I am a follower and lover of Christ. Of course, a jacked-up follower of Christ.

 

I have been a missionary since 2015 with an organization called Jungle Kids for Christ. In 2009, they founded a private school in the middle of the Amazon Jungle. The vision is to empower children in the jungle for God’s glory. I encourage you to check out our website, JungleKidsForChrist.Org, to see of all the amazing things the Lord is doing.

 

The year 2013 changed my life. I got back in church, re-dedicated my life to the Lord, started serving, and then something tragic happened. My dad died. We had only become close since I had turned 18.  As a child, our relationship was severely strained and remained rocky as I was growing up.  In 2012, he had been diagnosed with stage 4 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. He was only out of work for about a month, and shortly after he started chemotherapy, he returned back to work. He did chemo for about nine months, then the doctors decided he needed a bone marrow transplant. He went in for the transplant in June of 2013. We knew he would be in the hospital for about a month or so. I was at the hospital every day and made some amazing memories with my dad. He ended up getting an awful virus that attacked his lungs. The hospital and surrounding hospitals did not have the medicine to treat him. The Sunday morning before he passed, I had gone to church and was sharing with my small group about how sick he was getting. I also shared how I wasn’t sure that if he had ever accepted Christ. I really felt like I had failed my dad. I left church and made it to the hospital to find that they were going to put him in a drug-induced coma, he couldn’t breathe and the doctors said this was the best way for him to heal and get some real rest. They waited until I got there to induce him, and the last thing I said was “ dad it won’t be for very long.” I was really upset with myself that I hadn’t ever shared the Gospel with him or asked him if he had ever received Christ. The next day the doctors told us he had a 10% chance to live. I was devastated, not so much that he was going to die, but because I didn’t know where he was going to go when he died. I talked with my step-mom and uncle and shared how scared I was, then my step-mom told me, very nonchalantly, that he had accepted Christ. I was floored and needed to know more. She explained how a few years back he had had a conversation with a friend and truly accepted the Lord as his Savior. Two days later my dad passed, and as I watched him die I had indescribable peace that I know was only from the Lord. I told the Lord then that I would serve Him as best as I could since He saved my dad. When I told the Lord that, I had no idea what was coming or even what that meant. I just knew I owed everything to Him.

 

A few months later I was at church, it was a regular Sunday morning. We had a guest speaker, which was a little unusual. Her name was Jackie and she had been sent by our Pastor’s friend to share her testimony. She had been a missionary in another country for many years, and in fact her husband had been murdered while they were on the field. She went on to say that there are three missionaries to every 1 million people that need to hear the Gospel. She told a story about how this couple worked hard all of their lives and retired and move to the beach. They walked on the beach everyday and would collect seashells. When they died the Lord said what do you have for me? They handed Him seashells. This hit me hard, and I had this weird sort of feeling that I can’t really explain and quickly left church after the service was over. A couple of weeks later I was being baptized and I was praying and thanking God that I get to be baptized and that I can share my faith out loud. I prayed “Lord send someone to those people who need to hear about you.” The next thought in my mind was “why can’t you go?” I was taken aback and went on with what I was doing.  Little did I know how dangerous of a prayer that was. I went and spoke with my Pastor about how I had felt that Sunday and then what the Holy Spirit had said to me when I was praying. I explained that I had no idea what any of this meant. He told me that we don’t always know what things mean but that we just build the bridge as we go. He gave me the name to his friend, the same friend that sent Jackie to speak, and told me to get in touch with him. I think I called him a few days later to meet up with him. I shared the same thing with him that I did with my Pastor. At the end of our conversation he told me that he was taking a group of college students to Ecuador in March of the next year and offered me a spot. I said I would think and pray about it. I think another week went by, then I got a text from him asking if I was going to go to Ecuador. I kind of laughed and texted back how much money do I have to have upfront, he said none, and I said okay.

 

That trip to Ecuador was amazing. I hadn’t ever been out of the country before. I fell in love, but certainly didn’t think it was the place I was supposed to “go” or live. A couple months after the trip I was offered a job, one that I would have loved and I would have been able to serve the Lord and the community I lived in. I had been serving in different ministries and really felt that the Lord was calling me to something like this. I started thinking and praying about the opportunity and then I thought about Ecuador and the ministries we had served alongside while there. Then I knew that taking the job I had been offered wasn’t for me, it was way more comfortable than what the Lord wanted me to do. I called that same friend again and said I think I am supposed to go Ecuador and he said “I know!” He told me he knew when I came into his office for that first meeting. Eight months later, on January 8, 2015, I boarded an airplane for Ecuador.

 

I now serve as student sponsorship and short-term team coordinator for Jungle Kids for Christ. I live in the middle of the Amazon Jungle and serve with amazing people and get to serve amazing people. I am in awe of the life the Lord lets me live. I am in awe of how much He loves me and everything that He pours out over me.

 

I titled my website Ashley’s Not Normal because I don’t think at all that I am normal, and I am super proud of it. I grew up not normal, I like not following the path of everyone else, I like to do things most women don’t, and my humor is….well you just have to know me!

 

If you are reading this, I encourage you to figure out what the Lord has called you to do. He has given you a gift, use it! If you aren’t sure what that gift is, start serving in your church, find some solid people and surround yourself with them, and start loving people more than you normally would. Ask the Lord to use you….but be careful, because this is a dangerous prayer too! Let’s not take seashells to God; a mess load of people sounds much better!

My friend said a couple years ago, “If you know, you go.” This is great truth. I have plastered this everywhere. Then he said recently, “Love Him, love them.” This might be my new slogan!