3.28.2008

Vision Trip Update...



Dear Family and Friends:

Hello! I trust that you all have been keeping well since my last update for my trip to South Asia!

Preparations for the trip have been starting to come together. I have received my vaccinations, and have sent my passport to my team leader for the VISA. I am in the process of getting pictures done for the VISA application, which I will give to Jessica (my team leader) next week.

Yesterday I received a package in the mail from Jessica which is loaded with information about the trip, including our team biographies, introduction to cross-cultural ministries, the country profile, and spiritual preparation. I am looking forward to reading through all of this. Knowing the others on my team also have this makes me feel a sense of connection with them already. We are all preparing for this trip together, and we are all brothers and sisters in Christ longing to glorify Him in this stretching experience.

I have some exciting news to share with you! I now have received $1170 of the total $3100 for my trip that is quickly approaching! I do have some financial deadlines coming up, however. I only need $830 by April 2nd, and the remaining amount of $1100 is due by April 25th. If the Lord has been leading you to support me financially in this trip, you may send a cheque to this address for a tax receipt:

Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada
Receipts Department
4316 10 St. NE
Calgary, AB
T2E 6K3

Thank you so much for prayerfully considering your partnership in this trip!

I do have some prayer requests:
1.) For focus and motivation in school in these last three weeks
2.) For our team to grow more in Christ this month as we prepare to leave
3.) For trust that God will provide all of our financial needs

Thank you to those who have been praying for me. Continue to keep me in your prayers as this next month is going to get busier with school and more preparations before we leave on May 4th!

God Bless!

Love, Ash

3.27.2008

The End is Near...

I can't believe my last day of classes is April 11. I don't know what to do with myself. I have an incredible amount of homework that I have due, and VERY little amount of time to do it all. Need I say more? Incredibly, I am not stressing. I would like to say that it is because I can feel God's presence so near to me that I don't have to worry. Sometimes that is true. However, I feel the reason why I am not stressing is because I am choosing to pretend that the work doesn't exist. I believe that the amount of homework that I have due is all subjective. It is a figment of my imagination, and is all relative to my situation...*

Ya right. However, I have decided that it is better to start working away at one thing rather than focusing on the mountain that is before me. So, I chip away. And to amuse myself in classes, I write poetry. (for clarification, I haven't done this in a LONG time, and I actually was paying attention to the lecture WHILE writing...inconceivable!)

I want to run like a jaguar,
Swim like a barracuda,
Fly like the toucan.

I want to jump like a squirrel,
Walk like a lion,
Dance like the butterfly.

I want to laugh like a stream,
Cry like a waterfall,
Sing like the waves.

I want to scream like a howling wind,
Shout like the owl in the dead of night...

I want to be silent,
Then perhaps I will be heard.

-AshWin-

I hope you have a blessed day!

Love, Ash

*I blame the use of philosophical terms in this blog on my philosophy of religion class. It alters my mind...

3.25.2008

MORE SNOW...

Ok, so just when I thought that spring was around the corner, what swirled around in the air today but MORE SNOW! I couldn't believe it, and although I was perturbed, I decided not to dwell on it too much. If God wants to ..."bless" us with snow yet again, I have to be thankful for every little unique snowflake that falls to the ground.

I was VERY thankful for my boss this morning. I was supposed to work a 3 hour shift, but she let me take it off so I could work on some, ahem, VERY late papers. It was so nice of her, and of course I felt obligated to do homework since that was the reason I wasn't working. I felt like I got a little more accomplished than I have been lately, so it was nice!

Tonight we talked about Islam in my world religions class. It was a great class, and it helped me understand a little bit more about Muslims, and how to talk to them about my faith. I hope it will come in handy when I go on my trip to South Asia.

I should go...I'm planning on working out with Katie soon, and I don't want her to have to wait for me.

I hope you all have a great night!

Love, Ash

3.23.2008

Happy Easter...

He is risen...He is risen indeed!

I'm sure any of you who went to church this morning are familiar with this phrase we are so quick to greet one another with.

It was hard for me to get into the Easter season this year. I didn't have much time to reflect on Jesus' death and resurrection, and so I felt kind of rushed in church. It almost felt like a dream, where you move from one scene to the next without fully understanding what is happening.

Honestly, I doubt that I could ever fully and truly understand. Sometimes when I even try to contemplate, meditate, or reflect on how God sent His perfect Son into the world to die for humanity, to take all of our sins upon Himself, it is overwhelming. That is one thing I thought about on Friday during the Good Friday service. It's bad enough that I feel guilt over my sins, and cry out to God to forgive me for my weaknesses; I can't imagine how Jesus would have felt with the weight of the sins ALL OF HUMANITY taken upon himself. It wasn't just my sins that He bore, but it was the sins of everyone who has ever lived, and everyone who WILL ever live. When I thought about that, I had a new appreciation for what He did. He didn't have to die for our sins, but He did, because of His immense love for us.

The reality is, after He died with the weight of the world upon Him, He AROSE! Just when we think it is over, nothing more can be done, He rises from the dead 3 days later, and reigns victorious over the sin that enslaves us. He has won the battle over Satan, and that is truly something to rejoice over!!

I hope you all had a wonderful day, as you think about all of this. Perhaps you were able to visit family and friends today, and rejoice over the wonderful things God has given to you, be it physically or spiritually. May God bless you all!

Love, Ash

3.20.2008

Easter...

I decided that since Good Friday is tomorrow, I would post a poem that I wrote which is appropriate for this somber day. Remember that Jesus died for you as you read it, and meditate on what His death means in your life.

Bodies.
Writhe around in pain.
Hiding in my shame.
I turn my face away.

Suffer.
What do I know of this?
I, like Judas' kiss,
Condemned my Lord to die.

Feel.
Thorns pierced in His head.
See His skin stained red.
I drove in the nails.

Died.
Christ did it for me,
So I could be free.
How can I do less?

-AshWin-

Love, Ash

3.17.2008

Speech...

I said my speech tonight, and it went fine(Praise the Lord!).

Today was Katie's birthday, so her boyfriend Andrew through a little surprise party for her and invited her close friends here at school. It was a nice little get together, and I know that Katie was really encouraged.

This day went by too entirely fast. I had chapel practice today, and realized that we're playing one of my favourite songs, which is "God of Wonders". I'm so excited for chapel on Wednesday!

I should go, but I hope you all have a great night!

Love, Ash

Emotional Speech...

In my communications class I have to present an emotional speech. I decided to post it here so that you all can read it. I know it won't convey the amount of feeling it would if you heard it, but that's ok.

Here it is:

Good evening. I hope that you all had a wonderful week-end, and were able to get outside yesterday to enjoy the sun!

Tonight I want to talk about a word. Not just any word. Not even an English word either.

There is a word in Portuguese that cannot be translated into any other language. It is used to describe the emotion we feel when we miss something or someone. This feeling of “missing” conveys an almost negative attitude of nostalgia, knowing that we may never get that person or thing back again.

Now, in English we can say that we miss someone, or we can show sadness in not having them with us anymore, but there is no word for that sense of “missing” we feel.

The Portuguese call it “saudades”, and it clearly describes that feeling of longing or yearning for the way things were when we had that person or were in a certain place. It gives a sense of futile “missing”, that no matter what we do, we can never have those moments in time back.

Have you ever felt this way? Do you miss something or someone so much that it hurts, and everything you see or smell or hear seems to remind you of them? I’m sure every one of you has “saudades” right now for someone who has passed away.
I’m grateful to say that I have never lost anyone close to me, but at the same time I am embarrassed at how na├»ve I am in this area. I don’t know what it’s like to lose someone dear. When that time comes, however, I will be able to better sympathize with those who have. If that’s you, I am sorry for your loss.

The “saudades” that I have are not for a person in particular, but for many people, and for a beautiful country in South America, a country so diverse, yet so similar. A culture in which the extremes of poverty and luxury live side by side. This country is Brasil.

In 2005, I went on a missions trip to Brasil with 9 other people from my church. We left in November and stayed in a place near the capital city of Brasilia for three weeks. It was my first time flying, and the trip there was quite the experience. The flight was only a tiny part of what happened during those three weeks. We went to a mission, called Voo Livre, which was run by a missionary who offered free ESL and guitar classes to the surrounding community. We helped teach some ESL classes, started building some classrooms, sanded and painted walls, and did anything else we could.

I never imagined that I would get so attached to that place. We spent almost every week-day at Voo Livre, and I got to know many of the children through playing various games of volleyball and soccer with them. They were so beautiful, kind, and helpful, and even though the language barrier was huge, they slowly won a place in my heart.

All too soon, we had to leave. When I came back to Canada, I couldn’t stop crying, and I couldn’t stop thinking about Brasil and the people there.

Through e-mail, I told one of the ladies I had met there how I was feeling, and she said I could come back and help teach at her English school.

Three months after I returned to Canada, I found myself in Brasil again, and I stayed there for 5 ½ months. I went by myself, and since only a few people knew English, I had to learn Portuguese fast!

However, if I thought that leaving the first time was hard, this time it was even harder. I had solidified some of my relationships, and I had grown to love this beautiful country and the people in it.

When I came back to Canada, I had the hardest time coping. They say that you can have culture shock going into a different country, but I didn’t experience that in Brasil; I felt the culture shock coming back to my homeland! The food was so different, and the people around me did not speak Portuguese. It just didn’t feel the same!

Most of the “saudades” I felt came in response to smelling things in the air that reminded me of Brasil, or seeing people that looked like those I knew in Brasil. I have cried so much in the past two years, and I felt like I was drowning in my memories of the people there.

Thankfully, my “saudades” have greatly diminished in the past few months, but there are still times when I get overwhelmed with a great sadness, and a longing to go back. The people and country have such a big place in my heart, and I will never forget them or that time in my life ever!

I know that God has a plan and a purpose for our lives. Even though at times I feel like I will never stop having “saudades” for Brasil, I have to remember that God knows why He allowed me to go there to experience the things I did.

If you are drowning in your “saudades” for someone or someplace, I just encourage you tonight to place your trust in God. Remember that He has a perfect plan for everything; He has a perfect plan for your life, and He will guide you through it if only you let Him. Give your “saudades” to Him, and He will take care of the rest!

Love, Ash

Spaghetti and Sun...

I made spaghetti today for the first time this year! It was so delicious, and I definitely have left overs. I was so excited to eat something substantial, for my own cooking that is.

The sun was shining so brilliantly that I couldn't resist going for a walk this afternoon. It was still a bit chilly, cold enough to turn my ears and face red, but I had a good time. I didn't wear my coat, so that could be why I was a little bit cold.

This morning in church, the pastor encouraged us to be "socially disruptive". An odd concept, I know, but he told us to help others see that our society is not perfect. We need to shake up our churches and other Christians to put people in action, and not to become complacent. An important concept that has constantly been coming up is "prayer". North Americans do not pray enough. We become so comfortable with our every day life and business that we rarely set aside time to pray diligently for change to happen in our lives and the lives of those around us. I have been trying to pray more, and not only for myself, but I have been trying to pray more for others. One of the best acrostics I heard for a life motto was "JOY"... Jesus, Others, and you. Putting God first is so important, but so hard in this age of technology where other things are so quick to take up our time and distract us from Him. Once we put God first, then we must focus on others, caring, thinking and praying for them. Only then should we think about ourselves. I tend to be so selfish, and most of my prayers are about me and how I can change. It's going to take a while to get out of this habit. Not that it's bad, but when I do that, then I forget to pray for others, or I don't have time.

I encourage you all to examine your prayer life, and see where you are doing a good job and where you are lacking. I pray that God will show you how you can change, and focus more on Him, and I hope that you will do the same for me!

Have a great night...

Love, Ash

3.15.2008

Temple Trips...

Tonight I have decided to tell stories with pictures. I went to a Hindu temple and a Sikh temple today with some others from my school, and it was a very multicultural day, with delicious Indian food to top it all off!

This is the Hindu temple in Toronto. We weren't allowed to take pictures inside, so we had to settle for the outside! Even from looking at the outside, you can imagine how beautiful it would be on the inside, and it was even more so than I imagined. It was all carved in marble, and the carvings were exquisitely beautiful.

Inside the worship place, the women sat closer to the back, and the men sat in the Holy of Holies. The women usually sat and performed the "puja", or cleansing of themselves with fire from a votive. The men were either standing or lying prostrate in front of the idols as they worshiped. The prayer service lasted only about 30 minutes, and the during the service, their sung prayers were played throughout.

The group of us standing in front, although the sun was so bright it was hard to get the temple in the background.



After perusing a flea market(where I met a very nice Lebanese merchant named George while buying a flag pin), we went to the Sikh temple. We sat in the worship place for a while, and then moved on to where they serve lunch. We had to sit on mats to eat our meal. We brought our steel plates and cups over to the mats with us, and then men came around with pails containing the food and ladled it out to us. They were so generous.

George, the man I met at the market, was very interesting to talk to. I don't know what came over me, but I was simply looking at the flag pins when all of a sudden I asked, "Where are you from?" He told me he was from Lebanon, and then our conversation continued from there. I asked him why he moved to Canada, to which he replied that he wanted a better life for his kids. As it was, they were not getting a good education while there. They would have one day at school, and then 10 days off due to bomb threats or other such things. He did not want them to grow up in that kind of an atmosphere, and since his sister lived in Canada at the time, he decided to move here. He told me that he enjoys fishing, and sometimes he goes and fishes up north with his son. Later on I was told that the purpose of going into the market was not to buy anything, but to talk to people and get to mix with the cultures. This was not made clear beforehand, but I'm glad that I was able to talk to George without the pressure of knowing it was expected. It was more natural that way, and I really enjoyed it!

The Sikh worship was very different. Whereas the Hindus have different times for their services, the Sikh worship lasts all day. Their holy scriptures are sung by men at the front, and they also beat on small drums. They must have replacements after a while, because I can imagine that they would get tired of singing the whole day. People can come and go as they please, and the women sit on the left side while the men sit on the right side. Also, Hinduism consists of 330,000,000 gods(Hindus choose one that they worship, while recognizing that the others have power also), Sikhism(a mixture between Hinduism and Islam) worships only one god.

Naomi and I are wearing our head coverings, as both women and men have to wear head coverings in the Sikh temple. As you can see in the picture above, they gave bright orange handkerchiefs out to those who didn't bring head coverings.

I found it difficult to eat the meal with the head covering on, and I kept spilling food on the cuff of my pants! I never thought that would happen, but I have never had to eat a full meal while sitting on the floor either!

Our free meal consisted of(from top left in a clockwise manner): a lentil soup called "daal", Indian rice pudding, a cheese soup, a sweet called "jalaby", rice, and chapati bread(otherwise known as roti, or Indian flatbread). I couldn't believe that the Sikh temple serves all this for free, and there were so many people there today!


Our group standing with some men from the temple. Unlike the Hindu temple, we were allowed to take pictures inside the Sikh temple.


So this little number here is called an "aperture", or something like that(I forget the Indian word). It was supposed to clear the palate after eating so much Indian food, but there was so much flavour going on that I couldn't really handle it! It wasn't spicy, but it had some rose petals,and other strange herbs in it. As one person put it, "it's an acquired taste". I heartily agree!


I know that some of you are going to call me lame for taking so many pictures of food, but seriously, one cannot experience a culture unless one experiences the food as well! I happen to think that food is one of the most amazing inventions God ever created! This sweet little number is called "jalaby", and it is the most delicious "sweetmeat" I have ever eaten. I don't even know how to describe it,other than to say it is sugary and has some syrup-y stuff inside. Man...this one is gold. I have to get me some!


I didn't really know what to expect going into the trip today. I thought it would be kind of like a tourist trip where we would just go and look, as we did. But one of the men who came with us, Sunil, acted as our guide. He is a converted Hindu, and also a pastor. He related everything back to Christianity, and showed how similar the religions are in some ways. He said that many religions get so close to the truth, but then sweep right on by and miss the point.

Sunil is a very interesting Christian, as he has contextualized his beliefs to fit in with the life of a Hindu. For instance, he will still prostrate himself before God(although some Christians do this also). I'm not saying that he has changed the fundamentals of Christianity to suit his needs, but he does not believe in conforming into the "Westernized" version of Christianity. For instance, he led us in communion after the day's events, and instead of using the bread and wine, he used a coconut. He said that if Jesus had lived in India, he probably would have used a coconut also, as bread and wine would not have made sense. When we took communion, the flesh of the coconut represented the flesh of Christ, and the water represented the water that ran out of Christ's body with the blood when the soldier stabbed Him. It was a very neat concept. Sunil also had symbols for us to think about, as Hindus use symbols to represent what they believe. He took a shaker of salt, and had each of us pour a little into our hands. It represented that we are the salt of the earth; we also ate it so that we would remember. He took honey, which represented the milk and honey of the Promiseland,and we all had some, remembering to look forward to the day that Christ takes us to the Promiseland(heaven). He had incense burning, as Hindus use incense in their worship. It represented how we give our bodies as living sacrifices to Christ, and that our worship of him is like fragrant incense. Another symbol was a light, which represents how we are to be bringers of the Light and Truth to our world, to those who are still in darkness and do not know.

It was a very encouraging day, and Sunil asked us to pray that God would set us apart for His cause. We need to let God use us to do His will, and to shine His Light to all the nations, whether here in Canada, or abroad. It is not so that we can make ourselves look better, but it is all to bring glory to God and His Wonderful Name!!!

Love, Ash

p.s. please forgive any spelling mistakes. I am so tired right now, that although I checked once, I'm sure there are more! :)

3.09.2008

Nature...

I know I haven't written in a while, and now I'm going to write only for the purpose of sharing another quote from C.S. Lewis' book called "Miracles".

"...only Supernaturalists really see Nature. You must go a little away from her, and then turn round, and look back. Then at last the true landscape will become visible. You must have tasted, however briefly, the pure water from beyond the world before you can be distinctly conscious of the hot, salty tang of Nature's current. To treat her as God, or as Everything, is to lose the whole pith and pleasure of her. Come out, look back, and then you will see...this astonishing cataract of bears, babies, and bananas: this immoderate deluge of atoms, orchids, oranges, cancers, canaries, fleas, gases, tornadoes and toads. How could you ever have thought that this was the ultimate reality? How could you ever have thought that it was merely a stage-set for the moral drama of men and women? She is herself. Offer her neither worship nor contempt. Meet her and know her. If we are immortal, and if she is doomed(as the scientists tell us) to run down and die, we shall miss this half-shy and half-flamboyant creature, this ogress, this hoyden, this incorrigible fairy, this dumb witch. But the theologians tell us that she, like ourselves, is to be redeemed. The 'vanity' to which she was subjected was her disease, not her essence. She will be cured, but cured in character: not tamed(Heaven forbid) nor sterilised. We shall still be able to recognise our old enemy, friend, playfellow and foster-mother, so perfected as to be not less, but more, herself. And that will be a merry meeting."
-pg 80-81, "Miracles"

I just thought this was a neat passage, just reminding us that nature is not meant to be worshipped nor cursed, but that it is meant to be taken as it is, the way God made it, and with all its flaws from the sin of our world.

I hope everyone has a great rest of the evening.

Love, Ash

3.03.2008

Back into the swing...

School is now getting to the mountainous stage. The part of the show that climaxes. The part where Ashleigh has to step it up a thousand notches. I am now trying not to freak out over how much I have due in the next few weeks. This semester ends in about 7 or 8 weeks.

I had an amazing week-end, because Mel and Vaness came and visited me. We went out for dinner on Friday night with my friends Darryl and Laurie, went to the mall on Saturday, and had some sweet chill time. It was one of my favourite week-ends this year so far! I had so much fun!

The weather today was so wonderful. I couldn't get enough of it! My favourite time of the year is when it is balmy enough to go outside without a coat, and to don the infamous flip-flops. God is so good!

Love, Ash