Part 1 of an interview with Linda Znachko,
Author of He Knows Your Name
When the evening news reported an abandoned baby had been found dead in a local dumpster, Linda Znachko’s comfortable life changed. She was suddenly convicted, knowing God wanted her to provide a dignified burial for this tiny lost child. She obeyed, having no idea where that first small yes would lead. He Knows Your Name: How One Abandoned Baby Inspired Me to Say Yes to God (Kregel Publications) chronicles Znachko’s journey and challenges the reader to say yes to the Holy Spirit’s leading, no matter how insignificant or strange it may seem.
Q: While anyone who watched the news or read the story of the abandoned would have certainly found it to be a terrible situation, you were struck on a deeper level. What was it about this baby that called you to action?
My mother died four months prior to this child’s abandonment. I was responsible for planning her funeral, which meant I ordered her headstone, helped choose her burial clothes, delivered them to the funeral home and planned her funeral service. I felt compelled to honor this child in the same way I had honored my mother. I wanted to be family for this child who was orphaned in death.
Q: Were your family and friends supportive of your mission to provide a funeral and burial for the baby? How did your husband react?
My husband was supportive right away. When I told him about the child in the news and about the conversations I had with the coroner’s office, he understood my need to advocate for the baby. We talked a lot about the uncharted waters I was entering into, and he encouraged me to press into the unknowns. My friends were a bit speechless about my relentless pursuit of justice. They wondered about my qualifications to meet with government officials and talk with the detectives about the case. When I said I wasn’t technically qualified but was finding many open doors to my quest, they were very supportive.
Q: How did the painful experience of losing your mother while dealing with your daughter’s life-threatening illness prepare you for what God was asking you to do?
I was on my face daily in prayer with a deep desperation that allowed me to hear the voice of God very clearly. Walking with God when life and death were hanging in the balance meant my priorities were uncluttered. I was an advocate for my mother throughout her battle with cancer, and I was an advocate for my daughter during her illness. God had prepared me to be an advocate in hard places, so it really wasn’t a big leap to advocate for the baby. The awkward part was the how.
Q: Why was it so important to give the child a name? Can you explain how the ministry and book name came to be?
Names give legitimacy to life. A name gives purpose, identify and meaning to a child who otherwise would be hidden. God Himself has named us. We are written on the palms of His hands. God’s character attributes are named because it brings fullness to who He is. A child’s name gives definition to his or her existence.
When Alfie first asked me about my organization, I asked God about this in my heart of hearts, and He clearly directed me to see He was birthing a ministry. I knew then I needed to have a name. He Knows Your Name came to me like a song, and it felt like a covering over me. It has been confirmed so many times that anointing is on the name of my ministry. People respond to it all the time without knowing anything about it. I have had several people stop me in the airport when they see it on my phone case, and they say, "I love that!” or, “I know He does!” It opens many opportunities for conversations with strangers about what it means to them to be known by God.
From the beginning I thought it made sense to have the title of this book be He Knows Your Name. It captures the heart of God for His children and reminds us we are all His precious ones.
Q: How did you involve your husband and children in what God was leading you to do?
Sharing these amazing families and their stories with my husband and family has captured all of their hearts. Our kingdom value for sharing the gospel of Jesus by bringing light to the darkness of injustice has been a part of the fabric of our lives for a long time. My husband’s ministry to Mission to Ukraine, our family’s commitment to Safe Families of Indiana and many other opportunities have allowed us to serve together by engaging in the world around us. I have enjoyed watching each one use their unique gifts to love their neighbor by being available relationally. Their presence at my events show how much they care. My son recently moved back to be the senior pastor with Antioch Indy, and he has jumped in to the many opportunities to come alongside me, offering prayer, leadership and community to hurting families.
Q: How were you able to teach your children to engage in honoring these precious lives and providing dignity in their death, while protecting them from details they weren’t ready to handle?
My youngest daughter, Caroline, was a sophomore in high school when I adopted Zachary (the first child we actually buried). I didn’t feel she was too young to attend the funeral or understand the need I was acting upon. Many of her friends’ moms supported us at the funeral and took the group of girlfriends out of school to attend. They provided the balloons with scripture verses on cards attached to the end of the strings. They handed out the balloons, and their participation was a gift to all of us. There is no better way to have honest conversations about hard things than at a grave. Talking with the girls about the value of every life was memorable and priceless!
Q: What advice can you offer those who have friends or family walking through the devastating loss of a child? Are some things more helpful or hurtful than others?
I have found the fewer words, the better. Sit, listen and provide for basic needs. At the time of a tragic loss it is best not to share your own personal story. The depth of crisis is also not the time to say, “Something good will come from this loss” or “God needs another angel in heaven.” It is helpful to field phone calls and help manage the media if it is necessary. Generally, families need to assign close friends with tasks so the family doesn’t have to make too many decisions or talk with too many people. Helping make travel and other arrangements for out-of-town family is a big relief. Encouraging family to rely on hospital personnel for bereavement resources can be a terrific emotional support.
Q: What are a few ways believers can fulfill God’s command to care for the widows and orphans in their community?
A wonderful way to support widows and orphans is simply with your time. You can also do so by spending time with the families of widows and adoptive families. Time is of so much more value than just sending a check, and it is a great way to make a difference in the life of a lonely person. Asking questions about their needs, such as, “What do you need from me?” is a good first step. Find out if Safe Families operates in your state. If not, start a local chapter!
Orphans need spiritual families as well, not just “forever families.” Be a mother or father, or a sister or brother to a lost child who needs transportation, tutoring or a fan at their athletic games!
Q: How can people find out more about He Knows Your Name Ministry, especially families suffering the loss of a child and are in need of assistance?
My website is the best way to connect with me. I have connections in many parts of the country I would love to share with under-resourced families. Facebook messenger is also an effective way to send me a story and need. There are great resources for bereavement in most hospitals, and I recommend families reach out to their local hospital for support and counseling. Sadly, grief counseling is not always a strength of the local church.
Learn more about more about He Knows Your Name and Linda Znachko at www.heknowsyourname.org, on Facebook (HeKnowsYourNameMinistry) and via Twitter (@LindaZnachko).