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Short Story from a Missionary Kid

amanda telman blog post

I have no idea how I am going to fit six years full of crazy adventures all around the world into words, but I will do my best.  Here we go:

Hi, my name is Amanda Telman.  I was born in Michigan, and moved to Tennessee when I was very young.  My earliest memories are in church, and my parents set an incredible example for me of what it looks like to devote your life to God.  I have six siblings- five younger and an older sister.  We are all very close and I have always been thankful for a large family and how close we are.  In 2010, my parents, older sister, and I went on a two-week mission’s trip to Masaka, Uganda.  I was only 10 years old, but this trip still had a major impact in my life.  I realized that so many people have almost nothing, and yet they have more joy than I had ever seen a people have collectively.  They were very giving, relational, and loving.  When we got back to the States, we were all “homesick” for Uganda.  After much prayer and counsel, my parents decided that God was calling us to move there permanently.  And so, at the age of twelve, I along with my entire family (aside from my older sister who had just graduated cosmetology school and stayed in the States) moved to a tiny village in Uganda, East Africa.

The first few days were so exciting!!  We had gone camping many times as a family, and this seemed to be similar.  It was one big adventure, and I loved every minute of it… for a few minutes.  We were living in a little house temporarily that had three rooms- a main room, a bedroom for me and my siblings, and a bedroom for my parents.  The bathroom was outside and was unlike any bathroom I was used to- this one was a kyo (a hole in the ground.)  We did not have running water, but we did have a well that we would pump water from and fill jeri-cans.  We did all of our laundry by hand, washed all of our dishes in plastic tubs, took “showers” by filling a bucket with water and dumping it by the cupful over our head, and, well, you get the picture.  I was excited with this adventure until reality sunk in and I understood that we were here for good… This was not a camping trip that would be over in a week, this was life.

When I came to this realization, I was less than thrilled with these daily chores that I was not used to.  Though I had life much easier than almost all of my peers here in this village, I pitied myself and was growing increasingly discontent.  I did not appreciate that I had to wash mine and my brother’s clothes by hand, wash dishes every day, go outside to a smelly outhouse, shower out of a bucket, and try to fit in with this people whose language I could not understand.

I remember one day I was washing mine and one of my brother’s clothes- which took all morning.  I started around 8, and finished sometime around 11 or so.  My sisters and I sat on our little porch with several buckets of soapy water, and worked hard.  We washed each article of clothing, wrung it out, rinsed it, wrung it out, rinsed it again, wrung it out, and hung it on the clothes line.  You never realize how many clothes you go through until you have to wash them by hand!  I had just finished the very last piece of clothing, and was ready for the rest of my day when the worst possible thing happened- the line snapped!!!!!  And all of the sudden all of our hard work was erased.  All of the clothes I had just freshly washed were filthy, covered in the red dirt they had fallen into.  That was one of many breaking points and, though I can laugh at it now, I was done.  I went into the tiny room I shared with four of my siblings, sat on the trunk that held our clothes, and cried.  Looking back now, I was just being dramatic and pitying myself when I could look around and see almost 100% of the people surrounding me had life so much harder than I did- but I did not.  I looked at my problem and complained to God.

I did not understand why God would move me to a place that I did not like, away from my family and friends, conveniences, the food I was used to, and a life I had loved.  I looked at my troubles and difficulty and grew embittered towards my parents, my siblings, God, and the country in which I was living.  As I focused on my own problems, I felt unsafe, discontent, depressed, and lonely.  I convinced myself that while my parents may have been called to Uganda, I CERTAINLY was not, and was counting down the days until I graduated high school (about five years…)

There were many other traumatic experiences, some more than others, in this “malaria motel”, thus named because almost every member of my family contracted malaria in the three months we lived in this little house.  Some of the most traumatic were the weeks a member of my family- or myself- had malaria.  Dad didn’t waste any time in getting malaria, as he got sick about two weeks after arriving in Uganda.  We weren’t sure what his problem was, if he was just being a wimp when he said that he felt like he had been hit by a semi or if he actually did feel as bad as he looked.  The two oldest boys, ages 3 and 5 at the time, soon followed and after a few days got so badly sick that we rushed them to Masaka, a town half an hour away.  The doctors there wanted to give them quinine, which is incredibly bad for you, and so we rushed the boys to the hospital to the more modern Kampala, about three hours away.  When they arrived, the doctor found out that John, the three-year-old, had so many parasites that if he had arrived at the hospital a mere two hours later it would have been too late.  I still thank God for the gift He gave our family in preserving John’s life and allowing him to remain here with our family on earth.

A couple weeks later, I realized that Dad was not in fact “just being a wimp,” and that getting malaria does actually feel like getting hit with a semi.  I’m assuming anyways, as I’ve never actually been hit with a semi, but you get the picture.  My head hurt far worse than any pain I had experienced, I couldn’t eat a thing, I couldn’t even sit up without help.  I had hallucinations and chills like you wouldn’t believe.  Mom felt so bad that a couple days later, she joined me and was down with malaria.  I felt like I was about to die, and I welcomed death at that point.  But God helped us all to make it through those three months and we then moved into our house we had built.

The first year in Uganda was the hardest year of my life, and I did not want any part of devoting my life to missions or anything that resembled self-sacrifice.  I was focusing on myself and pitying myself for what I considered the hardest life anyone had ever had (I am exaggerating a little, but I really was dramatic.)  There are many other stories I could tell from this first year, but the main point is that I was not focusing on God and His calling in my life at all.  I was self-centered, discontent, and angry.  I refused to look for the beauty that surrounded me and the many blessings God had given to me, and instead concentrated on the pain and difficulty I was experiencing.  What a sad way to live!!  Looking back now, I cannot believe how much I missed and what a mistake I was making in living completely for myself!!

Okay, now we are to year two in Uganda.  To start off this second year, my parents were so thoughtful that they gave me a trip to America for the summer.  It gave me a chance to spend time with my older sister, go to camp, attend our church and youth group in America, and get a little fix of America.  When I went to youth camp with my church for a week, I felt convicted of the attitude I was having about living in Uganda, and prayed that God would help me to surrender to His will.  Whatever that meant, I wanted to obey God.  However, that summer flew by and before I knew it, I was on a plane going back to Uganda.  And despite the choice I had made to surrender to God’s will, that was a lot easier said than done.  I arrived back in Uganda and was not as excited as I wanted to be.  But God loves me so much that even though I had a pouty attitude, He gave me a gift.  And her name is Christina.

We had a little party for Labor Day, and had a few missionary families over the week I arrived back in Uganda.  My family had met another missionary family over the summer who came to Uganda a few months before we had, and they had told me about their daughter that I would get along with so well.  I wasn’t so sure, but I went along with it.  So, we had this party and this family came, and I met my best friend that day!! Christina and I instantly bonded, and grew closer and closer as the years went on.

I still was not the happiest teenager ever, and still preferred America to Uganda, but having a best friend who understood me and could sympathize with all these feelings of being uprooted from your home definitely caused me to see that I could enjoy being there a little more.  We started a “missionary football league,” I started cooking more, teaching a Sunday School class, getting to know the orphans in our ministry better, and learning Luganda.  By the time to go back to America for a nine-month furlough came, I was a little more content in Africa than I had been before.  Still, I refused to call Uganda “home.”

When we went on furlough (a time when missionaries go back to their sending country to visit friends and family, churches, doctors, dentists, and anyone else they need to see) when I was fifteen years old.  We went at the beginning of the school year, so I was there for my whole eleventh grade year.  What I came to find out, is that maybe it wasn’t only Africa that made life hard.  Maybe I didn’t have an excuse in moving to a foreign country, because life in America was a challenge now too.  I didn’t fit in as well, all of my friends were depressed, angry, and bitter.  I worked full time in my time at home, did school, and was trying to see all my friends all the time.  I was exhausted, depressed, and still self-centered.

Something incredible had happened, though, in my time back in America… I missed Uganda!!! I came to appreciate that Uganda is actually a very beautiful country, our ministry was fulfilling and joyful, and I had grown to love it there!! And so, at the end of my time in America, I was more than happy to go back to Uganda- this time with a fresh outlook.  I only had one more year in Uganda, my senior year.  And I was determined to live life to the fullest there, and to focus more on other people instead of myself.  What I found was that life in Uganda was actually the best life I could imagine!! I immersed myself in ministry there and was never happier.  The same hard circumstances still existed, but I was not focused on myself anymore (as much.)  I looked at everything with wonder, from the fresh food in the market, to the many colors the women wore, to the joy on the faces of the orphans in our ministry.

I was in the midst of my senior year and the obvious question of “where are you going after?” kept nagging in my mind.  I was looking at different Bible schools in Europe because I did not want to go straight back to America- I had learned that the materialistic mindset in America was a lot to handle.  I did not have too much patience for the self-centered society there (even though I myself was incredibly self-centered, and still struggle with it.)  It was worrying me to no end that I did not know where to go to school.  One morning Mom was praying about where I should attend college, and she “randomly” thought of Word of Life Bible Institute.  She had grown up near the school in Schroon Lake, New York, and knew that they had international campuses.  So, she looked up where exactly they had international campuses and happened to see the school in Hungary.  When I woke up that morning, she told me all of this and showed me the website of the school she found.  And it was as if God was telling me “I told you I had something perfectly fitted to you planned.”  I felt an absolute peace with this and immediately applied.  God further tested my faith by having me wait a few more months for them to accept me, but finally, in February, I was accepted.

God revealed to me that true joy cannot come through my circumstances, but only through a heart that is focused on Him and seeking His will in every moment.  Another lesson that He was teaching me was that I was not alone in any difficult situation!  I was not the first person to experience this, and I would not be the last.  God was using each lesson I was learning to grow me, and had a purpose through each hard time.  Even though I was learning all this, I still did not fully learn the lesson of just how important it is to remain close to God!!

Well, I finished my senior year, packed up, and said “goodbye” to my life in Uganda.  I headed to Nashville for the summer to graduate and work to be able to pay for college in the fall.  I was very sad to leave, this time happy to call Uganda “home” more than America.  But I was also excited to see what God had in store for me in America and Hungary.

The summer came, I graduated and started working, my mom left, and I was faced with the full summer of working in an environment that was not at all like the ministry environment I was used to.  It was easy to slip away from time in God’s Word and prayer as I was more and more tired from work.  Excuses came easily, and I was getting used to sleeping in as late as possible, going right to work, coming right home, and going to bed.  I was working about 70-80 hours a week at two jobs, and towards the end of the summer I was just drained.  I did not feel safe, as I was not looking to God for my safety but to myself.  By the end of the summer I had fallen so far from the presence of God that my conscience was dulled and I was not sure I could get back to a close relationship with God that I wanted.  I was wrong.

In September, I headed out to Hungary for a year of Bible college.  My plan after this year was to get my degree in accounting, move to Europe, and live a wealthy life while supporting missions in Africa.  Not even a month after I arrived, God changed my mind.  I spend time every morning in God’s Word and praying to Him.  I studied His Word more than I ever had and grew closer and closer to Him.  He caused me to realize that His plan was far better than simply living a comfortable life.  His plan for me was to continue Bible college for a second year, and eventually end up as a missionary back in Africa.  I was overflowing with joy from this realization that I could live a fulfilling and joyful life focused on sharing the love of God with others.

As the year in Hungary continued, God kept making life with Him sweeter and sweeter.  He just kept on bringing me brand new opportunities to serve Him, and He also did something I never thought could happen:  He completely removed every hint of depression from my life.  Depression runs in my family, and even in my time in Uganda that I was doing my best to love life there and focus on God I still had days of depression.  I just figured it was something that I was going to live with for the rest of my life, and that I would just have to do my best to live a good life in spite of this, and just push it down as far as I could.  I was completely wrong.  Ever since I arrived at Bible school and my only responsibility was to study God’s Word and to seek a closer relationship with Him, and to increase in faith, I have not felt a single shadow of depression.  This is not my own doing whatsoever, it has only happened since I gave it completely to God and have been depending on Him for healing and joy.  He has been so good to me, and as I seek to make my life Christ-centered rather than self-centered, He blesses me.  My prayer has changed from “make my life better” to “give me comprehension of the extent of your love, Lord” as Ephesians 3 states.  And my focus has changed from the cares of this world to eternity.  I will spend eternity (which I will not be able to comprehend here on this earth) praising Jesus in His presence!! What an exciting thought!! And when I consider this, it seems silly to me that I ever was unhappy with the life He gave me.  He put me right where I am to help others to understand His love and to share His truth with those who have never heard it, or who need to hear it again!  Even after studying God’s Word and spending countless hours in His presence, I am no closer to understanding how He could love me so much that He would sacrifice His Only Son, all for me.  What love!!

Not only did God cause me to grow closer to Him and learn so much more about Him through studying His Word, but He also gave me so many new experiences I never expected!! He gave me a chance to travel more than I had imagined- including sharing His love on trips to Uganda for Christmas, Cyprus in January, Slovenia in February, and Norway and Germany in March.  One major theme which really left an impression on me is just how beautiful the body of Christ is.  We are all connected through Christ, no matter which country or continent we are in, which language we speak, what color we are, where we grew up, or any other circumstance.  We are unified!

That brings us to these last few months, summer 2018.  I was nervous about coming back to America because I had not been strong last summer and had fallen away.  I was nervous to not be surrounded by friends who are as in love with God as I am, and are constantly striving to grow.  And once again, God shocked me.  He gave me the most incredible summer.  He pulled me closer to Him than I have ever been, even when I was fully surrendered at Bible school.  Somehow, He just keeps causing me to love Him more and to grow more.  And here I am, at the very end of my summer and on my way back to Hungary for my second year of Bible school, and I have absolutely zero complaints about this summer!! There is nothing I can think of that I would change or take out.  He put every difficulty I experienced there for a purpose, and even if I don’t see the purpose right now, I know it is there.  Whether or not He chooses to reveal the reason for the trial, I know that it is there from the countless times He has proved Himself faithful to me in the past!!

My summer was spent at my home church serving as an intern.  What a life-changing summer! I had no idea what to expect, and God clearly moved in my life, in our church, and in the lives of those I spent time with.  Those that I worked with were sensitive to the Spirit and truly looked out for me.  God protected me and my mind in ways I never could have dreamed!! He grew a hunger for His Word and His Spirit so far deeper than I could have wished.  And He is still at work in my life!! I can just go on and on talking about how gracious, loving, and kind our God is, but this post needs to end sometime.

And on that note, that’s all!  I thank God that He allowed me to somehow compile the last six years into one post.  Trust me, there are so many more stories and experiences that I could write about, but this is just a little taste.  Thank you for taking the time to read this!! If you have any questions, feel free to comment or message me! And check back for future posts about the places God is taking me, and the way He is working in my life!

You can read more from Amanda on her blog: https://thegingerafrican.wordpress.com/

 

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