Katya Manna was born in the Chernihiv Oblast of Ukraine. At the age of 8 years old she was taken into the Manna Family from an orphanage while they missionaries in Ukraine. Her story includes a 5-year process for adoption including a 16-day period in which was taken from the Manna's and put back into the orphanage when she was 11 years old. During all of this time, the family kept relationship with Katya's biological mother and her siblings. At the age of 15, Katya moved to the U.S. for the first time with her family. At 16 years old, her biological mother, Tanya, was murdered. Two months later the family went back to the village where Katya's mother was murdered and Katya shared her testimony of God's love publicly. In the summer of 2014, the family returned to a war-torn Ukraine to go back to the village and share once again. Katya and the Manna family pray that some day there will be a church or Bible Study in the village of Hornostaivka. The family also returned in the summer of 2015 and 2016 to spend time with Katya's family.
Letter from Katya --- April 26, 2013
Dear friends and family,
Early this evening we got an email from a friend in Ukraine, asking us to call immediately, because he had very bad news. Tolik has traveled with us to Katya’s village the last two times we have gone to help us share the gospel with Katya’s family. We feared that it was about them. Katya had come home from school and was taking a nap. Mike and I called by Skype, and with a very heavy heart, Tolik told us that Katya’s mother was dead. She was killed yesterday by the man that she lived with. (We don’t know who the man is, as she was living alone the last two times we saw her.) Her funeral was today. Katya’s sister Olya called Tolik tonight to ask him to please contact us. She was very concerned about how Katya would take the news. Tolik said Olya was crying so hard that he didn’t ask any details. He will call her again tomorrow.
Mike and I had to wake Katya from her nap to tell her the news. Poor girl! She was so shocked and then just wept. We all did. We loved Tanya, and we were looking SO forward to spending time with her this summer. We can only trust the Lord in all of this. Tolik said, “Mike and Judy, we still need to go to the village and share the gospel. We need to tell them the good news.” Yes, we do. Katya will be able to share her story, including how we were able to share the good news of the gospel with her mother before she died.
We do not know for sure if Tanya gave her life to the Lord, but we do have great cause to hope. The last visit with her was absolutely precious. I shared about our last visit in all of our supporting churches this past fall. Katya and I each shared our testimonies with her, telling her how we gave our lives to Jesus. At the end of our visit, after telling her that we were moving back to America, we had to say goodbye. We did not know when we would see each other again. At that time, we did not have plans to return this summer. I hugged Tanya tightly as I said goodbye. I remember that my love for her was almost overwhelming. I wanted her to be safe. I looked into her eyes and said, “Tanya, many of our friends think that it is strange that we have a continuing relationship with you. But you and I share a daughter, and we are friends.”
“Yes, Judy, we are friends,” she replied.
“Tanya, I WANT to see you in Heaven someday! Forgiveness of your sins through Jesus Christ is the only way. Talk to God, Tanya. Pour your heart out to Him. Tell him everything. Confess your sins. God will forgive you. He wants to be your Savior, your Father, and your very best friend. You will never have to be alone again.”
Tanya said that she hadn’t really thought about talking to God. She said that she would start. We had given Tanya a Bible, so I asked her to read it … to get to know God. She said that she would.
Tanya took Katya aside for a few minutes to say goodbye, and I will never forget them as they shared those last moments together. They shared tender final words and hugged. Tanya smiled as she gazed into Katya’s face as if trying to memorize it. We have precious pictures of that final goodbye. Katya sobbed tonight, aching over the fact that she didn’t know that would be their last time together. As we started to pull away in our van that day, Tanya stood by her gate and waved. We looked back and waved till she faded from our view. Suddenly, I had a vision in my mind, a clear picture of Tanya standing in a group of believers (I presumed in church), her face shining with joy as she sang praises to the Lord. In that moment, I had a surge of hope that Katya’s family COULD come to the Lord! Before this visit, it had seemed extremely unlikely. The idea of returning to do some kind of tent meetings began to emerge … then later this fall the burden grew, and we decided to return this summer rather than waiting another year. God confirmed His leading by providing the finances so decisively … we just want to thank so many of you for the opportunity to be missionaries! We KNOW that God can bring good out of this tragedy. Mercifully, each one of us tonight has peace in our hearts and a real hope that Tanya is with God. We don’t have proof nor can we really explain it; we just feel God’s comfort and sense that she is with Him tonight.
Tolik gave us encouragement in our phone call. He told us that Olya, when she called him earlier, mentioned that Tanya had been reading her Bible. Praise the Lord. I just want to trust that the vision He placed in my mind when we drove away from her the last time, the vision of her face filled with joy as she sang praises to the Lord, is happening right now in heaven.
Letter from Katya
My heart is aching and I don’t understand, but I know my God is good and that He will never leave my side. Only about an hour ago, I found out that yesterday, my mother was killed. The man she was living with killed her. The moment my dad said, “Katya, your mother died yesterday,” I froze. I didn’t know what to think or say; I was literally stunned.
“WHY??” That was the word that kept running through my head. WHY would God let my mother be killed?? I know that God is always good and that I can’t blame Him … and I won’t, but, “Why??!”
Mom (Judy) reminded me that we each have a number of days which the Lord has set for us, and that our lives are only but a moment. I feel that I understand better now what the quote, “Life is but a moment,” really means. The last time I saw my mom was June 3rd. I didn’t expect that I would never get to see her again. We shared our testimonies with her and asked her to please read her Bible. She said that she would. My mom was a good woman. She didn’t make the best choices a lot, but she had love. And even though she might have been irresponsible in taking care of me when I was young, I later saw her care about others. Especially when it came to my siblings. She always let Pavil, who is my oldest brother, and my sister, Olya, live with her when they didn’t have anywhere else to go.
We were planning on seeing my mother this summer and sharing the gospel with her again. It breaks my heart to know that she will not be there. Even though it hurts a lot to say this, I guess that God has different plans for this summer’s mission trip to my village. Maybe one of those plans even means meeting the man who killed her and saying, “I forgive you,” and sharing the gospel with him. Everyone needs Jesus. Some might argue that these types of things – like people dying – are just what happen. But I would say that everything has a purpose, because God knows the plans that He has for us. Jeremiah 29:11says, “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 hope and a future.”
I am finishing the 9th grade this year. If I were still in the orphanage, I would be graduating on May 31st. Both of my parents would now be gone. I would have nowhere to go. I am so thankful that God has placed me in my family, and that He has a plan for my life. I want to use my gifts to serve Him. Psalm 119:133 – “He will guide my steps by His Word.”
Katya's Testimony in the Village (2013)
2013 update - Bridge to the village
In the summer of 2013, the Manna Family returned to Katya's village. Judy wrote about their visit to Tanya's gravesite and time with Katya's siblings. Click the link below to read more about their trip: July 12, 2013 - Manna Mission Newsletter