Ami Miller was not Born in America (Part 1)

My friend Ami Miller was not born in America.

Though, she grew up as a Mennonite (the closest you can get to being Amish) in a small town called Goessel in Kansas (pop. 556). Between her Kansas happy demeanor, pilot father, pastor uncle, farm knowledge, “small-town-big-heart” and pseudo Amish tendencies, you’d never know she was born in India.

Except for the fact she is very brown.
This fact typically requires her to submit follow-up information to the question, “where are you from?” America is a melting pot of origins and cultures, yet many do not believe dark toned people can be born in America.

This can be very annoying for people like me. When people ask me where I’m from I automatically say, “Minnesota/Sri Lanka.” The other day someone mentioned that my English was superb and my accent was flawless. “I didn’t expect to hear words like that come out of a mouth like yours,” she said. The face of America has changed dramatically, but old paradigms are still intact.

Many people assume I was not born in Hutchinson, Minnesota and they are wrong.
Many people assume Ami was not born in Kansas, and they are right.

Before we continue, know that her name her name is not Ami, though 99 plus percent of people who know her call her that. Her name is Amreitha.

She was left with a Mennonite orphan worker, hours after entering the world in Hyderbad, India. From that point on, she lived in an orphanage with several children (including one girl she still remembers, Leslie).

A family from Kansas fought four years to adopt her and the girl named Leslie. They both grew up on a small hobby farm as Mennonites.

Isn’t that incredible that a family who didn’t know these girls fought for four years to get them? That’s reckless love. I wonder how many people told them to give up, but they fought to give their love. When it comes to sharing the Gospel and loving our immediate families, so often we wait to respond to an opportunity. “LORD, please put someone in my path so I can share about your love,” or “LORD, “Give me an opportunity to love my brother when he acts so difficult and ignores me all the time.” I’m realizing more and more that true love is active and pursuing. By no means do I act on this all the time, but—slowly—I’m realizing it.

Amreitha grew up on a small hobby farm as a Mennonite. Because of the lack of Indian culture in Kansas, she never got in touch with her Desi (homeland) roots. For years this has caused a disconnect with her understanding of herself and the world. Yes, she went on choir tours with her schools, spoke at both her high school and college graduation, watched her adopted brothers play 8 man football (shout out to Bryant who is going to state this year), but she always was different—even if she didn’t act any different than her peers or realize it (subconsciously, she must have realized her dissimilarity because she has a passion for orphans and displaced children--last year, Amreitha worked for an adoption agency).

I know how it feels to be different. Growing up, I never felt fully Sri Lankan or Fully American. Never could relate to my family’s stories or my friend's jokes and trips to grandpa's house (I didn't meet my grandparents until I was 20). Almost always, I stood out in a group.

When I went to Sri Lanka for the first time, I had an unexpected experience. For the first time in my life, I could basically go anywhere I wanted and not stand out. I loved it. Without realizing it, I had longed for this type of obscurity my whole life.

This November, Amreitha will have this same experience. She’s nervous. Since her adoption, she has not been to India. It has been 22 years.

P.S.

This month, she holding a party to raise money for this trip. If you would like to contribute, please let me know by leaving a comment or filling out the contact form under the “contact” button above (next to “store”).

Prepare for Part 2 of "Ami Miller was not Born in America."