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Jungle Kids for Christ

This is it.

Well, I’ve been back in Oklahoma for almost two months now. The time has gone by so quickly. It has been an interesting time re-adjusting to life back here. Just in the few days after returning I had to remember to put on my seatbelt (I never really wore one in Ecuador) and that I couldn’t honk at people driving down the road (that’s how you communicate when you’re driving there).  My body is still having a hard time adjusting, the cold might kill me! My jungle blood can’t take it! I know most people think once you return things just go back to the way they were when you lived in America before. But, that’s not really the case. In Ecuador, I became accustomed to a new way of life and then upon returning I somehow have to mesh those two together, and it takes some time.

The week before last I was able to attend debrief in North Carolina. I was so thankful to go. I didn’t know how hard leaving the jungle would be. I knew that I was really sad and I wasn’t allowing myself to grieve. During the debrief the facilitators helped walk the class through lots of things, grieving a loss was one of them. One huge thing I realized was is how blessed I was to work with a great organization, others there were not so lucky.

Before I left for debrief I was offered a job! Can you believe it! Isn’t that what we had been praying for! I will share at another time how I knew that taking the job was exactly what the Lord wanted me to do. There’s not been to many things in my life that have been so clear…it was pretty awesome!

TO MY SUPPORTERS… December can be your last month to give! Okay, now get the tissues,

Just so you know this part is being written with tears, lots of them. Goodness, I can’t even begin to say how grateful I am for you. Grateful doesn’t even come close to touching it. You helped to make a difference in the jungle by allowing me to be there. I didn’t worry about funds because you were faithful in supporting me. You gave extra when I asked and when you didn’t have to. You never questioned me about what I was doing or said I wasn’t doing enough. You trusted me with your heart as I went and followed the Lord across the world. You cared for me during the time I was in Oklahoma and was struggling with illness. One of my greatest joys is knowing there is a mess load of people cheering me on behind the scenes. My heart is full of joy as I say thank you from the deepest part of my heart for all that you have done for me. You have stored up great treasures in heaven!!!!

When I moved to Ecuador on January 8, 2015, I was in the airport frantic because I found out while checking in I could only take 2 bags instead of the 4 I had packed. So I repacked in the airport, all the while trying to push back the emotions of leaving. Then as it was time to go my sweet sweet friend prayed this blessing over me. I think it’s only fitting that I pray it over you as we close this chapter together…The Lord bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face shine on you and be gracious to you. The Lord turn His face toward you and give you peace. Amen.

 

Summer!

Summer’s here are always busy and packed! As I type we are finishing up with our last two teams for the summer. Since starting in mid-May we have hosted 15 teams in a little over 9 weeks. To break it down further we have hosted 242 people in 66 days! As I said, it’s been busy! This summer went a lot smoother than the last. This year we had more missionaries here to help, fewer trips to the hospital and open roads to use buses instead of taxis.

One of my favorite things about the summer was the Student Academic Program. In the past teams have always come and put on a VBS for the students in the school. This year we decided to change it up and move to an academic program. Teams this year were responsible for STEM and math project-based learning activities. The best part of this was seeing the high school students come from the States and teach the students and then seeing how creative our students are! It was successful on all ends!

Through the short term teams coming a lot of projects were completed at the school. We are still in the process of finishing the new school building and need to have the entire building ready to go when school starts back in September. Teams helped with plastering, sanding, pouring concrete, painting, building furniture for the student home and many other projects. We are thankful for to have their time and talents further along what the Lord is already doing here.

What’s next for me is……rest! I’ve had about five days off in the last couple months and I am exhausted! After rest, I will start writing a manual for short-term teams on how our program runs here. I have all the knowledge stored in my brain, but not on paper! Then more teams! We have a few more scheduled for later in the year!

How you can pray for me: Good rest! That the Lord would continue to send provision! For my health (I have been feeling pretty well! Praise the Lord!) Also, pray for the students in the school, that they have plenty to eat and are well taken care of while they are on vacation.

 

John 14:13

I have been back in the jungle for a month now! I’ve already had 3 short-term teams! Our short-term team season started early this year, from March to July we will host 19 teams!

So I have a story to tell you, it’s a little bit of a confession too. Here in the jungle we loose power A LOT, I mean more than you would think. When it goes out there is no telling how long it will be out for. It could be a few minutes, a couple hours or even a few days. There’s no way for us to know when it will come back on either. It’s not like we can call up the power company and say “hey! we have no power!” it doesn’t work like that. Last year shortly after I returned to the jungle we started losing power almost twice a week. It would drive me crazy and I would get so angry. This lasted for several months. Every time it would go out, I would start complaining and gripe about it. I would gripe about the possibility of losing a fridge full of food, or how hot it was without the ac running, and just whatever I could complain about. I would ask around too, “like how long do you think it’s going to be out”?? I know that I drove people crazy too. I would facetime weekly with my friends and then finally, they said something to me about my complaining. I thought to myself, maybe I should shut up about this. Then the Lord convicted me about it. I had really been sinning in my actions and my attitude about it. After that, I decided anytime the power would go out or even flicker I would ask the Lord to send provision to make the electricity better.

Fast forward to now. When I got back home to the jungle I started walking in the mornings. One morning I noticed some new towers that had been placed, I saw about 3 or 4 of them. I asked one of the missionaries here about the new towers and they said they are towers coming from the hydro-electric plant. I remember this plant being built and when I asked about it I got the impression that it wouldn’t have anything to do with the area I live in. Then the Lord blew my mind! I had been asking the Lord to send provision to make the electricity better, AND HE DID!! I know this may not be as powerful for you as it is for me, but it should encourage you to change your mind about how you pray and how you react when things don’t go your way. It did for me and the Lord rocked me. This has changed the way I pray and will make me pray for bigger/greater things! You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it, so that the Son can bring glory to the Father. John 14:13

A few things you can be praying for:

I fell down the stairs last Monday and sprained my ankle pretty bad. Pray that it will heal quickly and that I stop being so clumsy!

I started teaching Eat the Word to a group of ladies here. Pray for minds and hearts to be open as we dive into this.

Pray for energy and strength for the missionaries. We will be extremely busy the next few months with short-term teams.

I am in need of a few more monthly supporters. Pray that the Lord will continue to send provision.

 

His Power

For the last couple months, I have been working through a bible study. I’m not always a huge fan of bible study books, but I do like this one. In this study, at the end of every week, it says to write a prayer based on everything that I learned throughout that week. At first, I thought to myself “how am I going to write a prayer like this?” Each week it has come to me and I have begun writing a beautiful prayer to the Lord. I have edited it and changed some of the language. One part of the prayer said, “help me to see your power around me.” Then when I prayed that one day, I thought how foolish that wording is. I don’t need the Lord to help me see His power, I need to open my eyes to it! I changed my prayer this week to that, that my eyes be open to see His power.

We have a ministry vehicle here in the jungle. It’s an old Red Cross ambulance, I believe it’s a Land Cruiser or something like that. It is a beast and does really well on the stone/gravel roads here. I will drive it sometimes into town or when we have mission teams. On Friday night I drove it into town so my friends and I could go to the market and grab some dinner. I went to pick up my friend from her house and as I’m almost to her road I can tell they have done some road work. It’s like they had cleared out right next to the road, I am not sure why. It has rained a lot here all week so the road up to her house was muddy, which usually is no big deal. So, as I make the turn I get stuck, like really stuck. I look at my friend that was already in the car with me and I said, ‘OH NO!!” I call our other friend who lives right there to come help and he wasn’t home and said to call the maintenance guy from the school. I start thinking about how I am going to explain this in Spanish because I don’t know the word for mud or stuck! As I am thinking, a man who is riding his bike down the street stops and starts scolding me in Spanish. I said I wouldn’t have turned if I knew it was this muddy, what do I do! He walks over in the ankle high mud and starts trying to get me out. Another lady stopped too and started helping, she went and got a shovel. They found stones to put underneath the tires and this man stood there and dug out the back tire. After about seven minutes of digging, moving stones, backing up and going forward, I finally got out. I parked the car and thanked him a million times for helping me, even though I am sure he was calling me an idiot (rightfully so!). I went and got my friend and we all had a nice laugh about it and carried on about our night.

The whole time in I was stuck I was calling out to the Lord. “Lord please help, please get us out of this, I’m sorry I’m so dumb, thank you for sending this man.” Anything I could think to say, I was saying it. In my flesh, I would have freaked out and started yelling, but I didn’t. If I was in the States I would have just called my friends who own a tow truck company and they would have come and helped right away. I wouldn’t have had to have thought about what words to use, it would just come out naturally. In this case, I couldn’t do that. As I drove home later that evening and passed the road where I had gotten stuck, I remembered my prayer, “let my eyes be open to see your power.” I rested in that for a minute and then realized how much power He had just let me see, and I was shaken. He sent a man and a woman, that I have never seen before, to come and help me. I didn’t even have time to call the maintenance guy before they showed up. He arranged for help to be there right away.

When I think about this small instance, and even as I am writing now, I am overwhelmed. I can’t handle knowing the full power of God. That’s okay, that isn’t what we are meant to do, that’s why He is who He is. BUT, I am grateful for the small moments of power that He allows me to see. Sending someone to dig me out of a muddy hole.

“But as for me, I will sing about your power. Each morning I will sing with joy about your unfailing love. For you have been my refuge, a place of safety when I am in distress.” Psalm 59:16

Open your eyes so you can see His power around you.

Summer is up!

Goodness what a summer it was! I know technically there are a few more weeks of summer left, but for me it is over, and let me tell you it was busy! Over 10 weeks we hosted 14 teams totaling 240 people. It was a packed summer with no time to rest or slow down. Thankfully, everything went as smooth as it could have gone. We only made 2 trips to the hospital, and only had to push the canoes a few times because of the river being so low! We are truly blessed by the relationships we have with short term teams that come. They come to work, love on the kids and community, and the missionaries as well. Short term teams helped us to accomplish so much physical work that we couldn’t do on our own. They step right in next to the construction crew we already have and work along side to complete tasks.

I was blessed to have two interns this summer. It was our first time, as an organization, to take on interns. I absolutely could not have made it through the summer without them! They are pictured above in the gallery. Thanks Jordan and Sarah for all your hard work and for keeping me sane!

We had several obstacles that stood in our way this summer. A bridge being closed and our buses not allowed to pass, extreme heat, no rain, power outages..etc. The devil tried to do everything he could to stop us from completing what the Lord had set out before us. It was amazing to see God’s power overcome and to have a fruitful summer.

What’s next for me:

I have two roles with Jungle Kids for Christ. One is short term team coordinator and the other is student sponsorship coordinator. Over the next few weeks I will be changing the way we communicate with our sponsors in the States.  Parent’s will take a larger part in the communication process. I am excited about what this will look like! Short term teams never stop, August is the only month I don’t have a team. With the help of my team I would like to re-think the way we do VBS with teams and the students in the school. I believe we can be more effective and intentional than we are now. You can pray for these things listed above, they will take thoughtful work and guidance.

Our team is growing! We had two ladies join us in the jungle a couple weeks ago. One lady is an English teacher and the other is working in the boarding home. We had two families move to Quito this month, they are living there and learning Spanish.

How you can pray for me:

Pray that the Lord will guide me making changes in both my roles here.  Pray for my Spanish, I am going to start taking some classes again. My Spanish suffered greatly while in the States. Pray for my health. Pray for wellness, I have been struggling with a few personal things. Pray for our growing team.

I am always amazed at what the Lord is doing here. Everyday He reminds me of why I am here, because sometimes I forget. I am grateful that the Lord lets me do what I am doing, and that He has entrusted me (crazy I know) to carry out His work in this area. If you are supporting me financially, thank you for being obedient to the Lord, and I thank the Lord for you and His provision daily.

 

 

 

Abby’s Story

About 4 weeks ago I went one evening to share my story with a team that was here. While a team is here, it is common for the missionaries to go and share. We try and be as open as possible, and share not only the beauty we see but our struggles as well. Sometimes when I share I don’t always share my full testimony, it’s long and it is a lot for people to hear. This particular evening the Lord moved me to share my full testimony. From the sexual and physical abuse as a child, to living far away from God in my early twenties, having an abortion, giving my life to the Lord, being called to Ecuador and then my health issues over the last year. Afterwards a few people came up to me and hugged me and thanked me for sharing. I thought that was the end of it.

The next day I was given a letter by one of the young ladies on the team. I actually forgot to read it until the next morning. When I read it….I was shocked. In the letter she wrote to me of her struggles of being abused. She was abused as a girl and didn’t tell her family right away. She shared that a few years ago she had been raped by a boyfriend but she told her parents that it was consensual and to that day that’s what they believed. She wrote that she was in an emotionally and verbally abusive relationship right now.

After I finished reading it I was blown away. I was thankful that she had finally told someone the truth about what she was going through and I knew I had to talk with her. I pulled her aside a little later that morning. We went and sat by ourselves and she starting sobbing immediately. I shared with her a few more things about my testimony and how looking back now I am so grateful the Lord pulled me out. I told her how much the Father loves her and wants her and wants her to be free of the prison the devil is keeping her in. We (I) talked for several minutes and encouraged her. The other part to this story is that her dad was on the trip too. I told her she needed to tell her dad the truth about everything. She was worried and didn’t want to because she didn’t want to see disappointment in his face another time. I told her I could stay with her and that he could read the letter she wrote to me. I prayed before I went and got him, over her and him and for the news he was about to hear. I also prayed that heaven would come in that moment and that bondage would be broken.

Her dad came in and I told him she wrote me a letter and that he needed to read it. She sobbed the whole time he was reading. When he got done he looked at me and said, this is the most she has ever shared. I told him she was worried about him being disappointed in her. He took her by the hands and said you’re forgiven, I’ve never been more proud of you then I am at this moment. He kissed her and hugged her tight. He said he was sad that she had been keeping this secret for so long. Everything her and I prayed for came to fruition in that moment, heaven came and it was a beautiful moment.

I am amazed every single time the Lord moves. It’s never “oh here goes the Lord again”, it’s “WOW God!” This was a WOW moment. I am grateful that the Lord let me be apart of it. Actually, I am grateful for the life the Lord has given to me. I don’t think I would change one thing that happened to me because I wouldn’t be able to share the Gospel like I do now.

I have permission to share this powerful testimony. I have changed the name for privacy. Please pray for this sweet young lady, her road to freedom isn’t over, but she’s not alone. Please share this story as you feel the Lord leading you to. Who knows what the Lord will do next.

Home Sweet Home

I have been back home for 3 weeks now! I am pretty much settled into my house and have it mostly decorated. I still need a few things, like a dresser and some night stands. I am currently using plastic storage containers as my dresser and night stands! It is amazing to be back home! I was glad that everyone remembered who I am, most of all the students. I had been worried about if they would remember me, they were happy to see me and I was, of course, thrilled to see them!

After a week and a half of getting settled I welcomed my first team, I hit the ground running! This team was a mixture of colleges, some from John Brown University, Wheaton College, OBU and OU! I was excited to hear that there were some people from Oklahoma here. The team did a great job and all went well. In the pictures you can see them in a VBS with the students from 1st and 2nd grade and then doing some work around the school property.

The next several weeks will be busy for me as team season really starts to gear up. I am excited to see returning teams and excited to welcome new teams and share all that the Lord is doing here in the jungle.

The Lord is already showing me little glimpses of treasures He has for me here. There are a few people and some students that the Lord has already softened my heart towards and I can’t wait to see what it will turn out to be.

Prayer requests:

My health of course! I am not going to jinx myself and say anything else, but my health!

My Spanish!!!! I am doing my best to remember the Spanish I already learned. I need to have the confidence to speak even when I know it is not right.

Teams! For safety when we travel, while they are here in country, and that the Lord uses them and shows them what He has for them here.

Thanks for reading and for your love, support and prayers! I am praying for you!

 

It’s Time

Sometimes I’ll be driving in the car and see a beautiful bird fly by or a cloud rainbow. I’ll be feeding cows and horses for my friends and see a doe and her fawn running in the pasture. Beautiful, gorgeous, and breathtaking moments in nature. I always want to explain what I see; I tried to a few times, but couldn’t find the words. I felt like even if I did find the words, they wouldn’t be fitting. I’ve come to realize that these moments are for me and the Father. Sweet little appointments He has set up for me. I feel like this is how my last 15 months have been. It’s been a a sweet appointment for me and the Father. Now, if you had asked me a year ago if I thought any of this was sweet, I might have punched you! It has been rough, heartbreaking; it stretched me, but through all of it, it has been beautiful. I don’t think I can explain it to you yet, but someday.

On May 7th I will pack my car up and drive to Nashville and then on May 9th I will fly out of Nashville to Quito, Ecuador. I can’t believe I just typed that, it’s finally happening! Deep breath in and deep breath out! I still have a lot of packing to do before I leave! I also have a lot of good byes and see ya later’s to say. Lots of tears will be shed, good tears.

Once I get to Quito I will stay the night and head to the jungle the next day, which will be the 10th. I will have a couple of weeks to unpack and get a little settled before teams start arriving on May 23rd! Teams last from the end of May until the beginning of August, every week, and sometimes two teams a week! I will be sooooo busy! I am very excited to go back home and love on the kids at the school and see my friends and get to work!

Here’s how you can pray for me:

My health. You know how my body loves parasites! I actually have no time to be sick!

My transition back. It’s been well over a year since I have been in Ecuador. I need prayers for finding my footing again and getting back in the swing of things.

My ministry. The next several months will be busy and I don’t want to miss anything the Lord has for me. I’ve been poured into and it’s time for me to pour out.

Thanks for reading, and loving me and praying for me! You are a blessing to me!

Waiting….patiently!

I’ll just say that the … between waiting and patiently explains how I am feeling. A little in the air and a little unsure and just trying to be patient. A couple weeks ago I went to Houston to get my visa. I went to my appointment and left with no visa! My paperwork wasn’t correct and I needed other documents that were in Ecuador. My organization was super great about getting me what I needed. There was even a team in the jungle and they had someone coming back to the States. They took the paperwork for me and mailed it last week. It was to be sent to me in the mail over night last Tuesday…but I still haven’t received it. I am trying to find out where it is, no luck as of yet.

I received a sweet gift from some of my friends not too long ago. It was a super fancy cuff that said, “Faith in God includes faith in His timing.” I immediately started to cry when I read it. This has been my whole life for this last year. Reading the writing was the Lord saying you have been faithful, but you need to trust my timing too. I have been waiting for so long now to go back to Ecuador. I feel like is it really going to happen? I know that it will and I want to say, but this or but that. I can’t do that, I have to be faithful and wait patiently for Him to build that bridge.

I would greatly appreciate that you would be in prayer that my paperwork comes quickly. Once I have it I will mail it to the consulate in Houston and then if it is all correct they will mail me my visa, please pray for this process too!

Thanks for reading and loving me!

Becoming More Real

I am getting closer and closer to returning to the jungle. I couldn’t be more excited! A couple weeks ago I turned in all of my paperwork online to the Ecuadorian Consulate. Last week I got a call later in the evening that they were ready to set an appointment for me to come and pick it up! I will travel to Houston, TX for my appointment on March 2nd. If everything goes well at the appointment, this process will have been pretty painless! Please pray that everything goes well and that I leave with my visa.

I plan to leave for Ecuador a few weeks after getting my visa. Can you believe it! I am finally getting to go back after being in the States for over a year. I am overjoyed that I am getting to return! I am in the process of getting things together and wrapped up, buying clothes and things that I need to take back with me. Finishing up the last of my doctors appointments, getting a new drivers license, and packing up stuff that I am not going to take. I have a list somewhere of things I need to do. I kept on listing off all of the things I need to get done before I go and my friend said write it down Ashley! Now I can’t find my list! Don’t tell her!

My friends, in the jungle, are in the process of getting my cabin ready for me. A couple years ago I joked that if they put an air conditioner and windows in my house I would stay a couple more years. Last month I found out that they had planned on doing that! I got a message last night that the window guy is coming this week! Little did they know that I would have gone back with or without windows! I feel a little spoiled but I am very grateful. I love how the Lord chooses to bless me with things like that. The Lord has been so faithful to me throughout this last year. I really can’t explain it any other way!

Here are a few things you can pray for me:

  • Safe travels to and from Houston.
  • That my visa appointment goes well and I leave with my visa.
  • That the Lord continues to send guidance and provision as I get ready to go.

Thank you for your love, prayers, and support!