One Year in Ashburnham Place_ September 2014-August 2015
My name is Noemie, I'm 22 years old and I spent one year in Ashburnham Place, from September 2014 to August 2015. My stay as a volunteer in Ashburnham Place was unexpectedly rich in teachings. When I look back to these 12 months, I can clearly see that God had prepared the way, put the right people and the right circumstances together, everything was ready for this special meeting He wanted to have with me in that place.
First of all, Ashburnham was a gift in the fact that there, I had time. And especially time to think, as I was most of the time working with my hands. Time to pray, time to enjoy, time to know myself better. God speaks in Ashburnham. Probably better than in any other place where I have been before, I could hear Him in Ashburnham. And I learned to listen, to stop thinking too much about the things ; to let Him the time to speak and to pour His word, slowly and gently, in deeper parts of my heart.
Be still and know that I am God. (ps 46) One of the first verse that I experienced in Ashburnham. After a few weeks, I was a little bit troubled by the fact that I didn’t have anything to do in Ashburnham. At home, I had a lot of responsibilities, in the church, in other Christian organizations, I was busy all the time. But in Ashburnham I understood that God wanted me for Him. Just me, alone with Him. I learned about rest. Christian life is first of all about being with Him, enjoying His presence, loving Him ; that comes before ministry and service.
After 2 months and a half, the excitation of the beginning was far behind. My best friend left Ashburnham in November, and a few days later I started to feel sad ; the feeling of loneliness, that I had had sometimes during the previous months, became stronger. I remember an evening, I prayed about that, telling to God that I didn’t understand why I was in that place where nobody needed me, where I could even disappear for one day without anybody noticing it. I asked God to answer and to send me someone I could share with. And someone came, there was another volunteer just in the corridor; I talked with her about this situation, and she said to me : « You know, sometimes God lead us into the desert to teach us that we need to depend on him and not on the people. » God answered so clearly on that evening: « Noemie, look for me, cling to me, and give me your time. The more you feel lonely, the more you will have to get close to me. » I discovered, little by little, that God can be a real friend, (and even my best friend !) and that I have to depend on him not only for practical things, but also for emotional and affective things.
During this year, I struggled a lot with my self-esteem ; Satan was whispering lies in my mind all the time, lies that made me feel depressed, and that made me feel hurt by some situations and uncomfortable with some people. But for a long time I didn’t understand why I felt so sad, the only thing that I knew was that through this situation I experienced an intimacy with God that never had before;I learned to worship Him when I felt depressed, I felt for the first time that there was a fight ; I discovered that the word of God is really a sword that we can use against these lies that comes to our minds… God put on my way a lot of people I could share and pray with…I started to open myself, to share my vulnerability, to build friendship and trust. And I experienced that prayer really helps, when I was sad it helped me to feel lighter.
But God also wanted to heal me, to dig into my heart, to bring to light what was hidden or forgotten. Ashburnham was a kind of “special cleaning” for me. The special cleaning : this time when we look into those hidden places where we usually don’t clean, because we don’t have time… But in Ashburnham, I had time, and enough distance with my normal life to think about all that stuff. My family, my childhood, some wounds I had in my past that were still hurting… I realized that I had actually spent all my life thinking that my worth was in what I was doing, and I was somehow continuously looking for approbation from other people, hoping them to confirm that I was worthy… Hence, I was stressed and fearing failure. God patiently talked to me, through some people, situations and through the Bible, telling me that He loved me unconditionally and that I was His daughter. It seems so simple, I probably heard it a thousand times before in my life, but I needed to live it. To understand it in a deeper way.
Because things are changing "inside myself", other things can change outside. I don't have to ashamed of who I am,I don't have to fear people, so I can tell what I think. Through my lifecoaching and through some friends who had a good influence on me, I learned (and I'm still learning!) to "speak the truth", to tell these difficult truths that may make the people feel quite uncomfortable.
In my new freedom of resting and taking the time (without feeling guilty when I’m not doing useful stuff), some parts of my personality appear, my creativity for example. It’s not so much what I do that glorifies God, rather than what I am. I loved worship in Ashburnham. Because there was so much freedom! I could dance or lay down, use the flag, or cry, just be myself. And I realized that it pleases God, and that it is exactly what I am made for.
Now that I’m back home, I’m so thankful for this experience. Of course I still have so much to learn about myself, but Ashburnham somehow gave me a “key”. I don’t want to live like before. I don’t want to do everything to please the people. I don’t want to be stressed and obsessed with efficiency. I want to love God, to love the people, to love life, to love myself ; it’s what pleases God. At the moment, I’m looking for myself, and for the way I can serve God as myself.
For all these reasons, I think Ashburnham is a very special place for the heart of God. I want to thank everybody that took part to my experience, it's so amazing to see how every single person brings something to this community in order to bless others. Just by who they are, different and special, as God created them 😊
Noemie Del, September 2015