The second blog in our "Thankfulness in Ministry Series."
How did you get called into the Shine ministry?
Growing up, I hated school. Really, really hated it. I felt like it was a total waste of my time, and viewed my teachers as the leading experts on soul crushing and fun killing. The smell of the place (yup - elementary, middle, and high all smelled the same), the sound of the bells, the look of the portable buildings…they all give me this anxious nausea.
Why would I ever go back?
Along with the nausea-inducing sights, smells and sounds, public school brought me into close contact with the most precious creatures this world holds…people. And these people, they made a deep, lasting mark on my heart.
Sam, undoubtedly the smartest kid to ever attend Manzano High, lived in abject poverty just across Lomas from me. He made me laugh every time I talked with him. Kelly often passed out at her desk. She sought comfort from the horrors of her life through cutting and probably drugs. Heather’s sister showed up at lunch one time to say good-bye to her…she was 16, and had decided to run away. I cried with Heather through the day. Tamara’s mom was a Buddhist, her dad an atheist. She taught me how to ask great questions, how to listen, and how to be a great friend to a person who completely disagreed with my worldview.
Ms. Fletcher could have been a professor at an Ivy League school, but she loved us NM kids. She cried when we experienced sudden strokes of “brilliance”. Oh, I could go on and on all day. Public school is the place where the extraordinary, the needy, the hopeless, the anxious, the noble, and the hurting collide. It is an incredible slice of society, and a surefire place to find people who are desperate for the hope only God can give them.
When Mountain Christian Church first had the opportunity to be partnered with a Title 1 APS school through Shine, I just felt like God was saying, “Here you go, Ash….all you’ve ever wanted.”
Did I ever think I’d want to go back to public school? Of course not. However, to invest in the lives of the needy, to be an agent for change in a young one’s life, to bring relief to the suffering, to strengthen the trembling hands of those on the front lines (teachers), and to do it all in the name of Jesus Christ? Honestly, it seemed too good to be true. It is the ministry of my dreams.
How have you seen God work in you and your volunteers through your ministry?
Wow…has my faith, and the faith of my Shine teammates…grown by leaps and bounds through this ministry! We have had such little control over this thing, and have had to simply trust God at every turn. Would the principal and staff of a public school really welcome the help of a church? Would we have enough volunteers to help at the events we were actually invited to help with? Would the love of God really be communicated through our efforts? Would we have enough resources to actually make a difference there? And, what does making a difference even look like? What are we supposed to do with all the overwhelming need that exists there?
We have prayed hard; and at every turn, God has opened doors, built relationships, and lavished abundance in ways that only He can. We often find ourselves giggling over His goodness, because it bowls us over time and again.
What has been the hardest aspect of saving and how did God use that to grow you?
Uncertainty. Shine is an uncharted ministry. I often say, “I have no idea what I’m doing”, because I really don’t. I like routine, and I like to have a plan, and Shine lends itself to neither. The wonderful thing about this is that I know that the success God brings to Shine has nothing to do with my efforts….it’s ALL Him; and the uncertainty of it all keeps me coming back to His throne for wisdom and grace.
What are you most thankful for in your ministry?
I am most thankful for the relationships that God has built between us at MCC and our A. Montoya family. What a privilege it is to share laughter, tears, victory, and struggle with the kids, parents, and staff at our school. While we’ve been honored to serve them, they have blessed us in countless ways. Diving into another’s world when you don’t “have to” always begs the question: “Why? Why are you doing this?” Our friends at A. Montoya don’t really ask us this anymore.
The love of Christ that inevitably sloshes out of us and onto them is obvious. They get it now…we don’t serve them so we can feel good about ourselves or gain converts or show off our generosity. We love them because God loves them. That’s it.
We are so grateful to Ashley for sharing her heart for God and the Shine Ministry with us! What an inspiration to see how God uses His ministries to transform lives! Click here for the rest of Ashley's insights on how serving through Shine has made her more grateful, trusting and aware of God's presence in a few days!