I was reading in Psalm 139 the other day, and it says that the Lord has recorded everyday of our lives in His book. I wonder if those pages are about to fall out or have been wrinkled up or have fallen out, maybe if I was the writer of my own story they would be. Thank goodness I am not the writer of my own story, you wouldn’t want to read it! 2016 was a difficult year for me. I returned to the States in December 2015, from the jungle of Ecuador, for Christmas break. I was eager to see my family and friends and share all that the Lord had been doing in my life, and I was even more eager to return to Ecuador. A couple weeks before I was supposed to return I had a regular eye check up. That appointment turned into 8 months of being treated for a pseudotumor cerebri (a pseudo brain tumor). I was ill, really ill, and not just physically, mentally and spiritually ill. I wanted to know why the Lord would allow me to be in the States, when He clearly called me to work with an organization in Ecuador. I was depressed. I am not the type to stay in bed or “ho hum” around, but I was that person, and for a month! I was so sad and confused and hurt, I was grieving. I had no idea why I was still here. I was for sure, a fish out of water. My organization gave me plenty of work to keep me busy. I maintained as best I could of the planning for the short term teams and student sponsorship. But, even though that is my responsibility, that is not the reason why I love the jungle so much. I am friends with many of the people that go on short term mission trips to the jungle. So this past year I could see all of the pictures they would post and they would share their stories and how much fun they were having. I would start looking at the pictures and see the faces of the students in the school. I had to stop looking because well, it broke my heart. I wondered what they thought about me, especially the sweet little girls in the 1st grade class who I would always play with during recess. And the boys that lived around the corner who always wanted candy or cookies from my house. I wondered what the teachers at the school thought. I was building relationships with all of these people. Not once did I ever think that I wasn’t going to go back. I always said and still say “I just came for Christmas break!” After 8 months I found out I had been misdiagnosed and then a month later I was diagnosed with a thyroid disease that is treatable. The Holy Spirit never let me feel comfortable about making plans to return to Ecuador until I received the diagnosis of the thyroid disease. When the doctor told me what I had I started crying huge tears. She said “are you okay” I said “of course I am” and I was overjoyed. Who knows why I have been here for the last year. Believe me I wanted to know! My friend (I don’t even know what to call him because friend doesn’t cover it!) anyways, he said “ASHLEY you may never know why and maybe not until you get to heaven and it doesn’t matter why!” I’ve come to be okay with this, even though it took me a lot longer than it should have. Two years ago, on this exact day, I set out on a journey that the Lord had planned for me. Now I am in the process of returning to my second home! I am so excited and grateful to the Lord. I am in the process of getting my visa and I hope to return early this year. If you are reading this certainly you have had an impact on my life in some way, THANK YOU! I will go back to the jungle and continue my responsibilities and whatever else the Lord has in store for me. I also plan to squeeze and kiss the tar out of those sweet, now, 2nd grade girls!
Jungle Kids for Christ
November has been a good month. So many things I can talk about or share with you but I think I will limit it to a couple. When I first moved here in August we started a women’s bible study with the missionary women here. We finished the first study and decided that we would ask some of the teachers here in the school if they would like to join, and a few did. In our first meeting one of the ladies didn’t say a word and I was wondering did she really want to be here with us. At the very end she broke down and shared her current situation and poured her heart out to us. I was so thankful that she shared and I had no idea that she was struggling like she was. I felt a little convicted about things I had been thinking about her. We have been praying for her and she came back one other time to the bible study and then missed another week. But on Saturday she came to my house and sat and talked with my roommate and I. We listened and I couldn’t help but think this was an appointment God made for us. After listening to her share what she is still going through, we shared with her God’s love for her and reminded her how important she is to Him. I am excited to see what God is going to do through her and glad God is using us to be apart of that. Pray for her!
One night shortly after I moved to the jungle I had walked outside for some reason and looked up at the sky. It was a really clear night and I saw the most stars I have ever seen in my life. When it’s clear I will sometimes go out and see if it is as clear as that night, but it hasn’t been, until last night. My roommate and I were walking home from church and looked up and it was clear so clear you could see all the stars, literally all of them! We stood there in awe for a minute and even saw a shooting star. Yesterday marked the first day for advent, I have a tradition of observing it, so I went and got my candle that I burn while I read a reading plan for advent and brought it outside. We stood outside under the stars…all the stars to be exact, and worshiped and praised the Lord. It was a surreal moment, in the middle of the Amazon Jungle, underneath all the stars God placed in the sky, in the middle of the school property God has placed in the community to use for His glory, celebrating His coming. There’s not much more I can say to describe that moment, but I am so thankful for this life God has given me.
Well I have now been living in the Jungle for about 2 months. Although it feels like I’ve been here a lot longer…in a good way! I have gotten settled into my new house here and have tried to seal it up as best as possible to keep bugs out. I had a week where I battled ants, large ants, it was not fun! But I really do enjoy living here, it’s quiet and peaceful and then during the week I get to see all the kids since I live on the school property. It’s fun to see their smiling faces everyday and go out and play with them on the playground! I had gotten pretty ill a few weeks ago from eating bad food while out with a team. I was sick for 12 days, I didn’t really eat that much and even had a hard time holding water down. First lesson learned is do not go to the free clinic! They did not give me the correct medication which prolonged me being sick. Second always pay for the good doctor! The doctor I went to see the second time was very kind and knew his stuff and gave me the correct medicine. He was even telling us about his son who is in Oklahoma as a foreign exchange student…small world! But thankfully I am much better now and I am super thankful to have a great community of missionaries that looked after me. A couple of the kids snuck into my house and saw me sitting on my bed and asked me what I was doing, I said I was laying there because I didn’t feel well. So they left and then I heard them come back in, they had went and gotten a cup of water and tylenol for me to take since I wasn’t well. It warmed my heart, and thankful that God gives me reminders like that of why I am here.
My responsibilities here are coordinating the child sponsor program and the short term teams. Both of these keep me extremely busy. The child sponsor program consists of getting info on children who need sponsorship, finding sponsors for them, keeping in contact with the current sponsors, and getting updates of the children to the sponsors. The short term team coordinating consists of planning out the teams and schedules for the next year. The schedules entail a lot…flights, work project, vbs project, travel, lodging, sightseeing, and much more. So far there are 10 groups coming and we are looking at more. We also still have 3 more groups coming before the end of this year.
I had a group come last month, normally when we have groups we always take them up river to this zoo but we were also going to visit a local village to drop off some supplies. So we leave that morning and head to grab some canoes. We leave for the village first in the canoes but couldn’t pass because the river was too low. We decided to head on to the zoo. Needless to say the day didn’t go as planned, but the group still had a great time. A couple days later I took the ladies in the group to the village (leaving in a canoe in a different place this time). We made it but had to hike in through thick jungle to get to the school in the village. We were late arriving and the teacher and the students waited for us. This school only has about 10 kids and the teacher travels by bus and canoe everyday to get there.The teacher was very grateful to get the supplies that we took to her and the kids are just so precious and were excited about the candy! When we left and were heading back to town in the canoe all I could think of how privileged I am to lead the life that God has given to me. I got to take a group of women up river in a canoe on the Napo river in the Amazon Jungle to visit a village, pretty amazing to me.
Here are some things you can be in prayer about for me and my ministry: My health and that my stomach would stop being so sensitive! You can pray for my family back home. Pray for Jungle Kids for Christ…the missionaries here, the students and teachers. We are also in the process of raising money for a new school building, please pray for that. Pray for God’s continued provision for me to be here serving. Pray for my supporters and their families.
Go ahead and sing the song in your head because I am! Last week I moved to the jungle. After almost 7 months of living in Quito the main city, learning language and adjusting to the culture I have made it here. Crazy to think that a year and 5 months ago I decided to leave my comfortable life in the states and start preparing for this journey. But with living in Quito for 7 months it was so hard to say goodbye to my friends I have there and to the ministry I was working with (Dunamis Foundation). Most of the girls in that ministry have been there quite a while and we had developed friendships. Saying goodbye to them was one of the hardest things ever, they begged me to stay or to pack them in my bag so they could go with me. On my last day with them we took pictures together and they made me goodbye cards, I will treasure them forever. Although it was super hard to leave I know that they will continue to be loved on by other great volunteers and God will continue to guide their paths.
And now to start this new beginning in the jungle. I have gotten all my stuff moved in and kind of settled. Thanks to a team that came last week (a couple of my favorite people were in this team!) they helped me move and also cleaned up my house. My house got new screen and pretty trim around the screen, because we don’t have windows, oh and ceiling fans too! They also helped clean up the inside as there was construction going on the other side and it was a little messy. My job while I am working here will be short term team coordinator and child sponsor program coordinator. I am excited to have these jobs and have lots of ideas! I am thrilled about the community of missionaries that is starting here as well! There are 2 families onsite now, another single lady who is my roommate, and a family that will be moving down early next year! I love seeing all the great things the Lord is doing here. School will start this week and I can’t wait to see all the beautiful faces on the campus! If you want to see more of what the school looks like go to junglekidsforchrist.org.
Be in prayer for the teachers, students, staff, and their families as school starts and that God will continue to use this place to change the world! Pray for me as I adjust to living here in the jungle and take on my new responsibilities! Pray for my family and all the people who are praying and supporting me!