DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

A True Story

Written by: on March 19, 2015

I had full intention of writing about Haiti today. Haiti can be an isolating place, and my first lengthy amount of time in Haiti was very isolating as I sat atop a mountain surrounded by people I had never met who did not speak my language…and I had yet to make friends, even with a mango tree. It was a positive/self-choice, voluntary isolation.[1]… But I’ll get back to that later.

This morning I woke up, and I was reminded of my first, and only, real isolation experience. It is what Shelley Trebesch in Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader would refer to as the “sovereign intervention involuntary” type of isolation. I felt the call to ministry at a young age. In fact, it was an overwhelming call from God. I went to college, though, and suddenly my interests and my plans emerged. For four years, I studied political science. I interned for the House Majority Leader. I was at the state party’s headquarters every week. The Governor knew me by name. I loved politics. Ministry? What was that? I had dreams. After I graduated, I would go to law school – Wake Forest Law School actually, as that is where my whole family went. Then I would head back to the Hill and work. My plans were awesome. I was arrogant, but hey, I had a reason to me. I was awesome.

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I will never forget that moment my LSAT scores arrived in the mail. I don’t remember the exact number, but I am sure that no one had ever scored lower than me. Still, worry did not set in, as my grades were impeccable, and my recommendations were from Congressmen! How would Wake Forest not accept me? But they didn’t. I went to Mexico that summer, like I had every summer, to work with Pastor Jorge and his family, and then I began work for a church down the road. Yes, I was the Baptist Church secretary for 10 months. It gave me time to regroup, think, and pray. However, I was not praying with an open heart; I was praying with an arrogant heart. I remember actually saying, “How are we going to make my plans work, God?” I applied for graduate schools and decided to go to the University of Georgia to obtain my masters in Political Science. Awesome. My plans were still working.

In the meantime, I led a trip to Honduras for a group of Baptist men, and then I went back to Pastor Jorge’s in Mexico. Jorge had three children, and the daughter and I were the same age. That summer, we celebrated her marriage, and she moved with her new husband to Mexico City. I returned from Mexico, packed my bags, and left for Athens, Georgia. Woo hoo, my plans were rockin’! I moved in to a new apartment, the first place I ever lived alone. I remember my parents and two gal pals pulling away… It was an overwhelming sense of absolute loneliness. I forced myself to pull it together, as the next day was the first day of orientation. Finally, my plans were coming together.

The next morning, I sat with a group of similar students, all of whom had political backgrounds and aspirations just like me, but I could not get over the feeling in my gut. At lunch, as the others spoke of their internships and jobs, I continually brought up my time in Honduras and Mexico. They stared at me like I was an alien. I returned home that evening, and I was gutted. I knew this was not where I was supposed to be. I knew this was not what I was supposed to be doing. I had never felt more alone and further away from God in my life. Rejected probably isn’t the right word, but perhaps dejected is. I was stripped bare knowing how far from God I had drifted. Alone, in this apartment with no friends or family nearby, I began to cry…huge tears…followed by cries to God. I was broken.

The next day, I did not return to orientation. I sat alone in my apartment and wrestled with God. I was confused. I had no idea what to do. And worst of all, I was embarrassed. I couldn’t call my parents. I couldn’t call my friends. I couldn’t go to school. I didn’t eat or drink all day.

The next day, I woke up. I had spent much of the night in prayer, drawing close to God. And finally, I faced reality. I picked up the phone, and I called my parents. I asked them to bring a moving truck that weekend. Though they were surprised, they didn’t ridicule me or question me. Next I went to the school. I told them I wouldn’t be returning. They tried to talk me out of it, but I simply thanked them and left.

The next day, I went into planning mode. I was looking forward to the future, but I had no idea how to get there. I called my “sister” in Mexico City. She was the only one I had confided in about my struggles, and she said she had been expecting my call. After boxing up my things and moving back to North Carolina, I packed a small suitcase and moved to Mexico City. The next months, I served alongside the missionaries, learning, growing, experiencing, hoping, and expectantly waiting on God to reveal His path.

I spent 7 days in complete, utter isolation and despair. When I look back upon that time, though, I see it as the pivotal moment in my life. God had been chiseling away at me, and I finally allowed in Him. As Trebesch said, there was a kindling of desire to serve God in a deeper way. He brought me into His calling for my life, and now here I am…definitely not perfect, but hoping to never go through a period of isolation like that ever again!

 

 

[1] Shelley Trebesch, Isolation: A Place of Transformation in the Life of a Leader (Altadena, CA: Barnabas Publishers, 1997), 31-32.

About the Author

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Ashley Goad

Ashley is the Global Missions Pastor at First United Methodist Church in Shreveport, Louisiana. She's a UNC fanatic, Haiti Enthusiast, Clean Water Activist, Solar Power Supporter... www.firstserves.org www.solarunderthesun.org www.livingwatersfortheworld.org

12 responses to “A True Story”

  1. mm Liz Linssen says:

    Dear Ashley
    Wow, what an experience. I really admire you for plucking up the courage to recognise early on that this wasn’t where you were supposed to be. A very brave decision. And praise God you did that! I mean, look at how God is using you now, and all the lives you are blessing all over the world!
    I also learned that it’s not about bringing our plans to God and asking Him to bless them. His plans are way better than ours. What a wonderful God we serve.

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Liz, you’re so kind! You know, looking back, it’s so clear. God had a path, and had I not been so stubborn (one of my finest qualities!), those years could have been so much easier! However, it was during that time that God did His greatest work on me. Because of that vulnerability and struggling, I am who I am today, and my faith is greater. Oh, He is so good.

  2. mm Deve Persad says:

    Ashley for President!! Love that picture.
    Yesterday, at our monthly pastors lunch, my colleague next to me was talking about renovation plans at their church. He said something to the effect, we can raise about $650,000 and we’ll trust God to do the rest and make it work. I remember thinking the very things that you articulate in your post.
    We are so often guilty of forming our ideas/plans and asking God to make them happen – indeed how arrogant.
    Your willingness to listen and adjust and now follow the Lord’s leading is a great reminder to us all. These benchmarks in our journey are what steady us in times of uncertainty. How often have you been encouraged or redirected because of the realizations you made during that time of isolation?

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Deve, I think back to that time…all the time. Now, I wait for God. Unless I have a clear leading, I don’t go. Prayer and listening are key. Oh, I am so thankful for that time, that painful time when God so greatly worked and molded me for the here and now. You know, as we are going forward with our mission plan of reaching every continent by 2022, we have expanded to five continents rapidly. The pastor asked me recently why we hadn’t pushed even further this year, and I answered, “He hasn’t been clear. I don’t know where He wants us to go yet. I’m waiting for His instructions.” Life is so much better that way – not in isolation, but as a partner with God.

  3. Miriam Mendez says:

    I love the picture! Thank you for sharing your powerful and yet stripping experience. God has a way of not letting us forget the call that He has placed in our lives—wherever that may be—but God does not let us go! I am thankful that you listened. You had a few detours—but I believe, though isolation experiences—they were experiences that brought you back to the first call in your life. I am grateful that you listened. Peace to you my friend!

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Miriam, that stripping experience has changed me for life, and I, too, am so thankful for it. God never forgets… I love that. And I am so thankful for you… Had I not gone through that experience, I would never be here now!

  4. Michael Badriaki says:

    Ashley, what an excellent and powerful post! I am aware that it’s probably easy for me to seat on this other side, read, enjoy and be encouraged by your story, yet at the time, it was vexing for you to go through it all.
    I struggled with this week’s reading about isolation, mainly because I do not like the experience of it. Yet stories like yours and Trebesch encourage to hope even amid isolation.

    Thank you!

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Michael, drudging up that story hurt! But, as I wrote it, there was a sense of thankfulness. Looking at the past 13 years, I stand in awe of what God has created and cultivated in me. It’s amazing what God can do when we go to Him willingly. And now, I can be encouraged, like you, to move forward fully relying on Him! Amen!

  5. Ashley,

    Thanks for sharing your story here. Fantastic, honest story. Loved it! I always wondered how you got into missions work; now I know. I love your parents; they seem cool and supportive.

    I am glad that you were obedient to your calling. How different life might have been for you had you not listened, had not wrestled, had not wept in prayer. I am glad for your obedience.

    We all need times of brokenness. I have had many in my day. They were never pleasant but always necessary and fruitful. I believe that humility, true humility, is the mark of the Holy Spirit on a minister’s life. Without that, Christian leadership is impossible.

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Bill, ohhhh my parents. I think they, too, have learned that God’s plans are bigger than any of ours. I love them. They are the ultimate cheerleaders.

      Obedience was a hard lesson, and I am thankful that God did not give up on me, even when my plans were much more important than His plans.

      You are good, Bill! Thank you for your encouragement!

  6. mm Julie Dodge says:

    As always, my friend, you write from your heart. It is amazing how God works in our young lives. Our youthful arrogance convinces us that we are doing what God wants – because He should want this for us. And then He says no, I have something else in mind. I am grateful for your tender heart that listened and followed Him, instead of just gutting out. You could have done that. But you listened. And you responded to the voice of your Father, no matter what the cost. Peace to you my friend.

    • mm Ashley Goad says:

      Julie, thank you for those kind words. I am still amazed at time at my stubbornness, but I am thankful that that, too, is a gift from God. Now, I’ve refocused that stubborn attitude to stay as fully entrenched in Him as possible.

      So thankful for you, my friend!

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