Haggai leaders are high achievers. These men and women juggle demanding careers, busy ministry lives, families, and more. As a legal information specialist in Russia, Anna “Anya” Lerner is no exception. In addition to her legal work, she serves on the board of Haggai Russia, teaches photography, dances flamenco, and volunteers regularly with a human rights organization advocating for political prisoners.

But to Anya’s surprise, the most impactful moment for her ministry came recently, when she was forced to slow down.

In late 2018, Anya was diagnosed with complicated cataracts on both of her eyes. Initially, her prognosis was positive and the treatment plan was simple. But within a few short months, her condition deteriorated rapidly. Anya needed four expensive, risky surgeries — surgeries that she could not afford. In her distress, she cried out to God.

“I started to lose all of the things that made my living. At first, I started to panic and did not know where to run. I prayed and cried. In one of my dreams, God told me to leave dancing. I also had to quit photography. I lost everything. And I started to think that I might lose my job as well. [Those] nine months were the strongest fight for my faith, trusting God, my eyes, and my life.”

Anna “Anya” Lerner

Anya’s vision deteriorated until one of her eyes could only tell light from the darkness; it could not distinguish objects at all. She knew that she might lose her eyesight completely, with or without the surgeries. Anya was deeply afraid: of the surgeries, blindness, and the swift change that had taken place in her life.

The flamenco is a solo dance characterized by hand clapping, percussive footwork, and intricate hand, arm, and body movements.

“I saw clearly that I was struggling with the devil, and he was sending me into waves of fear.”

Despite the fear, Anya persevered in prayer. As she sought the Lord, it became clear that her career, her photography, her ministry, and even her dancing had misaligned her priorities. But in her struggle to see, God became her central focus.

She reached out to fellow Haggai leader Oksana Khristeva, who encouraged Haggai’s network of Russian leaders to relentlessly intercede in prayer for Anya. Meanwhile, Anya’s colleagues began to prepare legal documents so that she could receive the surgeries for free.

Although the darkness of her eyes threatened to isolate her, Anya’s Haggai community became a light and lifeline.

Soon she was matched with a surgeon who she would later find out is one of the best eye surgeons in the world. When Anya was finally able to undergo the first operation, it was even more difficult than she had expected, and her recovery was arduous. Her doctor told her she was dangerously close to losing one eye completely.

“​​But I knew that God was with me, and He gave me the best doctor.”

Anya not only servers as a legal information specialist, she also teaches photography. Anya recently captured this photo of Moscow.

After three more surgeries, Anya’s vision was restored. A few months into her recovery, she received a phone call from her flamenco instructor, asking her to return to dancing. She understood this as God’s invitation to return to her former life, but this time keeping Him at the center.

Anya kept her job as an information specialist throughout the ordeal, and as soon as her eyes were healed, she returned to the photography that she loved. One of Anya’s first assignments after recovering her eyesight was to teach principles of photography at Haggai Russia’s National Seminar.

“I believe that this story has not ended yet. By trusting God, you can deal with anything.”

This article comes from the 2021 Fall edition of Impact magazine.

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