Janna was just 10 years old when war broke out in Ukraine. Her school closed, bomb sirens went off constantly, and ultimately her family fled her country. Janna’s mother had one hour to pack, which meant most of Janna’s worldly possessions were left behind.
Janna arrived in Illinois in June and began 6th grade in August. She spoke very little English, making the start to middle school even more challenging. But one thing she looked forward to was music; it had always been her passion.
Specifically, she wanted to play the guitar.
A request went out to our community: Does anyone have a guitar for Janna? Within days, we had THREE guitars donated, a professional musician on board to restring and tune the guitars, and a generous offer to pay for Janna’s guitar lessons.
Janna found a guitar instructor and someone who could relate to her story: Eh Moo, who came to the United States as a refugee when he was 9 years old, speaking no English, and with a passion for music. Eh is now working to complete his accounting degree at Northern Illinois University and teaches guitar lessons on the weekends.
The second guitar found a home with Janna’s sister, Sophia. The two sisters are bonded and enjoy doing everything together. They take lessons together and practice throughout the week. “These instruments have brought so much JOY to our home. Everyone is excited about the music,” shares the girls’ mother.
The third guitar had a very special first owner: Ryan Edminson. Ryan suffered from Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and strummed the guitar to strengthen his hand muscles. Sadly, Ryan passed away from the disease in August; he was 22 years old. “I want his instrument to live on through someone who loves playing, and sharing it in this way means everything,” shares Ryan’s Mom, Jamie.
At a young age, Ryan began to display characteristics of strength and faith that surmounted what many adults spend a lifetime seeking; he loved the Lord fiercely. His guitar found a new home with a young woman, Hser Lay, who was born in a Thai refugee camp. Hser is a worship leader at her church in Glen Ellyn and will use Ryan’s guitar to sing about the goodness and faithfulness of Jesus.
We live in a broken world that includes war, suffering, disease and loss. God never promised this life would be easy, but He did promise to walk alongside us every step of the way. This is a story of a girl fleeing a war-torn country, and a mother losing her beloved son far too soon. But woven into these stories is a story of love: A community coming together in love to help one another.
God is always at work.
Jesus said to his disciples, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33