Ashley Rodriguez has a heart for missions that has spread from her church to her community to her entire region of Honduras.
“Ashley is self-confident, a born leader,” says Caspar Geisterfer, who serves with Resonate in Honduras. Caspar first met Ashley when she applied to be a missionary intern. Even though Ashley wasn’t chosen for that internship, he recognized her deep enthusiasm to tell others why she loved God.
A worship leader at her church in Mangulile, Ashley realized that she and other members of the church could improve their community. So she signed up to become an IMPACT Club mentor with Caspar.
“When I began the youth IMPACT program, I dreamt of the church’s young people impacting their community,” says Caspar. “I dreamt of the church’s youth being perceived as model citizens ... I dreamt of the community asking the church for more.
Now almost 10 years later, Caspar has seen how IMPACT Clubs empower youth like Ashley to be agents of change through community service projects and similar events that give them a purpose in their afterschool time.
Ashley began implementing what she learned in her mentorship with Caspar and organized a new IMPACT club in her Mangulile community. Along with other Impact mentors, Ashley was leading IMPACT clubs for about 100 youth in her community—youth who had no other connection to the church or any other church.
Over time, parents began to notice positive changes in their children.
“There was growing mutual respect and a mutual desire to improve the home environment,” says Caspar.
Soon the parents weren’t the only ones noticing an impact. From home renovation projects to street cleaning, the community was witnessing positive changes too. The mayor of Mangulile asked Ashley if she and the other mentors could expand their roles to serve young people and senior citizens of Mangulile as well as the surrounding villages.
“The romantic in me likes to think of this as a dream come true,” says Caspar. “More realistically, it is a sign of God’s work coming to fruition through young people.”
Although Ashley shares Caspar’s excitement for the growing reach of her mission, she’s also been reminded of the great need in her region of Olancho. Recently, while delivering school supplies to a nearby village, she met a 10-year-old girl named Cecía who was often going hungry.
“Cecía spoke slowly with a soft tone, especially when she told me that her biological father died when she was two months old,” says Ashley. “I felt very sad to hear the story of Cecía’s daily need.”
Ultimately, meeting people like Cecía keeps Ashley’s vision for her community going stronger.
“I know that I have a lot of work to do,” she says. “There are many opportunities awaiting me, opportunities to serve and to love as I can.”
But that’s not the whole story!
As Ashley continues to discover her own missional calling, she is reaching North American communities too. Do you remember that mission internship that Ashley applied for? That was a position with Resonate’s Cohort of Missioners program, a program where North American young people are paired with Central Americans to learn about missional living through practical service.
In the summer of 2017, Caspar recruited another North American who wanted to serve in Honduras, and this time, Ashley would be the one to work alongside that person.
Last fall, Emily Cole joined Ashley in her work with the IMPACT clubs. Emily was finishing her semester abroad in Honduras when she decided she wanted to return for another year after graduating from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
“We work, eat, and do almost everything together,” says Emily, describing the program in a nutshell.
Together, Emily and Ashley have done a lot of follow-up with the communities where IMPACT clubs have begun. Doing evaluation of all of the mentors, parents, and kids involved in the IIMPACT club program.
“Part of my budget goes towards supporting [Impact] projects, and I’m really excited to see how youth in other communities can step up and do a lot with this money,” says Emily.
Already, her time with the IMPACT clubs as well as the local church has both challenged her and given her insight into the global church’s needs.
“My goal for this year was to listen and learn—to see how the last four years of learning about social work in a classroom play out in real life,” says Emily. “Listening is something that is so easy to forget to do—and I think it’s the reason the church is so broken."
While Emily isn’t yet sure where this listening and learning will take her next, she will surely be equipped to serve using the gifts God has given her when she returns to North America.
This article was originally published on crcna.org.