps of faith. With time, we began to realize our sinfulness before a Holy God. We repented and received forgiveness of thousands of sins, and also adoption by His great mercy. And I began to sing, "From this moment I am His son!" And this is how my personal meeting with Christ came about! I remember how my heart burned with joy and happiness. It seemed that everything had changed and I looked at ordinary things through completely different eyes. It was as if I lived in a dark room and suddenly the lights turned on. Life was overflowing. We received baptism and dedicated ourselves to the Lord, that Christ would be praised in us and through us-that is the dearest desire of our hearts. For Jesus took upon Himself all our weakness, all our sins, all our pain, all our loneliness, emptiness and rejection. Therefore, the rest of my life-my life with God, can be described in the words of the Apostle Paul: To live is Christ!
God gave me the gift to write songs and praise Him through song. One time, on a trip through Ukraine visiting churches, we were preparing for an appearance in a concert hall that can house around a thousand people. At the entrance of the hall were hung announcements for various famous musicians. I said to my friends, "Look, these famous people worked day and night to achieve fame so that they could perform in concert halls like this. I am a person, who has no musical education, who cannot lift up his hands, who, as before, means little to the world. But God has taken me and put me on a great stage and says, 'Go, and tell, what I have done for you.'" What can God do through a physically disabled person? Anything and everything He wants to do. My friend, Yuri Grinyov, often smiles upon my active life. He says that a healthy person hasn't been to the places I have been. Oleg flies on airplanes and sails on boats. My friends drag me up mountains and everywhere. In church, I minister in worship and lead study groups. God has directed me to witness to His mercy in various cities and countries. Not long ago I returned from the USA. I get SMSes from people in Europe, America, and Russia. Even in Australia, people listen to my songs! If those songs bring encouragement and comfort, then I am very happy, since every song is my life with God. They were born first of all in my heart, often in a very difficult part of my life. Praise the Lord! He does everything as He desires. God leads us into the desert and He leads us out. He leads into the depths and out again. He is God and it is a great pleasure to praise Him! For it doesn't matter if a person is healthy or disabled, it is important that he live for God's glory. I often say that everyone of us has our own "wheelchair". Maybe it is the kind that makes us spiritual "invalids". Therefore, I am very happy to be His servant in His great Kingdom. Following after God is not always easy but it brings unspeakable pleasures. As before, I am still weak. My soul is crippled. Sometimes my bad charter expresses itself, especially in the deserts of life. From pain I often curl up in the corner. But I am learning to open my heart to God, learning to trust, to be sincere before Him, and walk in His ways. I do not want to contort myself into a "proper" Christian. I love the Lord and want to be faithful to Him in His eyes. His love for me never dries up, for He will never stop loving His son Jesus Christ, through whose sacrifice and righteousness I am accepted. And Christ before His Father everyday acknowledges His love towards me and the church. God will never be disappointed in me. First of all, because He was never enchanted by me. And secondly, God will never be disappointed in Himself, for He will always find for me grace, forgiveness and a way out. God is not ashamed to call Himself the God of Oleg Los and that inspires, encourages, and strengthens me, for long ago I have already been disappointed in myself. God will be ashamed of many "wise", "powerful", and "important" people of this world, but He will not be ashamed of me a "foolish", "weak", and "insignificant" person because I believed in Him, and that also is from Him. That is why I do not despair. I do not know what awaits me in the future. My illness progresses and I slowly become weaker. For me it is harder and harder to play and sing. Possible, as many others with this illness, I will die a bedridden death. Maybe God will heal me. For with God nothing is impossible, and I do not close my heart to this possibility. One thing I know for sure, that even confined to the bed one can praise the Lord. It is the desire of my heart. Very soon my dream will be fulfilled when I see my Lord face to face. When I look at the grand beauty of the sea, the stars, and mountains I cannot get enough. I could sit and look all day long. The soul is quieted and filled with pleasure, as the hand involuntarily reaches for the camera. If creation can bring so much wonder and pleasure then how great will my wonder and rapture be in the very Creator! And not only me. And for all eternity! There will be no sun there, neither will there be any moon. There will be no loneliness, sin or pain. There will be only the Eternal God and eternal pleasure in Him! Praise the Lord!