I grew up in communist Romania. We were not allowed to go to church, have Bibles, or even talk about God. All that was forbidden. When I was 7 and my brother was 10, we found a Bible hidden in the floor of our house. We didn’t know what it was. We started reading it like they taught us in school—start at the beginning, go to the end. We’d never heard these stories before. Then in fifth grade I was invited to a little underground church by one of my classmates. I asked my Dad if I could go. I begged him and begged him. Finally he said, “If your brother goes with you, you can go.” We went after dark, definitely hiding. When I heard what the pastor was reading, I thought, I’ve heard this story somewhere before. I put together that the book he was reading was the same book we had at home. I got really excited!
When I was 13 it was really, really cold in September. We didn’t have electricity most nights so when it got dark it was bedtime for us kids. The only way Mom and Dad would allow us to go out and play was if it snowed. Then it was not as pitch dark and there was something to do outside. I had heard a lot about prayer, but I’d never actually heard somebody pray. Even at the church, the pastor could never actually pray in front of us or share the Gospel. Under communism, he never knew who was a spy. He had to be very careful. I told him, “I want to learn how to pray so I can start praying for snow.” That night he sat me down and taught me for the first time how to pray. “Izabella, just talk to God as though He is your best friend. You tell Him what’s on your heart, what’s on your mind, and He will answer.” I thought, I just have to ask Him and He will answer me? Why haven’t I been asking for more stuff? I’m definitely going to ask for snow. I remember going to the window the next morning expecting to see snow and there wasn’t any. I wondered, What’s wrong? What happened?
Come December there was still no snow and I was very, very disappointed. I told the pastor, “Did you know that this prayer thing doesn’t work?” He said, “Izabella, God always answers prayers. He promises that in His Word. Sometimes those things don’t look the same way we picture it. You are expecting beautiful white snow to fall from the sky but maybe God has something different in mind.” Christmas came and went and there was still no snow. I was so disappointed that I lost my zeal of taking the Bible out every day and reading it.
A couple of days later, people started running in the streets. In Romania that meant one thing—that there was something at the grocery store. We thought it might be oranges or bananas because of Christmas. My brother and I put our shoes on and run as quickly as we could to get in line. As we ran, though, people were passing the store. We wondered, What’s going on?
Big trucks pulled in and there were lots of people there who were happy. When they opened the backs of the trucks, there were lots of colorful boxes. A lady came up to me and said, “This is yours.” “What do I have to do?” I asked. “Nothing,” she said. “It’s just yours—totally yours.” Then she asked, “Is there anything I can pray with you for?” I thought, OK, this is my moment. “Would you pray with me for snow?” She didn’t ask any questions, she just did. Then she gave me a hug.
My shoebox was so colorful. I’d never seen so many colors before! We did not have a lot of colorful things. Even Christmas presents were wrapped in brown paper bags. This was the first thing that stood out to me. Then I took out a snow globe and held it, wondering what it was. A little boy passed me and grabbed my hand and started to shake it really hard. I looked at it and remembered exactly what my pastor said. “God will answer your prayers. Keep your eyes open because it might not look the way you want it, but He will answer.” I thought, This is it! It felt like it was snowing all around me. God, I prayed, I thank you for my snow and just apologize for shoving the Book back. I’m going to keep reading it.
We can’t put snow globes in shoeboxes anymore because they are liquid and might break, but I will never forget that moment. It was a moment of knowing this God that had been pursuing me through His Word since I was 7. I finally got it. He was a God who was real and He was looking out for me and He does answer prayers.
Now my family fills shoeboxes with gifts in order to give other children around the world a glimpse of God’s love.