Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Heroes: Prudence Irwina!!!

Yesterday I was praying for my dear friend and former Springfield Friends Meeting (1986-1994) youth grouper Ashley Goad as she embarked on yet another mission trip to Haiti. It is her 18th trip to Haiti (http://ashleypgoad.tumblr.com) as she has worked diligently to provide clean water to the long-suffering people of that impoverished nation. I was texting with Ashley on Saturday, and one of the things that makes this trip unique is that she will not be going back until next July. As she said to me, "that's a long time without going home!" You may think, as I did for a moment, that she is taking a break from her travelling. After all, she recently moved to Louisiana and began work at a new church as their Missions Pastor. She is currently working on her doctorate. She has numerous excuses for wanting to slow life down a bit. But that just wouldn't be Ashley. On Saturday she told me what she has lined up in the months ahead, and I was flabbergasted. As I thought about Ashley and prayed for her team yesterday, I came to the realization that Ashley has gone a step beyond her already earned Hall of Fame (see A Very Special Wing) status in my life. The young lady I used to jokingly call Prudence Irwina (pictured on a retreat in 1993) has reached HERO status, in my life and in many others.  Let me tell you why.

Ashley was in elementary school when I first met her back in the 1980s, and her life was always complicated. There were family struggles and major health issues. She often struggled to fit in in those days, even at youth group. She didn't go to school with most of the other students and often felt excluded from the standard middle school cliques that so often occur in those settings. But Ashley was nothing if not a trooper. She was always there, always participating, always smiling and always talking my ear off!  And I loved her. She had moved into high school by the time I departed High Point in 1994, and over the next few years she became a real leader in the youth ministry. She was often in my prayers after I left, because there was such potential for her circumstances to overwhelm her. They did not.

Ashley attended college and followed in the footsteps of many a hero by spending a few summers working as a counselor at Quaker Lake Camp. She then went on to work as a youth pastor in small Friends Meetings in NC before moving on to serve a Presbyterian church in Texas, a Methodist church in Virginia and the living in Las Vegas for a time while serving the mission Solar Under the Sun as one of their directors. It was through that organization that she developed her great love of Haiti and the people there. Everywhere Ashley has gone she has made a difference by living out her mantra- "Love God, Love People!" And now she has arrived at FUMC-Shreveport...and the world may never be the same!

In her new calling, Ashley has found a church that shares her vision (and the Gospels') of taking Jesus to the world. She is not going back to Haiti until July, because between now and then she will be spending time helping to establish missions in every corner of the globe. The scope of what she will be working on is truly amazing- you might even say HEROIC! Ashley has had her share of personal struggles. She still has health issues to deal with. She could have thrown in the towel on any number of occasions. But she has persevered. And God is using her to do amazing things. The first Quaker, George Fox, encouraged us all to "walk cheerfully throughout the world answering to that of God in everyone." Ashley Goad heeds that 350 year old call every day. 

Ashley and I share a great deal. We are both fans of the Beach Boys and Jimmy Buffett. We both love baseball, Disney World and UNC basketball (despite that abomination of a Dook sweatshirt she is wearing in that old picture). We are both Quakers at heart who have found ourselves in ministry with various denominations and groups as we seek to serve Jesus. And we both love exclamation points!!!   She was once a student in my youth group who needed my love, support and guidance. Now I often count on her for many of those same things.  I don't throw the word hero around too often. But I use it freely and gladly today. Blessings on you and your ministry, Ashley. I am so proud to be your friend and prayer partner.

Because of Jesus,

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