The short version about Ashley: Hello! My name is Ashley Kendall and I’m YOUR North American Mission Board Missionary. As a child I grew up all over the world. When my family came home we started working with the immigrant and refugee population living in apartment complexes. I serve as the Director of Whirlwind Missions.
My husband, Miles, and our two daughters, Penelope and Everly live at Azalea Place Apartment. We live in the community of Atlanta’s International Village where over 145 different countries are represented!
I teach ESL Classes, Computer Classes and serve as an after school tutor for the immigrant and refugee students.
Watch the this NAMB video that tells the story of where I work in Clarkston, GA.
My Life as a Missionary Kid
My parents met overseas in Kenya. So beginning with my birth in November 1988 I was destined to be a missionary.
I came out screaming with the lungs of a Baptist preacher.
I grew up in Pooler a tiny beach town in Savannah,Georgia. Two years later my little brother, Jesse, was born. At an early age I developed a sense for adventure. I remember going to the zoo and riding on an elephant.
“Well, Ashley do you need someone to ride with you?” Daddy asked.
“No…I’m FIVE! I can do it all by myself.” I replied fanning one hand out.
So when I was told that we were moving to Europe I was more than pumped.
My parents were missionaries with the International Mission Board or IMB. Our family had been assigned to work with the Tutsi and Hutu people in French speaking Rwanda. What better place to learn French than in France?
We packed all our belongings into huge crates that would be sent to us MUCH later.
All I knew about Europe was that it was far away. My first plane ride was overseas. When I first stepped on the 747 Jumbo Plane I thought, nope. No way. We can’t fly over the ocean, it’s too big. To a little kid France was a whole other world.
We lugged our trunks into the tiny faded blue foreign car and drove to our 11 story apartment building. Brick on the outside and too many steps for little legs to climb.
Living on the 4th floor we had a compact kitchen,two bedrooms and a living room that had the balcony. Mama and I shared a bedroom with pale silky flower wallpaper while Jesse and my Dad took the other.
I remember the hideous maroon colored bathroom tiles and my Dad growing Venus Fly Traps in the window seal with chipping white paint.
My favorite part of the apartment was the balcony. That balcony was my front yard. When my family would take trips to the local castles I would run through the royal gardens picking snails off the flowers and stuff them in my corduroy pockets. Once we were back home I’d deposit them into my flower box sanctuary that hung on the black rod iron ledge that over looked the city of Joue Les Tour.
Life in France was hard, cold and rainy. I’d been home schooled and leg touching close to my parents my whole life. First grade was torture. I was separated and thrown into a totally French speaking school.
Looking down at my homework I didn’t even know where to write my name! Tears filled my brown eyes and blurred my vision. Sitting cross legged on the gray carpet while my peers would smile smugly and sing songs in French only alienated me more. I was lonely and didn’t realize that experience would help me later in life.
We were to study French for a year and then travel to Rwanda but a violent civil war broke out and we were relocated to Kenya.
Now that was a whole new world!
I stepped out from the airport and was blasted by the dust and heat from my new surroundings. The sounds of cars honking and Swahili filled my ears. The stench of body odor hung in the car as we drove through the capital city of Nairobi,Kenya. My eyes were on overload trying to capture everything. People with deep brown skin crowded the streets wearing faded colored shirts. Women held woven baskets on the heads and men rode by on bicycles with chicken cages tied on the back with red twine.
Heading away from the city and into the country side took my pint sized breath away. The rich green coffee leaves contrasted against the dark brown dirt that coved the hillside. This is God’s land. We rounded the corner and arrived at the white gate of Brakenhurst, an old British settlement occupied by missionaries.
What an amazing place to grow up. My days were filled with catching moody chameleons, running up the dirt road to milkcows and sneaking away with handfuls of sugar cubes from the dining hall.
Jesse and I were free to roam and explore the land. We’d run out far through the green grass and collect porcupine quills but when we heard Daddy’s whistle we knew to get our butts home.I’d lived in Kenya for less than a year when my family was moved again. For the next year we bounced around from South Africa, which was the country we always said was most like America, to Zimbabwe where the stacked boulders blew your mind.
Finally we settled on an island in the Indian Ocean right off the coast of Mozambique. Madagascar!
As we drove through Antananarivo, the capital city, I noticed land was sectioned off into squares of tall light green grass growing in pools of water.
“Look at all that grass, Mama!” I said.
“No, those are rice patties.” She told me, her body bouncing from hitting potholes on the dirt road.
Rice patties. Everyone was a farmer. We turned right past Dong Phong, a Vietnamese restaurant where we’d eat frog legs and egg drop soup, and onto the cobble stone street where our American styled house was planted.
Our house was directly across from the dump. No mater how high the fence was that surrounded the house you couldn’t escape the flies.
I loved it though! I’d rummage through the trash and look for broken pieces of colored glass from old drink bottles or climb in the Eucalyptus trees.
I attended school with two other missionary kids, MKs. We named the school Candy Cane Lane. My teacher was Mrs. Candy. Daddy used to always joke with me that her last name was Bar. The school was an old brick building surrounded by lush green grass and colorful Periwinkle and Jasmine flowers.
At the bottom of the street was a horse stable where I’d trade the men working a piece of Double Bubble gum to ride the skinny horses through the soggy rice patties.
In Madagascar we took a vacation to the jungle. Walking under the shade of the canopy you would hear the call of birds of paradise and see the Ring Tailed lemurs jump from the trees up above. I knew I never wanted to leave.
Jesse started to run high fevers and the medical facilities on the island were less than healthy. After waiting several months for our visas and passports we returned to the States.
Jesse was born with an aural atresia, this is when the ear canal fails to develop. Jesse went through a series of five surgeries over a period of 2 years.
Being back home didn’t mean we’d stopped moving. We moved from church mission house to mission house until we finally came to rest in Lilburn, Georgia.
My Dad always said, “I’m able to speak 6 different languages and You bring me back to white man’s land, Lord?”
That was until he started working in the International Village in Chamblee,Doraville.
The whole world has come to this diverse area and they are lodged in apartment complexes.
My Dad started Whirlwind Missions in 2001 as a way to reach the immigrant and refugee community for Christ. By establishing one on one relationships with the people through programs like After School Tutoring, ESL Class, Computer Classes, Sport Evangelism and Backyard Bible Clubs.
That’s where I got plugged in. As I grew up I’d tag along with my Dad to Outreach events but when I was invited to help run a Backyard Bible Club I really found out that I had a passion for working with people and sharing the Gospel.
As I started my Junior year in high school, I felt like it was time for me to get a job. I had to support my shoe fetish. I went to Starbucks, Kroger and Mr. Chow’s Dry Cleaning. I went home with a handful of applications but an empty feeling. I wanted more! I didn’t want to waste my time under fluorescent lights bagging and folding, I wanted to work with people hands on!
I went home and told my Dad how disappointed I was. “Well, Ashley, if you had your dream job what would it be?”
“I imagine myself mentoring and teaching kids. Kind of like what I did last summer.”
We prayed about it and I’m telling you it was the NEXT day God answered my prayers.
In the last three years I’ve served as the Director of three missions. Oakbrook in Norcross, was largely Latino.
Most of the people at Spring Chase apartments were Muslims from Somalia.
At Kensington Station most of my students are African Americans.
Remember my horrible school experience in France? That helped me understand and relate to the kids that I now work with in the After School Program. Being able to relate and form a friendship is the first step to telling people about Jesus.
This is where my background story ends. Read about what’s happening everyday in the life of your youngest North American Mission Board missionary please make sure to read the blog, which is updated daily with stories and photos.
Thank you so much for taking the time to read about my adventures.
Birthday: November 13, 1988
College: Graduated from Georgia State University, Clarkston Campus May 2012
Major: Media Journalism/ Public Relations
Favorite Book: The Bible, Lamb by Christopher Moore, Jesus Land by Julia Scheeres, Two Girls in Blue by Mary Higgins Clark
Favorite Food: Sushi, Thai yellow curry, Fried chicken with mashed potatoes and rice covered in brown gravy. Yum!
Favorite Bible Verse: “Don’t forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so people have entertained angels without knowing it.” Hebrews 13:2