ASHE COUNTY —For Laurel Springs native Ashley Blevins, serving as a missionary in Ethiopia was an unexpected opportunity but one she believes was undeniably driven by God.
Last November, Blevins, of Pilot Mountain, spent nine days in Ethiopia for a medical and dental missionary trip where she helped in treating 400 to 1,000 patients a day through Hand of Hope.
Hand of Hope is a missions arm of Joyce Meyer Ministries, a Christian non-profit organization based in Fenton, Missouri that has provided treatment to more than 1.7 million patients all around the world in countries such as Brazil, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sambia and Uganda.
It all began last July when Blevins said she constantly kept hearing of Ethiopia, a place she wasn’t previously familiar with.
“I kept hearing it through the television, through the radio, through my pastor at church,” Blevins said. “It was three weeks of nonstop ‘Ethiopia.’”
Blevins, who was working as a dental hygienist in Greensboro at the time, said that a missionary came into her work.
“I was prompted to ask him where they had been last and it was Ethiopia,” Blevins said.
That same week, Blevins said she even had a patient from Ethiopia which further proved to her that God was pointing her in that direction.
“It was undeniable that I was being called there,” Blevins said. ” I said, ‘God, if you want me to go, I’ll go.”
The next month, Blevins says she felt led to quit her full-time job as a dental hygienist.
“And within two days after putting in my notice, this trip came to life,” Blevins said. “Before this trip I had never been anywhere like this. I had never even been on a plane before. That’s how big of a deal this was to me.”
According to Blevins, she was able to raise the exact amount needed for the trip in just a short month.
“This showed me that no matter how impossible a situation may seem, it is very possible with God,” Blevins said.
Blevins says it was overwhelming to see the amount of malnutrition in the poverty stricken country, stating that she saw many young children near death because of starvation.
According to Blevins, Hand of Hope partners with International Crisis Aide, which provides a feeding program year round. Blevins said that her group was able to enroll 213 people in the program during the duration of their trip.
She also worked alongside local Ethiopian doctor, Dr. Sebo, who she still keeps in contact with daily since her return to the United States.
The most difficult part of her trip? According to Blevins, it was returning home.
“It was so hard coming back. There was definitely culture shock coming back to the states. These people have nothing but they are so appreciative and so selfless,” Blevins said. “Coming back, especially around the holidays, was difficult. I closed myself off from the outside world for a few weeks because we are so selfish here and just unappreciative of things that we take for granted everyday like clean water.”
Moving forward, Blevins says the life changing experience has led her to continue to do local volunteer work and she hopes to encourage others to do the same.
“You don’t have to travel across the world, just do something in your own town,” Blevins said. “There are needs everywhere.”
Blevins says she plans to volunteer with an organization that helps teens who have found themselves in difficult situations such as teen pregnancy and drug abuse. She also plans to take another trip to Ethiopia with Hand of Hope next November.
“It’s inspired me to be more helpful,” Blevins said. “I would definitely encourage people to be less selfish and help out others as they can.”
Hannah Myers can be reached at 336-846-7164 or on Twitter @cmedia_hmyers