From Spiritual Scars to a Forever Family
About the Guest
Raised in Ukraine by her abusive mother, Diana Prykhodko fled to the streets of Kiev when she was just 9 years old. Through a series of God-orchestrated events, Diana was adopted into an American family.
From Spiritual Scars to a Forever Family
Bob: For Diana Prykhodko, trying to figure out how to navigate life started earlier than it does for most of us—much, much earlier.
Diana: I was actually nine years old when I decided I needed to run away from my birth mom, because her abuse had escalated a particular night from bad to worse. She was very drunk one night, and she woke me up. She was really angry. She woke me up and said, “I need you to get up!” She stormed into the kitchen, and she threw the pot of hot water all over me.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, September 1st. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. We’ll hear today how Diana Prykhodko became a trophy of God’s amazing grace. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us.
We’re going to leave our studio today and take you with us to an event where Dennis Rainey was recently—at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit—that was held earlier this year in Nashville, Tennessee. Dennis had a chance to sit down with Diana Prykhodko and hear an amazing story of God’s love and care for orphans.
Dennis: We’re going near the orphan. I thought of Job, Chapter 29, verse 12. Job gives his defense and talks about what he had done with his life—he said, “I delivered the poor who cried for help and the fatherless who had none to help him.” We have a guest with us on FamilyLife Today who knows about people who have been obedient to what Job did. Diana Prykhodko joins us on FamilyLife Today. Welcome to the broadcast, Diana.
Diana: Thank you very much.
Dennis: Diana is—yes; you can welcome her. [Applause]
Diana is from the Ukraine. She has a great story of redemption, and I want you to take us back to your childhood. Tell us about the circumstances under which you grew up.
Diana: I grew up in Kiev, Ukraine. My birth mom was a single mom. We had no home/no place that we could consistently reside at. My birth mom was an alcoholic, a prostitute, and a drug user. She didn’t know how to love me from the very beginning. As my earliest memory of her, she was very abusive verbally, emotionally, and physically. She took out a lot of her anger on me throughout my childhood.
Dennis: What do you remember most about those years growing up?
Diana: What I remember most was just the turmoil—
—the constant fear of her abandoning me, the constant fear of not knowing where we would sleep the next day / if she would find some guy for us to spend the night at his apartment and not knowing what that person would be like—just the ups and downs of an unstable home environment and the ups and downs of her anger.
And when she would drink, she was very abusive; but when she was sober, she was a totally different person. It was difficult for me to gauge and understand when she would be in a good mood or a bad mood.
Dennis: She ultimately had what would be the equivalent of a nervous breakdown—
Diana: That’s right.
Dennis: —and went to a mental hospital.
Diana: That’s correct.
Dennis: Then, came back. You stayed with friends while she was gone. There was no other person to stay with.
Diana: That’s right.
Dennis: What was it like when she came back?
Diana: Life was really chaotic. Her anger escalated. Things just went from bad to worse.
She was not protecting me / she was hurting me. She was drinking. She was trying to go to grocery stores and different places. She would hold my hand; and then, she’d walk away. I would be looking for her.
Dennis: You ultimately fled.
Diana: I did.
Dennis: You were how old when you ran away?
Diana: I was actually nine years old when I decided I needed to run away from my birth mom because of her abuse. Her abuse had escalated a particular night from bad to worse. She was very drunk one night. She woke me up and she said: “I need you to get up! I want you to make me some borscht,”—which is a Ukrainian soup. We were poor. We didn’t have anything. I said, “Mom, I don’t really know how to cook; but I don’t see any potatoes. I do not have the ingredients to make this food.”
Her anger just escalated so bad that she stormed into the kitchen, and she threw the pot of hot water all over me.
She ended up putting my face, with her whole weight bearing my face down on the burner on the stove. I tried to push her off of me, but her weight was more than I could bear. She ended up doing horrific things to me the rest of the night. I ran away from her after that episode because I knew that I could die with her—
Diana: —or I could try on the streets, and I could try my luck and make my life better without her around.
Dennis: The streets for a nine year old—a nine year old girl. I mean, come on? That had to be dangerous; huh?
Diana: It was very dangerous. I was on the streets for about a year. I found some friends. We ended up calling ourselves “The gang.” We ended up filling our—it was our little circle, and we felt protected. We kind of took care of each other.
We would beg for money.
There were different ages. There was probably eight or ten of us, and we had a guy that was our leader. Then, we had the girls—we had the older girls / the younger girls. Our leader told the older girls needed to do the older girl things. The younger kids can just stand and beg for money. By the end of the night, we would get back together—bring in the money / bring in the food. He would decide what we would do with our resources that night. Most of the time, he opted out for buying us drugs or glue. We would sniff and get high and forget about the fact that we were hungry or cold.
Dennis: [Emotion in voice] I’m a grandfather of some nine-year-old granddaughters. I’m sitting here, listening to this, and I’m going, “That’s not what children are supposed to experience.” I’m sorry. Your story goes on. Even in the midst of the streets, God protected you because usually little girls, like you, would die in the streets.
There was a place and a man who ended up being good, like Job, and who rescued you. Explain who Roman was.
Diana: When I was on the streets of Kiev, Roman was the man that started taking care of orphans. He started inviting us. I was very shy. I was very concerned about this first step, because I didn’t know if I could trust; but I tried because I was desperate, and I had to give it one more try.
So, when I went to Roman, he and his volunteers—they introduced me to Christ. They fed me. They clothed me. They took care of me, and they loved me. They didn’t expect anything back from me—they just let me go. Then, the next week, I would come back. Then, the next week, I’d come back; and there would be more children. Soon, before you knew it, there was a line of us fighting to get into this apartment.
Dennis: The apartment and the ministry ultimately became—
Diana: Father’s House!
Dennis: The Father’s House—
Dennis: —which is what you needed—was a father.
Diana: That’s right. Amen!
Dennis: There was another angel sent to you from Springfield, Missouri.
Diana: That’s correct. During my stay at Father’s House, there was a man that came from Springfield, Missouri. His name is Bob Layman. Bob Layman came on a mission’s trip. He looked at the orphanage / he looked at all of us kids, and God spoke to his heart about me. At the end of his trip, he went back home. God was just doing something in his heart.
Bob Layman started collecting funds and started collecting things—within his own family/ with his own little circle at his church. He took my picture, and he showed it to his family and to the local hospital—he said, “We’ve got to do something for her.” When he went to this hospital and tried to get donations or anything they could do to help me, at first, they just kind of turned him away.
They said: “We cannot donate. That’s a very large amount.” Bob just left the picture of me on the desk of one of the doctors, and he walked out.
Dennis: What was their response?
Diana: When the doctor got back that day, he said, “Who is this?!” The nurses and the people said, “Oh, there was just some man that came in yesterday asking for donations; but we don’t know who this child is, and we’re not sure who he is. We don’t have his contact information.” And that man said, “Find this man and find this child.” And God opened the door after that.
They invited me to come to Springfield, Missouri, to receive medical attention because they had never seen such a severe case of a small child being severely burned. They donated all their services—the anesthesiologist, doctors, and surgeons, and nurses.
Dennis: Over a million dollars’ worth—
Dennis: —of medical care.
Diana: And they took care of me. I stayed at the Ronald McDonald House while I was recovering from 18 plastic surgeries.
Dennis: Dental work?
Diana: I had dental work. It was from my neck up. I had no hair from where my birth mother burned me—they were third degree burns. They did an amazing job of making me look like a woman and feeling precious.
Dennis: Well, you’re beautiful.
Diana: Thank you. [Applause]
Dennis: Diana, this is just a side note. I was born in St. John’s Hospital.
Diana: Oh, wow!
Dennis: Yes. So, I know that area well. While you were recovering and going through all the plastic surgeries, you stayed with some families who showed you what a family was like. Ultimately, your visa ran out. You had to go back to Ukraine. It left a longing in your heart for a family. Not long after you were back at the Father’s House again, there was another visitor.
Diana: There was another visitor—a very special visitor—by the name of Tara Quinn. She went to Father’s House with her oldest son, Clay, on a mission’s trip.
She came, and she walked through our orphanage, and walked through our Father’s House. I was doing some homework in a particular room upstairs. As she walking through with the rest of the missionary team, she stopped and talked to me. I was very glad she was able to stop. I was very glad to share my life with her—I feel like God was opening my heart and opening her heart.
Dennis: Something was happening in your heart. You were longing for her to become your mom.
Diana: I was.
Dennis: And you didn’t realize it, but the same thing was happening in hers.
Diana: That’s right. And I remember when she had to leave that I was feeling like my heart was coming out my chest. I felt like I wanted her to be my mom so badly. I was longing for her to be that mother figure that would just love and cherish me and be there for me. When they left and they sat on the bus, I couldn’t help it but run after that bus.
Diana: And I didn’t know if I would ever see her again or not, but I sure prayed I would. After she left, I kept praying and asking Roman if there was a family for me or if it was too late. I remember one day when my prayers were answered. I got a phone call, and it was Tara Quinn. I remember that phone call very vividly. She asked me if I wanted to be adopted; and my answer was, “Yes!” [Applause]
Dennis: You were how old at the time?
Diana: I was 15 years old.
Dennis: That family pulled you in—made you their own. You think it’d be happily ever after, but it wasn’t.
Diana: That’s right. Now, that I had my family and I was able to have the home I’d always longed for—
—and I was able to create the memories I’d always wanted and have the brothers and all the drama of having a family—times weren’t easy because, as I stayed in my family, I realized that I did not know how to love them back.
I had a hard time accepting their love; and because of my understanding at the time, I just continued to push my family away for some reason. They loved me, they adopted me, they gave me everything; but I was not able to give them what I knew I wanted to give them. But that was because my own heart was broken. God was molding, and fixing, and putting me in this family that’s just my forever family.
Dennis: And you know, that’s important for those of us, who’ve got a heart for the orphan. We need to realize that it takes time to heal a heart. You can invite someone in to be in the family, make them your own, and you feel like they’re yours; but there are wounds that are unseen, and there are wounds that are seen that do take time to heal.
Ultimately, you rebelled.
Diana: I did. I rebelled against my parents. I rebelled against everything they taught me. I actually ended up telling my parents, one day, that I was just ready to move out. I was grown, and I was ready to do this on my own. I moved out. I went to live with my best friend, and I thought I was going to have life by the reigns and do this thing called life. And I was wrong!
Very shortly after moving out from home, finding out that I still needed the covering of my family—I needed the love, I needed the support, and I was not ready to be on my own—I found myself in desperation. I found myself needing my family. I ended up coming home—asking if I could come home—
—and my family accepted me back. They brought me back with open arms, regardless of the fact that I had said I wanted to go live by myself and “I’ve got this.” My family invited me back. It was just like the prodigal son.
Well, a couple weeks after I’d gotten home, I found out I was pregnant. So, I rebelled against my family—just to the extreme. But my family has never given up on me. They have always loved me through this difficult time, where I broke my family’s heart, and broke my mother’s heart with the news of being pregnant outside of wedlock.
Dennis: I’m going to ask two of the three most significant people in your life, who happened to be here today—Roman, all the way from the Ukraine, and Tara, her mom—to come up on stage and just express a little love and appreciation.
Roman/Tara, where are you? [Applause] You [Diana] stay right here.
Roman, you’ve got quite a ministry going with orphans; but you’ve seen God work in one’s life right here. Is there something you’d like to say to Diana?
Roman: For me, it’s a big blessing. We invested to your family. Now, you are hero because you serve to the children. I, like, John Baptist who prepared road to Jesus in your life. Through you, God will do more with power and strength. You can do more than me / than our generation, because you understand each orphan and homeless child.
Bless you, Diana. I love you. Thank you, God, for you. [Applause]
Dennis: It’s your turn. Hold it together; okay?
Tara: [Emotion in voice] Yes; yes. A couple of things—a Scripture the Lord wanted me to share, when He was doing this work in my heart / in my family’s heart, was Psalm 68, verse 6—says, “He sets the solitary into families.” And Diana is our daughter / she’s our forever daughter. She has a birth mother, but I’m her mother—I’m her mother, and she is my daughter.
These children need us. They need us.
Tara: They do. I’m so proud of her. She told a lot today, and I didn’t ask her the questions of what she would share exactly.
I’m so proud of you for being able to release the ugly with the good and to let you know that you are God’s daughter—not just our daughter—and that you are fearfully and wonderfully made and that you are perfect the way that you are, Diana. I love you / your family loves you.
This granddaughter’s name is Alexis. She’s six years old, and we adore her; and she’s with us. I’ve been in prolife ministry for 25 years. This other family wanted to have our granddaughter aborted. Can you imagine that? Somebody said, “Do they not know this family?” I said, “Obviously not!” [Laughter] It’s the God of life; and we’re so glad for your life, Diana.
Diana: Thank you.
Tara: And you’ve made a difference in ours. [Applause]
Diana: Thank you.
Dennis: You know it’s too bad Bob Layman who helped you get to Springfield, Missouri, had other plans today.
I suppose he might be listening to these broadcasts someday. Is there something you’d like to say to him by way of appreciation?
Diana: I would love to say to him: “Thank you. Thank you for listening to God.”
Dennis: Could I stop you for just a second?
Dennis: Bob, would you come out here?
Diana: Bob’s here! [Applause]
Bob: Do you remember that?
Diana: The pillow! [Laughter]
Bob: Do you remember that?
Diana: Yes, I remember. Thank you.
Dennis: What’s the story on the pillow, Bob?
Bob: So many people gave from the town I live in and from a town nearby. They brought so many things, but she was always attached to that pillow.
Diana: Thank you so much! [Applause]
Dennis: So, Diana, you have a chance to say it to him now.
Dennis: What would you like to say?
Diana: I would like to say: “Thank you for listening to God. Thank you for being so in tune. Thank you for not giving up. Thank you for going and letting God use you. Thank you for just—I know that, maybe, at times, you felt like: ‘How can I make a difference? I’m just one person.’ But you’re just one person that God had to use. You were just that one person that God needed; and because of you and God’s using you, I am here. I was waiting for you.”
Bob: I’m honored.
Diana: Thank you.
Bob: You’re a sweet young lady.
Diana: Thank you.
Dennis: You’re a hero for stepping out in faith and engaging a little girl—and so are you and you.
We started this by talking about seeds—planting seeds. One of the great lies, I believe, the devil of hell says to people is “You can’t make a difference.”
You can—you can make a difference.
May I conclude our time by giving thanks?
Lord, God, You are the Great Redeemer. Thank You for chasing us down, and redeeming us, and adopting us into Your family, for still loving us, still pursuing us, still coming after us. And thank You for this magnificent story of perseverance, redeeming love, and of restoration of life. We give You the honor and the glory. In Jesus Christ’s name; Amen.
Dennis: Would you like to express your appreciation to these? [Applause]
Bob: Well, we’ve been listening to an amazing story today—a story that was captured at the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit that took place in Nashville earlier this year.
If you or anyone in your church has a burden for the plight of the orphan, adoption, foster care, let me encourage you to consider attending the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit next May.
It’s going to be May 4th and 5th. It’ll be at Brentwood Baptist Church, just outside Nashville, Tennessee. There is more information available, and you’ll find it when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click on the link for the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com to find out more about the Christian Alliance for Orphans Summit next spring.
We want to take a minute and wish a “Happy anniversary!” today, to Jason and Violetta Perry. I think it s Víoletta—I don’t if it’s Víoletta or Vióletta—but the Perrys are celebrating ten years together as husband and wife today. They live in Fairfield, California—listen to FamilyLife Today on KFIA. They’ve been to the Weekend to Remember® a number of times. We just want to say, “Happy Anniversary!”
We think anniversaries matter and ought to be celebrated. We just recently celebrated our 40th anniversary, here at FamilyLife—
—had a great couple of days with friends and supporters, from all across the country, who came in for our two-day celebration. And it was good to pause and just reflect on what God has done over the last four decades in the ministry of FamilyLife. And I hope the Perrys will take some time today and just reflected on how God has been at work in their marriage over the last ten years.
We want to say, “Thank you,” to those of you who have made our last 40 years possible—those of you who support this ministry and who also believe that anniversaries matter and make a difference. Thanks for your financial support of this ministry.
And if you’re able to make a contribution today, we would love to send you, as a thank-you gift, our 2017 FamilyLife calendar. I know you’re thinking, “It’s just September,” but the calendar actually starts in October of 2016. So, you can get it now and put it to good use before the New Year is here. The calendar is our thank-you gift when you go online to donate or when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY and make a donation.
Or you can mail your donation and request the calendar. Write to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about the start of the NFL season and talk about what’s going on behind the scenes to help provide spiritual care for the players and the coaches. We’ll talk about the NFL chaplaincy program tomorrow. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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