Linda Znachko’s small “yes” changed her life — and her community — forever
Part 2 of an interview with Linda Znachko,
Author of He Knows Your Name
(read part 1 here)
(read part 1 here)
Linda Znachko has found herself in places she never dreamed she would be: at the graveside of the child of an abused mother; by the side of a mother fighting for her lost child; and at the funeral of a Texas stripper who died two days before her baptism but left a legacy of love behind. When Linda stepped out of her comfort zone and into these implausible places with people she was unlikely to otherwise encounter, she discovered the life she never knew she wanted—a life of saying yes to God whenever He asks.
In her book He Knows Your Name: How One Abandoned Baby Inspired Me to Say Yes to God (Kregel Publications), Znachko tells her story of saying, “Yes,” to nudges from God. Today, she has a ministry that gives children a name in life, and dignity and honor in death. When she shares her stories of broken lives redeemed, other broken people respond, and so the ripple effects of that long-ago yes continue to spread, touching lives that yearn for healing, and underscoring the fact that every life matters to God.
Q: Your book, He Knows Your Name, tells of how your ministry by the same name got started. Tell us a little bit about how the news story about an abandoned baby inspired you to say yes to God’s plan for you.
It was a headline about Baby Doe, wearing a diaper and found in a dumpster, that grabbed my heart. God spoke to my spirit with a contrasting message — Doe is not a name, a diaper is not burial clothing and a dumpster is not a grave. God’s plan for me was to make this injustice right. I had no idea how that would look; I only knew I needed to call and ask some questions. When I asked what would happen to this child if never claimed and was told “nothing,” my “yes” turned into action to make sure the child would be named, dressed and buried with dignity.
Q: Your journey began with wanting to provide a funeral for one abandoned baby but quickly grew into something much larger. Share with us the call you received while waiting to hear back about Baby Doe.
Alfie, the coroner, asked me about another need when we were talking on what had become our weekly Friday morning calls. She asked me plainly if “my organization” could provide a headstone for an under-resourced family. In my head I said to myself, “What organization?” I asked her if I could call her back because I had to ask the Lord if this request had my name on it. It was that phone call that started to shape the idea in me that God was expanding my heart for more of His purposes. It was also when I realized that naming “my organization” was my next step.
Q: What other situations have you and your ministry been able to assist with?
I have provided headstones for families who are under-resourced, and I give a headstone blessing dedication for the family. I also have established a foundation at Indy Parks in the name of a child who drowned. For six years, we have offered a free session of swim lessons and water safety to inner city children so they can learn to swim. I’m currently advocating for the Baby Box legislation by giving testimony at the statehouse about the importance of enhancing the Safe Haven Law for awareness and alternative ways to surrender a baby safely.
I also help families who have lost a loved one in a violent crime organize memorials for their loved ones. I connect them with resources that help give dignity so death doesn’t have the last word, but redemption of life does! One family is putting a bench at a park, near where a girl was found after being killed. The bench has her name engraved on a plaque, and the bench brings beauty to the park.
Q: He Knows Your Name is full of the imagery of God as a Father. How did that aspect of God’s character influence you to reach out to these families?
Psalm 68:6 says, “God sets the lonely in families,” and John 14:18 says, “I will not leave you as orphans.” These two verses are foundational for me as I consider what it means to live out the gospel in my community. In dark times of grief, the enemy strikes hard with a spirit of isolation. I feel as a follower of Jesus I need to stand in the gap with families in crisis by bringing the Light. Light always overpowers darkness, and my presence is a powerful gift when loneliness sets in because of loss. I believe with all my heart that death, the method God used for salvation, is the vehicle He uses to bring about life. So when I stand at the grave with families, I know the hope of life is in the story of the resurrection. I tell them they are loved by their Heavenly Father, who knows how they feel, and only He can heal their broken hearts.
Q: Explain how your definition of “family” has changed through this process.
I have four biological children, and it wasn’t until I adopted babies in death that I understood how much I could love a child I didn’t carry. The carrying in my heart and claiming through fighting the systems of justice was every bit as laborious for me. Naming a child is a parental right that gives authority, so when I name a baby, I feel the inheritance of family fill my legacy. Another dynamic of “family” that expanded for me was when others “adopted” me. Walking through the sacredness of suffering creates a forever bond, such as when families tell me I am family to them because we shared the intimacy of grief in the most difficult of losses — a child. Sometimes I am overwhelmed by the attachment others feel to me, but I have to say I have not felt taken advantage of by anyone I have served.
Q: Each time God led you to minister to a family, you came upon potential spiritual, cultural and economic barriers. How have you been able break down those barriers and cultivate meaningful relationships?
Breakthrough happens every time I give the gift of time. Time has a profound way of tearing down all barriers. I used to think that “time, talent and treasures” had equal weight of importance in showing love to our neighbors. One of the foundational changes I have made during the growth of He Knows Your Name as a ministry is time is the most precious of all gifts. Most of the people I serve never ask me for money; they just want friendship. They want someone to stand with them. They long to be known. Nothing says, “I see you,” like time spent together.
Q: How does sharing in the pain of others cause a ripple effect of healing?
Everyone has pain in his or her life. Living life honestly in community through the local church is God’s way of helping us have a loving family around us for support and strength. God designed us to be the body of Jesus so we could bring the kingdom and be a taste of heaven to this broken world. When we live healed, whole, transformed lives, others can too. When we heal together, we live redeemed lives that are joyful rather than sorrowful. When we surround ourselves with healed people, we can extend reconciliation and restoration, resulting in hope. Hope births joy!
Q: He Knows Your Name Ministry works to honor every child with a name in life and dignity in death. What are some ways people can partner with your ministry?
People can reach out to me through my website. I would love for them to tell me their story! So much healing happens through testimony and the revelation of redemption. Also, please send me information about what’s happening in your local news. People find it funny that I don’t read a lot of news, but I don’t. I count on my community and communities around the country to be my eyes and ears on the street to keep me informed. Get involved with your local Safe Haven Law advocates. We need to educate young people about the law and support local organizations that are doing grassroots work to protect life.
Learn more about more about He Knows Your Name and Linda Znachko at www.heknowsyourname.org, on Facebook (HeKnowsYourNameMinistry) and via Twitter (@LindaZnachko).