This “My SAM Story” was written by James Miller. James was born in Indiana but has also lived in Wisconsin and Texas. Having grown up in the Amish community and experienced 34 years of life as a single adult, he has a unique story to tell.
Your Story Matters
As I begin to write my SAM testimony — my story — I am reminded of the creativity of our Creator. Consider the fact that there is not one other person out there quite like you. No one else has your fingerprint! That is truly amazing if you really take a moment to think about it. That is just a small representation of how much God is interested in your life; He is aware of even the smallest details! Nothing goes unnoticed with Him! This is a story of someone’s journey to regain their self-worth and self-esteem that the enemy had stripped from them. It is a story of someone finding healing from the wounds of the past.
Before I tell my story I want to offer some encouraging advice to someone. Never let the enemy convince you that the hurt, pain, and heartache that you have experienced are invalid. He will try and tell you that because someone else has experienced pain and trials worse than yours, you do not have the right to bring them before God. He will tell you that your hurt is too trivial and that you need carry it with you for the rest of your life. He is a liar! Always take your hurt, your pain, and your heartache to God, no matter how big or small, and let God reveal Himself to you as Your Healer. Share your testimony unashamedly every time you get the chance! A testimony is the story about a test in which you were victorious!
When you tell someone about your victory and what God has done for you, you are offering praise unto God. We know praise has the power to shake foundations and open prison doors! Remember that the Bible says we are made overcomers by the word of our testimony. You never know when God may use your testimony to unlock someone else’s prison door.
Growing Up in the Amish Culture
My life began in a much different culture than that of most people who might read this article. I was born into the Amish Culture in Northern Indiana. My parents had been born and raised in this culture throughout their entire lives and remained in it until I was 8 or 9 years old.
There are many different variations of so-called Amish people. If you study them for any amount of time or have been around them you will find that in different areas and different states they have different convictions and standards. There are some who have no running water, indoor plumbing, or many other things deemed convenience. Luckily, the group that my parents were a part of allowed indoor plumbing, which meant we had running water in the house and toilets that were inside instead of an outhouse outside. Thank the Lord! They were allowed to have gas generators in the house to run their washing machines and also had refrigerators and freezers that ran off gas so food could be conveniently stored. We were not allowed to have vehicles, so transportation was limited to a horse and buggy! One horse power does not get you anywhere quickly! I am convinced that there is no such thing as an impatient Amish person. Most Amish people use farming as a way of life. Horses are the only thing allowed to plant and harvest crops. They are not allowed to use a tractor for these things; if you were going to use a tractor you had to be a part of the Mennonite community (which is a close relative in culture to the Amish people).
While we were a part of this culture my dad was a minister in the Amish church. However, it was about the time that I was 7 years old that he began to have some run-ins with the leadership of the church. God in his foreknowledge saw a hunger in a family in this culture, and began to prepare a way out. What is interesting is how He chose to use the mistakes of my father as a way to separate us from a very controlling culture that uses fear tactics and isolation as a way of keeping people from leaving their way of life. The friction between my dad and the leadership of the church led to him being silenced as a minister. He was no longer allowed to preach in church services and thus became a shame to our family in the community. It was only a couple of years after that my family decided to leave all they ever knew and separate from the Amish culture.
Heartache after Leaving the Amish Community
If you know anything about the Amish people you understand that an attempt to leave this culture is huge!! You do not leave without paying a high price! If you try to leave there are some very strict rules in place that are designed to isolate you from the community and deter anyone from leaving. Different churches vary in how they enforce this, but all practice a form of “shunning” someone who tries to leave.
When my family took the plunge and made it our final decision to leave, the law was laid down. Thankfully, my mom’s side of the family was more lenient in applying the shunning and we are able to see them to this day. However, on my Dad’s side of the family it was very different. They gave a short amount of time for us to reconsider our choice but eventually shunned us for good. It started with us being allowed to come to their house for family functions but they would not eat at the same table we did. They would go to the trouble of setting up a separate table, sometimes in a different room, for us to eat. This escalated to the point as it stands today where we are not even allowed to set foot on their property. It has been close to 20 years since I have seen any of them. I have cousins, nieces, and nephews that I have never even met.
What’s interesting is that most of my family and many in this movement do not embrace these types of tactics, but if they do not follow them they will be shunned as well. A few years back my dad heard that his mother was slowly going blind and did not have much longer to live. He decided he was going stop in against the wishes of the church and see her. When he approached her and told her who he was, with tears streaming down her cheeks she told him that he needed to leave before someone found out that he was at her house.
Imagine being told by your dying mother to leave as you are attempting to show love and compassion! It was not what she wanted to do, but the fear of punishment forced her to. This explicitly shows the fear, control, and manipulation tactics of this culture. There are many people that want to leave, but are trapped by fear. The fear of taking on a new world, and doing it while being isolated from family and friends is more than most can bear. There are hundreds, probably thousands, that have made the attempt to leave the culture, thinking they could handle it, only to go back because the isolation and loneliness were too much.
The empty, quiet, and silent living rooms on birthdays, Christmas, and Thanksgiving were more than they could take. For many, living in bondage with family and friends is more bearable than being free and lonely.
Thank God that we know true freedom comes from knowing the truth and not from following man-made rules!
New Beginnings, New Trials
It was not long after my family chose to leave that we moved to Wisconsin. We were not aware of it at the time but God was ultimately leading us to a Pentecostal church where a pastor would teach my parents a Bible study and my whole family would experience the Acts 2:38 message.
Unfortunately, it was in the transition from the Amish culture to our new way of life that the devil came close to destroying my life. He took the rejection and isolation that we experienced from family to try and convince me that this is how God saw my life. When my family transitioned to a different culture my parents could not afford to instantly buy a whole new wardrobe for six kids. So it was still obvious to everyone who we were and where we came from.
It was during this time that I started into public school. Caught in the transition between two cultures, I may as well have had someone paint a big target on my back, complete with the caption “take a free shot.” There were not many days that went by in which I was not bullied, publicly embarrassed, and the subject of most of the jokes. I remember dreading when a teacher walked out of the room. I cringed and my heart sank anytime we were left unattended, because that’s when the antagonists seized their opportunity to publicly embarrass me.
My prayer was always that I could make it through just one day without someone making a joke that made me feel worthless and invaluable.
I would purposely sit in the back corner of the class just hoping that if I stayed out of sight and out of mind that they would leave me alone. Most days that hope was unfulfilled.
The constant barrage of remarks from my classmates was bad enough, but one particular instance was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I can still vividly remember the classroom I was in, the people who were sitting around me, and the hour of the day that it was. It was activity period, during which we gathered in our classroom waiting for our first hour class to start. I was sitting in the back corner of the class when I noticed our teacher leave the classroom. He often left to try and find a single female teacher to talk to.
Shortly after he left a guy sitting in the front of the class came to the back and more or less cornered me. He began to publicly embarrass and humiliate me in front of those around me. He proceeded to make accusations of things that he heard happened in the Amish culture that were unbelievable! He was making the culture that I came from sound like we were a bunch of animals. I cannot even bring myself to repeat the things he said. I was being accused of doing something sick that my family and I had never been a part of. Feeling attacked, humiliated, and not knowing what to do, I just began to deny every accusation he brought against me not knowing if there was any truth to them. I was desperate to maintain some sense of dignity. At first, one the other guys tried to defend me but bowed out quickly as the accusations got sick and disgusting.
Feeling completely stripped of all dignity, self-worth, and value I went home and told my Dad the whole story, hoping with everything in me that there was not an ounce of truth in what the bully had said. I was crushed when he said that it was likely that this stuff had happened in isolated areas of the culture. I cannot even describe how disappointed I was. I wanted to be able to go back and get in this guy’s face and let him know that this was a lie — that there was absolutely no truth to his hurtful comments! The heartbreaking fact was that I could not.
I felt like I was having to publicly bear the weight, shame, and guilt for sins of my culture, things I personally had never done or been a part of.
My question to God was, “Why? Why do I have to answer for this?” To say I felt like the scum of the earth was an understatement. The resulting wound that formed was so intense that only an encounter with the Healer could fix it. It was in this moment that the devil got a major foothold in my life. He loves to try and throw the knockout blow when a child of God gets knocked down. I became deeply depressed, angry, and often just did not want to live anymore. Being made to feel useless and worthless over and over had taken its toll.
An Encounter with the Healer
I tried for years to put a band-aid over this bleeding wound, hoping that it would go away if I just suppressed it long enough. I worked so hard to not let my issue affect my performance in school, work, friendships, and relationships, but no matter how hard I tried to conceal my issue it affected everything. I would do well in school for a while and my teachers would tell me that I had so much potential. However, as soon as something would happen that would strike that bruise in my life and make me feel worthless again, I lost any drive to excel at what I did. I struggled to really care about anything, so much so that I quit high school in my junior year. It was just another failure that the devil used to remind me of how worthless that I was.
My friendships and relationships never lasted long either. Because I did not understand the love God had for me, I had no idea how to love others.
What I did not understand in the earlier years of my life was that the very things that brought me so much pain would be the very things that would drive me closer to God. They would allow me to see demonstrations of His power in ways I could not have imagined. There came a shift in my life where I was no longer satisfied with just barely surviving my situation. I was ready to be an overcomer! I became desperate to find victory no matter what the cost.
The first step to victory was exposing the wound to the One who could bring healing. It was extremely hard for me to do this. This is so contrary to our human nature. Being asked to expose something that brings back terrible memories, pain, and heartache just seems absurd! However, God will never override our freewill. He will only take and fix what we give willingly to him. Often times we are like the person who called a repairman to come fix a water leak in their house, but then told him he was not allowed to actually come inside the house. We tell Him he must fix it from the outside because we are too scared to let Him in.
This is how I was asking God to fix my life for too long. I remember coming to the point where I finally thought, “What do I have to lose? The worst thing that can happen is I end up back where I am today.” I began to cry out to God with a desperation like I had never done before. There were days where the best I could do was crawl my way to the foot of the cross, but God met me there every time. I asked him to clean out the anger, the bitterness, and the hurt. I wish I could tell you that it was one particular instance where I prayed and instantly all the pain was gone. However, He began to heal the hurt layer by layer. He began to take out the infection layer by layer. A miraculous transformation began to take place day by day.
The weight I carried for so long began to lift. I felt lighter in my spirit. Joy began to make its way back into my life. I began to forgive those who had hurt me deeply and no longer hold it against them. I began to develop a confidence in who I was in God and the worth that He placed on my life. Doors began to open like they never had before.
The Rest of the Story
In closing, I just want to encourage someone who is still hurting and cannot seem to find healing or freedom from their pain. It is God’s will for you to be healed and to be free! Too often we convince ourselves that it must be God’s will for us to be trapped in our pain, when the real reason we still have it is because we have not offered it to him. Do whatever you have to do to bring your pain to the surface and willingly give it to God. Too often we are like a patient that gets to the surgeon all bandaged up and tells the surgeon to fix everything without taking the bandages off because it will be too painful to remove them.
If you ask God to fix something without exposing it, you are telling Him you are not sure He is powerful enough to fix it. Remember that He will never violate your will; He can only fix and restore what you expose and willingly give to Him. If you have tried to find healing from the past on your own and it has not worked, ask for help! Do whatever it takes! Do not fall prey to the fear of going to a Christian counselor for help because someone might label you as messed up and crazy. I was one of those people that was not making any progress on my own in finding healing. I needed someone led by God to show me the way. If it was not for Christian counselors I would not be where I am today. Do not be afraid to reach out for help.
To make a long story short, God allowed every dream He ever gave me to come to fruition. I had always dreamed of going to Bible College and singing and traveling with the TBC Chorale. I write my testimony today having completed my Bachelor’s degree in Theology. I have traveled all over the country singing in many different churches. I have gotten to do internships and preach in churches that I would never have dreamed of.
I am no longer a hostage to hurt and pain of the past, but I am free because of the healing of Jesus Christ!
Remember that God cannot fail! If you have not received the victory that you are longing for yet, God is waiting on you. He is never reluctant to do a miracle or to demonstrate His power. He can take a story that began in pain and write a new and victorious ending to it.
James graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Theology from Texas Bible College in May 2017. He plans to evangelize after graduation.