The Story I Didn’t Want to Tell You (But I’m Sharing Anyway)

I’ve always written truthfully here, sharing my heart in ways I hope encourage you. But there are stories I haven’t told you, partly because they’re too raw and painful and partly because I’m convinced the story’s not over yet.

I haven’t written much about my parents, but you need to know their story. Our story. Or at least the part that runs up to the present moment. Because in many ways, I think it’s your story too. A story of miracles, brokenness, forgiveness, and hope.the story I didn't want to tell you

And even though there may be painful episodes in our stories, they need to be told. Because your story and my story? They matter. They’re pages in a Book that contains a narrative far greater than our own, and our little pieces all come together to tell the Bigger Story–the One about the God who is faithful to His people, even when they’re not, because He loves them just that much.

So we tell stories. Heartbreaking, embarrassing, let-me-hide-under-the-rug stories. Because the stories of our weaknesses point our hearts and others’ to His strength.

Pull up a chair, and let me tell you my family’s story.

Life Threats and Dangerous Escapes

My dad and mom grew up in communist Romania, completely opposite personalities brought together by their desire to serve God. My father pastored 5 churches and witnessed dynamic growth as God brought many to faith in Him. But not everyone rejoiced. Intimidated by the spread of uncensored Christian Faith, the Romanian secret police urged my dad to provide names of recent converts, active members, and Bible smugglers. After several months of grueling interrogations for my father and worry-filled days for my mother, the death threats began. Soon it became clear that their only hope of survival was to flee the country.

My mom was 21 and six months pregnant when she left behind her husband and 2-year-old son to escape first. After unsuccessfully seeking political asylum in Israel she turned to the nearest country that did: Greece. She had little money and no contacts, and she didn’t speak Greek, but as she sat 72 hours on a hard wooden bench in a small airline office, God softened hearts and opened doors. And Mom miraculously received food, shelter, and care for my birth.

Six months later, my father gingerly placed my brother on his shoulders, grabbed one little suitcase, and trekked through the muddy border into Hungary. There were stories of people being shot on the spot or torn to pieces by the patrolmen’s watch dogs, but God miraculously guided them to safety.

Mom and Dad were reunited in Greece and eventually arrived in Ohio, where they ministered to a Romanian church in Akron. It was a cozy life that made their impetuous promise seem like a distant memory: as they planned their escape, they had promised God that if they arrived in the US safely and if communism ever ended, they would return to Romania. It was a hasty promise that seemed so far-fetched they never expected to make good on it. But they had hardly settled into life in America when Nicolae and Elena Ceausescu were murdered and the communism regime collapsed; my parents’ dreams of a comfy future crumbled with the Iron Curtain.

Oana family

Willing Servants in the Field of Evangelism

It took them five years of excuses and delays to finally honor their promise, but at long last, in 1995, my family of five returned to Romania as missionaries to the Gypsies, a migrant group of people despised by all our relatives and church acquaintances but dearly loved by God. The field was ripe for the harvest, and hundreds of Gypsies received the Good News with great joy: Jesus had come to save not just the white Romanians but the neglected and downtrodden Gypsies as well.

My childhood was filled with dramatic stories of drunkards turned preachers, daily bread miraculously provided, tons of clothing and food delivered, illiterate children graduating high school, and shocking racial reconciliation. What God did in Romania during the pioneer years of Gypsy ministry in the late 1990s has profoundly impacted me and thousands of others. And God continues to raise leaders from among the Gypsies to deliver the message of the Gospel to their own people. His Kingdom is advancing rapidly where there was once only despair and darkness.


When Your Story Doesn’t Have a Fairy Tale Ending

That’s a story that needs to be written in a memoir and published for the world to read. Some day. Not yet. Like I said, the story isn’t finished yet.

Because rather than a fairytale ending, my family’s story turns dark for a season. A season we’re still trying to wade out of. And for the longest time, my family’s story has been uncomfortable because while my childhood sounds pleasant, there were undercurrents all along that shifted the foundation we were standing on, and eventually it all came crashing down in the most embarrassing and heartbreaking way.

To make a long history short and spare intimate details, I’ll simply say that my parents are now divorced and I haven’t seen my father in three years. We have gone from a family united in ministering the word of Truth to a family shattered, trying to pick up the pieces and reassemble them in a way that makes sense of what is left. There are deep, deep wounds all around that keep this riff painfully wide.

For the past three years I’ve avoided sharing the miraculous stories from the mission field because, inevitably, when the story of my childhood would morph into my husband’s and my love story as I left for college, the listener would circle back and ask, “So are your parents still in Romania?” and I would have to share the crushing disappointment that, no, they’re not. Gentle reader, missionaries are sinners, too, and as much as others would like to put us on a pedestal, our family had issues much like your family probably did.He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil 1:6

But to silence this story is to steal God’s glory. What happened during my parents’ escape from and later return to Romania is nothing short of miraculous, and tens of thousands of people have heard that story and have praised God because of it. And though some of those former admirers may now be disappointed in the Oana family, the Author of those golden years still holds the pen in His hands, and He’s not finished with us yet.

He who began a good work in us will be faithful to complete it in Christ Jesus (Phil 1:6). And that work often involves hard things like repentance, humility, and forgiveness.

Next week I’ll share with you my journey toward forgiving my father and mother. Until then, I’d love to hear from you:

Are there stories from your past that you don’t share with others? How does the truth that God isn’t finished writing your story change your perspective on those memories?

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Comments 27

  1. Sharon Kamrowski

    Yes I would like to share. But it is in PDF form. I used to blog but people used my story to hurt me and I thought maybe I was blogging to the wrong person. I saved some of those blogs but the most intimate personal and painful ones I lost, but along with them I lost the pain they carried as well. I still write and in fact , i wrote a piece in the spirit of the Psalms just this morning. I love to write, before I write i pray. Ithink it allows me to express many things and resolve things in my heart with a permanency that mere speech can not provide me. It also allows me to revisit the changes, growth and Grace of God that I have experienced through my walk through life with Christ. Yes, my family was a troubled family within the church. But God never let go of my kite, no matter what I did and I never fully let go of the string. By His Grace alone I survived to live out his will for me. What ever it is which ever day He chooses. He provides the strength, the courage, the sustenance we need to accomplish it. That He Promised, His Promises are always kept.

    1. Post

      Sharon, I’m so sorry you’ve been hurt by others in telling your story. I’ve experienced the same thing, and the fear of that repeating itself has caused me to be silent until now.

      I would love to read your story if you’d share it with me. You can email me at asheritah (at) yahoo (dot) com.

  2. Michelle Nezat

    Been doing the Bible Read Through again this year. In light of your story, I can’t help but think of all of the stories that the Author made sure to include that were not fairy tales all the way through, but He still redeemed them. The enemy cannot take away the eternal impact that was made during years of faithfulness and the enemy doesn’t have the right to name or label a child of the one true king. HE IS faithful to complete it. Just so.

    1. Post

      Michelle, your words are so comforting. You’re right: the Bible is filled with stories of broken people and God’s faithfulness throughout. How shrewd the enemy is in trying to silence our stories through shame and condemnation, hoping to steal some of God’s glory by making us keep quiet.

      What God has done (and how He continues to be faithful) needs to be proclaimed with all boldness and humility, and when those stories include our own faults and foibles, we need to speak truthfully and glory in His strength and righteousness, not our own.

      So blessed by your comment today, sweet Michelle!

  3. Debra

    Thank you for sharing your story. You bless others in doing so. Everyone has trials and tribulations. Some more than others. God walks in every situation with us. Bless you.

  4. Ann Marie

    Asheritah, what courage it took to write this! I recently heard Stasi Eldrege say, “The degree to which you are able to tell your story is the degree to which we are no longer bound by shame.” Thank you for being vulnerable and sharing your heart. May others who read this also begin to share their stories and find healing and redemption. Love you!

  5. debra bullard

    my father a true man of God was married & divorced with 2 children & remarried by the time he was saved by the Grace of God. it was very difficult for him to get a pastoral job in his denomination. i am the oldest of his children & tho he is in Heaven with our Savior when i tell our story ppl still want to know how he could b a divorced preacher. my response is always the same “this happened before he was saved so why is it an issue.” The enemy can cause much confusion & use any small thing to try to hurt God’s kingdom. our Father forgives, why can’t humans?

  6. Chanda

    This story brought me to tears. I am thankful for the work He did through your family. I will begin to pray that your family is restored.

  7. Kristyn Contreras

    Thank you so much for sharing! I know how difficult it is to do so. Don’t be afraid of obeying the Spirit when He asks you to share of yourself. Thank you for reminding me of that as sometimes I am afraid and uncomfortable sharing from my childhood abuse and the affect it had on me. Remember Rev. 12:11 We will overcome by the blood of the lamb & the word of our testimony <3 God bless you

  8. Craig Miller

    I so appreciate the sensitive and clear way you have told your story in progress–and that is what it is. As I have told many in the church, and myself more times than I can count, we must always take the “God view” of things that bring him glory, and the “long view” that we are in the midst of his story, not at the end, and only the end reveals all he has and will do. God bless you as you continue to serve and share. Blessings to your good husband and baby as well!!!

  9. ~ linda

    Asheritah, the truth of all stories is in our being open, honest and trusting the reader to respect the storyteller. I thank you for being able to share the beauty amidst the sorrow. So many came to know Jesus through the ministry of your parents. There is no doubt that God used them and kept them safe in order to be His and His alone for such a time as this, as the many times.
    He is using you to share a story that hurts yet tells of how the world can be and then how God can use the fears and threats for His Glory. He did and He will continue in your light.
    You are my neighbor @ RaRalinkup and very glad to be meeting you. I will be back.
    Caring through Christ, ~ linda

  10. Gayl

    Asheritah, I know this must have been very hard for you to share, but I’m sure God will use it to help and inspire others. What a testimony to His grace and mercy shown to your family in the escape! Things may have gone dark, but God is still working and is with you. You’re right, the story is not over yet. None of our stories are over yet. I pray that God will comfort and strengthen you and continue to show you grace. I pray the your story will eventually have a blessed ending.

  11. Mariane

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I am deeply moved. What an amazing testimony about God’s miracles. I’m sorry your family was brøken, I will pray for you and your family

  12. Ellen Chauvin

    Asheritah, I know this must have been so hard for you. And yet, there is so much of God’s glory in this story! Thank you! I’m so thankful that He will complete the work He began in us, Amen? Joining you today from Sue’s place!

  13. Christine Leeb

    Thank you for being so brave to let us in to a little part of your pain…struggle. Oh my how the past can hurt us so deeply. Throughout this past year (and especially during writing my book about fear, I’ve found so much freedom from my past. There were so many things that I shared about my story that I had never shared with anyone before and it’s so freeing! God is good and so loving and yet so patient with us to give us as much time as we need to release our pain and darkness to Him. I am going to pray for you right now! I love that you know who holds the pen to complete your story. I love that you know that with the Lord, your ending may not be exactly as you would want it, but that He will somehow, someway, make it good.

    Can’t wait to hear more!

  14. Lorelei

    Sweet Asheritah, I love the way you write. I appreciate the way you obey God’s promptings as you write. I am the silent friend who reads and is often touched by what you write, and more often challenged.
    Of course, I knew many aspects of this story, but not all of them. And it is a comfort to know that He is not done writing it. I want you to know that I still have people ask me about your family – not to pry, but out of genuine concern and desire for a God-honoring result. They are so happy when I tell them about you – and I think some of them have come on to check out your blog at times. I grew up in a Christian home – my parents were not missionaries, but they were faithful servants to our neighbors, and family, and God’s people and us three children. Mom passed away 33 years ago – I was 21, my youngest brother was 10 years old 4 days after her passing. I stayed home to help Dad with my brothers. God never forsook me, but I rebelled anyway. The worst part was that I was living a double life – trying to appear faithful to him, but so far away. In spite of myself, He blessed me with a son, and a husband, and a second son. I was just commenting to our assistant pastor and his wife the other day. For 18+ years, I have allowed Satan to wield that powerful tool of shame and guilt in my life. But Praise be to the Lord – He is more powerful, He is greater than Satan, than his tools, than my shame. And finally, in these last few months, I can be more and more open about where I have been, but not in a way that glorifies the waywardness, but in a way that gives glory to Him. It is a story of love, of relentless pursuit, of redemption…….by an all-sovereign, all-wise, all-loving God…..and He isn’t done revealing Himself to me. I bow before Him – in gratitude, in humility, in surrender – but not shame for Jesus bore even that on the cross – AMAZING!!!!

  15. Betsy

    Asheritah, thanks for sharing this story. I’m so sorry for your parents’ broken marriage and for shattered relationships. God’s glory and our brokenness often go hand in hand, don’t they?

    My husband and I have been serving 13 years, and I pray and I pray and I pray that my children will not be scarred. It is not always easy for them here, but I pray that the benefits outweigh the negatives. They are learning things they’d never learn growing up in America.

  16. Rachel Q

    Thank you for sharing this story. Those are wonderful stories of Gods grace and his working despite our own human failings. You are brave and you are loved! Thank you!

  17. Kathryn Shirey

    What a story of God’s amazing provision! A story that needs to be told. We’re all sinners and we all have parts of our story we’d rather not tell, but we shouldn’t let that silence ALL of our stories. Let the good stories – and even the bad – be told. There’s something to be learned, even through our stories of human failures. Thanks for being brave and sharing!

  18. Kate

    Such a powerful story, Asheritah. So grateful for God’s hand of protection over your life, and so glad you shared. Thank you. May He indeed continue the work He has begun in you, for He is faithful to complete it.

  19. Anita Ojeda

    Ah, sweet friend–I understand the pain our parents decisions can have in our lives. May God be with you and your family as you work towards reconciliation and healing.

  20. Lois @ Live Nourished

    Wow. Posting this = dying to self. Well done, my sister – well done. Your phrasings are beautiful. I love this:

    “…the Author of those golden years still holds the pen in His hands, and He’s not finished with us yet.”

    Just tweeted it. Keep writing of Him, Asheritah. Your pages are making a difference. 🙂

    Love, Lois x

    I tried to leave you the following comment on Faithlife, but kept getting a 404 error page, so I thought I’d tag it onto this one – hope that’s okay! 🙂

    Great encouragement, Asheritah! I love your writing, especially this paragraph:

    “Because your story and my story? They matter. They’re pages in a Book that contains a narrative far greater than our own, and our little pieces all come together to tell the Bigger Story – the One about the God who is faithful to His people, even when they’re not, because He loves them just that much.”

    Amen – what an awesome God we have, Who deserves all the praise that our lives can give Him!

  21. Barbara Culwell

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love your humility and openness in sharing it. As I am thinking about my word GRACE for 2016, I came upon your blog. I am praying to become more a woman of grace… especially in extending grace and kindness in a broken messy story in our family. Your story encourages me to continue to press on in trusting the Lord to see His good hand in our story. Thank you!!

  22. Jen

    Asheritah, I love how you deny the enemy the power to steal God’s glory by sharing so honestly here! I’m an MK, too, and as much as I cherish that growing up, it wasn’t all good. Some parts were really difficult and created wounds that took years to heal. But God has a way of asking us to open those up to others and share that woundedness. In doing so, we often find the healing we long for.
    Jen 🙂
    P.S. Phil. 1:6 happens to be my life verse – it’s all about that work in progress!

    1. Post

      Jen, thanks for sharing. As I’ve allowed God to use my story, I’m finding that I’m not alone–many MK’s and PK’s have experienced the dark side of organized religion, and while that can be saddening, it can also be an opportunity to allow the Spirit to work through us and bring light to the dark places. He isn’t finished with us yet!

  23. Mary Lou Caskey

    Asheritah, I wanted to get to know you better, so I clicked the link to read about calling your grandma and then this story. Thank you so much for crafting this story in such a way that you share “just enough” detail to minister to us. I am very grateful for your courage and the chance to get to know you better. Thank you!

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