Sunday, December 30, 2012


See how happy the man is God corrects; so do not reject the discipline of the Almighty.” ~Job 5:17

   It has taken me quite a long time to write this blog entry and even now I think it’ll all come out as this one big mess but sometimes that’s okay!

   This past year will be marked as one of my biggest learning years in my walk with my Pops.  Although it has been a difficult one it has most definitely been a beautiful journey… with these last few months being the most necessary of breaking and remolding.

   Spending the summer in Uganda forever changed this little ole heart of mine. It was a time that tested my belief in the goodness of my King, a time where He allowed me to see how much He loves His people, and a time to heal some deep wounds of unworthiness.

  When I came home life came at me at full force and adjustment was not fun. American life quickly frustrated me and it was hard to go back to living the life that I had when I knew that I was not the same.  I arrived back in the states on a Friday and started my new job that following Monday. I spent the week of new teacher training jet lagged and survived thanks to coffee. One of the only things that I truly remember from that week is a co-worker telling me, “You know the more you talk the more I have questions!” I’m still not sure if that’s a good thing.  I would spend the next month living out of a suitcase (grateful to my sister that hosted me) and getting to know an entire new staff.  Come September, I moved into the city and realized quickly that I had a minor form of empty nest syndrome. For two years, my life consisted of supporting 4 other people in their time of independence and now I was in this apartment all by myself and having no clue what it meant to cook for one again. It is true that sometimes silence is deafening. 

  Something to know about me is that I love adventures and new journeys but for some reason this time was a bit different. As time continued on I found where I still felt out of sorts with everything going on. Life seemed to be speeding by and all I was doing was going through the motions of a daily routine. I missed living in the country, Uganda, and my old job. I hadn’t found a church and there were some friendships that unexpectedly changed. Although these are not dramatic changes and far less hardships than others are facing right now, I still saw where it was beginning to take a toll on my spirit.

  I am deeply grateful for my family and friends that have been a light these past couple of months. Reminding me of scripture and reminding me what an adventurous time this could be if only I would wait to see what He would do. I began to ask my Pops to open my heart and be willing to understand why this “adjustment time” was good for me. He said read Job. Now Job is not the most uplifting of books to start off with and can even be a bit depressing if I’m gonna be honest, but my Pops was persistent and so I began to seek Him there. I haven’t finished yet and am taking it piece by piece but oh dear friends am I being challenged! The biggest piece that I’m chewing on right now is being disciplined and not being a whiner about it, but rather praising Him during this time. Praising Him that He chooses to work with me in these areas that are needed and learning that through being disciplined, remolded, refined…it brings me closer to Him and that overwhelms me.

  One thing I have asked of Him, since being back from Uganda, was to have a time to rest and reset. I am very thankful that He has allowed that time. I am currently on my 2 weeks of vacation from work. For CHRISTmas my family was all over this country and even though I had my pick of those adventures to go on I decided to stay back. It was a bit hard and sad to not be with my family on CHRISTmas day, but I did spend a lot of time on the road and that meant time with my Pops. Time to rest, reflect, and listen. All things that I knew were needed.

  So where does it all go from here? Through prayer, Word, and encouragement I am embracing this new chapter. There are still some things that I am working through and understanding that sometimes we don’t always get answers to question that we have but that doesn’t mean we stop seeking Him.  I’m still stubborn about some things and am selfish in almost everything but am grateful that He still loves me so and is patient with me.

  As 2013, quickly approaches I am eager to see where this journey will take me and what adventures my Pops will send me on. I challenge each of you reading this to ask Him to evaluate your heart and to see where you need to be refined and disciplined. To embrace that He wants to challenge and wrestle with you and most importantly that He wants to build a relationship with you and have you dwell in His presence. 

I guarantee it'll be worth it!!

Monday, August 6, 2012

He is....good!

"You get a strange feeling when you are about to leave a place, like you'll not only miss the people you love but you'll miss the person you are now at this time and place because you'll never be this way ever again."                                    ~Azar Nafisi

Some few months ago the Lord revealed to me that I would be going to Uganda for 2 months. From that moment of finding out I began to pray for this place. For the children, my co-workers, and overall for what God would do, knowing that no matter what happened it would be beautiful. I was ridiculous in thinking that I could even begin to imagine what He had up his robe sleeve!

Dearest friends, this will be my last blog post this side of Uganda. In a couple of days I will be making the trek back to the great country state of Texas. I haven't even left yet and I already miss this place. Sounds silly, I know, but it's true. The past couple of days I have been cleaning and packing, as well as saying farewell to different folks. In the midst of all of it I continuously ask for my Pops to be my comforter. I ask Him to help me to not take moments for granted and to invest in the lives around me, fully, up until I step onto that plane.

Throughout this entire summer I have had the opportunity to see life in a whole new way. I have lived among folks who, in every aspect, live differently than I do. Two months of trading every day comforts in exchange for situations that now are hilarious to think back on. I have gotten sick, twice, and have had a not so fun case of a worm. My name Ashley no longer exists but I rejoice in the excitement of being called a Muzungu…..most of the time. Many adventures have come my way and there have been individuals that I have met that I am certain have made a forever impact on my life.  Then there are my students who daily represented Christ WELL. On top of this, my Pops opened the door for me to meet my Compassion daughter, who I’m pretty sure fully possess my heart now and boy do I miss her! Phew, do I miss her!

It would be very easy for me to go on and when you see me I’ll have hundreds of stories to share, but the most important thing that I want people to know is what  my King has taught me while being here. It’s the simplest yet most complicated thing to understand. That God is good. I don’t mean “this ice-cream is good” or “wow, that was a good episode of The Bachelor.” I mean the Creator of all things is in the most beautiful, purest, passionate way…good.

That should be a simple enough concept, but along with so many other followers, I have found that I make it very difficult. As I have journeyed through the summer God has made me evaluate whether or not I believe in His goodness and the work He is doing. To take in life here, outside of my comfort zone, to see things that I don’t understand & that break my heart and still say He is good.

I must confess and say this was not an easy task. The journey here has been difficult. The students at Kireka test you every single moment of the day. I have seen children digging through trash for food and have met many that have been abandoned by their parents. I have mourned with my co-worker as she lost her whole family and have faced parents that I have become so angry with because of their lack of responsibility. There is sickness and poverty and many days it became overwhelming. But yet He is still good.

He is good because His word declares it and I trust His word. Many moments it was fully depending on faith without sight, but because I trust in His goodness I know that He is present.

 When I would trust Him to strip my spoiled, American eyesight, He would go above and beyond to show me this.  He is present in my students’ laughter. He is present when one student protects another. He is present when another family adopts an abandoned child. He is present when those hungry children can reach for mangos that have been abundantly provided and He is present when an entire village comes together to bring comfort. He is present.

Two months flew by and even now I know that He has not revealed all of what He wants me to know about this chapter. I treasure that because this is a place that I will not forget. So months and years from now when I look back or when I visit, I will be listening for His reminders of what He has done and what He is doing. I will miss this place terribly but as I head across the pond I find complete rest in knowing that the King of Kings loves these people, is present, and is good.

Thank you for following me during my time in Uganda. Your prayers and encouragement are appreciated more than you may ever know. I look forward to coming home and I pray that I reflect my Pops a bit more than when I left.

I encourage you folks that are reading this to step out and allow God to challenge you outside of your comfort zone. To trust Him to do a work on you and I guarantee it will be a beautiful journey. 

Alrighty, now for you to meet my Compassion Child. Be prepared, she's adorable!!

My dear Agnes, 7 1/2 years old (gotta add the half)

Gifts from Granny
Her friends

My Ugandan Family
Having to say "see you later"

Sunday, July 22, 2012

12,000 words for ya

"Wherever you are, be all there.  Live to the hilt every experience you believe to be the will of God."                                                                  ~Jim Elliot
 Oli otya (common greeting here) readers, I wanted to give a quick update on life here at Kireka, but more importantly I wanted to take this opportunity for some of you, who don't have the famous Facebook, to "meet" the students that you have been praying for.

Life here at Kireka, is running smoothly....well our version of smoothly. The students are daily teaching me something new about themselves and about the beautiful King we serve. Each day is full of laughter, "whoopsies," and grace in the times that I fail. This next week will be the last full week with my students and I am extremely sad about this. The students were supposed to start holiday on Aug. 3, but things in Africa, can always change within minutes. They will all begin to head home this coming Friday. With the change in plans I'm not sure what the next week will look like for me, but I rest in the fact that my Pops has lived these days before me and He has it all under control.

Outside of my work here at Kireka, I've had the chance to visit different schools, be a guest speaker, and help assess a child, to then help the family start their next step with her. I have also traveled a bit and have had the chance to spend wonderful moments with new Ugandan friends as well as other American Missionaries.

From this point I only have 15 full days left here in Uganda. As I am already saying "see you later" to folks I am aware that I may not ever see these people again this side of heaven and that leaves me with a heavy heart. So with that, I ask that you would be praying that I would finish my time here well. That I would truly understand that I am only a vessel and that God is the one who expands His kingdom. He is more than sufficient and He loves these people my friends way more than I will ever be able to. 

Now, to give you a better glimpse into my world. 

A view of Uganda


Visiting the sister school
Traditional Ugandan Dance

Saturday, July 7, 2012

dancing ALWAYS makes it better

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it. Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it. Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it.” 
                                                                                                                             ― Mother Teresa
The students were literally running everywhere. They knew it was Friday. They weren't staying in class and if they were they weren't actually participating. Some students were taking wheelchairs of their friends so they could play with them. Others were chasing each other or fighting. After about 30mins of this one of the teachers comes out with a CD player and turns on some African music. Literally they all stopped what they were doing and ran to where the player was and started dancing. In a split second it was as if I was in another place with a different set of students. After the initial shock of this wave of transformation, I began to watch and soak in the scene. My students were happy. They were laughing and having dance offs (competing to see who had the best moves).For the children that were deaf, their friends showed them how fast or slow the music was going. Those in wheelchairs, others would play with them so they weren't left out. The "macho" students were tapping their feet a bit and even the toddlers showed off their skills. 

As I was watching my students I realized that I was at my halfway point here at the school. See school ends almost a week before I leave. Halfway point! That's not possible, but sure enough it's the mark I have reached. So I just sat and took in the time that I knew was already passing by too quickly. And then.....I danced with them.

Life at Kireke School is blessed. Beyond blessed. I have adjusted to the culture, for the most part, and am even picking up on quite a bit of Luganda, which is surprising to me. My days are now filled with a some-what normal routine with my students.The teachers have become protective of me and we are forming actually friendships full of discussions and laughter. I have figured out who's scream belongs to whom, as well as what it means, and the ways I need to adjust my teaching to fit my students. I daily see their personalities come out and am often amazed at the way my Pops reflects Himself through them.

Outside of school I am learning my way around my area of Uganda. Just yesterday, I described to the boda, boda (motorcycle driver) how to get to where I lived. **insert a bit of info- to give directions you have to tell them the city, the main street, and a building that is well known. Then once you are near it you direct the boda from there. He ended up taking a back road and I still knew where I was and was able to direct him. I was pretty proud of myself. I am learning how to bargain and which markets to purchase the best food. And even the children surrounding my school no longer call me Muzungu, but actually call me Madam.

My Pops is at work here, there is no doubt about that and again, I say that I am broken by the fact that He would bless me with the journey of being here. I am extremely grateful for these past weeks but am looking forward to the next weeks and watching my King show off in the beautiful way that He does.

Prayer Requests:
-that I would be an encouragement to the other teachers
-that I would boldly take on challenges and trust in His will
-that my students would continue to really learn and understand that they are loved by the most amazing King.

Hanging out during lunch

with Teacher Rona

Thursday, June 28, 2012

difficult is beautiful

"When the call of Christ sears a hole through your self-protectiveness, you go wherever He leads, whether or not you feel like you fit."  ~Beth Moore

 I have been in Uganda, a solid 2 WEEKS now! That is hard for me to believe, to be honest, because I feel as if I have been here 2 months.I have often expressed to folks that a lot of life can happen in a short amount of time and I would say that that certainly applies to the past two weeks. Thank you to everyone that has been supportive during the time leading up to Uganda, and especially now. Your prayers have been felt and I wish I could express in better words how grateful I am.

When people have asked me how life is here, I can describe it in one word. Difficult. Once missionaries are placed onto the field they go through what's called the "honeymoon phase." Basically it is the time of your journey where you are in complete cultural bliss. Everything about where you are is perfect. The sleeping arrangements are adventurous, the food exotic, and the people mysterious.  There is no set amount of time that the honey moon phase lasts because it all really depends on assignment and length thereof. For some assignments (if it is short enough) one never actually leaves this phase. And......for some reason my Pops decided that I would skip leap over this and step right into the reality of where He has me for the summer. 

On Friday, June 15, I arrived at Kireka School for Children with Disabilities. They had been expecting me so when the gate opened and we drove through, the children came running from all directions. These were the children I had been praying for, longer than I can remember, and to know that I was finally getting to meet them made it a moment that I will never forget. I had the weekend to get settled and then began working in my classroom on the following Monday. Since then, life has been....well difficult. 

My daily routine has quickly become the following:

~wake up by the crowing rooster or screaming children
~pick either a cold shower or warm bucket bath
~go to work and deal with-being slapped, peed on, bitten, children running away, children hitting other children, the language barrier, and refusal of doing work (if one didn't know better I would think they didn't like me...but that can't be it!!)
~come to apartment, boil water for the next day, and make dinner, all while listening to children run around my apartment and banging on the door. P.S. "Ne da" (no) was basically the first word I learned in Luganda
~go to bed under a mosquito net and with children slowly but surely quieting outside.
~wake up and start over

Along with this, I have already been sick and had an incident with mango worms (there will not be pictures of this posted.)

I should be frustrated though, right? I mean don't I have the right to have that "honeymoon phase?" Shouldn't I wake up each morning with The Lion King theme song playing in my head?  But the reality is, that I am finding this time more beautiful than I ever could have imagined.

I no longer go by Ashley, but rather Muzungu, momma, teacher, or madam. I don't get any privacy. And I'm already learning that there are only so many ways you can change up a skirt and shirt combo. The days are long and I don't stay clean for longer than 10 mins. But the beauty in all of this is that my Pops is teaching me of unconditional love through those that He loves with a passion. I have spent more time in worship,prayer, & conversation with Him, than I have in years. I find myself moment by moment seeking Him and asking to see my students with His eyes and heaven's to betsy does He ever. He is literally showing me what brokenness to beauty looks like. And for that I can only say, thank you Abba, that you are making me experience something far greater than I could have asked for.

For most, Kireka School, is one to be passed up because there's nothing "spectacular" about it. Many don't even know who we are. But for me, it is a place of hope. A place where the students help each other out because they are a family. A place where despite how "different" they are, they see each other as the same. A place where no matter how frustrating a student's behavior may become, in an instant they can reach for my hand and be content in sitting with me and make my heart melt.

1 Cor. 13:4-8 states
Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy; is not boastful; is not conceited; does not act improperly; is not selfish; is not provoked; does not keep a record of wrongs; finds no joy in unrighteousness, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things; believes all things; hopes all things; endures all things. Love never ends. 
 Honeymoon phase? pshhh who needs it, when the One true King is teaching me about this kind of love?

Fun Things:
-4 wheel riding around The Nile and surrounding villages
-learning to cook Ugandan food
-meeting lots of new faces

Prayer requests:
-quick healing
-the people of Uganda who lost family members in recent fires and the mudslide
-my students -that their teacher will remain sane during this time. :D 

Students during morning announcements

One of my students-Esther

The Nile

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Uganda bound baby...part dos!

"If my life is surrendered to God, all is well. Let me not grab it back, as though it were in peril in His hand but would be safer in mine!" ~ Elisabeth Elliot

Dearest friends, I have safely made it to Uganda. After months of preparation it still seems very surreal to me that I am here. The journey to Uganda, was rough but worth it. I last ended with my time in London. So what happened after that? Please take a moment to see what my Pops did from London to Entebbe.

A couple of hours before I hopped on the last flight I allowed an elderly gentleman, from Israel, to use the UK outlet converter I had brought with me. Once he was finished using it he started to hand it back to me and proceeded to ask questions about my life. As I began to answer, a Ugandan man was walking past, overheard the conversation, and stopped to join us. For the next hour we three sat and laughed at miscommunication, discussed education, different journeys, hardships, and politics. The most important conversation we happened to have was about the Savior we three share. Please understand why this is beautiful to me. An Israelite, a converted Muslim, and a Southern Baptist all sitting, as the world is literally passing by, discussing the One true King...and it all started with an outlet converter.

Once on the plane, I had the opportunity to meet missionaries from everywhere that were headed out here to Uganda, to serve where my Pops has asked them to. It was so interesting to hear how they ended up in that spot and what each were hoping to see Him do.

Thankfully, the last leg of the journey was overnight so I was able to sleep a bit and when I woke up I watched the sunrise as we began to land in Entebbe. Once landed, it was "hit the ground running" with African culture. I grabbed my luggage and found Ricky, my cab driver, waiting for me to bring me to my host home here in Kampala. I praise my Pops for His protection during this time. Just envision Houston traffic on very small roads, with people walking everywhere, and bodas (motorcycles) swerving in and out. Oh and all of this as we are driving on the opposite side of the road. After that trip I will forever trust Ricky and his driving.

So now I am here in the main part of Kampala. Since Tuesday, I have had orientation and a bit of time to get settled. I officially go out to the school on Friday to move into my house and meet the students. This is what I am looking forward to the most!!

Fun things:
-new foods
-getting to see wild monkeys
-meeting lots of other missionaries with AIM
-learning a bit of Lugandan (they actually don't speak Swahili here)
-figuring out the money system and paying with a different currency

Prayer Requests:
-for a normal sleep pattern-I am not adjusting to the time change that well
-for my first day of work at the school
-that I would pick up more of the native language

A few pictures!!

Part of Kampala

At the AIM office

Monday, June 11, 2012

Uganda bound baby...part 1

Hello dear ones, I am hanging out in London at the airport, waiting for my next flight, which will be the final leg of getting me to Uganda, and I thought now would be a good time to include you on my traveling adventures thus far.

      The journey started in Austin, on Sunday, where my momma bear and seeester dropped me off at ABIA. They rocked out on helping me check in and they didn't shed a tear, which I am so proud of them for. I flew from Austin to Dallas which is just a tease really. That's enough time for them to throw the bag of pretzels at you and then snatch. yo. trash. up...ok maybe that's a bit dramatic! But I did opt to take a nap. From there I flew from Dallas to London and arrived in London at 9am, which was 3am Texas time. I had planned to spend the whole day in London but my Pops had other plans because the weather is absolutely dreadful and not only did it delay our landing, but it also "washed" my plans down the drain. But hey, they flip side of that, is I have been able to soak in a beautiful amount of culture already.

For now, I sit in London airport, where I'll be until 8:30pm (2:30 Texas time) and then will fly over night into Uganda, where then I will be 9 hours ahead of the great country of Texas!

A few highlights:

-I've had conversations with folks from Scotland, Germany, India, Russia, England (of course), and a woman serving in the U.S. Army, who is currently based in Turkey.
-I've been able to travel across a big ole pond. :D
-the food has been fabulous
-I haven't once gotten lost
-I purchased some items using Pounds
-I am surrounded by all of these wonderful accents...which also has been the hardest part because I want to try to sound like every single person and I'm not sure how any of them would take I've had to refrain.

Prayer Requests:

-I would be more patient as I wait to finish this last leg...I am really ready to be there and to see those sweet faces.
-that I would be a light to the folks that are around me now and who will be on the plane with me.
-that I would get rest and not have jet lag too badly

**I wanted to say thank you so much to everyone who has supported me to this point and who have been talking to my Pops about the journey I am on. I am blessed and so undeserving of the love He has demonstrated through each of you, but I'm sure glad He has.