Valentina Melentjeva watched helplessly as her home burnt to the ground despite the effort of the fire brigade. Devastated over losing everything she owned, her main concern was her precious Bible.
Melentjeva wasn’t home when the fire broke out just before midnight on December 5, 2021 but was staying at the nearby Fredheim Lifestyle Centre in Kongsberg, Norway, where she worked. Her home was a staff apartment belonging to the institution. But her son and his wife, visiting at the time, were using the apartment, and had to flee the burning building.
After rushing back home, Melentjeva stood in the street with her family and friends and watched the building burn down in the cold winter night. As tears streamed down her face, she was grateful that her family was unharmed, but everything she possessed was destroyed.
The Pursuit of Happiness
Melentjeva grew up in Klaipeda, the third largest city in Lithuania, located where the Baltic Sea meets the Danė River. Her mother belonged to the Orthodox Church, but her family never owned a Bible, never talked about Jesus, and never prayed.
When Melentjeva was 45 years old, she went through an incredibly difficult time ending up worried and sad about life. But living in her neighbourhood was Ira, who seemed to be happy and content even though she had challenges too. One day Melentjeva asked Ira the secret of her happiness. To answer that question, Ira decided to invite Melentjeva to her home.
When Melentjeva came to Ira’s home, Ira placed an open Bible in her hands. For the first time in her life Melentjeva held a Bible! It was open at Exodus chapter 20. “Please read,” Ira invited. Melentjeva began reading the commandments and was shocked when she reached the fourth… “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…” (Exodus 20:8 NIV).
She tried to understand what she was reading. She reread the verse four times. Saturday, the seventh day, not Sunday was the day of rest! This was news to her. She had worked on Saturdays her entire adult life, but upon discovering the truth, she decided to start keeping the Sabbath.
The next Saturday Melentjeva joined Ira and worshipped at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Klaipeda. She was surprised to discover that Adventists worshiped in the same school building where she had been a student for ten years. “During those years I was taught reading, writing and mathematics, but nothing about God,” Melentjeva remarked. Yet, the school building became the place where she discovered God.
On her second Sabbath at church, Melentjeva received a brand-new Bible. The book became her most treasured possession. Every week, for a whole year, Melentjeva met with two ladies from church to study the Bible and pray. On April 24, 2004, Melentjeva was baptized.
Some years later a Melentjeva moved to Norway. As her Bible had become worn by the use, she had an artist make a beautiful leather cover.
Treasures in the Ashes
After the fire, while they conducted the investigation, the police and fire brigade cordoned off the site prohibiting everyone from entering. Finally, the ban was lifted and Melentjeva’s son walked through the rubble, hoping to find treasures in the ashes. Melentjeva prayed and hoped that, against all odds, her precious Bible would have survived.
When her son returned from the site with her Bible almost intact, she was overjoyed! Her Bible was sitting on a shelf, along with all other burnt books. “It is amazing what the love of God can do, to preserve the most important thing,” said Melentjeva.
The original version of this article was published on the Norwegian Union Conference website.