Samara had a matter-of-fact look on her face, nodding slightly at us after she finished the short sentence. I thought my broken Spanish had failed me. Surely I didn’t hear that right.
But my coworker translated and I heard her correctly. Just a few years ago, Samara had jumped off a bridge to end her own life. By the grace of God, a passerby grabbed her by the collar and pulled her back.
I had read Samara’s backstory before we arrived in Colombia. I knew she had considered ending her own life, but I didn’t know she had actually jumped.
How did this kind woman go from jumping off a bridge to hosting Bible studies with her husband and raising a family? And only in a few short years?
The answer is simple: Jesus. But even though the answer is simple, Samara’s journey to her life today was far from easy.
We met Samara in the small kitchen of the second-floor apartment she shares with her husband, Miller. They live in Soacha, a community outside of Bogotá. Their two-bedroom apartment is a cozy home with the sounds of princess music as their young daughter plays.
Our team traveled through the hectic traffic of Bogotá, then up the steep, dusty roads to Soacha. Houses are stacked right next to each other with stray dogs at almost every corner. Several of the buildings feature colorful, vibrant murals of birds—a stark contrast to the dull orange of the bricks and the roads. Samara has set up plastic chairs along the walls of her kitchen for us, a group of female coworkers from around the world, eager to hear this young woman’s story.
Samara told us how this community has become a hub for people looking to work in Bogotá, which is less than an hour’s drive depending on traffic. Many can’t afford housing in the nation’s capital, so they come here. It’s also a safe place for Venezuelan immigrants looking to start a new life. There’s a high population of single mothers, most in their teens raising children on their own or with the help of grandparents.
Soacha is a dangerous neighborhood, one rife with gang activity. Samara’s husband knows this aspect of the community well; he is a former gang member himself. As we sat and talked to Samara, Miller escorted the rest of our group around the community. We were given specific instructions that only one team member could take a camera into Soacha and he would not be allowed to walk alone in the neighborhood. Samara tells us that the violence has gotten better, but not in the way one would hope; rival gangs have begun killing each other off, so there’s less violence overall.
“It’s not all bad though,” she said with a smile.
She grew up in a nearby neighborhood and is now raising her family here. She and Miller are active in their local church and recently completed Bible League’s Church Planter Training. There are local schools and community organizations focused on children. Every Saturday, a Christian organization teaches local kids about God. Samara was not born here in Soacha, but I can tell she considers it her home.
Samara was raised in a loving home with both parents and younger siblings. Her mother, determined to make up for her own childhood, made sure her children felt love and support. At just five years old, Samara was sexually abused by her grandfather. She had no idea the gravity of what was happening, but thankfully her mother found out and protected her daughter from more harm.
She is the oldest of her siblings and became a secondary caregiver when she was young. “I matured much faster because of my responsibilities,” she told us. She wanted to set the example, so she pushed herself in school and at home.
But that pushing led to burnout. She would spiral downward at any signs of failure. Then the bullying started. For years, Samara was tormented by classmates. “Even though I was affected by the bullying, I felt like I couldn’t fail,” she said. The bullying got so bad that it became physical. After a terrible fight, Samara’s life was threatened and she was forced to change schools. “That was a significant event in my life; I was never the same,” she told us calmly.
Church even became a stressful place for her. When she was 14, she began attending church with her mother, but it soon became just another duty. “It felt like, ‘if you don’t go, your brothers and sisters won’t go, your father won’t go, so you have to go,’” she said.
When she entered college, Samara began to struggle with her mental health. She was in classes all day and worked an overnight shift to pay for school. She would skip meals to save money; lunch was her only solid meal of the day. She was studying to be a medical assistant but wasn’t happy in that field.
As her mental and physical health plummeted, Samara began to look for a way out. Every day, she drove across a bridge to get to school. And every day, she heard a small voice telling her she could jump and end all the pain. “I didn’t pay attention to that voice,” she told us quietly. But the voice didn’t stop, and the pressures all around Samara continued to build until she finally hit a breaking point.
In her last week of school, Samara stopped on that bridge and walked to the edge. She thought through all the details, all the consequences. She believed in God, but what would this mean for her faith? If the fall didn’t kill her, what would this mean for her family? Would she just become a burden to them?
“I was hurting so much, it didn’t matter,” she said.
And she jumped. She started to feel the sensation of falling until suddenly, she was yanked back to the bridge. A concerned pedestrian grabbed her by her collar, yelling angrily at her as she fell back onto the pavement.
Quiet gasps swept through the small kitchen as we all take in what Samara is describing. She never told anyone about that night.
Months later, her depression had worsened. She had fallen away from God and had lost interest in her faith. She reluctantly agreed to attend an all-night church service with her mother, only to avoid an argument. That night changed her life forever.
She met Miller, a charismatic, passionate man who shared his testimony with her. He sat beside her the entire night, praying fervently, even crying, as he called out to the Lord. Samara felt drawn to Miller; she felt the Lord pulling her to hug him and pray with him. Then, Miller looked at Samara and said, “Even though you tried to take your life, He won’t let that happen. For God so loved the world that He gave His only son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16).’”
Samara had never spoken of that night on the bridge. In that moment, she knew God was speaking to her through Miller.
That night began a friendship that would soon grow into a Christ-centered romance. Miller discipled Samara, teaching her about God’s Word and helping her work through her past and emotions. A notebook Samara once used to journal out her damaging thoughts became a place where she and Miller would share Scripture. For months, the two grew this platonic relationship on the Word of God, knowing He had more in store for them, but focusing on their relationship with Christ before their relationship with each other. Less than a year after meeting, they were married.
Teammates in Ministry
Today, Samara and Miller are raising their two beautiful daughters and spending their days sharing the Gospel with families in their community. Their pastor encouraged them to attend Bible League’s Church Planter Training to develop their evangelism skills. The couple is a ministry team serving 15 families in their community. Miller leads the Project Philip Bible studies and the worship while Samara works one-on-one with people in the class, mainly women.
“I try to show these women that the reason Jesus came to the world is because of love and to serve other people,” she told us. “That’s how I try to influence women in this community. It’s not just economic help that people need, but emotional. Most of the women are single mothers, they do not have support. But now, they say things like, ‘I don’t have any problems because I have a Father now.’”
Today, Samara is studying theology in addition to managing the house and raising two young girls. The Lord’s influence in her life is evident. Knowing her story of mental health struggles, it’s incredible to see the steady, confident 23-year-old in front of us now. She is joyful as she tells stories of her and Miller’s courtship. She is a gentle, kind mother to her toddler. We can all see that she is at peace, a peace that only comes from having a relationship with Jesus.
“We are doing the job God gave us, it is the Holy Spirit who changes people,” she said boldly.
Bravery in Surrender
In the months since our trip to Colombia, I’ve thought about Samara’s story often. From abuse to social pressures to bullying and then to her lowest point, attempting suicide, Samara has experienced darkness that few of us truly understand.
So what changed? What shift brought her into the peaceful, loving life she has today? The fact is, Samara surrendered. She stopped trying to carry her burdens on her own and she surrendered them to Jesus. She welcomed Miller into her life as a partner, an ally, a husband to lead her home and shoulder the weight of life with her.
Jesus tells us to come to Him and surrender. He knows our burdens are too much. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30 NIV).
Her story reminds me of me. It reminds me of other women I know. We try to do it all. We feel pressure to be perfect, to be the best, to be everything for our loved ones. Young women feel pressure to please parents, friends, bosses. Single women feel pressure to be married. Married women feel pressure to have children. Women with children feel pressure to be perfect mothers. It’s a seemingly endless cycle.
Samara tried to carry it all. She tried to carry the expectations of her parents, the pressures from school, the heavy load of mental health issues. But it was too much. It weighed her down so much that she thought her only way to find relief was to throw herself off a bridge.
Samara submitted to Jesus. She gave her burdens over to Him and partnered with Miller on a journey to seek God and only God. Submission has such a negative connotation today, but it doesn’t mean weakness. It allowed Samara to release her burdens and become more of herself than she’d ever been. And today, she is at peace. She is joyful. Her circumstances aren’t perfect, but she is content in all circumstances as Paul calls us to be.
Today, God is using Samara to share His love and truths in her community. Through her complete surrender, Samara found freedom in the Lord.
Story by Kellyn Amodeo, Bible League International staff, United States.
In May, staff members from around the globe traveled to Colombia for a Communications Summit. The team met Samara and Miller to hear their stories and see their ministry firsthand.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues and would like prayer, please email us at [email protected]. We have a team ready to pray for you right now. If you or someone you know struggles with suicidal thoughts, please call 988 to speak to someone. God loves you. You are not alone.