Friday, August 21, 2009

Our Missionaries in Honduras: Mark and Ashley Wright

Praise God! Ashley and Mark Wright and their three children arrived safely in Honduras to begin their mission service. Please see their mission connections webpage at:

You may find webpages for all of our Presbyterian international missionaries at missionconnections. Please pray for the Wrights as they begin their service with the Presbyterian Church in Honduras. This article is copied from their initial mission connections article:

Rev. Mark and Ashley Wright

The Wrights are the first Presbyterian mission co-workers to serve with the Presbyterian Church of Honduras. They began their service in July 2009. They’re tasked with leadership and theological training, as well as promoting congregational self-sufficiency in the Honduran context. While their primary role is helping to build the capacity of local church leaders, the Wrights also nurture and resource the PC(USA)’s mission network.

Once the center of the Mayan empire, Honduras is a now a sparsely populated, mountainous country in Central America, and one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. Throughout most of the last century it has been ruled by various military dictatorships, but since the 1980s the military has been more restrained and democracy is growing, as is the income level of the people. The Presbyterian Church of Honduras consists of 20 churches located within a 60-mile radius from the capital city, Tegucigalpa. The church members are said to be so enthusiastic that many meet four days per week: Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday as well as Sunday.

Ashley recalls a particular moment of insight that occurred in India when she was only 10 years old. “We were in New Delhi visiting the Taj Mahal and it was very, very hot. We had walked back up to the front along the flat pools, and were standing next to a man chopping sugar cane. He tossed the left-over ends into a huge pile on his left, and many children were scampering onto the pile looking for pieces that had any juice left in them. I started watching a little girl who was about 6 years old. She stopped in front of me and we stared each other up and down—I in my dress and shoes and hat and she in a dirty undergarment but with a gold stud in her nose. She was very thin, and from the way she tore into her small stump of discarded sugarcane she was obviously very hungry. For the first time, I realized how extremely blessed I was to have been born into my family in the United States and not into poverty in India. I realized at that young age that I was not put into the world to be a taker, but to be a person who gives and makes the world better.”

Mark tells about the time during his junior year abroad in 1986-87 when he was part of a group of American students who crossed the Berlin Wall and were hosted by a group of students in East Germany. The two groups defended their countries vigorously. Then, Mark reports, “As the evening wore on and our leaders went home for the night, we all began to talk and defend less and listen more. Words got easier, ideas and ideologies got softer, and we all began to be able to admit both the faults of and our love for our respective nations. A wall fell that day. Later, during graduate school at the University of Salzburg, I took another trip to Berlin and Checkpoint Charlie, where not long before the guns, dogs, and barbed wire had seemed so permanent and dangerous. This time, however, I borrowed a hammer and climbed on a stretch of that thick wall. I beat enough pieces of concrete off to fill a backpack and I brought them home when I returned to the United States. The funny thing is, I don’t know what happened to them. It seems that even the pieces of that wall have disappeared.”

Ashley spent four years in children’s ministry for the Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. She gave children’s sermons, taught both preschool and confirmation classes, and organized Bible school. Prior to that work, she had served in a similar ministry with children at First Presbyterian Church in Spruce Pine, North Carolina. Before that, she worked as a librarian at Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, a high school biology teacher in Charlotte/Mecklenburg, North Carolina, and a customer service representative for Eagle Vision in Memphis, Tennessee.

Mark spent a year in Germany and another in Austria and is fluent in German. He served for almost five years as pastor of Kennedy Heights Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, and two and one-half years at Spruce Pine Presbyterian Church, Spruce Pine, North Carolina.

Ashley earned a bachelor’s degree in art and literature from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. She also earned an M. Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary in Atlanta, Georgia. Mark holds a bachelor’s degree in religion from Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He has also earned three masters degrees. The first was in teaching from the University of Memphis, Tennessee. His certificates are in middle school and high school biology, chemistry, science, and German. The second was in German language and literature from Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio. The third was an M. Div. from Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. Ashley is a member of the Balmoral Presbyterian Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and is a candidate for ordained ministry in the Presbytery of the Mid-South. Mark was ordained to the ministry of Word and Sacrament on July 1, 2001. He is a minister member of the Presbytery of Cincinnati.

Ashley and Mark have three sons—Ethan, Eliott, and Gabriel—who will accompany them on their assignment to Honduras.

Praying for our Schools.

In preparation for a new school year, the New York Board of Regents wrote a prayer which they expected to be read at the start of the year in every public school in the state of New York. The pray was brief and nondenominational:

Almighty God, we acknowledge our dependence upon Thee, and we beg Thy blessing upon us, our parents, our teachers, and our country.”

On June 25, 1962 the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the State of New York could not have an official prayer read in public school classrooms. The Court deemed unconstitutional a public prayer to be used in public schools which was composed by governmental officials. As we know, there was a chorus of outrage at this Supreme Court decision from many devout Christians. But since that long ago day, those of us who attended public schools which never had official public prayers, and who now have children looking forward to another school year in public schools which never have public prayers, we have learned that, in fact, the civilized world has not come to an end because of that Supreme Court decision.

I believe we church leaders need to hear again and take to heart President J. F. Kennedy’s very perceptive response to that monumental Supreme Court decision:

“We have in this case a very easy remedy and that is to pray ourselves. I would think that it would be a welcome reminder to every American family that we can pray a good deal more at home, we can attend our churches with a good deal more fidelity, and we can make the true meaning of prayer much more important in the lives of all our children.”

In our churches and in our homes, our congregations, pastors and parents have the responsibility to pray for our schools, students, and teachers. As we begin another school year let us pray.

NOTE: For an excellent discussion of public religion in America, including the story of the 1962 Supreme Court ruling on school prayer, see Jon Meacham. American Gospel: God, the Founding Fathers, and the Making of a Nation. (Random House, 2007).