Ashley Bartel of Hillsboro thought long and hard about the things she might miss this summer if she went on another service trip, things like the Marion County Fair demo derby, going to the lake with friends, and just being around friends and family.
“This year, it is especially hard to leave because this is my summer after my senior year,” Bartel said. “There are so many friends and family I want to spend time with, but when I considered staying home or going out to witness for Christ — I just had to go.”
Last year, Bartel went on her first summer mission trip with TEEN Missions International, traveling to Zimbabwe where she was part of an evangelistic team that delivered new shoes and socks to impoverished children.
“I was part of a team that went out every day to a different elementary school,” Bartel said. “We would wash the school children’s feet and then give them new socks and shoes.”
After giving a short English lesson on phonics, Bartel said she and other team members played games and shared the Gospel with the children with puppets, songs, and personal testimonies.
“What stuck out to me, was that after each visit we gave an alter call inviting the people to give their lives to Jesus and they responded,” she said. “The number of kids that raised their hands was just fantastic. It was so exciting.”
Bartel said 1,119 children and four adults accepted Jesus as their personal savior while she was in Zimbabwe last year.
“I saw God working and it really touched my heart,” she said. “I want to go back and see how God will work through me again.”
This year Bartel will travel to Vanuatu, a series of islands near Fiji and Australia.
After spending two weeks at a training camp in Florida, Bartel will travel with 21 team members to Pentecost Island as part of a work team. Their job is to build a dining room at a health center and complete other construction and painting jobs during weekdays on the property. On the weekends, they will travel to remote villages in the area and their evangelizing presentations.
“Last year at this time I was very scared,” Bartel said. “I had never flown in an airplane and didn’t have much travel experience. It turned out amazing though, and I feel a lot more confident this year.”
Bartel had to raise $4,890 to fund her mission trip this year. She met her goal with several fundraisers including selling Valentine’s Day cookies, Mother’s Day candle and plant baskets, serving a Farmers Market meal, and hosting a citywide garage sale.
“It is just miraculous how the money has come in,” she said. “I feel the support of the community very much and am so thankful.”
Bartel is also thankful that she will get to serve with several friends she made in Africa last year.
“Last year, the 23 people on my team became like a family after only three days,” she said. “This year my best friend from last year will be there, along with three or four others that also served.”
Bartel said she would be traveling the same distance from home to Vanuatu as she did last year to Zimbabwe.
“It is ironic that it is that same distance, just to an opposite side of the world,” she said. “I really feel this is where the Lord is leading me.”
Bartel said her family was planning to drive her to Florida for training camp this year, leaving early so they could vacation together in Orlando and at Disney World. After their vacation, they will drop her off at Meritt Island, Fla., where she will spend two weeks getting prepared for the mission field.
“We have to get up at 5:30 a.m. every morning to run a 45-minute obstacle course,” she said. “Then we’ll have evangelism classes, puppet instruction, singing, drama — strangely, I love it all.”
Bartel said her mission experience runs from June 8 to July 31. Part of that includes a debriefing time back at the original training camp when they return from Vanuatu.
“When I get back to Kansas I will have two and a half weeks at home before I go to college,” she said. “That is going to be kind of rough but I am looking forward to it.”
Bartel plans to attend Hastings College in Nebraska where she will major in elementary education.
She is the daughter of Ron and Melissa Bartel of rural Hillsboro.