Ashley Bowes, a member of the Bass Memorial Academy Church in Lumberton, Miss., has wanted
to be a missionary for as long as she can remember. She wanted to be like her uncle, Wesley Szamko, who served overseas as a missionary for 11 years in Cambodia, Timor-Leste, and the Philippines.
She began with short trips. First, she went to Panama with Maranatha. They built a Sabbath School and church building by day, and taught Vacation Bible School by night. During her junior year at Bass Memorial Academy, Bowes went with some of her classmates on a ShareHim trip to the Dominican Republic. Each student preached at a church for 10 days. Bowes also performed special music on her violin, and witnessed at a local elementary and high school. During her senior year, she and her classmates went to New Mexico to tile bathroom walls in a gymnasium.
By the time Bowes arrived at South- ern Adventist University in Collegedale, Tenn., to study nursing in 2018, she knew that she wanted to serve as a student missionary. Bowes was eager to have the opportunity to connect with others on a deeper level than a one- or two-week trip would allow; she just wasn’t sure when she could fit it in with her studies. She talked with Southern’s Student Missions Office about the possibility of going overseas, but she didn’t know if it was going to work out.
When a last-minute opportunity arose for her to go to Pucallpa, Peru, in January 2020, she decided to take the leap. In Peru, she worked with Amor Projects. Her primary responsibility there was helping to run medical clinics. She triaged patients, observed and assisted the doctor, worked in the pharmacy, and even got to give a few injections and IVs. They treated many issues, but the most common was stomach parasites from unclean food and water.
She also taught health, English, music, and Vacation Bible School. After these introductory classes, people were much more open to receiving Bible studies in their homes. “The people really appreciated the medical clinics and free medication,” she says. “Often, there was no health care for miles. For many people, this was their first time to ever receive medical care.”
Bowes’ time in Peru wrapped up abruptly in the middle of March when the student missionaries were told they had 24 hours before the borders would be closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Student Missions Office at Southern worked tirelessly until, after a series of miracles, they found a place for the students on a charter flight. The students’ flight took off eight minutes before the borders closed.
“It was a miracle,” Bowes remembers. “My time overseas was amazing, and I’m so excited to come home and be- come a nurse so that I can go overseas and serve others again. Medical mission work is a powerful way to reach people for Christ.”
Gulf States | November 2020