“There’s a mission field right here at home, and I viewed my job as a mission in the classroom.” – Ashley Marie Eckstein
A mission field – that’s exactly how Ashley Marie Eckstein (pictured on cover) and Cathy McJunkin view the public school system. Cathy put four kids through public school, and watched them be used by the Lord. As a schoolteacher for several years, Ashley Marie discovered creative ways to talk to students about her faith in Christ. Here’s how the Lord has used the public schools as a platform to point others to Christ.
A MISSION RIGHT HERE AT HOME
“Sometimes it made me mad when I would hear people say that they need to go out of the country to be on mission,” said Ashley Marie Eckstein. “There’s a mission field right here at home, and I viewed my job as a mission in the classroom.
“I started teaching middle school students in 2006 and worked until 2013 when our daughter, Ellesa, arrived. I taught kids from different backgrounds as I served in more affluent communities and in areas where poverty is a big problem. Sometimes the kids did not have a lot of love at home, and I had the opportunity to care for them.
“While I did free tutoring for kids who needed extra help, I built relationships with families outside school. Several families asked questions about what I believe. That gave me an opportunity to share my faith and plant a seed. A few years ago, two of those students came to church with me, and both trusted Christ.
“There’s actually a little irony in that, because for a long time I had people convinced I was a Christian. I was devoutly religious, went to daily mass and led a Bible study. But I’d missed the most important thing: grace.
“When I heard the pastor at Watermark say that Christ was the only way, I was offended. I met with someone on staff and had a lot of questions. That day, she asked me a question that froze me: ‘If you don’t have to be a Christian to go to Heaven, why are you here?’
“For the first time, I asked myself whether the list of good things I had done was good enough for God. The words of Ephesians 2:8-9 and a better understanding of Christ’s sacrifice led me to trust Christ as my Lord and Savior. Grace changed my life and caused me to finally start looking at other people as souls who need Jesus. That’s what encourages me to share about Christ with the people in my life.”
A REAL MISSION OPPORTUNITY
“The thought of putting four kids through school was ominous for my husband and me,” said Cathy McJunkin. “Our first thought turned to private Christian school, but we didn’t want to make that choice out of fear. We ended up enrolling in public school and decided to stay until we had a reason to leave. My kids are now 20 – 25 years old. It’s in the public school system where each of our children learned to let their light shine for the Lord.
“Public school was a real ministry opportunity. Whether it was giving kids from the neighborhood a ride home or getting involved on issues like abstinence, our family was able to speak about God’s Word where things were dark. It wasn’t always easy, but the Lord taught our kids how to love people whose beliefs were different from ours.
“In the late 90s, I started looking for resources for parents with kids in public education. That’s how I found out about Gateways for Better Education*. I used Gateways’ resources and seminars to find out where the lines were on talking about faith in school settings. There are many ways we can engage with students about the religious heritage of our country. Those resources helped equip me to be more effective in talking to others about Christ.
“When I started substitute teaching, I also saw how critical it was to have faithful parents involved in public schools. Through the years, other teachers asked why our family seemed different from others. We explained that God’s Word is our guidebook for parenting. Questions like that made me energized about the impact believers can make.
“Public school challenged my kids academically, encouraged them to live out their faith and prepared them to interact in the real world. They saw first-hand that there are hurting and lost people all around us, and as believers it’s our job to pursue and love them.”
* Gateways To Better Education helps public schools teach about the important contribution the Bible and Christianity make to the world.
Gateways will host a professional development class for teachers on Saturday, August 8 from 9 am–12:30 pm at Watermark’s Plano Campus (6400 K Avenue, Plano, TX 75074). Texas Certified Educators will earn 3.5 hours of CPE Credit at the class.
On Saturday, August 8 from 7 – 9 pm at the Plano campus, Watermark and Gateways will offer a class for parents.