Tianna Marie Tchouban-Manley: Hide and Seek

A ceramic pot filled with dirt sits on a shelf in a garage; it is not painted with bright colors, it isn’t made of glass like the ones in the house. It is stagnant, waiting in the corner for something to come along, watching the world as it goes by. But one day, the pottery is brought out into the sunshine and the gardener waters it. Then something starts to happen.

    Just like that ceramic pot, Tianna Manley often wondered what purpose she has in this life, watching from afar as life went on. Trying to be a self-proclaimed wallflower, she often would hide and blend into the crowd. It wasn’t always like this though. She was born three months early, but God had a plan for her life.

    “I should not have lived,” Tianna said. “There was an infection in the umbilical cord that was going to be killing me essentially.”

    But she survived. Her mother was addicted to drugs, so she went to live with her grandparents, who were Christians. She went to church, growing up in the pews, accepting Jesus as her Lord and Savior at age five. After a while, they moved to Arizona; her mother becoming clean and moving down to be with them after a while. But then her mother and Tianna moved to Tucson, Ariz., and a big change happened.

    “We moved to Tucson on our own,” Tianna said. “And that was kind of when it stopped. God didn’t exist anymore in my life. I was nine and didn’t really go to church, so I really wasn’t constantly being fed. And as I grew up it was just more of a ‘if He doesn’t care, why should I care’ you know?”

    She was bullied throughout middle school, to a breaking point. Depression seeped in.

    “In high school I was home schooled, because I told my mom I didn’t want to live anymore—and I was serious.”

    And so she stayed at home. She didn’t have much interaction with anyone her age, but then she got a good opportunity. They found a Christian youth group that was 45 minutes away, and they made the drive every week. Her relationship with God grew some, but it was more of a relationship with people that she sought. She got involved with a great community of people, and it was good. It even became better when she got to know a boy, and they really liked each other. But what relationship they had dissolved, and Tianna was frustrated, angry with God. She thought that this boy could be the one. He wasn’t right for her though.

    But then she had the chance for a fresh start. They moved to Minnesota, later moving to South Dakota. She was a part of a church in South Dakota, running slides and doing sound. Pretty soon though, that became her identity. But then she moved up to Bismarck with her mother, though she really didn’t want to.

    “It was difficult, because when I lived down there, it kind of started as ‘I was only worthy of friendship if I did something to be worthy of it,’” Tianna said. “So, I ran sound down in Arizona and I was part of the group, because I did it. I moved up to South Dakota and ran sound and slides, and I was part of the group. So, that was my life meaning.”

    Three months after moving, she decided to come to the UG.

    “And I was not expecting to talk to anybody; it was not going to happen,” Tianna said. “I was just going to be a wallflower, and here comes Nicole (Eckroth), right up to me. She targeted me, I swear. She kept me from being a wallflower.”

    But even though she wasn’t a wallflower at UG, she still struggled with performance issues and self-worth, and with that came along depression. But July 7, 2016, a prayer changed everything.

    “I remember getting prayed over, because I suffer—suffered, I don’t suffer anymore—I had depression really bad, and I don’t anymore. … It started in middle school and just continued,” Tianna said. “I didn’t realize how much I was faking God, faking being a Christian until I came here. I realized it is not about appearances. It’s about being real, and doing life, and crying with people. And letting them see your mess.”

    Since then, she has been freed from her depression, which has had a grasp on her since a young age.

    “I haven’t really had any like, aside from wanting to not live, there really hasn’t been any issues that made me realize I need God,” Tianna said. “It’s not my bottom, I don’t drink, I don’t like alcohol, I don’t smoke, I don’t do drugs—I hide. … I just can’t hide anymore.”

    And she is working on not hiding. Taking a leap of faith, she headed off to California on a Reach Trip with the UG to the LA Dream Center. But, even without depression she still struggled with self-worth. It was after the first night, and she had a panic attack; she was nervous about her new surroundings, wondering why she was here, feeling no one wanted her there. Anna Nienhuis prayed over her that afternoon, and she said “you do not have the authority to call yourself unworthy.” That night they went to City Church, and the speaker’s first words were the same thing that Anna said. Then after service, a lady pulled her to her side, and prayed over her, prayed for confidence, prayed for her to realize she was worthy. Later on another girl from her team talked to Tianna about the same thing. God had reaffirmed time after time to Tianna that no matter what, she was His child.

    Coming back from Los Angeles, Tianna is now going to school at Bismarck State College, using her gifts to get a degree in Graphic Design. She keeps seeking God, trusting Him to use her in ways that she doesn’t even know of yet. Trusting Him to give her confidence—trusting Him to give her a purpose.

    Green is a symbol of life. In the dirt, in the mire, a plant starts to sprout. It may not look like much at all. The gardener waters and tends to the plant, nurturing it. It grows and grows, until it blooms and bears fruit. Tianna may have felt like that sprout. But Jesus, the Great Gardener, fed Tianna with truth and love. She is still growing, but now she is bearing a great fruit of God’s love.