Elmbrook Stories

A Child of God

A Child of God

A Child of God

by Melania Klemowits

 

Family has always been important to Melania, especially since hers was so unique. When a teenage couple found out there was a baby on the way while they were still in high school, they made the difficult decision to put their child up for adoption. When Melania, with a bouquet of curly red hair, entered the world, she was taken home by a Christian couple she would grow up knowing as Mom and Dad. Melania’s parents created a loving environment where she went to church on Sunday mornings and youth group during the week. They prayed before meals and hosted family game nights.

Melania was 9 years old when she sat next to her mother in the sanctuary at Elmbrook and started to ask questions about communion – What is it? Why do we do it? She listened and learned and wondered how she too could have a relationship with Jesus. As she puts it, she “prayed the prayer” and took the cup, marking her decision to follow Christ. On the surface, she reflected her faith by dressing modestly, but on a deeper level God started to show her how much hurt and pain existed in the world, cultivating an acute empathy in Melania that would later become one of her greatest gifts.

On paper, all of Melania’s parents did everything right and acted with her best interests in mind. Yet knowing she was adopted left Melania feeling unsettled. She began to behave defiantly, exploding in intense anger with no explanation. Even though she knew her birthparents had chosen the route of adoption because of their love for her, she still felt abandoned.

In high school, she began to withdraw socially, choosing to spend her free time alone horseback riding instead of engaging with her peers. The barn was her “stage, her place to be confident and joyful.” As she struggled with feeling like she didn’t belong, that she didn’t know who she was, Melania’s faith began to falter. She knew she loved God, but that feeling of connection was gone, along with her passion. The loneliness invaded once again.

Without any close friends to turn to, she found someone who gave her the attention she craved, who made her feel valuable and important. Terrified of being left alone, she grabbed on tight with both hands to a boyfriend who grew increasingly more manipulative and suffocating, and who exploited her vulnerability. Sure that she loved him and terrified to lose him, Melania became blind to the emotional and mental abuse that she was suffering on a daily basis.

Melania knows firsthand the struggle of teen pregnancy and parenthood, knows what is like to feel alone and hurt.

On Halloween of her senior year in high school, Melania discovered she was pregnant. Determined not to repeat her own past, she resolved to embrace her unexpected motherhood, but the fallout from her pregnancy left her feeling abandoned once again. When the news got out, half her friends supported her while the other half called her a bad Christian and turned their backs.

Once her belly started to swell, the rest of her friends disappeared and left Melania to walk alone down the halls of her school on her own, feeling the stares each step of the way. She started to skip class and avoid school all together. One teacher heard the gossip of her peers and saw Melania withdraw, so he sent her a simple postcard with the verse Psalm 145:18-19 written on it. He urged that she do whatever it took to not become just another statistic on a PowerPoint presentation about the dropout rate for teen moms.

In Arabic, Yara is a name meaning "small butterfly". When Melania’s daughter Yara was born that summer, that tiny creature became the catalyst of transformation. The people her own age didn’t know how to react to her parenthood, but the women and men she had forged relationships with at Elmbrook came around her to love and support her and guide her in Scripture and wisdom. They gave her a job and held her up when she needed it.

Melania attempted to make it work with Yara’s father, telling herself it was normal to fall asleep crying and wake up miserable as long as you keep the family together, but his attempts to control her with guilt finally came to an end when Melania chose to stop listening to the lies and end the relationship. She was finally free to get her high school diploma, pursue a college degree, and turn her efforts toward serving the very people God had put on her heart as a young girl.

She knows firsthand the struggle of teen pregnancy and parenthood, knows what is like to feel alone and hurt. When she reads about Jesus calling his disciples to care for the widows, the orphans, the poor and the needy, she sees herself in those words and the gospel becomes very personal and active. God has put it on her heart to invest in the lives of those who might otherwise be left alone to fend for themselves. With her “small butterfly” by her side, Melania is turning her backyard into her mission field, launching a website designed to support, equip, encourage and share the gospel with teen moms in the Milwaukee area.

Resting in the promise that she is a beloved child of the God of the universe, Melania knows that she will never really be alone again.