I'm Aija and this is my story.
I grew up in a small, European country called Latvia. It sits between Russia and the Baltic Sea. Latvia is a beautiful country, rich in culture and history. As a kid, growing up wasn’t easy. My birth parents loved drinking and it became so addicting that they couldn’t stop. They had six kids to take care of. They tried to parent us but failed due to drinking. Sometimes it just got so bad that we were left home alone or with our grandma for ten days or more. My siblings and I were very young at the time.
Slowly their marriage started to fall apart because of all the drinking and fighting. It ended in a divorce. Not long after, their parental rights were taken away. Me and my siblings were then placed in an orphanage. I was only three years old at the time. They tried to separate the oldest siblings from the youngest. I remember a policeman had my two younger sisters in a police van. He then picked me up and put me in the police van as well. When he turned around, I jumped out and ran past him to the other car where my older siblings and social worker were. I was screaming and yelling and clinging to my sister. I guess they called the orphanage because I was allowed to stay with them in the same orphanage.
As a kid, I had a limited understanding of what was happening, but I was also very confused. I recall crying to my teachers and caretakers in the orphanage and asking them when my mommy and daddy would show back up. I missed them a lot.
They were allowed to visit us once a week and they did at first. However, it didn’t take long before they just stopped coming. I started wondering and asking when my parents would come see me again, but the orphanage caretaker told me they wouldn’t be coming back.
As a small child, that hit me hard. As I grew older, I came to understand that the orphanage was my new home. I made friends, played sports, went to school and did all the things a normal kid would do. Except it wasn’t normal. I didn’t have parents or a family. One day in the orphanage, a red book caught my attention. It was on a shelf with a lot of other books that were available for us to read. This little red book was a children’s Bible with pictures. I was maybe seven years old at the time. I didn’t know what it was about, but I was curious, so I started reading it. I loved it so much that I read it over and over and over again. I just kept going back to it. Looking back, I can see now that even though I was a child in an orphanage, God was drawing me to Him. In my child-like mind, I think I wanted to believe that what I was reading was true. That Jesus was real and that it wasn’t just a made-up kid’s story.
Not long after, one of the orphanage caretakers started sitting down with us on the nights she worked and would talk to us about Jesus. She would get us to read a chapter or two from that little red children’s Bible I was so familiar with. We also had a pastor come visit our orphanage once in a while. If the kids wanted to go listen to what he had to say, we could.
So, I went and listened, and it left me wondering again if this man named Jesus was the Son of God.
Did He really die on a cross to pay the price for all our sins so we could be born again?
Could we really be saved and live forever with Him in heaven one day?
I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be “saved” or “born again.” The only way I thought you could be saved was to be baptized or sprinkled as a baby. Nobody had ever explained this to me. I thought to myself, I do believe in Jesus, but I surely won’t end up in heaven because I was too late. I had not been sprinkled or baptized as a baby.
When I was ten years old, my older sister and I had the opportunity to be hosted in America for the first time ever. Hosting gives kids in orphanages the chance to spend a month with a family, to be loved on, to get to do some fun things outside the orphanage, and maybe be matched with a potential adoptive family. We ended up with a wonderful, Christian family in Washington State. Our host dad was an American, but his wife (our host mom) just so happened to be Latvian. They took us to church with them (they had two daughters and a son) and shared the love of Jesus with me and my sister. We had the chance to be adopted by this sweet family, but my sister said no. At that time, I was still too young to make this decision on my own. Looking back, I can clearly see that God had other plans, but He used this amazing family to once again draw me to Himself. I learned more about God and His great love for me and for all of us. This family still keeps in contact with me, and they are still a very important part of my life and my story. Also, this same year, I was matched with a host family in Latvia. For the next three years they would get me out of the orphanage on weekends. I got to spend time at their house and be included in a lot of their family events and even some vacations. They included me and loved me just like I was part of their family. They showed me love, care and kindness…everything that I needed! God used them in my life too!
I don’t remember when it started, but I began praying at night and begging God for a family that
would love me and take care of me. I was tired of hurting and falling asleep in tears in my bed at the
orphanage. I started asking questions like, “Why me?” “What did I do to deserve this?”
No matter how hard it got, I continued my nightly prayers and didn’t give up hope. I wanted to believe God was real, that He was there with me in the orphanage and that He heard my prayers. More time went by, and I was hosted again by a great family in Chicago, Illinois. They were so very kind to me, and we still keep in touch, but they were not meant to be my family. God just used them as another stepping-stone to lead me to my forever family. Several years had now gone by since I had started my prayers to God asking Him for a family. Then, in December of 2013, I was hosted by the lovely, crazy Sherron family! At that time, I wasn’t sure what to think of this family except they might just be as crazy and weird as I was! Through them I learned what it meant and felt like to be loved unconditionally. Just a few months later, my one prayer that I had prayed over and over again was answered! They wanted to adopt me, and I said yes to being a part of the Sherron family. It’s a big family full of love. There’s six of us kids. Well, 8 counting the 2 that recently married into all this craziness! 3 kids are biological and 3 of us are adopted from Latvia, but if you didn’t know us well, you might not figure that out. People often say we look and act alike, and they can’t tell which ones are adopted.
When I first became part of this family, it wasn’t always easy. I had to leave behind all the people I knew and loved in Latvia….my sister, my friends in the orphanage and at school. It was all I had ever known. I was taking a chance on this family, but even more I was taking a chance on God and trusting this was the plan He had for me. I was only twelve years old. That’s a big decision for a twelve-year old kid to make! I went through a lot of struggles and difficult stuff that first year, but my family went through all of it along with me. They never once left my side.
Through my family I found love, comfort and peace. Most of all, I found Jesus!
I found out who He really is and what He had done for me. I also finally learned and understood what it meant to be saved…to become a Christian. It didn’t matter if I was baptized or not as a baby. All I had to do was ask Jesus to forgive my sins and to come into my heart and life. It was one simple prayer, and that one prayer changed my life forever. No matter what kind of life I had growing up or what kind of trials I had faced, it didn’t matter. God loved me. He was in control all along. He placed certain people and things in my life for a reason.
Looking back, I wonder. What if I hadn’t said yes? Where would I be today? One thing I do know. If it wasn’t for God, I wouldn’t be here sharing my story with you all. I am so blessed to have a family that loves me. I am even more blessed to have a God who loves me. He sacrificed His only Son, Jesus on the cross so that I could be adopted into His family and live forever in Heaven one day.
Adoption is a perfect picture of what Jesus Christ did for us. We were all once orphans, separated from our Heavenly Father by sin. We only have to accept God’s love and forgiveness to be adopted into His family.
And speaking of forgiveness. My family and I had the opportunity to travel back to Latvia. On one of those trips, I was able to see my birth mom. I shared the love of Jesus with her and some of my biological family. I explained to my birth mom that I was now a Christian. I knew that God would want me to forgive her and not hold any bitterness toward her for the fact that she let me grow up in an orphanage. She asked me how I could find it in my heart to forgive. I simply said, because it’s what Jesus did for me. He forgives us!
God has a plan and a purpose for each and every person. The Bible says in Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.” I am so glad I didn’t hesitate or second guess. I am so glad I said yes to it all…Yes to my family and yes to God! My mom always says, If there is something you have been wanting to do or praying about, or if you feel God has put something on your heart, but you have been hesitating….don’t hesitate! Don’t wait any longer. Take a leap of faith and trust God with the rest. You will be amazed at what He can and will do when you say yes!