|Jay, Kristen, Kelly, Sterling, Kyle, Jason, Tom (seated), Ashley, Nick, Travis, and Tom were among the guests at Ashley's Breakfast Club Farewell Breakfast today|
I call her the Redhead. I've called her that for 14 years, ever since she showed up to volunteer at Ranch Camp at 13 as a mop-headed Little Orphan Annie look-alike.
She and Kelly went to Thrall Elementary School together, the same age but never in the same class because we'd held Kelly back a year. They rode the bus together, though, and I suspect on several occasions some kid got his comeuppance because the Redhead wouldn't allow Kelly to be teased.
Her name is Ashley Ashmore, aka “Double A” to differentiate her from the current abundance of Ashleys, and today she leaves us after two years as RA of Martha House. Of all the things that happen at the Ranch, this is what we hate most of all: saying goodbye.
All during her school years, Ashley volunteered at the Ranch every time we opened the doors. During her years at Mary Hardin Baylor University she worked as Weekend RA, and occasionally took interim positions of various kinds. She's another of those out-of-the-box employees you can trust to do anything.
Even look after your own kid, which she does.
Ashley taught public school special ed for a few years but still worked with us during the summers. (I always tell the SPED Departments they should pay Down Home Ranch a finder's fee for all those who switch majors after working at the Ranch.) Although she doesn't hold the longevity record for her current position, she's right up there with Jerry, Kelly and me as far as her presence here in different capacities.
When we went to the National Down Syndrome Congress meetings in San Antonio last July, Ashley became captivated by all the toddlers and babies with Down syndrome. “I'm gonna get me one of those,” she said, and promptly signed up for the workshop on adopting babies with DS.
In a few years, I fully expect some little scamp to be welcomed home by his or her red-headed dynamo of a mama.
We've had RAs move on because they tired of the people, the work, or the isolation of the Ranch, or to get married, or really just to do something easier.
Ashley is leaving to work in Uganda with orphans who have intellectual disabilities. Somehow I suspect the working conditions there are not going to be better than the Ranch (although the roads probably share some similarities).
What draws Ashley to Africa is what drew her to the Ranch–the desire to put her faith on the line, and say “Here am I, Lord,” and to listen to His call. A dyed-in-the-wool Baptist, her faith is unshakeable and her spirit strong.
We wish her well, and our hearts go with her to work with these meekest lambs of the Shepherd's fold. Thanks to the internet, we hope to follow her adventures and help our Ranchers expand their understanding of the world.
That she will return to us we have no doubt. In the meantime, please join us in praying for her well-being, spiritual, physical, and mental, as she goes to work with the poorest of the poor in Uganda. She asks that we pray that:
- The Holy Spirit daily guide her
- Christ will use her to reflect His abundant love
- She will be stretched and challenged, and
- the little ones she works with will know that the one true King has a beautiful purpose for their lives
Follow Ashley's blog at http://www.anuncommonbeauty.blogspot.com/
The Mission: Africa Inland Mission, www.aimint.org/usa
Check out more photos at Down Home Ranch's Facebook page.