Mark Ashby is a very close friend of mine. He actually was one of my youth back in 2002-2003 at Tucker First UMC.
Why is love always like a battlefield?
I started a new church in November of 2010. When I came here, there were a lot of things that had happened to this group. The main thing was that their last youth pastor was here seven years. When I heard this news, I was amazed. That is a LONG time in youth ministry. However, when I started doing discipleship and fellowship times with my students, something struck my pretty quick. “These youth are ready!” For seven years they were trained and discipled through the last youth pastor. It was time to take that and move it into action. It was time to change the direction and the heart beat of this group and to be the hands and feet of Christ into communities; in the name of Jesus.
This leads me to summer. Summer programming is filled with movie nights, bowling, summer camps and of course the mission trips. Our youth choir was planning to go to Gatlinberg, TN for our Choir Tour this summer. On April 28, 2011, our destination changed. The Choir Director came to me and asked if we could serve where there was tornado damage. I said told him that is an amazing idea and that I would make it happen.
We had our dates set. We had a new idea and I was going to run with it. I started calling people I knew in areas but we could never get a response quickly enough. Many people came through and were already on the mission to help and serve in North Georgia. My contact list suddenly fell down to no one. Then I remembered that North Alabama had been hit also. So I made contact with one of the few people I knew, and we finally had a mission and a destination.
We were one week out. We were going to go to Alabaster, AL to work through a ware house and sort food and clothing for people that needed it and were hit by the tornado. I got a phone call one afternoon from my contact. He says that we could no longer come. FEMA and insurance would not allow us to come in. I was stunned. I pulled over and began to cry. I thought our mission trip was not going to happen. 45 minutes later, I got a phone call from a woman at UMVIM. She was calling to see if we were ready to come and if there was something we needed from her. Through my tears and stumbling of words, I told her what happened. She told me to wait 15 mins and she would call me back.
30 minutes later, she called back. Because of the dedication of her team at the UMVIM offices and the amazing hand of God, we were able to find a new location to stay and a new project to work on. This all came down to the day before we left for our mission.
I am not one to procrastinate, much, but this had me fully depending on God. I was about to tell 20+ people we could no longer go on the trip and that we did it all for nothing. God needed us to depend on Him. We prayed and He did.
To date, in youth ministry, I have never seen God orchestrate something so beautiful and amazing in such a short amount of time. It was only because of God that we were able to see and help a woman salvage her roof that was flung from her house. It was only though God that we were able to make friends and connections in the North Alabama area. It was only though God that we were able to show the love of Him to someone who needed it most. This is the most incredible mission story I have ever experienced.
Mark Ashby is the Director of Student Ministries at Americus First UMC. You can follow his blog at http://markashby.blogspot.com/ and also on twitter markashby11