“Lord, what do YOU WANT to do with my life?”
We regularly encourage young people, and anyone at one of life’s transitions, to ask this question. While God leads people to full-time ministry outside the church in business or medicine or government, He also leads some to full-time ministry inside the Church.
Ashley Meissner is a daughter of this congregation. As she asked the Lord this question, she was led to attend Concordia University in Austin and train for the teaching ministry. She has a Call to serve at Westlake Preparatory Lutheran Academy in Katy, TX, outside of Houston.
It’s a unique situation that we will have the opportunity to install her at Peace this Sunday, Sept. 4. If you know her, her parents Glynn and Karen, or if you had the opportunity to watch her grow up like many of us did, come and join us for her Installation, right after 11:00 worship. ~ Pastor WEW.
“I was always raised a Lutheran,” Ashley says. She attended St. Paul Lutheran School in Fort Worth from PreK (when Joan Wallace was her teacher) through 8th grade. “When I was young, I assumed I would go through Christian schools, but my parents gave me the choice of going to a private or public high school. I chose to go to Paschal High School. Honestly, at the time, my friends in 8th grade were going there.
“I was sheltered,“ Ashley says. “It was like culture shock. Paschal was an inner city high school. Growing up in a Lutheran school, I wasn’t exactly exposed to what the real world was like. The kind of school I went into…there were gangs, weapons, drugs, fights—all the ugly things that can happen at a high school did happen at my high school. As a child, I didn’t know that kind of life existed, that people lived like that or acted like that.”
|Now in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Simeon called Niger, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen (who had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch) and Saul. While they were worshipping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” So after they had fasted and prayed, they placed their hands on them and sent them off.
Her mother Karen became the business manager at Peace when Ashley was in 7th grade. After Ashley was confirmed at St. Paul at the end of 8th grade, she joined the youth group at Peace, which was led by John Welte, a Director of Christian Education (DCE). It helped her make the transition to high school. “I felt like I fit in at Peace,” Ashley recalls. “The youth group was my safe haven, even though I didn’t know a single person when I went there. The students were so friendly, and John was so good about including everyone. He had a heart for ministry. His passion was great—he really cared about us, genuinely cared about what was going on in our lives, our ambitions and fears. Faith is an intense concept. He presented the faith in a way that was not intense, and not complicated, approachable…He made it natural. I was only around him for two years before he moved to Michigan,” she says, “but my faith grew more in those two years that he was leading my Bible study class than in most of my life.”
Ashley remembers going on several youth group trips to Acuña, Mexico. “We would go in January and take toys and food—it was just for a weekend. But in June we’d build houses. We’d buy supplies there and build a house from the foundation up. We built a sturdy two-room wooden house for a family that was previously living in a home made out of cardboard. I learned skills on those trips. I know how to put on a roof, properly put shingles and tar paper on a roof so it doesn’t leak, make a wall and a window frame I do not know how to install a door.
“In Acuña we were face-to-face with young kids. The kids our age were not around. They were out working to support their families—they were no longer in school. They’d get a shower by filling a tin tub with water. Then they’d stand in it and scoop up water with a cup and pour it on themselves. The kids in our youth group made the decision to allow ourselves one hot shower during the whole week or bathe in the lake.” Ashley pauses to reflect. “In Katy, I go to work, shop, do laundry, go to church… Compared to people in Acuña, I am spoiled rotten; I’m a millionaire!”
“Godspell…” Ashley exhales. “Wow! That was a long time ago. There were 12 of us and each one of us had to sing a solo in front of the church. We filled up the Worship Center for three shows.”
Both of Ashley parents have served in Lutheran churches as business managers. “My parents are both accountants,” Ashley says. “But I didn’t want to do budget crunching.
“I was a freshman, 15 years old—that’s when I wanted to be a DCE. John Welte inspired me. I knew I wanted to go to Concordia University Texas in Austin. I was in the DCE program for one semester, and then I switched to elementary education. I love the little kids. I realized I wanted to be in the classroom with the kids five days a week—not just Sunday.”
Ashley specialized in “Early Childhood through Sixth Grade” and received two certifications: Texas State certification to teach in Texas public schools and the Lutheran Teacher Diploma (LTD), which made her eligible for a Call to teach in a Lutheran (LCMS) school.
Getting the Call
|Then the Lord called Samuel.
Samuel answered, “Here I am.”
Ashley explains the difference between getting a teaching job in a public school versus a Lutheran school. “It’s basically the exact opposite,” she says. “When you come out of college, most people have to look for a job (in the public schools). They have to find out what positions are open in which schools, contact the schools, and submit resumés. But when you’re looking to accept a Call from a Lutheran school, you first agree to be put on a list. When a school has an opening, they ask for the list. The District will send the list, or the school can contact the individual Concordia University and ask the placement director to give names to the school.” Ashley sighs. “It’s a very stressful position to be in. There is NO guarantee that you’ll have a job. Your future is completely out of your hands. You have no idea where in the country or the world you might go. For example, a Lutheran school in Hong Kong might call you. You can say, ‘No,’ but you’re highly advised not to.”
When challenged about whether she might have more influence if she were teaching in a secular school like Paschal rather than a Christian school, Ashley responds quickly. “Of course, you’re more likely to have unchurched students in a public school, but I would not be allowed to discuss my faith with my students. I could only lead by example. In private school, I am encouraged to discuss my faith. I have a Buddhist student in my class. I can introduce her to Christ. I can talk to her about my beliefs. That wouldn’t happen in a public school—I’d get fired.”
Ashley accepted a Call as a 2nd grade teacher from Westlake Preparatory Lutheran Academy in Katy, Texas. “Accepting a Call is a ‘heart thing.’ It’s God calling you to minister to kids about the Bible, about faith, about life. They’re your kids for a year. I have a chance to affect them, not just from 8:30 am to 3:00 pm for a year, but for their eternal future.”
What Does It Mean to Be Installed?
Installation is a church ceremony for Called church workers. It is a special service when, in Ashley’s case, the Called teacher professes in front of the church that she believes that Jesus is her Lord and Savior and agrees to all the teachings of the LCMS. She promises to teach the children everything the Lutheran Church teaches.
Westlake Preparatory Lutheran Academy is a member of the Lutheran Education Association of Houston, which is an LCMS organization. However, it is not connected to a local church. “No congregation supports this school,” Ashley explains. “We survive solely on the tuition of the students. We get no financial assistance from any church.”
Most installations of church workers take place in the “connected” church. Because Westlake Prep is controlled by one central board for three member schools, Ashley got to choose where she wanted to be installed. She chose Peace Lutheran Church.
“My favorite hymn is ‘Beautiful Savior,’ ” Ashley volunteers. “It wraps up what we believe, but also has sentimental value. It was my Granny’s favorite hymn—we sang it at her funeral. Papa—that’s what we call my grandfather—always tells me Granny would be so proud of me. She highly valued education, and she wanted me to be a teacher.”
Concordia University reports that there is currently a shortage of teachers who are eligible to receive Calls for service in our Lutheran schools. Ashley explains that is “mostly because in order to qualify, you have to take extra course work—which turned my degree program from four years to five years. It takes more time and more money. But,” she adds, “if it weren’t for my Lutheran Teaching Diploma, I’d be unemployed, living at home. I graduated with a group of girls and not everyone was certified to teach in a Christian school. The only students who have teaching jobs are teaching in Lutheran schools.
“I am very blessed. I can pay my bills. I have a roof over my head,” Ashley says. “I’m a 23-year-old who can support herself.”
Join the Journey of Faith at www.PeaceChurch.org