God Waited for Me: Mana’s Story
Amy Nickerson | August 2014
Mana Selan had never heard about God before attending an English club when she was 14. It took seven years after that for her to finally accept that Jesus died for her. Now she is sharing that news with junior highers in Kočevje, Slovenia, where she is a national Josiah Venture intern.
Q: How did you first hear about God?
A: It was in 2004. I was 14 and one of my friends from school invited me to an English club. I was nervous because I was very introverted, but I went. That was my first encounter with some Josiah Venture missionaries, like Josh Patty, Terry Jackson and their families.
That’s when I first heard about God – through English club. I didn’t know what to think, because it was confusing and new to me.
I went to English camp when I was 15, the next summer. That’s when I first heard the gospel. I deeply connected with one of the summer interns there who then became staff and lived in Slovenia for five years. She stuck with me through my high school years.
Q: What did you think when you heard the gospel?
A: I had a lot of questions. It was interesting and new, and you know, the gospel sounds great and is simple – it’s not hard to get. But it was just too hard to accept. Why would salvation be given to me freely?
I went to another JV camp that same summer. It was the same theme, just different people. It was too much for me. All of a sudden, I felt a lot of pressure from the information. I said, “Nope. This is not for me. I love that you guys are like this and that it works for you, but it doesn’t work for me.” And that was it.
It was too different. I lived a certain life. I was raised in a home that was completely different from theirs. They were free, and they were happy. They were enjoying life in a way I had never seen anyone do it before. The idea of it was amazing, and I wanted it. But it was so, so far away; I didn’t see myself getting it.
Q: Can you describe the tension you felt after camp?
A: That was my only camp as a non-believer. Throughout high school I was in conflict with the missionaries. I sang in the church choir because I liked to sing. Sometimes I came to youth group, but very rarely.
I was really living in the world during high school. I was depressed. I was suicidal. I was cutting myself. I was addicted to pills. I was lost. I remember after I became a believer, one of the JV missionaries told me that there were times where they would be on their knees praying for me, and they’d have specific prayers like that I would stop wearing black clothes.
I lived a lifestyle they didn’t agree with. They told me a couple of times, and I knew that. Then they stopped, and they just loved on me. I felt very accepted even though I saw that I stood out. I saw the difference. Not just with the JV missionaries or Americans or believers, but even with the other kids there.
But I felt accepted. I felt loved. I kept going back. I didn’t want to stick around because I didn’t feel good about them. They were so different, so clean. I didn’t want what they had, even though I wanted it.
Q: What changed?
A: I was really in the world. I tried everything else. I was looking for things, for satisfaction, for fulfillment. I wanted to belong. I wanted to be happy. I tried everything; relationships and pills and new agey stuff, but everything I tried was just short-term. It worked for a little while and then stopped. For some reason I didn’t want to give Jesus a chance.
Then in 2010, when I was 20, I went to England as a nanny. England was very new agey at that time. I loved it because I had resources, books to buy, but I was having a hard time with the family I helped. After three months I went back to Slovenia, had reverse culture shock and went into a meditation group.
I was so lost, and some JV missionaries challenged me to pray about some things because they knew I believed in God at that point. And we met and that was the evening I got saved. They had no idea that was going to happen, but Jesus just did some cool things.
I only had faith the size of a mustard seed, but I had tried everything else and nothing had worked. What could I lose? So, I prayed, “Jesus, I accept you. I confess my sins.” It was a huge spiritual battle. Satan didn’t want to lose me; he didn’t want to let go. I’m so thankful that I had missionaries there with me.
It takes me a long time to commit to something because I need to be sure of it. So, it took me seven years, but once I accepted Jesus, I was all in right away. I was committed.
A couple months after I got saved, I had testimony time at church. Josh Patty was up on stage with me. He said, “We prayed for Mana for seven years. We almost gave up, but God didn’t.” I really believe their prayers were why God was gracious enough to wait for me for that long.
Q: What have you been doing since then?
A: I went to Bible college for a year and a half in Hungary. Then God called me back to Slovenia.
For the first two years back, I had a couple of jobs and my pastor in Ljubljana gave me a lot of ministry opportunities. Never before had I been able to be in ministry. So, he said, “You know what? You can try any ministry you want.”
So, I tried all of them! I helped with Sunday school, kids’ clubs, junior high group, high school group, college group because I was that age. I was a part of Bible studies with adults. Just to see where my giftings were, where my heart was, what I wanted to do and what God’s will for my life was.
Through those two years God led me to junior highers. I still don’t know why. I started running a youth group for that age in Kočevje, in southeast Slovenia, partnering with some JV missionaries.
Since 2010 I’ve also been volunteering at JV camps. Last December, a missionary sat down with me and said, “We see you want to serve the Lord. As an organization, we want to offer you an opportunity to be a one-year national intern.” I thought and prayed about it and decided it sounded great. In December it’ll be one year serving with JV.
As Mana finishes her internship and figures out next steps for ministry, please keep her and the youth of Slovenia in your prayers as God continues to work in His timing.