How to Get Over Loneliness: 5 Steps Learned in Ethiopia

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how to get over lonelinessLoneliness.

My loneliness was palpable. How could I get over loneliness? It plagued me. Here I was in the middle of an isolated village in southern Ethiopia. I was a new mother at age 23 years old with an 8 month old son.

Mark and I married in Ethiopia, attended language school together, and then moved to Soddu where our first missionary assignment was. It was there that we welcomed our first child, a son. Soddu was a big station with about 10 different missionary houses, many of them being occupied by medical nurses and doctors. We enjoyed the camaraderie which included game nights and potlucks with the other missionaries.

A young couple with small children worked about 40 miles from Soddu in a village called Waka. Waka is in the mountains and there was no car road to get there. The Hawkins had to go in and out of Waka by small airplane. When visiting in Soddu, Jenny said to me, “Amy, pray that you never get appointed to Waka. You will die of loneliness there.”

Eight months later our station head, Merle Dye, met with us. He told us that the Hawkins were leaving Waka and he needed to put another couple in there. He said normally he wouldn’t put a young and inexperienced couple into a hardship post but he had no choice. We were the only ones who were available to go.

So we prayed about it and accepted the assignment.  MAF mission airplane flew us into Waka and we began our new life there. We had a generator that we ran at night for an hour or so, but since we had to fly in the diesel for it, we used it very sparingly. A wood stove heated our 4 room home and boiled all our drinking water while a gas stove was used sparingly for cooking when we didn’t have the wood stove cranked up. A special screened window with shelves in it and a door to cover it was used as a refrigerator.

We had a old tub that was old-fashioned and had feet. So when we got into it, we had to be sure we stepped into the middle because it would rock precariously.

The outhouse was not too far from the house, so I never had to worry about cleaning out a toilet because there was no toilet. We did have water that came down a hill through a garden hose for running water, but it was not too plentiful.

The thing I remember the most about Waka was the loneliness I experienced there. I was a new mom in a foreign country with difficult living circumstances with no other female to share my heart with. My husband was awesome, but I needed a girlfriend to chat with.

One day Mark said to me, “Amy, go out and visit someone. The answer to your loneliness is in your power.” Now that got me to thinking. Was I feeling sorry for myself in my new calling here on an Ethiopian mountain?

I made a choice to go visit someone. With Benjy on my back, I began the trek up the main road in our village. I branched off to a hut up on the side of the hill where I knew a young woman about my age lived with her husband and baby.

She was thrilled that I came. She pulled a stool up near the open fire and I obediently sat on it. I put my baby on the dirt ground near her little boy. The two of them began to play in the dirt together. I stumbled a bit with my Amharic using lots of gestures and smiles. We laughed as we watched our babies playing.

As I sat there contemplating what her everyday life was like, I began to get a new perspective. I wondered if perhaps SHE was lonely.

I learned something that day that I want to share with you. I learned 5 steps to get over loneliness . . .

How to Get Over Loneliness

1.       Reach out to someone else who might need a friend.

2.       Forget about your shortcomings and major on friendliness.

3.       Stretch yourself with a relationship with someone different from you – someone who looks different, thinks different, is a different age, whatever.

4.       Don’t have a preconceived idea of how to solve your loneliness. The world is your doorstep.

5.       Enrich your life with people from other cultures. When you reach out to foreigners living in your community, you will be helping to solve other people’s loneliness! Kudos to you!

I walked back home with a new spring in my step. Our choices are powerful and I had made a choice to reach out to someone else while I was in pain.

You never know when it might be your last chance to do so.

I wonder if she was thinking as she watched me leave: “I don’t feel so lonely anymore.”

Learning how to get over loneliness was not so hard after all. To truly experience healthy living, you have to learn how to handle emotions like loneliness.

What has helped you to get over loneliness?


35 Comments… add one

Business Bloggers May 31, 2012, 3:46 am

How to Get Over Loneliness: 5 Lessons Learned in Ethiopia Another great one How to Get Over Loneliness: 5 Les

Jimmy Hendrous May 31, 2012, 3:50 am

How to Get Over Loneliness: 5 Lessons Learned in Ethiopia How to Get Over Loneliness: 5 Lessons Learned in Et

Alicia May 31, 2012, 2:44 pm

Hi Amy,

What a great article and reminder that there lies a power in choice. What we do everyday, who we are around, and most importantly how we FEEL are all choices. Therein lies our power.

Really enjoyed this topic and it’s always nice to hear about your early mission adventures. Very inspiring.

Thanks for sharing Amy.

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amyhagerup May 31, 2012, 11:47 pm

That is so true, Alicia. I think I need to be reminded every day of the choice I have in how I respond to things – not just loneliness! Thanks for commenting.

alicia pierre May 31, 2012, 2:44 pm

How to Get Over Loneliness: 5 Steps Learned in Ethiopia via @amyhagerup

Claire June 2, 2012, 7:34 am

Great post. What we do everyday, who we are around, and most importantly how we FEEL are all choices. Thanks for sharing.

amyhagerup June 2, 2012, 12:29 pm

Hi Claire, Sounds like you have a good solid attitude ethic in place yourself! Thanks for commenting.

Damayanthi June 4, 2012, 2:55 am

Hi Amy,
Great post & I could see all your words flowing directly from your heart. You are so right we can always reach out to other people around us. The reason for not reaching out is that we have our own pre conceived opinions about people around us. Once you reach out only you can understand that most of them are waiting for an opportunity to connect.

Thanks for sharing this inspiring post.

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amyhagerup June 4, 2012, 3:07 am

Hi Damayanthi, Thanks so much for such a well-articulated response to my post. I love connecting with internationals like yourself. Thanks for taking the time to visit and respond. Blessings, Amy

bernard June 7, 2012, 6:51 am

Very well written article. I had a great time reading it as I had experienced it before when I worked in the middle east a couple of years ago. I wish I was able to read this before when I was there.

amyhagerup June 7, 2012, 7:53 pm

HI Bernard, Yes – it would be good if we all learned these things earlier – me included! That is awesome that you were in the Middle East. I think experiencing other cultures makes us so much more open to cross-cultural friendships. Good for you. blessings, Amy

farouk June 17, 2012, 9:54 am

very interesting
loneliness should be taken seriously because it can cause a lot of pain
thank you : )

amyhagerup June 18, 2012, 1:56 am

Hi Farouk, Yes, that is true. Thanks for visiting again.

Martin@marketing-made-easy August 13, 2012, 11:09 pm

You are pressing a very important pressure point here.
Loneliness is a huge issue for so many Christian workers, especially missionaries.

We have been in the States now one month after moving back from Thailand. We lived over there for 3+ years.
Although our living conditions were not near as remote as you described, I still dealt with a lot of loneliness. We served as independent missionaries, and did not have the advantage of a team. (or disadvantage. : )

But, God is so good and faithful, and He has brought us through.
We are hear today by His Grace.

I agree with your points that you outlined above.

Thanks for sharing!


amyhagerup August 14, 2012, 12:55 am

Three years was a great commitment for you and your wife. And being independent does make it harder – though you also don’t have some of the problems that a team can bring – but problems to grow through, right? Our team members really became family to us. One difficult thing you will deal with now is that you will have a widened world view that many of your friends and family just won’t have simply because they have never lived overseas. You will never be same – your values are forever impacted. The neat thing is that you have your wife who also experienced everything with you and that gives you an advantage over a single missionary who comes home and doesn’t even have a partner to really know what he/she is feeling in adjusting to this culture. I remember that a whole aisle of cereal was so overwhelming when our choice overseas was only corn flakes – and stale ones at that. But the we LOVED the local food – and so healthy for us too. Was it that way in Thailand too? Did you love the food? Of course, the best part of living so long in Africa for us was the amazing people. They have the biggest hearts ever. Write again. blessings, Amy

Florence Achama September 10, 2012, 2:41 pm

Hi Amy, your tips are really true and I can’t believe that you learnt all of that in just one day 🙂
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amyhagerup September 10, 2012, 4:12 pm

Thank you, Florence. Always love hearing from you.

Mel Thompson September 14, 2012, 3:20 am

Based on my own experiences and my wife’s feedback, I feel that women are more susceptible to “loneliness” in a unfamiliar setting than men. Men can hang their hat, so-to-speak, just about anywhere. Women need that “girlfriend” touch, voice. You didn’t speak about your husbands reactions to seclusion, and he most likely felt lonely at times. Probably no to the same degree. I’m of course just guessing. Anyhow, what a great personal story to share in relationship to getting over loneliness.

amyhagerup September 15, 2012, 3:33 am

Mel, I believe it is true that women tend to need more of “friend” touches in unfamiliar territory than men do. Even in a natural environment full of a lot of relationships, women tend to need their girlfriends more than guys need their guy friends. Your point is well-taken. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

Pastor Sherry September 25, 2012, 1:22 pm

We so often forget that we have choices, don’t we! When we’re in the middle of our own stress, those choices get pushed to the back of our minds, at least for me they do. It helps to have someone remind us of them, as your husband did for you.

I love your story! I live in a small town with people from many, many countries (university nearby), and have listened to stories of the Cambodia killing fields (the person saw his whole family die), the Rawanda genocide (the person and his family hid in the attic of a church), the coming of the west to Estonia after the Berlin wall fell, house churches in China, etc. I so love these international stories. They tell me that we are all the same — different customs, different ways of life and worldviews maybe, but we are all human. So I love your idea to get to know someone that isn’t like me. (Wish I’d written down all these stories 🙂
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amyhagerup September 25, 2012, 2:55 pm

Thanks, Pastor Sherry. Yes, I love internationals and you are so right – we are all the same just have different customs, worldviews, and experiences. We need to tap into each other’s richness! Bless you.

Sherry Manison September 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

Powerful illustration of choices: How to Get Over Loneliness: The Answer is Your Power | .

Sherry Manison September 27, 2012, 1:37 pm

Powerful illustration of choices: How to Get Over Loneliness: The Answer is Your Power |

Kareem Williams January 29, 2013, 9:55 pm

This was a very good post, thanks a million for sharing Amy.
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amyhagerup January 29, 2013, 11:39 pm

Thanks, Kareem. Great to see you here. How are you doing? Blessings, Amy

Kathleen February 9, 2014, 9:23 pm

I loved this! Reaching out to another is a beautiful solution to loneliness.
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amyhagerup February 10, 2014, 9:35 am

Thanks for visiting and commenting, Kathleen. I know there can be deeper things going on in one’s soul, but certainly, reaching out to others can help. Blessings, Amy

Steve February 11, 2014, 9:25 am

What hardship you faced in Waddo. Wonderful inspiration and “cure” for loneliness– an affliction so many suffer.

amyhagerup February 11, 2014, 6:44 pm

Thanks, Steve. It is always great to hear from you. Blessings, Amy

Kathy Bornarth February 11, 2014, 9:55 pm

Wow Amy! I don’t know many 23 year old women who would have been able to handle that situation with such grace! Thank you for sharing your story. It gives me strength for my own times of loneliness.

amyhagerup February 12, 2014, 9:43 am

Kathy, Great to have you stop by. It is amazing what the Lord uses to grow us, isn’t it? Blessings, Amy

Karen February 12, 2014, 5:40 pm

We often let how we feel about things color our outlook on everything… but like your husband said, the answer was in your power. I think that must be what the Lord would say to us too. He has given us the answer to so many of our questions if we will only act on what He has already said! Thanks for the great practical lesson!
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amyhagerup February 12, 2014, 5:58 pm

Thanks, Karen. Yes, the Lord has given us all the answers in His Word. We need to listen and obey. You are so wise. Blessings, Amy

Cheryl Cope February 17, 2014, 7:49 am

Thanks for sharing this story. Everyone experiences loneliness at one time or another. And if we aren’t right at the moment we can use your ideas to help someone else who is!
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amyhagerup February 17, 2014, 1:03 pm

Yes, that is true, Cheryl. Thanks for stopping by. Blessings, Amy

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