NGU Music Ed Alum Sells All to Teach, Serve Overseas
Ashley O’Shields (’04) boarded a one-way flight to Cambodia in July 2016.
She left behind her position with the School District of Pickens County, where she'd taught music for 10 years; her longtime home state of South Carolina; her family and friends; and even most of her possessions.
“I sold my house, my car, everything inside my house, furniture, clothes,” she says. “It didn’t matter to me, so I got rid of it all.”
O’Shields had known for quite some time that a big change was coming, but not exactly what or when. She began sensing God’s call for her to serve overseas as early as 2000, when she went on her first mission trip as a college student at North Greenville University.
“It was during my time at North Greenville when I really started to develop what it meant to grow in my relationship with Christ. I definitely felt prepared for the classroom from my experience [at NGU, too],” says O’Shields, who studied music education at NGU. “Ever since [that mission trip], teaching overseas kept coming back to my mind.”
In 2015, missionaries in her life group at church began encouraging everyone to live a missional lifestyle wherever they were. O’Shields became more serious about practicing this kind of living in her position as a public school teacher in Pickens County.
When the same missionaries invited her to come visit them in Cambodia for 10 days in March 2016, she accepted. And she continued to pray about the calling she’d felt for years:
“‘Lord, if this is what you want for me, then make it clear to me while I’m there,’” O’Sheilds prayed.
During the trip, O’Shields visited several colleges and schools, hoping for a sign that would confirm she should either move to Cambodia right away or continue to wait for the right time.
The sign came. Over coffee with one of the teachers at the local elementary school for missionary children, O’Shields found out that the school was planning to post an open position for a music teacher — that very same day.
O’Shields applied and got the job. Within a few short weeks, she also found housing, a roommate, and transportation for her new life in Cambodia.
“I didn’t know 100 percent that this is what I should do until I said, “Yes, I’ll go,” O’Shields says. “Once I said, ‘Yes,’ the Lord put everything into action.”
Her position began in Fall 2016 with Hope International Christian School, where she teaches music to elementary students at both of the school’s campuses, as well as leads after-school music clubs.
O’Shields says that some of her everyday challenges include the language barrier; the year-round hot weather; and, of course, the spiritual warfare. In Cambodia, the majority of the population identifies as either Buddhist or Muslim. But that’s one of the reasons O’Shields felt called there to help support the efforts of the Christian missionaries in the first place.
“I saw a huge need for believers to be present. When someone comes to Christ, they need to disciple them and come alongside them. Honestly, I just saw [that] opportunity, and I went with it,” O’Shields says.
O’Shields knows how it feels to give up nearly everything and move to a new country to do the work the Lord has called you to do, whatever that might be. Because in summer 2016, she did that.
“My courage is from God, knowing that this is His plan for me. No matter what, He’s going to take care of me. It’s going to be challenging. The Christian life is not meant to be smooth sailing,” O’Shields says. “But the promise is that we have everlasting life with Him. No matter what we go through, it’s for Him. That’s where my courage comes from.”
For more information on the music education degree at NGU, visit ngu.edu/music-education.php.
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