On May 30, Ashley Breitnauer of Cedaredge stepped off of the plane at Denver International Airport thankful for the chance to complete a life-enriching experience that in 11 months had taken her through 11 foreign countries on three different continents sharing God's love with others.
Her journey had the blessing of her parents, John and Barb Breitnauer, and her travels took place with support of a Georgia-based ministry program, The World Race.
But even so, Ashley explains there was a much higher authority that ordained her journey and that of the six other members on the missions team she served with.
"We all came away with some great friends and had tons of good times," Ashley said. "However, this experience was a hard and challenging one. It was about giving of myself and my skills and glorifying God. I said 'yes' when He called, and He used me for His kingdom."
The 11 countries she visited — beginning on July 12, 2012, with her arrival in India — were, in order: Nepal, Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Uganda,Kenya, Tanzania, Latvia and Estonia.
Support from the Georgia organization included being in regular contact with Ashley's team, which was part of a larger missions squad group. Their travel arrangements were provided, though the members funded themselves. In total there were 57 individuals she traveled with throughout the 11 months.
They were teamed in groups of six or seven who stayed together throughout the trip. They lived off $12 a day which covered meals, lodging and transportation. Each member raised $15,500 to cover their costs. They carried one large backpack and one smaller bag for a tent, sleeping bags, mattress pad and clothes.
They always had a local contact on arrival in a new country. Still, "You never knew what you were going to experience on any day. You place trust for your life in the Lord," Ashley said. And she would discover that missions work involves many different ways of helping others.
"In India," Ashley recalled, "we did a lot of witnessing, singing and praying. It was an eye-opening experience for me to realize how many people have never heard the name of Jesus."
Nepal was an experience of hard, physically exhausting labor for her and her team. "We worked in the heat cutting bamboo and building a fence to help protect a chapel," she recalled. The month in Nepal had a definite down side; while there, Ashley spent three days in hospital with an intestinal infection.
In Thailand, the team put its construction skills to more good use building soccer goals for youth. They also spent time hosting Bible studies on the local college campus and teaching Bible stories to elementary students. "It was a good time," Ashley said.
Their month in Malaysia provided work and some difficult emotions to deal with ministering at a children's home. There they worked with orphans "who were experiencing a very harsh environment," Ashley said. The group also gave English lessons to women from Pakistan, Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan who had moved there for their families' work in the oil industry. Months later, Ashley's team learned that the local pastor contact there had been murdered because of his work helping the women.
Ashley said, "You know going in there is the possibility of some danger. You are white and you have a backpack with what to others is lots of stuff. One time we had our tents slashed, but no one was hurt. You may feel scared sometimes, but you learn a lot about trusting the Lord."
Cambodia provided an especially satisfying experience for Ashley. "It was a beautiful month," she said. The team taught English to youth in a school, and they were able to form close friendships with the students they tutored for the entire month.
Vietnam was the only officially communist country they visited, and they entered under a thin cover as tourists. In Ho Chi Minh City they had the sense of being closely watched. "Our local pastor contact is followed all of the time," Ashley said. Still, they were able to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and staged a Christmas pageant with young people.
"Ministry includes everything you can do to reach out to others with the love of the Lord," Ashley said.
The next stop took the group to Africa and Uganda where they worked in a clinic for people with HIV. "We cleaned, prayed and helped in testing newborns for HIV," Ashley said.
Their next stop, Kenya, is an English speaking country dating from its time as an important British colony. "It was a true evangelical month," Ashley said. "We spent time each day praying, worshiping, leading Bible studies, and visiting home after home."
The team's month in Tanzania was spent in a country with a very unstable political environment. "There was a lot of evangelism, but a lot of the people wanted money from us," Ashley said.
And so it was that after nine months of summer heat in the subcontinent of India, Southeast Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa the team arrived the day before Easter in Latvia, on the Baltic Sea coast, greeted with three feet of snow on the ground.
It was a completely unexpected situation, and the Lord came through with a completely unexpected blessing. The team wasn't prepared for the sudden change of climate. Some local church people immediately adopted the new arrivals, took them in, fed them, and gave them warmer clothing.
Their ministry month was busy working in "Old Russia," a poor and destitute section of Riga, the capital, where many ethnic Russians, including some homeless, live. "We brought bags of food to the local parks and apartment buildings, worshiped anywhere and everywhere, and met with people at their homes and built relationships with them," Ashley said.
In neighboring Estonia, the group cleaned, painted, and cut logs at a Christian church camp.
Back at home in June, Ashley reflected on her experiences and recalled the goodness in people they met. "I never saw so much love and hope," she said. "Over and over again there were strangers who took us into their homes and fed us. I saw the love of the Lord is in all of us. The world is so full of wonderful people in all of the different countries."
In the course of helping others, Ashley experienced spiritual growth of her own on the trip. "I was refined and grown by the Lord over and over and I still will be for years to come. It is wonderful to know I am still growing as a woman of God and still have so much to learn," she said. "A person's relationship with the Lord is not defined by the church or their parents, but by what the Lord reveals to them."
While in the Baltic countries where reliable Internet service was available, Ashley arranged an online job interview with the Colorado Farm Bureau. She was offered a position on the final day of her mission work.
Now the 2012 Oklahoma State University graduate is using her degree in agricultural communications as the associate director of policy communications with the CFB in Denver.
Ashley plans to continue serving in ministry by mentoring high school girls and volunteering in various community organizations in Denver.
"I want to bring the Lord's light with me wherever I go," she said.
Editor's note: The World Race is affiliated with the mission organization, Adventures in Missions (AIM), based in Gainesville, Georgia.blog comments powered by Disqus