Photo and story courtesy of Samaritan's Purse.
Growing up in a family of nine kids, Vladimir didn’t get many gifts. Food was a luxury, and they grew up on rice and potatoes. Vladimir remembers sharing a pair of shoes with several of his brothers.
It was a harsh winter in Kiev, Ukraine when Vladimir and his siblings had to ride a bus and then a tram to get to the church where shoeboxes were handed out. In the midst of the bitter, cold winter, the first thing that stood out to Vladimir and his siblings was the bright colors that covered each box. Vladimir was so excited about his gift, he felt as if time stopped for a brief moment.
His favorite items were candy and toys, but he remembers “brushing” his teeth with floss he received in his box, and licking the minty flavored string, not knowing how to properly use it. Items like a toothbrush and toothpaste were truly needed, as he didn’t have his own toothbrush at the time and toothpaste in Ukraine tasted nothing like the one that came from America.
Vladimir recalls the shoebox representing to him unconditional love, love that heals everything. He and his siblings were able to forget their struggles for a moment and just feel loved.
Vladimir and his family moved to the United States in 2000 as Christian refugees. Today, Vladimir and his wife, Alina, are raising two beautiful children in Charlotte, North Carolina.
“Do Not Be Deceived” by Vladimir Prokhnevskiy
"Do not be deceived; bad company corrupts good morals" (1 Corinthians 15:33).
An American entrepreneur, author, and motivational speaker, Jim Rohn, once said that we are an average of the five people we spend the most time with. I will take it a step further and say that we are also a byproduct of what we hear and see every single day. In other words, our surroundings shape us without us realizing it. This change usually happens slowly over a long period of time. Very few recognize it. Most importantly, it either takes us closer to God or further away. There is no middle ground.
I have heard it once said that friends are like elevators, they will either take you up or down, but they rarely leave you where they found you. How true!
"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light" (Matthew 6:22). Our eyes and ears also play a huge part in our personal development. We have to be very careful about what we expose our eyes and ears to. What we see and hear affects our minds and then our hearts. "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23).
God talks to me through simple things in life. For example, I was coming to work one cold Monday morning. I usually bring a few bottles of water with me to work. This time, I left two bottles of water in the car over the weekend and one bottle of water on my desk at work. The bottles that were in the car were very cold, but the one that was left on my desk at work was room temperature. When I felt those bottles, it is like God spoke to me through my own thoughts. It went something like this: ‘Vlad, my people are just like those bottles. They take on the temperature of the environment they are in.' It was simple, yet profound.
The more I dwelled on it, the more I understood the importance of 1 Corinthians 15:33, "Bad company corrupts good morals." Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. Just like water can change temperature, so can we be easily influenced and led astray [as we live in our environment].
There is a battle for our minds and our hearts. Our enemy is hard at work 24/7. We can be at a gym working out and the background music can be speaking lies to us. We can watch our favorite show on TV and the commercials can influence us in a negative way if we are not careful.
I challenge you to surround yourself with people that are moving in His Kingdom and are seeing God’s miracles at work. Before you know it, you will be just like them. Courage is contagious.
I also challenge you to reevaluate your life and pay close attention to whom you spend the most time with and what takes most of your time. What are you consuming with your eyes and ears? What fruit is it producing in your life?
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Are you seeing and experiencing these nine fruits of the Spirit in your life?
Meditate on God’s truths in the Bible and grow in them, because the seeds that you put in your mind will one day manifest in your life. "This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous" (Joshua 1:8).