Prior to coming to Australia, Valentina's only contact with religion had been through her mother, who joined the Russian Orthodox Church in the aftermath of communism and liberalisation that followed its demise. Under that regime, religion had gone underground and freedom to worship in public was suppressed.
Valentina Vereneva was a professor of economics and mathematics in Russia, where she'd been a professor for some 20 years. But Valentina had many distressing personal experiences in Russia and was looking for a new life. She had visited many countries but chose Australia as the best.
Then two years ago Valentina met Jo Norton during a holiday on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. She'd become ill and was referred to Jo for health care. In addition to healing, Jo also introduced Valentina to God.
This was a new experience for Valentina, as she'd never even prayed before. She stayed with Jo for 10 days, during which time she opened her mind to God and His love. Her visit with Jo ended, but Valentina's search hadn't. She had plans to live on the Gold Coast, but didn't know how to continue. Then God intervened further, it appears.
Jo, knowing what Valentina was experiencing, organised for Cally Moores, a Gold Coast resident, to visit her. Behind the scenes Jo had contacted Cally. But her immediate response was “I can't do that. She's a well-educated woman and I'm only beginning the journey to know God myself.”
However, Cally knew what it was to move from one country to another, and accepted the challenge to open the Bible to Valentina. She believed that if God wanted her to do this, He would provide the ability and guidance she needed. Cally launched out and was not disappointed.
Over the next 10 months, despite the language barrier, Cally and Valentina became good friends and built a bond of fellowship. Their personalities clicked. Cally was able to transport Valentina for medical treatment.
Cally began with Mark Finley's Studying Together booklet. She typed out the texts and comments in simple English, allowing space for Valentina to write in her responses. Later she was able to obtain a series of Bible studies in Russian. She also sourced a series of Russian-language devotional books, which she passed to Valentina.
Eventually Valentina made a public profession of her new-found faith and was baptised in an estuary behind the Gold Coast. “I knew God had a plan for my life,” says Valentina. “Through His amazing providence, He has led me to His wonderful truth. Now I'm surrounded with many Christian friends, whose love overwhelms me. I'm just longing for the coming of Jesus.”
Looking back over their experiences, Cally and Valentina can see that God had a plan in bringing them together. Cally makes the point that if we are called to do something for God, take hold of it, and go forward. God will work it out according to His plan.