Stay Posted

August 2019.

The month of August has been one I haven't quite found the words for. It has felt a bit like being sat between a rock and a hard place but being there willingly because that is exactly where the good wine comes from. Not to say I've been entirely crushed this month but simply confronted. Many of my beliefs as a Christian have received invitation to be molded into something new, and as they are being shaped (and I along with them) I find there no longer remains a place to sit comfortably. Arriving somewhere new requires getting there and getting there requires a journey of sorts. So from between the rock and the hard place, I am well on my way but not there yet.

HOME

The month began with a farewell to one home and the returning to another. Home: Amsterdam, Sioux Falls, both, neither. I found aspects of "home" in both but the entirety in neither. A week into August and I was already confronted by my own definition of home. C.S. Lewis says it beautifully, "The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can't supply is proof that Heaven must be our home." While recognizing the beautiful home I have found in both places and many more, I have also come to recognize the reason both can feel so much like home in such different ways is that they are simply a reflection of a particular part of the home we will one day arrive at. I understood in a new way that my belonging is not at all to a place I will find on earth. I understood on a greater level that we are here not that the cities we find ourselves in would serve us but that we might be able to serve the Lord in them. What a privilege to experience a piece of the home to come in the ones I'm given now. But how important it is that the ones I am given now continue to point me back to the one to come. The Lord asked me, "Ashton, would you claim Heaven as your home?". My answer is yes but I'm still learning how.

37598C1D-C455-482B-9C4E-17F4F3047945.JPG
153CC676-0604-4C4A-AEB5-781D232B9E8C.JPG

OBEDIENCE WITHOUT BORDERS

Following the return to Amsterdam, I joined in hosting a gathering at our base. The focus of the gathering was seeing individuals impact the different spheres of society. I began to see a clearer connection between obedience and impact. Moreso, I began to see that full obedience could not happen while still caged in by boundaries. This thought only continued to grow as our team spent a week in Germany for the Western DTS Gathering. It was during this week that my boundaries were called out and canceled. As one of our speakers shared, he commented on the fact that often what we claim to be self-care is really self-preservation. Ouch, right? Gooood stuff though!!! It was these words that woke me up to the reality that my obedience has often been on my own terms. Jesus himself was obedient unto death. What does that mean for us? How often has my obedience only been willing to hear to the point of my boundaries? Of course, there is wisdom, but at the same time, there is sacrifice. Do we trust that the laying down is actually a picking up? In Matthew 16:24 Jesus says to His disciples, "Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me." The cross was not pleasant by any means, but it is His choosing to pick it up that I have been given life. I can only hope we join that others might live as well. It is, by all means, radical and, by the world's standards, foolish. But He is entirely worthy. To be obedient without borders, a risk I am willing to take.

Below I've linked a documentary that highlights a bit of the above thoughts and much more through looking at Middle Eastern Christians living in highly persecuted areas and times. It is intense, it is raw, it is real. I highly recommend taking the time to watch it - allow yourself to be uncomfortable and incredibly challenged by the reality of our brothers and sisters. A second volume recently came out focusing on the growth of the Iranian church. The Kingdom is advancing in insane ways. Let's join the battle in prayer and worship and awareness and involvement.

THE NOW

In sharing all of the above, I do so while still being in the midst of it. I am still very much struggling with the above questions. I am still learning to claim Heaven as my home and how to live a radically obedient life. But like Jacob, I would much rather strive with the Lord and walk away with a limp than miss out on His presence altogether. To be entirely conquered by God, a very strange but quite lovely place to pull our victory from, eh? All I know is that to fight with and live alongside these questions is not only important but it is necessary. All I know is that my yes to being challenged will change the way I love and disciple and live. All I know is that I long for you and for me and for whoever else decides to join us to see Jesus rightly, even when it's a bit painful. I think it's worth it because I think He's worth it. So would you join me in between the rock and the hard place? Good wine requires a decent crushing.

Ashton Sperle
JULY 2019.

Currently: Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
After eleven months here, there, and the next place, it has been surreal to again find myself in the United States. The past month has been one of enjoying still moments, connecting with family and friends, and preparing myself for the months to come.

Iceland.jpg

STILL MOMENTS

My flight home landed me in Iceland for twenty-four hours. What I initially saw as a delay to arriving home turned into a sweet reminder of the necessity of rest. In an apartment with nothing to do and nobody to do it with, the invite was on the table: seize the nothing and give it everything. After a quite full couple of months, to do nothing felt almost eerie. Yet it has been in still moments where I am reminded all over again that what I do is not first and foremost an act of service, but a display of love. It is in quiet moments filled to the brim with nothing that I find His love still. How sweet to love a God who loves us in the context of everything and of nothing and wherever we find ourselves in-between? For me it has made all the difference: an invitation to show up to that seventh day when "God rested."

Sisters.jpg

Connection

The greatest challenge and greatest beauty of living some thousand miles away from family and friends is that as your life continues, theirs does as well. Only seeing people once a year increases the sweetness of time spent together exponentially, and man, let me tell you! This time home was sweet. There were many picnics at sunset and lots of time spent cuddling the Sperle family's new dog. I'm thankful for every cup of coffee shared with an old friend and every moment spent teasing my sisters. Not much that can be added to that other than a reminder to hug someone you love I suppose.

1C4A6996-831D-4DE1-B9CA-FD063A0703E4.JPG
38508151-F46D-4A4D-83AB-F6AEF2363C26.JPG

Local Church

While my priority in visiting Sioux Falls was resting and spending time with family, I wanted to connect with the local church as well. Specifically, I hoped to share with the youth just how believed in and important they are. Normally my doing this would happen over a cup of coffee as I am one who thrives in one-on-one discussions and finds larger groups of people quite intimidating. However, going into the summer, speaking was something I hoped to challenge myself in, and challenged I was! I had the opportunity to speak at a worship night this past week, and if I wanted to encourage the local church, then this was definitely the place to do so.

Two hours before sharing, I stared at a blank page trying to find the right words to share, but alas, none came. It was in staring at the empty page before me that I felt the nudge of the question posed to Moses in Exodus 4: who made man's mouth and will He not fill it? Two hours later with nothing planned but "hello, my name is Ashton" I opened my mouth. And He filled it!!!! I realized again that I will not see His faithfulness by standing in the same place I've always stood. Faith blooms in the unrevealed. His invite is continually this: let's go there together.

Looking Forward

I will be heading back to Amsterdam this week and while I've thoroughly enjoyed the time I've had in Sioux Falls, I look forward to returning to what has become home for me. In the month to come, I will be heading to Germany for a week with the rest of my team to connect with and learn from other DTS staff across Western Europe. Aside from that week, I plan to be in the Netherlands for the month of August supporting the base and preparing for the next DTS which will begin in January of 2020.

55FCFCA7-2440-4D5F-91BC-93B71F632B13.JPG
Ashton Sperle
SPRING 2019.
C47B5790-0B47-4FB1-A7B1-2DD157CB6BC9 2.JPG

INDIA

"Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbor is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbor, he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat– the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself is truly hidden." - C.S. Lewis

IMG_9532.JPG

After two months of life lived in India, I am back in Amsterdam. It is sweet to be back, but it is here in the much stiller moments that I find my time spent in India unraveling into something sweeter as well. The thing about India that undoes me over and over again is the people. Whether that be the beautiful team I had the privilege of co-leading, those who hosted the team, or the locals I found myself shaking hands with from day to day, I have understood to a greater degree the weight and necessity of loving the human set before you in any given moment. I have seen the unparalleled beauty of Jesus in doing so. In leading a team, one of my main focuses in India was seeing discipleship happen in the lives of the students. While there were times this looked like sitting down to chat for an hour, I believe the greatest discipleship took place in the simplicity of living life together. It was in the place of sharing meals and showers and rooms that I saw Jesus share His heart in ways that the students were able to carry so gracefully throughout India and now home. I saw each student sing praise that opened prison doors. I saw each student step into greater freedom than what they had previously known. I cannot tell you the joy it brings me to have seen restoration happening in these precious lives. The expectancy I have for where the growth of this season will take them is unending. Above all else, I rest assured that this team of mine carries Kingdom building hands that will see heaven come to earth whether in India or not, and for that, I am filled with gratitude.

DHULIP.jpg
BOYS HOME.jpg

I've thought long and hard about how to share about these two months in a way that fully honors those that were a part of it, and I've come to the conclusion that words on a screen simply cannot do the nation of India and its people justice. I could very easily compile a list of ministry we were involved in and the outcomes that brought about, but that has never been my heart in going to the nations. There are many stories I could share, and maybe a time will come when I will share them, but for now I will say this: The people of India are ones my jaw has dropped over countless times. They are people of hospitality unlike any I've seen. They will serve you dinner and watch you eat seconds before grabbing themselves a plate and after that, they'll do the dishes. They will welcome you into their house and, without failure, will offer you whatever they are able to. They will invite you to their table and to their culture without a second thought. They will listen to the stories of their guest without interruption. We went to India with a hope of seeing Jesus known, but through the lives of both those who believe and those who don't yet, I found myself knowing Him more and more. Jesus is so so alive. Yes, Jesus is moving in India. In a nation of many, He is relentlessly seeking after the one who will go after the next. He is filling slums with worship and villages with His Word. He is writing stories, one that bleeds into the next, all for His glory. He is revealing Himself as the way and the truth and the life. He is breaking down strongholds and building up churches in their place. He is climbing mountains if only to share a cup of chai and a story. He is doing something quite incredible in the nation of India and He is doing so with great zeal. To say I am thankful seems to be an understatement, but it is what I am able to offer. In the simplest form, India has taught me that to love your neighbor, whether that be in a small or grand way, is to love Christ, and to love Christ is to truly come alive. What an honor it has been and will be.

COMING UP

Now that I am back in Amsterdam and we have graduated our DTS students, my days look quite different. The next two weeks will be spent closing off the school with the staff team. Following that, I will be in South Dakota for three weeks (July 16 - August 6) before returning to Amsterdam again. I'm looking forward to catching up face to face with friends and family as well as resting after the last months! If you would like to hear more specifics of what I have been up to in the last year, feel free to send me an email and we can schedule coffee in that time. Until then, many blessings.

Ashton Sperle
WINTER 2019.

DTS has begun and is well underway. The last months have been a series of one beautifully challenging moment after another, extra emphasis on the beautiful part. Not a day goes by that I'm not entirely in awe of Jesus and the story He's writing - both in individual lives and in the school as a whole. What a privilege it is to sit with Him as He writes it.

0B4D8A37-F462-42D7-B75A-37C70A53874A.JPG

DTS SO FAR

Two months ago, students from the nations of Canada, France, Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, United States, Ukraine, Venezuela, and The Netherlands joined us here in Amsterdam. While the past weeks have been filled with everything from shared meals to moments of worship and intercession, most of our time as a school has been spent in the classroom with different topics. This time has been equal parts intense, transformative, and beautiful. It's continually such an honor and such a joy to see the students stepping into growth even when it's challenging. Continued prayer for the school and students specifically is more than appreciated!

INDIA.jpg

UP NEXT: OUTREACH

While our time in Amsterdam has been incredible, we'll soon be headed for our outreach phase. Above is the team I'll be co-leading with Steven - top left. In just two and a half weeks, our team will be trading The Netherlands for two weeks in Israel followed by two months in India. Looking forward to it would be an understatement!

INDIA2.png

INDIA

With a population of over 1.3 billion, 94.8% of India is unreached meaning that around 1.2 billion Indians have never heard the Gospel. To the right is a picture from Joshua Project showing the unreached people of India. As you can see, the nation is almost entirely covered. Asour team was praying for India, one of the students saw a picture of each red dot being transformed into the blood of Jesus and covering the entire nation. THIS is what I'm believing for and what I'm so eager to be a part of, as well as what I'd love to invite you to be praying for: that the nation of India would indeed be living in the reality of the cross and come to full awareness of a Jesus who is so deeply desiring to see India at His throne.

Ashton Sperle
WINTER 2018.
WINTER2018.jpg

Friend! Happy New Years. I hope you celebrated well and are as thrilled over the year to come as I am. December was a constant outpouring of good gifts from God - I couldn't ask for a better end to an already beautiful year. From staff training with what I'd easily call a BRILLIANT team to celebrating Christmas in Israel, I have no hesitation in saying I've indeed been incredibly blessed this past month and I'm so thankful to be able to share pieces of that with you.

STAFF.jpg

STAFF TRAINING

I work with a ridiculously phenomenal group of people, some of which you can see pictured above. BEAUTIFUL HUMANS, right?! At the beginning of December, all the DTS staff came together for two weeks of staff training. We learned what staffing might look like as well as what a sustainable lifestyle within staffing could be. It was a time of going deeper with the Lord in order to soon invite others to that place as well. It was challenging in all of the right ways and maaaaan, I am so pumped to be challenged with this crew by my side. We will take all the prayer we can get as we continue to prepare for our upcoming schools which begin in just over TWO WEEKS! Please be praying for our teams, the schools, and the students we're all so looking forward to receiving.

ISRAEL

After two weeks of training and another week of work, I took off to Israel with five of my friends. This is what I was talking about when I said I've been incredibly blessed this month, folks. A family in Tel Aviv opened up their house to the six of us over Christmas and made us feel SO loved. Being that this is my second Christmas away from family, it was really nice to have a home of the sorts to enjoy. Spending Christmas in the place it all comes back to was a surreal experience. The Bible came alive in an all new way for me through walking in the places I've spent so much time reading about. It was a beautiful few weeks and I don't think I can say thank you to the Lord enough for blessing me so abundantly.

CACTUS.jpg

COMING SOON

As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago, the Arts DTS begins in only two weeks. Until then there will be many preparations for the school as well as in my personal life as I enter into six incredibly beautiful, transformative, and intense months. Please be praying for the preparations and transitions as they take place - that they would be done wisely and go smoothly!!! Please please please be praying for wisdom and direction among our staff team as we've been entrusted with such a special place in our students lives. PLEASE be praying for our students as they've given a HUGE yes to Jesus and will soon be trading in all they know to go deeper in their relationship with the Lord. Pray for peace and joy in each of them. I am giddy over getting to take you along on this journey - how cool that you are as much a part of it as I am by simply supporting through prayer, finances, encouragement or otherwise?! This is the Kingdom, friends!!! How neat.

Wow. There has been heaps that has happened and there's heaps more to come. It's one heck of a life - a little crazy, but oh so beautiful. THANK YOU for joining me in it all. Let me know in what ways I can be praying for you, friend!

Thank you Jesus for carrying each of us through the past year and for the many places we'll continue to see you move in the one to come.

Ashton Sperle
FALL 2018.

Hi from Amsterdam! The past couple of months have come and gone faster than expected. I've survived biking in Amsterdam, had opportunity to serve our base, experienced YWAM on a larger scale, and been in the best of company through it all.

ARTS DTS.jpg

ARTS DTS

The return to Amsterdam was mainly sparked by my desire to staff the Arts DTS - a school whose focus is to train young creatives in world missions. It's been such a joy getting to know my team (all but two pictured on the left) and begin working with them. Each of them is truly their own kind of lovely. Over the past weeks, we've spent time accepting students, preparing practicals, and creating a healthy team dynamic (one that includes loads of laughter).

COMMUNITY WORK

Aside from being entrusted to staff a DTS, one of my favorite aspects of working with YWAM is the fact that a large piece of my work is simply serving the place I live and people I live with. Every week I'm able to spend time working with YWAM Amsterdam's Communications Department helping to share with the outside world what's happening at our base. In addition, I spend my Friday afternoons in our kitchen to help prepare meals for the DTS that's currently running. It's truly been such an honor to work with and learn alongside people who are so invested in keeping our base running smoothly.

WORKSHOP.jpg

DTS WORKSHOP

Being in Amsterdam, I sometimes forget that YWAM is an international movement with bases all across the world. I was reminded of this at the end of October when my team and I traveled to another Dutch town where we were met by DTS staff from all across Western Europe. We had the opportunity to learn more of what it meant to staff a DTS and how to do so well, as well as the chance to meet and network with our fellow DTS staff across our neighboring nations. I learned heaps and my excitement for the Arts DTS to begin grew all the more!

COMING SOON

The past months have been so good to me, and I'm even more giddy over the ones to come. Beginning in December, my team and I will be in full DTS mode. The month will start with three weeks of being trained for and preparing the DTS while the two weeks that follow will be time off for Christmas. After that, we'll continue with school preparation and the DTS will begin January 16th! I'll keep you posted.

Ashton Sperle
AUGUST 2018.
823406E8-E6C5-4619-9C38-8D3240400E20.JPG

Hey and hello, all! August has been a crazy, wonderful, jam-packed, nostalgic, and altogether lovely month. Since I left Amsterdam in March, I've been eager to return. Clearly the Lord was aiming to refine some patience in me - clever way of doing things, eh? BUT, being back and knowing I can call this place home for the years to come warms my heart over and over again. I'm so giddy to be back.

The past week or so has been a time of settling into the groove of the city and YWAM base, reconnecting with good people, and being equipped for this next season of life. Wow. It's been good.

I haven't been here long, so I don't have heaps to share but I'm happy to touch base about what I've been up to and how I'm doing! 

CANDID.jpg
 

community.

One of my favorite things about being back has been getting to live life alongside so many wonderful humans. We share kitchens, bathrooms, and walls. It sometimes proves to be close quarters, but hey, what better way to learn to love your neighbor? I've felt SO incredibly loved, encouraged, and celebrated by the community around me in Amsterdam. All to say I'm doing well and in the best of hands. :)

training.

Okay, cool Ashton - you like the city and you like the people but what are you actually DOING? Good question. I'm currently participating in two weeks of New Staff Training, or NSO. Basically, NSO is an introduction to staff life. My days are filled with getting to know the base and the people living on it a bit better. In addition, it's getting to know Amsterdam, it's history, and where we as Christians have and will fit into the story. NSO has been eye-opening and SO fun for me as practical person. 

jesus.

While there are things going on as far as transition and training, I want to bring this to a close by returning to the reason it was possible at all. The fact that I'm in Amsterdam at all is SUCH a testimony to the Lord's faithfulness. If you take anything from this update take this: the Jesus that brought me to Amsterdam is faithful to you. He fulfills His promises. He cares for the details. He sees you. I don't know what that looks like in your life, but believe it's true because there wouldn't be an email in your inbox from Amsterdam if it wasn't!

Hopefully this short update helps you to envision a bit of what I'm up to, but ALWAYS feel free to reach out with more questions. I'll be back in a month with a bit more detailed update, so stick around. :)

With nothing but love,
Ashton. 

2CDA045F-209C-413A-9E53-87553D0CF4B2.JPG
Ashton Sperle
DTS Recap.

My first time out of the United States was for my Discipleship Training School in September of 2017. Mostly, this is due to the fact that only by the grace (and peace) of God was I able to sit on a plane for eight hours straight without completely panicking. A true miracle. I think it’s fair to say that the six months to follow that first victorious plane ride were only the extension of a miraculous God who gracefully allowed me to learn and grow and work as His messenger.

In my eyes, Amsterdam was an absolute dream. I’m still not over it. Living in a community was an experience that brought on a ridiculous amount of dirty mugs, countless belly laughs, and some of the best friendships I’ve known. Through the words and love of those around me, I was able to really grasp the idea of a relational God that called me friend. Attending lecture throughout the week only added. I’m definitely a lecture kind of gal, so sitting down and taking notes while speakers preached truth was my oasis of sorts. Living with who I learned with created an environment that I was able to personally thrive in. Like I said, I’m still not over it.

Moving on to outreach in Asia was bittersweet. In leaving Amsterdam, I was leaving a place that had come to feel so much like home; at the same time, I knew that whatever God had in store for our team during outreach phase would be brilliant far beyond my comprehension. And I was right. Outreach was stretching and it was hard, but it was also where I learned to faithfully lean all of my weight into God, and because of that, outreach was beautiful. Seeing that we spent time in six cities over the course of three months, a lot happened; but, in every location we were met by radical lovers of Christ who took us in, showed us how the Lord was moving in their environment, and invited us to come alongside that journey. 

Three months built of beautiful moments. The moment of outreach, though, that will always hold my heart is when one of our outreach leaders received a word of knowledge that it was a barista in a local cafe’s birthday. In response, I set off with three others to find a cafe we’d never seen or heard of prior. In an Asian city with cafe’s lining every block, we somehow ran straight into the one our leader had mentioned; from there, we used google translate to ask the barista working if it was her birthday. And lo and behold: IT WAS. Wow, right? We were able to wish her a happy birthday, pray over her upcoming year, and tell her about a sweet Jesus who pursued her in a relentless way simply to show her she was seen and known and loved. It was a moment that defined all of outreach for me. I realized that we were the extension of a God so desperate to love His children whether they knew they were His or not. Sometimes that manifested in a “happy birthday,” other times it was healing, playing card games, communal worship. Regardless of what it manifested to be, it was beautiful. 

 

At the end of the six months, I found myself made new in my Jesus. I was changed over and over again, for the better, through what was done in me as well as what I saw done in the nations. Mostly, I was humbled. As a self proclaimed strong, independent women, I have a tendency to take anything and everything into my own hands and deal with it unaided of help. However, I’ve truly been lead to a life of surrender through my time in DTS. I’ve realized that I don’t do anything on my own because at the end of the day, it’s God doing His will through me. I’m merely the extension. I saw a God of healing and love and strength who took me out of my comfortable South Dakotan home if only to say “I’ll choose to be with you over and over again.” And wow. I don’t know if sweeter words exist. Oh, and did I mention that planes don’t scare me a bit anymore? The miraculous healing powers of God. In every little detail.

Ashton Sperle
Team Update: Yangon, Myanmar.

Jan. 4, 2018 -  Jan. 11, 2018

We've touched groud in the third nation of outreach, and what a time it’s been.

The moment we landed in the city of Yangon, we were met with a stark (and noisy) contrast to quiet Vientiane. We met authentic Asia, almost unsmudged by western fingerprints. The food, the streets, the culture - it was much different than anything we'd yet to encounter.

Yangon was go go go; it was nonstop. Our ministry seemed to know the vibe of the city well and was quick to integrate us into it. We partnered with a local Burmese women named Nundar who has devoted her heart and soul to sharing the Gospel to an abundance of people in an abundance of ways.

We were able to spend time with a few select people groups she's chosen to minister to, and in that time our team had chance to share Jesus' story as well as the one's He's currently writing throughout our own lives. With few shared words, we were able to pray for and worship with people whose language didn't know ours, and in doing so, we found the Holy Spirit to be the most brilliant translator.

On top of ministering to groups of adults, our team also had a few chances to work with the adults kids. Energy levels like never before. We shared heaps of laughter, sang enough songs to make an album or two, and played game after game after game. We were reminded of what a child like faith looks like as well as what God's heart for the young one's is.

Speaking of kids! We also had the opportunity to visit Nundars' orphanage. And WOW. Upon arrival, we were greeted by the most servant hearted, fiery spirited, fun group of kids we've ever come across. Our afternoon looked a lot like it usually does with kids - laughing and singing and playing; but, before we left we were able to hear individual testimonies all sharing a common theme of "God is good all the time." Hearing kids' give God so much praise and seeing them seek His glory despite hard pasts and presents left a few people watery-eyed and every person inspired.

Our Sunday was spent at Nundar's church. While we had the chance to serve at this service, a highlight was actually connecting with a local named Joshua. Joshua worked with last year's team through the Gospel Music Festival which will be heading to the Netherlands soon. His heart for seeing God move and heal is inspiring, and it's a dream of his to make it to the festival, so we'd love for you to be praying that the Lord makes a way in that. On top of that, we were told that Joshua's brother is hoping to attend the only DTS in Myanmar so prayers for finances and faith in that are so needed!!

Our last day of ministry was spent helping our host by teaching at her Bible school. Crazy enough, the topic we were given to teach on was the same one that opened up our lectures. To hear the words some of our own shared was such a testimony to the journey we've been on collectively. Even cooler was to see how God builds His Kingdom to build His Kingdom. The cycle never ends. Be encouraged, people, He's at work.

While our time in Yangon was quite short, it was jam packed with seeing God move and hearing God speak and partnering with Him in it all. We're joyful over all of the ways He's taken our hands and we're expectant for the places He'll continue to guide us.

We'd love for you to be praying for Nundar and every one of her ministries as well as for our team to continue in strength and joy over the next few weeks of outreach. We'll be back with an update over the rest of Myanmar shortly.

Until then! :)

 

Ashton SperleComment
Team Update: Vientiane, Laos.

Dec. 15, 2017 - Jan. 3, 2018 

Sabaidee from Vientiane!

We came to Laos with no plans and open arms. We gave God the three weeks we had in Laos and without hesitating He put pen to paper and provided a Kingdom building work. He met us in our faithfulness and He provided. Isn't that just like Him to do?

Upon arriving at our hotel, we were met with worship music and front desk management made up of believers, some of which were missionaries themselves. A little thing that would be easy to think nothing of, but something our team recognizes as a gracious gift from the Lord. Waking up in a closed nation and hearing worship music first thing is a beautiful way to start a day of ministry.

Speaking of ministry! Wow. We had the best time.

Our main ministry was teaching English at a college. The students were so lovely. We played more games than we knew existed, taught grammar concepts while learning them, saw the flash of an iPhone camera too many times to count, sang Jingle Bells until our voices cut out, and really developed hearts for the students. We had opportunities to share the stories God's been writing in our own lives and we were able to talk to the students about what that meant for them. It was beautiful seeing the way God was chasing these students down, even if it meant sending a team of sixteen from the Netherlands to do so. He's on a passionate pursuit for His people, y'all.

On Christmas we were able to share the Christmas story with the students. We had the best time making fools of ourselves by pretending to be sheep and shepherds, wise men and camel riders, and WOW!! God USED that. He won hearts on Christmas, and there's full faith that seeds were planted that WILL be watered and WILL come to full bloom. Being able to share about Jesus' story on Christmas was a lovely experience and really brought our team to a place of centering ourselves on Him and remembering the reason for the season; remembering the reason we do what we do and are where we are.

At the root of it all was an amazing team of local staff who was SO full of LIFE and LOVE and PASSION. They walk step by step with each other all looking to the Lord for guidance. They inspired us time and time again. On top of being inspiring, they were so much fun. They really took us under their wings during our time in Laos and gave us a "home" of sorts. There were games of Uno, lots of conversation over food, looooaaaads of laughs, you name it. We rang in the New Years with them and spent the next day on a boat exploring more of Laos with them. Again, God provides in all areas and our thankfulness for the staff team is ever abounding.

When we weren't teaching English, we spent a lot of time in creative evangelism. Sometimes that looked like presenting ourselves as a "musical group" so we'd be able to sing the Gospel in a local mall and sometimes that looked like food distribution to locals. Sometimes it was worship through music or art or dance. It was so many different things, but consistently so beautiful.

One of the favorite stories of creative evangelism started with a "treasure hunt." We asked God for impressions and got into our teams based on what we received. One team went into the city with the impression that it was a barista's birthday in a local cafe. In faith, they bought a small yarn bracelet for her which is traditionally tied on with a blessing. After heading into the city with no clue where the cafe actually was, they were able to bump into it and head in. With the help of Google translation, the barista affirmed that it really was her birthday, and the team was able to give her the bracelet, pray a blessing over it, and tell the barista a little bit about Jesus' love for her. What a cool illustration of God's hunger for His people, yeah?

Laos was beautiful, the people were beautiful, and seeing God mooooove was beeeautifullllll. We're in awe over and over again of the beauty in partnering with our God. We're learning more and more about Him and we intend to stay on that journey.

With all of that said, we'd love for you to be praying about the seeds sown in Laos - prayer that they continue to be watered. We'd also love prayer for our time in Myanmar as well as for continued unity and increased health in our team. Until next time!

 

Ashton SperleComment
Team Update: Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Dec. 2, 2017 - Dec.  14, 2017

Greetings from Chiang Mai!

Over the past twelve days our team has had the opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the beautiful city of Chiang Mai and she truly has offered, both literally and figuratively, the warmest welcome. Whether it be through ministry, in the back of a songthaew, or at a breakfast table whose inhabitants still haven't quite woken up, our time in this city has really bonded us in a way that makes us so giddy to do this whole "outreach" thing.

A big chunk of our time in Chiang Mai has been spent at the YWAM Base which was actually born out of the Call2All movement, a collaborative effort to fulfill the Great Commision. We spent time teaching English to the local neighborhood as well as leading intercession and worship sets over the week at the base's All Nations House of Prayer. Leading sets has been such a cool way to see all hands on deck. Every person on the team has in some way involved themselves in sets, and in the meantime has acted as one heck of a support system (and by that I mean when worship got jiggy everybody joined the soulful dance party that ensued - bless them.)

When we weren't at the Call2All base, our team was able to help out with some much anticipated practical work. We partnered with the Family Connection Foundation in renovating a community children's center, and after a couple of days of painting, sweeping, and organizing, we had the privilege of joining the center's director, Matt, in re-opening the building by hosting a children's night. A round or ten of musical chairs later, we packed up and thought we said our goodbye's to Matt; but, much to our joy, we were surprised with a trip to his house, the absolute epitome of winter wonderland, where we were met with a beautiful Christmas dinner. We feasted on the best food, drank wassle that warmed our stomachs and souls, and had a good ole game of white elephant. The entire night felt like "home" somehow managed to find us from some thousand miles away - we felt all the warm fuzzy feels.

The rest of our time was an array of different ministries. We prayer walked and evangelized. We experienced local church. We participated in Bible distribution. Each experience spoke something different to each individual. We were all stretched and challenged, maybe in one big thing or maybe a million little things; but, challenge has been so worth walking with and, as a team, we've held challenge's hand in such expectancy and joy.

When we weren't in ministry, our team has taken a lot of time to build a dynamic that feels like family. We set up a Christmas tree, cross culturally shopped for groceries, swam in a waterfall or two, probably woke up all of the neighbors playing Jenga, sang in the songthaew (constantly), and have thoroughly discussed our ideal weddings. Family feels, am I right? But truly, there's been an abundance of laughter and so much love - something we're all so grateful to have in our back pockets these next few months.

Everything said and done, I think the biggest lesson our team has learned and applied throughout our time in Thailand has been a learning to "do" out of a place of being. We've seen the truth in God being the great "I Am," not the great "I do." We know that who He is doesn't change with what He does, and yet, what He does is always aligned with who He is. And through His example, our team is on a journey of learning that our time of "being" is so necessary before we begin to "do." Through being, we see that we're asked to be filled up before filling up others so we have a place to give out of. Through being, we're able to do out of a place that isn't focused on building up self but rather focused on building up the Kingdom.  And through the reminder to set time aside to just BE, we really see His kindness. He doesn't want us to run dry or grow weary, He wants to and promises to sustain us if only we hold fast to His love.

Well folks, that about covers it. We'd love your support in prayer for all things outreach but specifically the seeds that have been planted in our time here as well as prayer for our upcoming locations. Sending all of our love your way! We'll see ya in Laos.

 

Ashton SperleComment
To The Nations

Four months ago God rocked whatever boat I was passenger of. I had just way too confidently declared my major and committed to a roommate; my future was set. I wanted to be excited but to be completely honest, I wasn't. Maybe it wasn't even a lack of excitement but more of a knowing that the path everybody else already seemed to be walking down wasn't made for my feet. Not yet, at least. So I did something I hadn't done in a while: I prayed. I asked for God to either secure my college plans or destroy them, to drop an anchor or throw me a hurricane. The next day I received a book from YWAM all about hearing and responding to God's voice. I  knew that book alone was God pushing me towards missions as if He was saying "do you hear me now?" but I wasn't ready to commit. I yearned so badly to be sure, as if a glimpse of God's voice wasn't assurance enough. So I prayed for confirmation.

At the time I was mentoring in a kindergarten classroom, and that's where I found my confirmation. I was doing math flash cards with one of the kiddos when he looked up and responded to "what's two plus two?" with "hey, neighbor!" Um? I was theeee most confused. It was like the words didn't come from his mouth. I tried to get this kid to repeat those two words, asking him over and over again what he had just said. He had no recollection of saying anything of the sorts and I knew it was a God thing. It was so crazy. I had JUST been reading about hearing God's voice, and here it was through the mouth of a child. I went home and immediately searched for neighbor references in the Bible and came across the Parable of the Good Samaritan,

So he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

Jesus replied with a story: “A Jewish man was traveling from Jerusalem down to Jericho, and he was attacked by bandits. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him up, and left him half dead beside the road. “By chance a priest came along. But when he saw the man lying there, he crossed to the other side of the road and passed him by. A Temple assistant walked over and looked at him lying there, but he also passed by on the other side. “Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him. Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them. Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him. The next day he handed the innkeeper two silver coins, telling him, ‘Take care of this man. If his bill runs higher than this, I’ll pay you the next time I’m here.’

“Now which of these three would you say was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by bandits?”Jesus asked.

The man replied, “The one who showed him mercy.”

Then Jesus said,“Yes, now go and do the same.”

Luke 10:25-37 (emphasis added).

Okay. The story of someone tattered and lowly on the side of the street, ignored by most but helped by one. That one considered a neighbor. It fit hand and hand. The DTS I would be doing was one that focused on an urban community. A community of people we might be tempted to label as "unloved" as if anything of the sorts exists.

THIS was Jesus speaking. THIS was my deciding factor.

So I dropped the college plans I wasn't really looking forward to pursuing and completely immersed myself into whatever this calling might turn out to be. I had four months to fundraise. Four months to gather necessities. Four months to physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally prepare for six months worth of life. Looking back it sounds like a lot but it never seemed like it because God was and is in constant provision.

God worked in ways I never knew He could this summer. Before a dollar came in I knew I was set financially. I worked a job that kept my evenings and weekends free for pictures which was SUCH a blessing. I raised enough finances not only to pay tuition but also to cover any other needs as well as basic living costs. That in and of itself was only possible through a God who is present and working, but honestly, the preparation process has been about so much more than being able to say I'm "fully funded."

Towards the beginning of the summer, my youth pastor asked me what I'd been learning about God through this process. And if I'm being honest, that question shocked me. Wasn't this all about preparing for what God was going to do? It hadn't even crossed my mind that God could be working to teach and grow me through the preparation.  Today, however, I can very honestly say I've learned loads and loads about God through the process.

I learned that when people say "God provides", they aren't lying BUT they also don't mean that God is going to drop X amount of money in your lap. I've found that God DOES provide (ALWAYS) but in ways more unexpected. Pursuing God's plan for you will always be met with the provision of opportunities. In my case, opportunities to raise funds. I didn't find money on the ground or have thousands of dollars mysteriously appear in my bank account, but I was given the opportunity to work enough hours, and book enough sessions. I had to be willing to do the work that God offered.

I learned that while God does provide those opportunities, not every opportunity available is one that comes from Him. There was a week or two this summer where I woke up before seven, was at work by eight, left work around six, was taking pictures by six-thirty, got home at nine, edited until eleven, slept, and repeated. I gave too many yes's away to too many hours and too many shoots and my excuse was that these were opportunities God was offering. In all reality, they clearly weren't. I was focusing so much on work that there didn't seem to be time to focus on God and that's not the scenario God's pushing us towards. Ever.

I learned that no excuse we can muster is a challenge for God. If you know me you probably know that I'm one hundred and ten percent an introvert. That was my excuse. I was simply too shy for something like this to work out. I crave alone time, meeting new people makes me seriously anxious, and being around people twenty-four seven absolutely drains me. Committing to this mission meant placing myself in a setting where I'd seemingly be constantly tired and always anxious. Why would God want me to put myself in that position? Answer: He wouldn't. Working at a daycare taught me how to deal with being around people constantly and taking pictures showed me that strangers are something be excited over, not stressed about. God destroyed my EVERY excuse.

I could go on and on. Ask me about it sometime - you'll have a hard time shutting me up. ;-)

At this point, I think I'm as ready as I can hope to be for whatever God has in store. I'm going into it knowing not to expect anything specific because God has a tendency to absolutely overrule any expectations. I just want to learn more, grow better, and help others. I'm willing to be torn apart so I can be built again, you know?

I leave in a week. Seven flippin' days. That's so crazy for me to say. I don't know if it's actually hit me until I wrote those eight words down. In one week I'll be hopping on an airplane headed across the globe. In one week I'll be surrounded by people who I don't even know exist at this point. In one week a new season will begin.

If I'm honest I don't quite have words to explain my feelings towards this next adventure. I'm sure they'll come eventually, and when they do I'll try my darndest to get them posted so y'all can be updated.

With all of that said, I just want to say THANK YOU to anybody who's helped me with and stood by me through preparing for this. I'm so thankful towards everybody that supported financially. I know that that's not always easy to do but it meant the world to me. I think I teared up every time someone offered financial support, not even kidding. Thank you to friends that spoke so much truth into my life. So many words poured in at exactly the right times. Most importantly, thank you SO MUCH for prayers. Prayer is so powerful, isn't it???

The next week will be one full of last minute Target runs, lots of fam bam time, and loads of me over packing and my parents getting mad about it. Please please please continue to pray. If you have any questions or want to talk about what God's doing in your life or just say hey, I'd love to hear from you !!!!

Here's to seven more days!!!!

 

 

 

 

Ashton SperleComment