Each year, HOPE celebrates a client who demonstrates HOPE’s values of perseverance, compassion, character, and creativity by announcing the Thurman Award winner. Established in honor of HOPE’s first CEO and his wife, the Thurman Award celebrates clients who have not only experienced change in their own lives but have also extended that transformation to others in their community. Over the next couple of weeks, we will be posting the stories of this year’s honorable mentions and overall winner.
When Elena Borisenko speaks, people listen. Throughout her community in Kamenka-Dneprovskaya, Ukraine, she’s seen as a woman of influence, not only because of her charismatic personality but also because of the changes she has seen as a successful businesswoman and a committed follower of Jesus Christ.
Hungry to learn
As a child, Elena loved the land and enjoyed tending her family’s garden, where new life was always sprouting. She moved to the city to attend college and continued living there after graduation. But when her mother was diagnosed with cancer, Elena immediately moved home to care for her. Together, the two women cried out to God. In time, Elena’s mother grew healthy and strong again, and the answered prayer left Elena hungry to know more about Christ.
While living with her mother, Elena met and married her now-husband. She soon gave birth to a son. With her husband’s encouragement, Elena left her job at a local post office and began growing tomatoes. She and her husband built a greenhouse using income from his job at a feed mill, and Elena says her family had everything they desired.
In 2006, Elena’s husband fell seriously ill. Doctors offered little hope, and Elena again put her hope in the Lord. She prayed fervently for her husband, and from his hospital bed, he dreamed that a powerful ray of light ascended from Elena to the sky and then entered his body. “From that moment I got better,” he testifies. After this, Elena’s faith was strong, but she still hungered to grow spiritually.
God makes things grow
When work dried up at her husband’s job, Elena contacted HOPE Ukraine for a small loan to purchase coal to heat her greenhouse, materials to improve it, and seeds and peat to grow the tomatoes. The timely access to credit helped smooth her family’s income and facilitated investment in future harvests. Elena partnered with HOPE Ukraine four times to grow her business, receiving loans from $1,250 to $3,750 and building relationships with HOPE’s staff.
God worked through HOPE not only to grow her business but also to answer her prayer to learn more about Christ. Elena borrowed Christian materials available at the office and engaged staff in theological discussions. “I did not even think when I took loans, books, and CDs in the office that this is one of the ways of God to turn our hearts to Him,” she says.
Elena and her husband were baptized earlier this year—a testimony to the spiritual growth they’ve experienced. Their business, too, is flourishing, with four greenhouses and additional plots of land prepared for future growth. “[Elena] and her husband have great influence among their relatives and friends,” says Elena’s loan officer. “People see how their lives have changed.”