In part 2 of my conversation with Ashley, we talked more about how the trip changed her perspective on her ministry here and the relationship between the church and missionaries. Read part 1.
What did you hope God would do with this trip and what did He do?
My expectation mainly was to be changed. I wanted a life-changing experience and I wanted to be used by God. Going to a Bible college, it all starts to feel like a chore. The Bible is my textbook. It’s a sad reality. The ministries I do, it often feels like I do them for credit, so it feels like a duty. I wanted to be revitalized. Just go and spend some time away from this whole environment where everything is familiar. I wanted to be taken out of my comfort zone and be used by God.
And did that happen?
Yes. I feel like I fell back in love with God. I saw myself through His eyes. It gave me a whole new purpose. I want to serve God while I do this other stuff. It’s not a duty or something I do because it defaults to me, it’s something I want to do and God wants me to do. Something God is calling me to do. I need to get rid of the attitude that I’m the one who chooses. I’m not leading worship to glorify myself; it’s to glorify God. I need to keep that in mind.
Being uprooted forced me to depend on God. I didn’t need to go to the Caribbean for that, but it happened.
What do you think about the current state of missions and the church—both Des Moines Fellowship and the universal church?
Honestly, I don’t see our church as missions minded. We’re very internal, feeding the flock. There needs to be an emphasis on missions because we’re all part of the body of Christ, not just Des Moines Fellowship. And this isn’t just our church, I see this in a lot of churches I’ve been to.
At our church specifically, I don’t know anything about the missionaries we support, and that worries me for the future. If this is going to be my sending church, I don’t just want to be a picture on the wall and a blurb on the website. I want the congregation to be involved with my work. You’d be the ones praying for me and part of your tithes would be going toward me if that’s what happens in the future.
The universal church is more…I see them going more toward Asia and Africa and reaching those harder to reach places because it seems like the rest of the world is “Christianized.” But the reality is that those “Christians” aren’t Bible-believing, Bible-based churches. In the Dominican Republic, there is a lot of Pentecostal influence and sometimes that’s not bad, but sometimes it’s false doctrine. I think if I ran the world of missions, [Editor’s note: Here, Ashley flashed a big grin.] I would strive to reach those places first. Because if you get the people who love God and want to believe correct doctrine grounded in the correct beliefs, you can also send them to those harder to reach places.
Is mission work something you want to do full-time? How do you see yourself ministering 10 years from now?
I would say yes. I’m praying for other outlets and doors to open down there. While I love Time ministries, their main focus is construction. And while I do love construction, I don’t know if that’s where God’s calling me. There’s another woman who works down there in a village called Cercadillo, and she works with women and children who basically have no income. She takes her sewing machines once a week with some materials and teaches the women how to make purses and headbands to sell. Then the women make money, they’re not just handed money by Americans. The only other ways these women can make money are going into the city with baskets on their head to sell goods, and it’s painful. Or there’s prostitution. I’m praying about working with her next summer because she works alongside Time Ministries.
Do you have any missionary heroes or mentors?
I really like Jim Elliot. He went to Ecuador (like in the End of the Spear movie). The way he and his team relied solely on faith to go and interact with such a dangerous people group… The Dominicans are not that dangerous but it still takes a lot of faith to be a missionary. He and his wife, Elisabeth are my “heroes,” but also Cindy, the American missionary wife that I worked with over the summer, she was a really big encouragement to me. We’re the same person—have the same struggles and weaknesses. So while talking to her I was able to see how God can still use me in missions even though I’m cynical. And that’s another thing I learned over the summer: my cynicism. I mean, I didn’t grow in cynicism—that would be bad. But seeing that God is always in control, seeing that the world is not so bad because God is in control.
Do you have a challenge or advice for members of the church about how we support our missionaries?
A little challenge for the congregation would be to be intentional about our missionaries. Whether it’s praying for them, shooting them an email saying, I’m praying for you and I hope things are going well, or something else. It’s hard to be out there and even though some people have families with them, it’s hard to be away from your home culture and other family. Be intentional, encourage missionaries, stay up on what’s going on with their lives so when they come up back for furlough, you’re able to stay current with them and ask, Hey, how’s this in your life?