I met a really neat person named Ronne Rock when I was in Africa nearly a year ago. She was a friend of a friend, and was in Uganda working on a video promo for Arise Africa. Of course we became friends on facebook, and have since stayed in touch that way. At the beginnning of the year she posted something that I thought was unique…It was this : “What is your word of the year?” The premise is- what one word would sum up what God may have you to do, require from you etc in this new year, 2013? Since I read her post, I have wondered what my word
should be. And then it came to me. There would be no better word
The story that has brought me to this place has truly been
an amazing one! It started in 2009, when I came to a church in Raleigh called Journey. I had been attending for a few months, when one Sunday there was a guest speaker. His name was Godfrey Wanamitsa, and he was talking to the congreagation about the ministry they supported called Arise Africa. He was so genuine when he spoke, and I knew that this man was being greatly used by God. I had no idea what I was in store for, or that the next year I would be sitting in his living room in Uganda!
Whether coincidnetal or not, I don’t know, but soon after there was an announcement on Sunday for anyone interested in going on a mission trip to Uganda to sign up. I was still really really new to Journey, and didn’t know anyone, but I felt a tug in my heart. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I prayed and felt a confirmation to go with this team to do ministry for 2 weeks in October of 2009.
After only one near “freak out” where I almost cancelled my ticket, I got on that plane not knowing a soul. Armed with letters from one of my best friends-one for every day to open- my Bible, journal, and a camera, I was off to the other side of the world. It’s difficult to describe how much of a culture shock that first trip was, but the instant connection to the people was undeniable. I LOVED it. I loved everything about it. The simplicity, the faith, the miracles that I saw. I loved the love that was shown to us as visitors. The servant’s hearts that I saw of the pastors and staff there. That trip was not medically based. We were primarily doing evangelism, pastor training, and children’s programming. My favorite part of the day was “hut to hut”. This is when we split up into groups of twos and threes and literally went with an interpreter from home to home, asking if they had heard the gospel. I was shocked at this idea…just walking up to someone and saying “Hey, have you ever heard of Jesus?” Was that even normal? What I have learned since then is not only is it normal…it is totally expected. From all of us. Africa was getting to me. There was no denying it.
The year that followed led to many emails and phone calls of great expense to those I met while in Uganda. I saved and prayed and couldn’t wait for the next trip the next year. I am pretty sure my name was the first on the list of Uganda 2010 trip sign up. I had a specific burden this time for the women there. They were often forgotten about and looked down upon. I wanted them to have something special…something just for them. So I prepared some “talks” that were specific to the ladies. Boy, I had NO idea what I was in for. If you could only read my journal from this trip…from chickens pecking my feet while I was speaking, to children removing tarantula spiders from the church wall with their bare hands to a demon possessed woman who had every intention of literally killing me until God intervened…yes it was an adventure!
And then there was the babies. The precious most angelic little chocolate colored babies you ever did see filled the Babies Home in Bukaleba that was built by Arise Africa with alot of help from Journey. My heart just wanted more. I couldn’t wait
another year to go back. Thankfully, a couple of the other girls I had met on this trip felt the same way, and we soon made plans to return in a few months. This time I knew it was time to use my medical knowledge for good. So the 3 of us went and stayed the majority of our time at the Babies’ Home out in the middle of nowhere, Uganda. What an experience. The nurse at the home left me in charge soon after we arrived, to go into town and get supplies needed. It wasn’t even 2 hours later, I had 5 babies with dangerously high fevers from malaria. Alot of prayers, love, tylenol, ibuprofen and fluids later, the crisis was averted, and the babies improved. I remember that it was on this trip I first thought…I was made for this.
A short 5 months after that, Journey took a summer team
(July 2011). I received funds for this trip completely from God. I truly did not see how I would be able to afford it, but God provided in unexpected and miraculous ways that I would’ve never guessed. It was on this trip that I had some more experiences with spiritual warfare and the unseen world like I had never had before. I also found a baby in a village that was so sickly and underweight that she wouldn’t have lived much longer. With the permission of her grandmother, this child was placed in the Babies Home and is now sponsored by a good friend of mine. This was also the trip where I met my amazing friend Dacia, who has been such a big blessing to me in this journey. She was spending 3 months in Uganda working with Arise then, and is now there as a full time missionary. I
spent many nights in her room till the wee hours, talking and praying about what God might be doing in me. There was a feeling that was now undeniable. Was it me or God? Was he really calling me to Africa? At the end of that summer, my friend Dacia knew that she was going to be going back to Uganda permanently. We were both working on child sponsorships together, and had a lot of work to do that could really only be done in Uganda. So, when she returned to Jinja in February of 2012, I went with her for 2 weeks. This trip, I shared with a friend of mine from Kenya who works and lives now at Arise Afirca, Susan. I told her the desires
of my heart, and she prayed with me for God’s direction. There was a little girl, sick with a disease called sickle cell anemia. I wanted to help her…care for her. Was I supposed to adopt her? This is a whole another story that I am unsure of how it fits into what God is doing now, but there is no denying that God has given me a mother’s heart for this little one. No matter what happens or where we live, I will always support her. The amazing miracle is that God provided a way for this little girl to receive the most current recommended medication for sickle cell. Since that time she has been much healthier. But I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was supposed to GO there.
Short term, long term, I didn’t know. When? I didn’t know. Adopt or not adopt…oh boy that was another big one. My mind was filled with questions, doubts, and fears.I returned to the US to fervently seek God and beg him to reveal to me what my next step should be.
I had been in a Discpleship Development Series, and
was finishing my second year in it. This particulair day was our last class. I was frustrated, and discouraged. I felt like I wasn’t hearing from the Lord. He was so quiet. I was in a desert…begging for water…and I was parched. Dazed and confused wouldn’t even describe it. I wrote in an email to Dacia and told her the silence was deafening. That day I begged God to give me an answer.
I had been studying the Old Testament and loved the story of Abraham. How his faith in God was considered righteousness. He made a bunch of mistakes along the way, but he had faith. He went to a land he knew nothing about, was willing to sacrifice his only son…I mean this guy was hard core. I really just fell in love with his story and would read any commentary or study on the life of Abraham.
So, back to the last night of Discipleship class…our teacher said that he has been praying over the night we would have, and he feels that people will hear clearly from the Lord what they have been seeking. A little skeptical because I felt I had been hearing nothing, I sent up a “I wish I would hear something from you, Lord, ” prayer. Our teacher began talking about Gideon, and how there were 32,000 men at first that were going to do battle against the Midianites, and how God widdled those all the way down to 300. The 300 were those that were comitted and raised up for the purpose. I felt like the Lord was saying “I am raising you up to be part of the ‘300’ ” (Not in a group of 300 people I don’t think, but I don’t really know what that meant to be honest. ) I felt like he was telling me he was raising me up for this time.
My heart started beating faster and faster. Then I kept hearing in my heart a gentle “Go.” I doubted at first that it was God. I was like: “Go where?” then it was a “you know where! Go.” Scott (our teacher) was praying over a couple members of the class. He had gone over to one lady and was speaking to her on the other side of the room There were 30 of us praying for one another in a circle. I felt like I knew that he was coming over to me And now my heart was beating out of my chest! My knees felt weak as I waited for him to speak. He said to me:
” Ashley, take this before the Lord to see if this is truly meant
for you to receive, but I want to let you know that I feel like the Lord is expanding your vision. You have no idea what he has planned! The time of not hearing anything is over. Step out in faith like Abraham. Let God go before you, behind you and all around you as you GO. ” I couldn’t keep the tears from flowing. I knew for sure that I had heard the voice of the Lord that night. And a peace just washed over me as I said yes to him. To take the next step in faith without having any idea of what the outcome may be.
So, a couple of weeks later I sent an email to Pastor Godfrey, who by this time had become a dear friend, and asked him to pray about what I was sensing God leading me to and let me know how he felt about me coming and serving in Uganda as a nurse long term. And soon after, I heard…NOTHING. A little while later, I heard nothing. I was so confused. I decided very last minute to go to Uganda in October of 2012 with Journey. I wanted to see Pastor Godfrey in person, and talk to him about what I felt God was doing in my life and my heart.
The October trip was the first ever Journey medical trip. I practiced as a nurse in clinics out in different villages. This trip was absolutely amazing! If I even told you some of the things that happened, you would struggle to believe them. I was totally in my element, and once again, I knew that this was my calling. On one of our last clinic days, I rode home from the village with Pastor Godfrey, and his wife Joy, and we discussed me coming to serve alongside them in their ministry full time. Pastor Godfrey said that he most definitely wanted me to come and serve there,
in fact he wanted me to come as soon as I was able. There will eventually be a clinic and someday a hospital that will require some help. In the mean time,there is so much work to do just with the Babies’ Home and Secondary School. This was the final confirmation I had been praying for.
So, this is the beginning of the story. The answer to the question: “When are you going back to Uganda?” is tough one. I don’t have an exact date yet, though I feel it will be later this year. Currently, I am preparing to downsize and save money. Also I am beginning to set up a base of support-financially, and most importantly prayerfully. This is a very exciting time, however, there is a part of me that is sad to leave what I know here. My friends, my family, my precious dog, and my awesome church, a job that has been an absolute dream come true-but I know that the One who calls me is worthy! He deserves all of me. . I don’t have all the answers yet…in fact my questions are more numerous than my answers. But, my faith is being strengthened, and I am learning to quietly wait for Him. He has called and I will say yes.So my word for 2013 is …GOING!
“The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest therefore to send out workers into his harvest field” -Matthew 9:37