I See God in You: Amanda Martinez
I met the ray of sunshine Amanda Martinez on my 18th birthday.
We stood in a church parking lot, the very last ones waiting for our parents to pick us up after Ignite. I still remember her heart-shaped sunglasses and approachable smile and just how easy it was to jump into conversation with her.
Little did I know, this sunny and stylish girl would become one of my very best college friends, and I mean one of those "let's sit in the car and cry together" or "almost fall out of our chairs from laughing so hard" best friends. And later, she would stand with me on the biggest day of my life as one of my beautiful and supportive bridesmaids.
The word "faithful" rings loud in my ears when I think about Amanda Martinez. God has called on her to do some pretty crazy and amazing things, and Amanda has been a diligent follower.
A little over six months ago, she sat in my living room letting me hear all about her experience in Uganda and her feelings about moving into the corporate world in Birmingham, Alabama. I got to ask her so many questions and marvel at the incredible adventure God planned for her. Here's a little glimpse into my Q&A with this faithful gal:
S: What is one thing that you love about yourself?
A: So, this is something that has actually just been a new revelation to me. I have always struggled with the fact that I'm short. I'm 5'1"... I'm usually not taken seriously because of my height. But, it's something that I've grown to love because I'm someone that's very unassuming, and I get to surprise a lot of people.
I love that if I just walk up to someone on the street, they're not going to put their guard up because they're not intimidated by this small girl. I've recently grown to love the fact that I am small. I think it makes me pretty approachable.
S: Yes!! I'm so glad! I love that about you too :)
Okay, so I still remember sitting in the car with you when you were debating what you were going to do post-grad. But, for someone who hasn't heard about the last year of your life, what was it like to decide to take the job with 31 Bits in Uganda? What drew you to the job?
A: I've always been someone who expresses herself through fashion.
In elementary school, I would pick out my mom's outfits for Parent/Teacher Night. I would go to her closet and say, "this is the one you HAVE to wear."
Then in high school, I started my own accessory company. I would sell things at school and make great profit from it. I always knew I wanted to work for a magazine of some sort.
And then my first year of college, I GOT SAVED! I became a Christian. And all of a sudden the fashion world kind of seemed very dark. I started to see things I hadn't seen before. It was a lot of people devaluing other people, so I kind of shied away from it after that.
I soon realized that there were companies popping up that were trying to make the fashion world more meaningful and more empowering and purposeful- companies like Toms, 31 Bits, Noonday, Raven and Lily- all of those are trying to make the fashion world mean something other than a piece of clothing. It means a job for a struggling family in a third world country or within our community.
So, I studied Public Relations and International Business in college, but I was struggling to see how I could use my knowledge and also my passion and my faith. I didn't know how and it scared me so much. It was frustrating because I could NOT picture my future. The time after graduation was this big unknown. It was dark, and it was scary.
I had major anxiety that entire year- to the point where I was driving and had a panic attack. I lost my sight for a brief moment and had to pull over. It was just the worst I've been. Ever.
And I realized I needed to get my emotions together, and I needed to stop trying to carry the weight of the world on my shoulders. And also to stop worrying about things I have no control over.
It was the moment I gave up and said, "I'm just Amanda who cannot see the future, and that's okay."
So I prayed and said, "God, I'm done feeling anxious. I'm done feeling sad and frustrated. I'm giving you my future. Do what you want, and I will faithfully follow you. Even if it scares me, I will follow you."
Right after that, I was waiting on my brother to get out of an appointment, and I was scrolling through Instagram and 31 Bits, this jewelry company based out of California- I love them! They employ women in Uganda to roll paper beads and make these really cool pieces.
S: They're SO pretty!
A: Yes, they're all so beautiful! At the time, they were looking for a production intern to move to Uganda to work with them for 6 months.
And I thought, "Oh my gosh, this is a company that values empowering, not only a woman, but also her family. And it's also faith-based, so they're constantly encouraging women through scripture. It's socially- conscious, which means they care for their holistic lifestyles- health, income, personal- they find a way to aid a person through that.
And through a leap of faith, I applied!
I didn't even tell my parents. I didn't think I would get it! But somehow, I got a Skype interview.
I had never prayed so much about my future until that time. I wanted to be sure that anything beyond that point was God at work, not just me trying to take control.
I knew there were probably a lot of applicants out there who were probably more qualified. But, one morning I got a call saying, "Hey, you got it! We want you to be a part of our team."
I started crying. I could not believe that this girl from a border town would end up working for a great company in UGANDA.
S: Amazing. How long were you there?
A: I went for 6 months.
My first weekend there, we went to Sippy Falls, the most beautiful place I've ever been to. It's like a jungle!
And I just remember looking around and thinking, "Wow, a few months ago, I was DROWNING in anxiety and fear about what my next move was going to be. And now here I am, in Uganda at Sippy Falls.
I feel like I had tunnel vision before, thinking about all the things I wasn't qualified for and all the things I couldn't have.
A huge thing for me was letting go. I had to pray, "God, you''re the Creator of this world. What can I do to serve YOU?"
S: Since coming back from Uganda, what are some ways that you can see that you have changed?
A: I think the way that I see people.
Since I became a Christian, something the church has told us is to go out to the nations and serve. So, I went on mission trips and served. It was really good.
But we often say or think, "we're going to go out to these third world countries and serve these poor people."
And after the past 6 months, I lived in a third world country and I realized they're just people. They may not have the same resources, but they are people that are motivated by the same emotions that we have. They love passionately and they want great futures for their families, just like you and I want.
I realized that sometimes we go on mission trips and pat ourselves on the back and say, "We did a good deed. We helped some people in need."....which is great, but I think for me, I want to stop seeing people as projects, and start seeing them for the people that they really are.
We're human beings trying to make sense of what life throws at us, why not do it together?
S: Do you think that having done this whole, "I've lived in a third world country for 6 months, with a bug net over my bed," experience has made you less afraid to take a new adventure somewhere else? Like going to a new job in Birmingham?
A: I think I'm always going to be afraid of new challenges and chapters. This new job I'm going to have in Birmingham is new territory for me. I'll be working in the corporate world- which is completely new to me.
I'm going from third world country to corporate America. I showered in cold water. I slept under a mosquito net. I didn't have AC for 6 months. And now, I'm switching to corporate, where everything is clean and new.
Living in Uganda did give me some boldness interacting with people. I had to learn a new language and a new culture.
I feel that if I can learn that, now that this is my culture, what can I do? If I can try so hard over there, how much more can I try here?
I might always be a little fearful of the future, but there is a little added boldness.
S: What has it been like, being back?
A: I've had a lot of sleepless nights, where I just think about being back over there (in Uganda). I felt more free over there than I have ever! No one expected anything from you. Just giving your quality time meant the world.
I think that's the hardest thing being here. There's always something going on here, and everyone is busy. We don't really have as much time to sit and chat- and we should!
It has been hard trying to figure out, "where do I go from that experience?"
It's nice to be home, but there's a huge chunk of my heart that is still very much there. It will be good to see why God wants me to be in corporate.
S: What would your advice be to someone who feels totally overwhelmed about the "What's Next?"
A: I think sitting and being still. Literally, just sitting and thinking over your options. The way to realize what God wants you to do is by being still. because if you're filling those precious moments of decision with noise and with so many others' opinions, it gets hard to hear.
If you have no options at all, try. Look somewhere. Widen that tunnel vision and seek out different roles. Put yourself out there and test that comfort zone.
I think it's worth listening to your passions, and quieting your fears.
Amanda has now been working for BBVA Compass for six months!! Crazy how time flies. And believe me, God has been using her in incredible ways in the corporate world because she was willing to quiet those fears.
Amanda shared this in one of her recent posts:
"In six months I've hopped on more than 60 different planes, helped provide financial education to under-served communities and challenged to own up to the things I do and don't know! CRAZY TIMES!! Blessed for every chaotic, fun and hard moment!!"
Amanda, you have followed God through thick and thin. You pushed through fear and anxiety and chose Him over all things. You have been there for me in my own seasons of anxiety and fear, championing me to press into the Lord, reminding me of His tender affection for me. And in your faithfulness, I see God shine so bright my sweet, sweet friend.
This friendship with Amanda Martinez: the best gift from my 18th birthday.