When I graduated from Christ for the Nations Bible Institute (CFNI) with a Missions Degree, I had been faced with a choice: “Where do I go for 3 months of my life to walk out what I just learned?” I am not sure what dean, founder, or CFNI staff person decided that all Missions Majors must go to a “Field School” in order to graduate… But it was a great idea. The only problem was that I missed the day they described each field school option. So the only thing I had to base my decision on was a paper with a few sentences that described the LARGE selection of places (because at this point in my walk, asking Jesus was only for “life and death” situations. I mean the Big Guy was way too busy back then…). I quickly eliminated everywhere that wasn’t Africa, because Africa is where all the “REAL MISSIONARIES” go (Jesus has since forgiven my ignorance and pride….). That narrowed it down to a few choices. I didn’t know the founders of Iris Global, based in Pemba, Mozambique, but the three sentences sound pretty cool. So I signed the future of my missionary education over to Iris Harvest School without much knowledge of what exactly I was getting into.
After all the CFNI graduation ordeals had passed, I landed in the red dirt of Pemba with my superhero cape snuggly fastened around my neck. I was ready for the great “bush bush” experience. It wasn’t long before the Holy Spirit stood on the tail of said cape and caught me off guard. I quickly found out that this was less about reaching the multitudes and a lot more about reaching the one Jesus sets right in front of you. It had nothing to do with singlehandedly ending hunger, but realizing that these sweet mamas know more about being fed by their Papa than I did. I was more the definition of an orphan than the amazing, smiling faces of the children who may just be growing up without earthly parents. Africa did not need Ashley Ruffin; Ashley Ruffin needed Africa!
There was no stone left unturned in my heart over those three months. There still aren’t many days that go by that something Jesus taught me in that red dirt doesn’t echo in my life. In fact, it was 3 years ago that I began to cry out to Jesus for a sign - that He would make it plain if He wanted me to go back to the most beautiful and fruitful season of my life, but as a staff member this time. You see, Mozambique, in all of its epic greatness as the most refining fire there is, is STILL A FIRE. Fire burns, and it’s hot, but I knew that if Jesus asked me, I would do it. It was then that I saw, up in the sky for all the world to see…. This ACTUAL Billboard: : : : : : : : : : : (Because I feel like just one colon thing is not enough!) Obedience is huge for me, so with this even huger sign in the sky, I quickly set about making plans to return to Pemba. Some of those plans led me to the city of Abilene, Texas. I was there for an Iris Leaders’ HeartSync training, never intending to make a habit of visiting Abilene. While there, I met the base directors of Iris Abilene and they informed me that they too were going to have a school and they needed some people to Staff. Could it be true? Could I staff here in Texas and not be on the metaphorical “hook” that is staffing in Africa?!