Looking around you think.. she’s got everything

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First off, I must say, forgive me for the long blog hiatus. In the crazy whirlwind of moving to the city, making my first apartment a home, teaching full time, and interning with a Christian non-profit in Chicago you could say I’ve had my hands full. I’ve been writing blogs for Empower Chicago and usually all my “revelation” is posted there. This however, is a not-so-spiritual outlook and I figured it would be more appropriate to be read here, amongst peers and supporters. (Thanks for reading by the way!!)

I have had the Little Mermaid’s song “Part of Your World” stuck in my head for a week. Ask my coworkers, apparently I’ve been singing it for that long, too. (whoops.)

While in the middle of humming the lyrics, “Flippin’ your fins, you don’t get too far..” I immediately saw how the character, Ariel, was comparing her life to an unknown one and believing it to be better than her own.

Friends, we are plagued by this “grass is greener on the other side” mentality every day. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve stepped away from friendships because they have become so consumed with materials or social status. Life is about exploring, relationships, and shouldn’t depend on what we have or others have. Life is not about looking Pinterest perfect or how many likes you got on the thousandth selfie you posted on Instagram.

As this obsession grows in our culture I’ve been drawn to becoming more simplistic in my way of living. (Granted, my simplifying things could be complicating it for others.) It’s the little things we do that show where our priorities are. Sometimes, you don’t have to look picture perfect before stepping out of the house. We live in a world where no one is perfect. And in my case, if you live in Chicago, everyone is a little weird. Even the girl on the train sporting her Michael Kors bag and Hunter rain boots.

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been using the time I’d normally be doing my makeup or hair in the morning and adding 15 minutes to spend time with the Lord. It’s not a big amount but it helps me focus on who is really in control of this day. It’s not me. It’s not others. God is my center.

We all can lose our focus and think if we just had a little larger salary, we’d be able to really make an impact. Then things would be better. But what if you get that job and you work with people you despise to sit around all day? There is no perfect job other than the one you’re meant to do. And even then, every day is a choice. Yes, dare to dream! But don’t compare and imagine it to be perfect. We’re human. *laughs* We’ll never be perfect.

If you are not happy in the now with what you have,

When will you be satisfied?

“Looking around here you think
Sure, she’s got everything

I’ve got gadgets and gizmos a-plenty
I’ve got whozits and whatzits galore
You want thingamabobs?
I’ve got twenty!

But who cares?
No big deal
I want more

Flippin’ your fins, you don’t get too far..”

Fire in Kya Sands

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We had been working for over a month looking for people that our summer teams had met and had ministry conversations with. We now

stood there at the top of the hill looking at where we once had weaved in out of, looking for shack numbers and people, left in ashes.

Some of our Bible study friends lost their homes, their clothes, their money, everything.

Many people lined up to register how much land they once held, where they home had once stood. I began to walk around the site along with these now homeless people. They already have so little and now even that is gone. Even though they had lost everything, they were all pulling together, attempting to rebuild and prod the process along as quickly as possible.

After the land had been cleared a large bulldozer drove in and started clearing the land, crushing everything in it’s path and demolishing whatever was left behind. All I could think about is how difficult it would be to watch where my home once was, any fond memory I had of where I lived was now being erased. These people are so used to suffering that they have become numb to the pain yet still find a way to be joyful in their circumstances. That was the most difficult thing for me to process through. The most unfathomable to me, consistently, is how the people who live in these informal settlements continue to find the positive in their difficult and uncomfortable situations.

Many of the people who live in these settlements are from a surrounding country in Africa. In December, most leave South Africa and travel home to spend a month or two before returning to find work. They save up the whole year (and sometimes years) for the expensive trek home. When Americans experience a house fire, they list off the expensive electronics and maybe the precious family photos they lost. These people were devastated at losing a pair of shoes or all their money that had kept in a tin can inside their shack.

When we found out that our friends had lost their homes, we decided that although we couldn’t help everyone who had lost their homes, we could help the ones we knew. Some of us interns along with Impact Africa staff came together and put together bags with soap, snacks, bottles, clothes, and blankets, along with a Bible for each mother. They were most excited about the Bibles and continued to thank us! Even though this fire happened at the beginning of the month when they had been attending our Bible study for only a few weeks, they still come and one of the women rides a bus from a separate community because she loves it so much. They all have homes and I am so thankful they are safe!!

Yes, I’m Still in South Africa!

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Hello friends and family!

Some of you may be joining in as a result of the articles written about me in the Beloit Daily Newspaper (and an article coming up in the Janesville Gazette as well!) Thanks for visiting the blog and reading about my story!

The past two months have been considerably hectic with many teams pouring in from all over the world but have grown me in so many ways! Seeing lives changed in the communities (and on the teams) is an extremely humbling experience as well as eye-opening. Watching others as they journey through the struggles of sharing their faith and relating to others has given me more of a passion to share and determination to encourage them as they dig deeper in their walk with God.

Towards the end of May I met a woman named Sharon living in the communities. She had a four year old daughter tied to her back and wove through shacks to bring me to her home. It was the smallest shack I had ever seen, fitting only a full sized bed and a cardboard box to stack her belongings on.

For a long while we sat and talked, she gladly opened up to me about what was going on, thankful for a listening ear. Staying with a “boyfriend” in order to have a roof over her and her daughter’s heads, she wakes up before the sun to collect garbage and hopes to turn it into the scrapyard in order to feed her and her daughter. Stuck in the thought process of only relying on herself in order to do anything, hearing about the gospel and what Jesus did for her was shocking.

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About a month after Sharon had been coming to Bible study regularly we were able to give Sharon a Bible. At first, she was scared to read it often because she didn’t want it to get dirty. It took a little bit of time but she began to read it and discovered the truth for herself. She used to talk about “cleaning herself” but now she is pointing out that because Jesus forgave us we should forgive others!

The other day I was talking to Sharon and she began to tell me that there are days she is tired and doesn’t want to go to Bible study but goes anyway; how even when she has a bad day she reads her Bible or prays she feels a peace. “Even if I have nobody to talk to, God is always listening. Even if I have nothing, God is always listening.”

This is the reason I’m here in South Africa. To change lives like this. To see God tangibly taking a hopeless situation and filling it with His life. This is what happens when you are motivated by the Love of God!

Almost There!

Life updates, Uncategorized

Just a couple of weeks till I leave for the internship in South Africa!

I am so excited to begin this next chapter of awesome ministry and growth!!

In the past two months, I’ve already raised 4,805 dollars. WOW –  thank you to all my awesome supporters!

(if you have not sent your pledges yet, please send them so that I may effectively calculate how much more support I need)

However, I still need $11,195!!!

Some of you may not know about the internship, so here are the most commonly asked questions I receive:

What exactly will you be doing down there?

So many things!! The purpose of the internship is to learn how to more effectively minister and spread the gospel cross-culturally. Just as I did on my last missions trip, I will be going to the communities and sharing God’s love with them. So many churches and ministries have a script that you read to people and at the end, they receive the Lord. It’s not very effective, and while it may push you out of your comfort zone, it’s not equipping them for the journey of a lifetime.

With Impact Africa we create relationships. Instead of preaching at someone telling them they’re going to hell, we sit down and take the time to get to know them. The purpose is to create disciples and world changers instead of “converting” someone and leaving them to figure out their faith alone. As interns we will also train other groups (like they did with me last time) to effectively share the Word of God. Impact Africa also has daycare centers in the communities (both Kya Sands and Diepsloot) that I will also be helping with. They have a kids outreach in each community once a week where we get to share the Love of God and love on the kids.

Where will you be staying?

All of the interns will have houses to stay in 11 girl interns in one and between 5-6 (i can’t remember how many) guys in another house.

What do all of the finances cover?

The funds will go toward housing, air fare, visa, food and living expenses, as well as international health insurance and any unplanned needs that may occur.

How can I help?

Please prayerfully consider partnering with the Lord’s vision by enabling me to carry out His work. You can do a one time gift (if writing a check please write it to Impact Africa) or even sponsor monthly (by clicking here , reoccurring donation, using paypal and typing my name in the notes). If you have any other questions I would love to answer!! Email me: ashleybbridges(at)gmail.com

You guys have seen the change and growth that was implemented in the last trip and I would love to partner with you in this awesome ministry opportunity!

God bless and happy New Year!

Forgive and Let Go.

Challenge & Revelation, Uncategorized

This morning as I was driving home from church a thought occurred to me.

There will always be drama around you, it’s your reaction that determines the outcome.”

In high school (you know, a few months ago) I always bragged that I didn’t have any drama. I later realized it was because I made the decision I didn’t have time for it. When a situation arose where people were taking sides, I avoided it. Now, I see things a little differently.

Drama populates every circle. You make the choice to either side with whomever you’re talking to or find out the real story. Let’s be honest, most of the time the first version of the story you hear, isn’t the real one. So what do you do when a friend comes to you crying and hurt, spouting out how this person lied to them and destroyed their dreams?

Listen.

A true friend listens when support is needed. You don’t have to side with this person (even though, some may take your head nod as an agreement..) People need to be heard out, get the garbage out of their head that keeps harassing them. Others say what they need to say, but continue to circle one thought like a vulture with it’s intended prey.

The key is to focus on what they’re saying, comfort them, and help them rise above it. Drama can cloud a mind and often leaves people disoriented and confused. It can act like tear gas, dropping you to your knees in surprise, sinking with you to the floor. The tear gas blurs your vision and can cause disorientation, confusion, and sometimes panic. When exposed to tear gas, the best thing to do is stay calm and not rub it in.

What does this have anything to do with drama? When you’re offended, what is your immediate response? Do you respond in anger or do you keep calm? It may sound simple but take a deep breath. It’s harder to remember this than you think. The last thing you want to do when dealing with a stressful situation is to dwell on it. Constantly turning over the situation won’t fix anything, and dwelling on your hurt or anger will only make the circumstances worse.

You don’t have to be apart of it. Feed the peace, not the strife. 

Some friends will look to you as their voice of reason. Some may need you to stand taller than the attack and pull them up. Our words were meant to uplift and never condemn. There is a difference between having an opinion and accusing. Watch your tone, and be careful in your phrasing with words. When someone is already surrounded by drama, they can easily become offended.

With that said, don’t tread so lightly that you become an enabler. Allowing people to see the reality is never easy and there may not always be a right moment. Pray about it. Say what you have in your mind first, think it through, don’t let your tongue flap in the wind. Self-reserve can be the most modest and respected attribute of a person.

Okay, those are my thoughts for the week/day/whatever. You know 🙂 Have a great week, guys!