Written by Andy Jansen with Ashley Lamb
Earlier this year I had the privilege of interviewing serial church planter, Bob Carlton. His story led me to write an article about living intentionally on mission. We titled it, “A Tale of Relationships, Traditions, and German Pubs”. In regard to the same topic, Bob encouraged me to interview a friend of his, Ashley Lamb. So I did. Although her story may not include German pubs, it’s clearly in line with the same theme as the original article. So I present to you, Part Two.
Ashley Lamb might be considered your typical Millennial. Talk with her, and she’ll quickly share with you a web of happenstance events and spontaneous decisions. Along the way, however, God has been tracing out his design like a roadmap for her life.
In 2014 I decided to drive up the west coast with a friend. Out of the blue, my friend says, ‘Hey I’m up for a job in San Diego. Let’s go!’ I quit my job in Nashville, and sold my house in nine days. I was starting over with five boxes to my name. My parents thought I was having a mental breakdown.
Ashley is no stranger to good fortune, having worked her way to some early success in the medical industry, but she has also experienced her share of life’s storms. In everyday life, she is learning to combine her risky wanderlust with cultivating a heart for outsiders and the hurting.
Owning Our Brokenness Adds Boldness to Faith
Originally from a small town in western Kentucky, her father took their family to Nashville to pursue a business venture. Growing up, Ashley’s first introduction to the medical world was not by choice.
When I was twelve, I was diagnosed with a rare eye disease and was legally blind. Secretly, I was angry at God, while I sat in a pew on Sunday as a ‘good Christian girl.’ But I didn’t give up on God and proactively pursued treatments as I got older. When I was 23, I found the one doctor in the country who did an experimental surgery. I had crazy treatments and implants, and within a month I was out of glasses with normal vision in my left eye. It was a real turning point for me that made me rethink my life.
God used Ashley’s own physical and spiritual brokenness to turn her heart toward others.
I started dabbling in missions such as Hurricane Katrina relief and other ministries serving the homeless. It was uncomfortable but I loved it anyway. At the time I was attending Brentwood Baptist in Nashville, going to a big Tuesday evening service for young people.
I went on a trip in 2009 with a few others to serve on skid row in LA. On the plane I met Bob Carlton, who was one of our pastors. He’s a crazy dude and super germaphobe—he was Purell-ing his head. He told me, ‘I’m a pastor, but I’m normal. I’m not better than you.’ I could appreciate that. He taught me that we must be ourselves and expect that God can work through us. I have to give Bob a lot of credit for shaping my view of life.
Ashley says taking an active yet dependent posture toward the Holy Spirit allows her to become a useful “spark” in otherwise ordinary situations. Wherever we are sent, we can be present in the moment and on mission, stepping out in faith into uncomfortable conversations with people different from us.
If you’re present, you can see through the weeds and see the opportunities in front of you. I know my politics, for instance, are very different from a lot of people, but that’s not a good reason to disconnect from the culture. When I’m around people I think, ‘If I care about people and want to see them in heaven later, I have to be creative and do whatever I need to do.’ And then I also remember my brokenness and remember I cannot do anything without Jesus.
Traveling with Friends and “Framily”
Talk with Ashley about her seemingly random travels and, once again, you may be tempted to stereotype them as the life of a freespirit. But pay close attention to some of the following examples. There is remarkable purpose here.
I started travelling and consulting 75% of the time in Boston, Nashville – all of the country. I had these pockets of people, and I just told my story. I didn’t want to be closed off to people just because they aren’t on a pew on Sunday. They won’t go to church if you don’t meet them where they’re at.
In 2014 I moved to San Diego. I could tell this lady, Crystal, in my building was kind of a troubled soul. She hadn’t been to church for 17 years. Three months into our friendship, her husband left her—just, boom—gone. I said, ‘Why don’t you go to church with me?’ She came and was just bawling. She had stopped going to church when her friend died in a shooting. She told me, ‘Your friendship is what has drawn me. You never condemn me.’ I told her that’s not my place.
The next time I wanted to travel, I made Crystal my travel companion and I thought, ‘Hey let’s go to Belize.’ We went and met these two guys from Kansas on a water taxi. We were all going to the same place, and they said, ‘Come to our property to a barbeque we’re having.’ Now I’ve gotten to know these two families as well. Some go to church but not regularly. They were raised orthodox Pentecostal but became embittered and started traveling a lot.
Ashley doesn’t take any of these chance encounters as accidental, but she sees a common thread running through them.
I’ve been back to Belize seven times in the last year and a half. Each time I’ve gotten bolder. I’ve met Tammy, a bar owner. She’s not a Christian but cares a lot about people and is also a friend with Bob. I met another girl who is secretly rescuing women from human trafficking. I met all these people sitting on a bar stool, sitting on a water taxi, talking in my building. This network of people is slowly forming into a “framily"—friends who are family.
Spontaneous Control Versus Settled Identity
While possessing a love for adventure, a love for friendship, and a love for life, Ashley doesn’t strike me as someone who rests on her laurels as a self-important success story.
I see that I’ve always been a very controlling person over my life, and it’s hard to give it all to God. I tell him, let me just keep a pinky on it. I’ve been going through a lot of turmoil and frustration with God in the last year, whereas my framily seems to be getting more involved in church. But I realized even as a broken person, you can still be impactful through your brokenness.
I asked Ashley if she was ever afraid that her openness and honesty would lead to rejection from her friends.
I used to be when I had a small circle of friends. But then I’d meet these people around the bars, who knew what I was doing with church, and they accepted me. One guy who accepted me was a gay man, who is a doctor in the Navy. I do want him to be happy, but I know that that’s not the life the Lord has for him. He got cancer last year, and when I told him I’d do anything for him, he saw that I really cared about him rather than just the label of “gay.” I’ve gotten to the point where I realize that quantity over quality of friendships is not the right idea. I’m going to be who I am, so I want to have friends who will let me be a part of their life in that way.