When Ashley Del Real thinks of poverty, she thinks of a 2-year-old boy who weighs only 15 pounds, forced to sleep on the ground where bugs bite him nightly. She thinks of a disfigured, malnourished woman living in a tiny house with a leaky roof while her life is being stripped away by cancer.
The images she bears are the result of spending five weeks with Mission Lazarus in Honduras. Her connections with World Wide Witness through ACU opened doors to a different world that holds possibilities for her future.
“The poverty I saw has opened my eyes to the blessings that I have been given, but also the responsibility that comes with each blessing,” Ashley says. “It has left a deep break in my heart, one that can’t be covered up or ever replaced to complete wholeness again.”
An early call to service
Even at a young age, Ashley knew she wanted to go into the world as a missionary. While it was not clear at the time, she realizes now that the Lord called her to a nursing major to use her in medical missions such as Mission Lazarus.
“The images of malnourished babies and poor living conditions are the reason I am going into health care,” Ashley says. “I cannot live in the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ mindset any longer. God’s heart is moved with compassion when He looks on those who are in bondage.”
To break away from the “out of sight, out of mind” mindset, Ashley looked for a university that had a qualified nursing program, as well as a place that integrated faith into the learning. She found ACU and will soon graduate with a nursing major and a minor in missions.
“The missions classes I took at ACU opened my eyes to see people through the eyes of Jesus,” Ashley says. “Just walking to those classes, my heart was moved by the passion of each one of my classmates and professors to see the name of Jesus lifted up throughout the world.”
Unique programs at ACU
Ashley has found classes like these to be the norm at ACU. She did not expect the classes or professors to be much different from her similarly sized high school. However, throughout her years at ACU, Ashley realized how unique ACU’s programs are.
“All my professors, especially at the nursing school, not only knew my name, but I have developed a relationship with them – a relationship not only of tutoring and mentoring, but firmly founded in Jesus,” she says. “Never in my life have I encountered faculty that has not only their student’s success in mind, but [also] their whole well-being.”
With a Christian-based environment and more than adequate courses in nursing and missions, ACU provided Ashley with a good foundation to build upon as she prepares to go into the world to spread love and truth. Although she would like to be connected with Mission Lazarus when she graduates, she realizes God may have a different plan for her.
“It took me a while to realize that I don’t have to actually be in Honduras to be God’s hands in Honduras,” Ashley says. “I can be a part of it by even changing one kid’s life by sponsoring them in the nutrition program. Someone changed that 2-year-old’s life by providing food and medical help.”
Whether Ashley settles as a missionary in Central America or a worker in disaster relief, she believes that when she leaves ACU, God will plant her where she needs to grow. “That’s the God we serve; He equips His tools,” she says.