Live Your Mission

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Whether you’re a coffee barista or youth pastor, new to your faith or have been walking with Jesus for years, in Columbus or San Salvador, our mission as Christians is to prepare people’s hearts for the message of the Gospel. Three months ago, I was unable to see that my extra time stateside was actually a gift – a gift to live life alongside some of my favorite people in the world and help mold their hearts to look like Jesus’. Living my mission doesn’t only mean serving the people of San Salvador. Serving my mission means serving God’s people and sharing the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection wherever I am, whatever I am doing.

Salvadorans have more physical needs than the Youth of Rock City, but we all have a huge, gaping hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill – it’s a need for the revitalizing presence of God.

My mission field is wherever my feet are planted, and these days, God has me growing and blooming with some of the most beautiful people I know.

Dear Ole Dad

ashley_blog-dadAll my life, I have been my daddy’s little girl. I am pretty sure my dad was my first best friend. He shared his Diet Coke with me, let me sit shotgun in his Bat Mobile (black Corvette), showed me how to love dogs because all they do is love us and put together every battery-operated toy Santa brought down the chimney. My dad has always found a way to provide for my each and every need – whether logical like a car and college tuition or possibly a little irrational like a giant waterbed suite, Dad was my ultimate provider.

I was a spoiled little girl. I can freely and proudly admit that. My parents waited years and years and went through the wringer of attempting to conceive before finally, in February 1985, they were told there was a month-old little girl waiting for them. I believe that because their wait was so long, my parents went above and beyond to see me smile.

In a few short months, I will be leaving the US for San Salvador, El Salvador where I will be using what I have been given, both financially and spiritually, to support and inspire their youth. As excited and anxious as I am to get there, I am also a little nervous. For the first time in my entire life, I will be more than 90 minutes away from my dad for longer than 3 weeks. The man who has always been my knight in shining armor will no longer be able to swoop in and fix my problems when they arise. When money gets tight, I will be relying on my Father in Heaven to provide, not my father on earth. This is scary.

Last weekend, on August 9th, Dad celebrated his 66th birthday! Feliz cumpleaños, Papa! All he wanted for his birthday was to be surrounded by people he loves. So he bought a giant stack full of meal tickets at the St. James Lutheran Bratwurst Festival and treated his closest friends and family to a delicious meal.

Dad's Birthday 2015

Guys, I can’t remember the last time I ate so well. My plate was full to the point of using nearby tablecloth space as overflow. I scarfed down a bratwurst and a mound of sauerkraut. I chomped corn on the cob like a typewriter in desperate need of Ritalin. And last but not least, with grace and respect, I demolished an entire apple dumpling covered in maple syrup.

I will miss these dinners with Dad. His home cooked dinners have always been one of favorite weekly traditions. I will miss holding his hand as we pray over our meal. I will miss begging him not to give Dewey so much food from the table. I will miss pleading for him to “STOP! DAD! That’s enough! I’ll never eat that much!” And I will miss my weekly summertime post-dinner comas on his beautiful back porch.

In a few short months, weekly updates with Dad will be given over internet videochats and our love will be shared over the airwaves. Not seeing him every week will take some getting used to, but it is because of my “dear, ole dad” that I have an ounce of the courage it is taking me to leave the comfortable and familiar for the unexpected and unknown. Watching my dad get up before dawn almost every day of the year (holidays included, much to my frustration) and go to work to provide for his family instilled in me a work ethic I truly did not believe I had until just a few weeks ago. With my dad’s example to guide me, I have been working harder than ever before to make my way to San Salvador and fulfil my calling. But the greatest thing Dad has ever done for me has been to give me his heart. Because my dad has spent the past 30 years filling my life and soul with love,  my heart is overflowing and oh-so-ready to pour into the lives and souls of the Salvadoran youth.

My dad was definitely my first best friend and whether we are ten or thousands of miles apart, he will continue to fill my life with his love. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he found a way to send one of his famous New York Strip Steaks my way. He’s pretty clever like that.

#ashley&amanda

God’s timing is often confusing.

I don’t know why some prayers are answered immediately (like the time a few nights ago when I bumped a car parked on the street – I examined the damage and realized I didn’t just bump it, but scraped the entire driver’s door! LORD! Please let this car owner be graceful and merciful with me! Turns out, that scrape had been there for months. I hadn’t actually done ANY damage to the car!)

Some prayers take a little longer to work out (Last August I begged, Lord, get me to San Salvador AHORITA! NOW! God will get me there, but this year has been so amazing. I wouldn’t have spent it anywhere else, other than Columbus, Ohio)

And some prayers just don’t ever get answered (Lord, my mom is a good woman. She has life to live. I have life to live with her! Take this cancer! Mom passed away almost 5 years ago. I know God has His reasons, and I trust him, but I haven’t quite figured them out yet.)

And sometimes I get answers to prayers I never prayed.

Amanda is the Youth Pastor at Rock City Church. I am a 9th Grade Girls Leader. Over the past year, Amanda has become possibly one of my closest and truest friends. She honestly gets me. And when she doesn’t, she just smiles, shakes her head, and says, “I love you.”

I don’t know why God brought such an influential, imperative person into my life when He knew I would only have a short time with her before jetting off to San Salvador to live out His call on my life. But I am blessed by every day I get to spend in the midwest with Amanda. She has taught me how to love teenagers, even when they’re crazy idiots (which is most of the time). She has shown me how to love and be loved by the people around me that might not always understand me, but love me just the same. She has taught me the importance of holding teenager’s feet to the flame, pushing them to look inside themselves and come out stronger, more faithful and more independent.

I could go on, but at this moment, I am late (story of my life. I’m on that El Salvador time) for birthday dinner with my best girl, the Harry to my Ron.

“Go in peace! The two of us have vowed friendship in GOD ’s name, saying, ‘GOD will be the bond between me and you, and between my children and your children forever!’” // 1 Samuel‬ ‭20‬:‭42‬

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Answer.

ashley_blog-answerGod knows me so well. He knows my strengths (outgoing, determined, singing off key with abandon) and he knows my weaknesses (patience, control freak, singing off key with abandon). These past few weeks, He has been beefing up my patience muscle.

On April 2nd, 2015, I completed the final step in the arduous application process for Great Commission Ministries (GCM), the company that will be sending me as a missionary to Sal Salvador. This final step was a phone interview with Cori, a GCM employee specializing in International Missions. At the start of the conversation, Cori let me know that GCM would inform me of their hiring decision around April 20th. This was 18 days, almost three weeks later. Okay Patience. Time to show ’em what we’ve got! I told her that was fine, as long as I had time to register for the June New Employee training by the April 30th deadline.

26 days later, with patience just about parched and anxiety fully settled in, I heaved my trust onto God. He will supply me with what I need, when I need it. BUT GOD, IT’S ALMOST THE 30TH, I NEED IT NOOOOOW! WHAT ARE YOU EVEN DOING UP THERE?! My mantra became “Mustard seed of faith…I just need a tiny mustard seed of faith…”

With 48 hours to spare before the registration deadline, I received my job offer at 11:56pm on April 28th.

Guys. I’M GOING TO SAN SALVADOR!


 

San Salvador? Really? Where is that exactly? South America, right? Is it miserably hot there? Does anyone there speak English?

Why do you have to go all the way THERE to do mission work when there’s work to be done in your own backyard?

I concede that moving to San Salvador to be a full-time missionary doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. My family and friends are here. My job is here. I’ve earned the trust and precious relationships with a handful of Rock City Youth girls here. I don’t speak much Spanish. San Salvador is dangerous. And if I want to do good work for God, why do I have to leave the country to do it? Why can’t I just stay in the US and serve my own country?

Because of childlike wonder.

Because of little girl giggles.

Because of the fire and potential of a generation.

Because when God calls, you answer. As I stood on the futbol field of Colegio Ceren in June 2014, I knew God was calling me there. I have always known that I was made for more than teaching in a classroom, but I couldn’t figure out what. It was at that moment that I heard God’s gentle, but stern whisper. San Salvador Youth.  4 years of teaching and 7 years of church-hopping had led me to that place. God finally had my attention.

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It is absolutely true that there is much work to be done in the city of Columbus, my home. But just because my hometown youth need a little TLC doesn’t mean that God has called me to stay here. To some, he instructs to stay.

If you stay in this land, I will build you up and not tear you down; I will plant you and not uproot you.. {Jeremiah 42:10}

To others, He commands to get up and go.

And He said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” {Luke 7:14 NKJV}

I am a believer in Christ and as such, I am required to follow Him. I have spent too many years of my life not following Christ and I am done wasting my time. It is my time to rise and follow. In the words of Christine Caine, I am “the church of Jesus Christ on the earth today, the visible representation of an invisible God. I have the Holy Spirit living within me and have been commissioned to shine His love in the midst of a dark world.”

As a missionary to San Salvador, my heart beats for God’s people. I will run into the darkness and shine Christ’s light. My arms are open to the poor because Jesus tells us “…whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” {Matthew 25:40}

Above all, I am a Missionary to San Salvador because I am Jesus’ hands and feet here on Earth. He has entrusted me with the divine responsibility of loving and caring for His people. For the first time in my life, I know for certain that this is what God wants from me and I am living out the purpose for which He created me.

When God calls, you must answer.

I answered and I am going.

If I proclaim the Message, it’s not to get something out of it for myself.

I’m compelled to do it and doomed if I don’t!  {1 Corinthians 9:16 (MSG)}


As for when I am going, that is to be determined. I must go to 2 trainings and raise my financial support before I can go anywhere. MY bold prayer is to be there by the end of December, in time for Infinito, a Youth Conference in Honduras that the San Salvador Youth attend every year. I think that could be an amazing and powerful way to start my ministry. I realize that if that happens, it will be all God’s doing. But all things, especially those beyond my wildest imagination, are possible with God.

Breathe It In

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It’s springtime in Ohio, y’all. FINALLY. It has been a long, hard winter and we have EARNED this reprieve from wind chills below zero and snow piles tall enough to lose my house in.

I am a summer girl. I love dresses that twirl, painted toenails, walks in the park with my beloved Boston Terrier, sleeping with the windows open, the heat of the sun on my cheeks, naps on my patio….I could go on forever about the things I love about summer. Winter on the other hand… I am currently a high school English teacher, and in my opinion, the only good thing about winter is that sometimes we’re lucky enough as educators to have temperatures drop below “I can’t feel my face!” and snow accumulate to more than “I’ve lost my dog. Where is Dewey?! He’s been swallowed by the snow!” Needless to say, I loathe winter. I’ll even take warm weather and rain puddles over frigid cold and snow slush.

When Columbus’ first day of digits above 50 registered on my weather app, I was once again affirmed that there is a God and he wants us to be tan.

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