By Sarah Parris '20 // Marketing & Communication // 5.1.19
“God doesn’t speak things deep in our hearts just to mess with us,” said Jemima Backman. “Pray about it, but if it’s not coming out then you need to take it seriously and trust Him to come through.”
Backman shared how learning to trust in the Lord was the only option for her life. In December, Jemima graduated with a master of arts degree in organizational leadership. She is now working as the program development manager in CSU’s College of Adult and Professional Studies.
Growing up in Finland was a cold and harsh environment for Backman’s childhood. Her family had been devastated by the Russians, and the result was an immense amount of generational trauma. “The whole community was affected by the war in one way or another. Even if they didn’t experience it firsthand, it trickled down through families,” she said.
Backman’s journey has been riddled with pain and loss, but during every season of life she went back to the promises that the Lord had buried deep inside her heart. At the age of six Backman told her mother that she would live and die in America. Despite a few detours and struggles, she believed the Lord and has seen the promises come to fruition in her life.
“Finland never really felt like home. My family would be watching hockey games, and I would be cheering for the USA over Finland. There just wasn’t much care in our community because of all the trauma. I didn’t learn what it was to be cared for or how to care for other people until I got to CSU,” she said.
At CSU Backman found Christian community for the first time in her life. Finding brothers and sisters in Christ changed everything for her. However, the transition took time and patience. She learned how to be vulnerable and what it meant to find the people who would fight for you. “In Finland if you cried no one would comfort you, and if they did it was just to get you quiet. Here I learned that crying is okay, and that sometimes in life you are going to hurt and you can express that,” said Backman.
Her experience as an international student was different than most because she never missed home or had the desire to go back. She knew the Lord wanted her in America; her heart wasn’t conflicted with the move. That was difficult for Backman to come to terms with and articulate to her friends and family during her transition to America.
She wants to spend her life bringing people to know the Lord. “I especially want to reach people who have experienced trauma and really suffered in their lives. Ones that haven’t grown up in the Christian community and just need love, care, and patience like I did,” said Backman.
Even with a strong love for America, adjusting to any foreign culture takes flexibility and curiosity. The most shocking thing about American culture to Backman was how common fried food and public displays of affection were. However, Southern food is one of her favorite things about America now, and she will never pass up ribs.
The community at CSU provided Backman with a support system while she adjusted to the cultural differences and helped her walk through the disappointments she has faced. Although she gave her life to the Lord five years ago while still in Finland, she grew drastically in her faith when she moved into a loving, Christian environment.
Backman wants to share her story and struggles in hopes of helping and encouraging others with similar struggles.
“I would encourage international students not to freak out, but to take it day by day. To create their own pace, and build relationships along the way. I would remind them that they don’t have to be like everyone else, and that’s a good thing,” she said.
Along her journey, Backman had to recognize that her story is unique and that her life didn’t have to resemble anyone else’s. If you trust God with your dreams and desires, He is always faithful. “This was God’s plan for me from the start, and that’s really the only thing that made it all possible,” said Backman.
Article originally published in CSU Magazine, Spring 2019.