Ashley Bridges has a new website and blog up for those at home to follow her adventurous journey of faith, love and a few downright miracles at http://www.ashleybridges.org.
Serving an unpaid internship in South Africa, Ashley uses her talents with photography and writing to paint a vivid picture featuring the people of Africa and the struggles they endure.
Ashley, the daughter of Brian and Lauren Bridges, is serving with Impact Africa. She left in January and will be there until December, said her father Brian. Ashley, who attends Life Church in Roscoe, graduated with honors from a virtual school through the Waukesha County School System in 2012.
“She’s a very vibrant young girl and really has a heart for helping people,” her father Brian said.
In an email interview, Ashley said Impact Africa is a non-profit organization based in South Africa working with the squatter camps and non-formal settlements with people from all over Africa who have flocked there to find work to support their families. She said Impact Africa goes into the communities, often full of crime, substance and sexual abuse, AIDS and poverty to bring them hope by telling them about Jesus Christ.
Ashley works with Impact Africa’s preschools called Impact Kids where she helps brainstorm expansion possibilities, creates curriculum, and helps teachers with craft ideas.
Ashley said a team leader at her church announced a short-term trip to South Africa and asked her to document it through her photography. In her blog she talked about feeling “de-motivated” before leaving on her mission, but trusted that God had a big plan for her that would give her great joy.
In the blog Ashley talks about doing ministry in squatter camps and even witnessing a faith healing of a woman walking after being paralyzed for 13 years. She shares stories of all the people she meets, the conversations on faith they have, what they’ve told her about cult churches and practices and how she attempts to give them hope and comfort. Her blog tells the heart wrenching stories of real people like a young mother whose husband was brutally murdered.
As she witnesses the lives of children, many of whom are orphaned and/or being cared for by their siblings, she also encounters great suffering.
“So many times you’ll hear of difficult situations occurring in a squatter camp, of death and sickness, unthinkable realities hit you like a tidal wave. These situations, as terrible as they are, have become the norm in hopeless desperation to cope,” Ashley stated in her blog.
She also described “gut wrenching, jaw dropping, and tear spurring” sights when she visited a children’s hospital where she and other volunteers gave children simple toys and gifts.
Ashley’s experience has been a great learning experience as she said she’s learning perseverance and how to take time for herself.
“...I’m learning how to prioritize my time in order to be the most efficient and facing the consequences if I misstep or don’t clearly think through something. I can’t call my mom at the drop of a hat or drive to the store like I could in the states. It’s a new independence I wouldn’t have stepped into as easily before if it had not been handed to me. This experience is preparing me to for the future decisions I will have to make. Seeing the bigger picture instead of what is in front of me, thinking through and strategizing what will make a difference instead of what is convenient, will help me in the future,” she stated in her e-mail.
She said she can also see the difference between having a passion for something one does and just doing something as a task.
“I’ve had the desire to do something bigger with my life but it’s given me a perspective to realize the little things are important, too,” she said.
She’s also learned, according to her blog, that being a missionary is more than being in shacks, as one can be as much, or more of one, in his or her own home.