Akron U. Student Is In The House

I was only 4 when I became a homeless person. My parents had been divorced for a few months, and money was really tight. One day, Mom just said we were moving. The problem was, we didn’t have any place to go. I was scared, and I could tell Mom was too. But she kept reminding me that God would take care of us.

by Megan Siedlarczyk as told to Carla Barnhill

She had been telling me about Jesus since I was 3 years old, and I had asked him into my heart. I knew God loved me. But I couldn’t help but wonder what our lives were going to be like from now on.My first memories of my life feel like a dream. It was just me, my mom and my dad living in a beautiful house that seemed like a palace to me. I loved my parents and knew they loved me. But one morning, my dad was gone. My mom carefully explained that she and Dad were getting a divorce and that from now on, it would just be the two of us. I was too young to understand what that meant. All I knew was that my dad was gone and I really missed him.

About a year after my parents split up, Mom and I had to leave our house with only a few of our belongings. Even with Dad paying child support, we just didn’t have enough money to live on. With no relatives around to help, we were on our own.

Mom had heard about a shelter for homeless families called Haven of Rest. She hoped they would take us in. Thankfully, they managed to find room for us. At the time, I was just glad to be with my mom. But now that I’m older and realize how bad things could have been for us, I’m more grateful than ever that we had a place like Haven of Rest to call home.

The shelter wasn’t anything fancy, but Mom and I had our own room, there were other kids there, and the supervisor promised to help us get back on our feet. I remember the group Bible studies, where we learned that God promises to be with us, even in the most difficult times. That was a promise both my mom and I needed to hear over and over again.

And as I look back, I can see God really did take care of Mom and me. We attended a church were we had lots of friends who prayed for us. With the help of scholarships. I was able to stay at the small Christian school where I’d already gone for a year. As hard as life was at the time, there were glimpses of God’s love for us.

Within two months of arriving at the shelter, Mom was able to save up enough money for us to rent a small apartment of our own. Of course, we had nothing—no table, no dishes, no beds. But slowly, we started to put our lives together again, a piece at a time.

But in fourth grade, I began to notice Mom was acting a little strange. Even now, I can’t quite explain what was different about her, I just knew that something wasn’t right. That Christmas, my mom was hospitalized with a mental illness.

I was terrified that I would be sent to a foster home, that I’d have to leave my church and school friends behind. But a family from our church offered to take me in. They made sure my life stayed as normal as possible. Still, I felt the horrible pain of being apart from my mom.

Mom and I had been through so much together. She was my whole world, the only constant thing I’d ever known. And now she was gone. Because Mom’s illness was serious, and because I was still so young, the hospital wouldn’t allow me to visit. Mom wrote me as often as she could, but letters just weren’t enough. I missed her so much, and I longed for her to come home. During the two months she was in the hospital, I think I cried myself to sleep every single night.

But once again, God took care of me. Even in the middle of the worst pain I could imagine, I remembered what Mom had always told me: "God is good, and God will never put you in a situation you can’t handle." And she was right. I made it through those difficult months, and soon Mom and I were back together in our little apartment.

Naturally, things weren’t easy. Mom still struggled with her illness. I had to take on a lot more responsibility around the house—much more than most people my age. When I got home from school, there were dishes to wash, clothes to fold, errands to run. I guess I had to grow up a little sooner than most kids. Still, I didn’t resent my situation. I was just grateful to have Mom home, and I was willing to do whatever I had to do to keep us together. Fortunately, Mom never had to be hospitalized again.

Getting a glimpse of how difficult life can be has made me determined to succeed. Throughout junior high and now high school. I’ve looked for ways I can serve my school and my community. Because there have been so many people who’ve made a difference in my life—the staff at Haven of Rest, the family who took me in when Mom was hospitalized—I know that sometimes the simplest gesture can change someone else’s life. Someday, I hope to be a politician, so I can serve the people who, like Mom and me, have struggled and need the help of other people.

With dreams of ending up in Washington, D.C., someday, I should’ve been thrilled when my high school principal approached me with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: There was an opening for a congressional page in the U.S. House of Representatives. But all I could think was, I can’t leave my mom. I can’t leave my friends. My life is finally stable and now you want me to move away from home for six months? Forget it!

Still, I knew I needed to give this opportunity some serious thought and prayer. I came home from school that day and told Mom about the page position. It broke my heart to see tears trickle slowly down her face, and before long, we were both sobbing. The thought of being apart for such a long time was hard for both of us. But as Mom and I talked, it became clear this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.

So I packed up and left for Washington in January of my junior year of high school. I knew I was in for quite an adventure. Every year, the Senate and the House of Representatives select high school students from all across the country to serve as pages. The pages run errands, work on the floor of the Congress, and spend long hours assisting the men and women who make the laws and policies that affect all of us. It’s a ton of work and a huge honor.

Once I get there, I thought, I’ll be so busy I won’t even miss home. Boy, was I wrong. Yeah, I was busy, but I battled homesickness so intense I thought my heart would explode. I think of myself as a tough, independent person, but once I got settled into my new job, I realized it was going to be a long six months.

I was hundreds of miles away from my home, my mom, my best friends, my classmates. Back home, the second half of my junior year was just getting started. And all the clubs I was in, all the activities I’d been so deeply involved in, were going on without me.

But one night as I sat in my room, I once again remembered what Mom had always said when times were tough: "Megan, God will never put you in a situation if he doesn’t want you there. Even the hardest situation can work out for the best if you’re willing to change your perspective."

And I knew she was right. That night, I thought back on some of the tough times in my life. I could have been mad at God for letting Mom and me become homeless, but I knew it was God who provided a place for us to stay; we never spent a single night sleeping in the streets. I could have gotten angry with God for taking Mom away from me when I needed her so much, but it was God who brought people into my life who cared about me and made sure I never had to live in a foster home. Yeah, there were tough times, but God always provided everything I needed to get through.

So I knew God would provide for me in D.C. with His help, I could handle a few more months away from the people I loved. I could risk leaving behind all the accomplishments I’d worked so hard for. I could trust God to comfort me in my loneliness. I could trust God to use this amazing experience to make me a better person.

I could trust God, period.

Megan Siedlarczyk is a 1998 graduate of Central-Hower High School in Akron, Ohio. She is now a freshman at Akron University majoring in pre-law and political science