John Ashmen ’74

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“In 1970, when my father dropped me off in front of the 1828 Arch Street dorm, he said, ‘These will be the best years of your life. Don’t bury yourself in books. Make sure you enjoy the time,’” John Ashmen reminisces. “I took him literally.” Thus began a college experience that gave John the best of both worlds. “While the academics were a critical component of my PCB experience, I’d have to say it was the extracurricular segment that really prepared me for what was ahead.”

What was ahead for John in the nearly 30 years that followed was Christian camping ministry, both directing a camp and overseeing publications, marketing, educational events, and technical resources for a national camping association. “While I was a student, I was editor of the Scroll (student newspaper), was on student council, sat on several committees, played sports, was in a couple of music groups, and worked jobs both on campus (maintenance, book warehouse, security) and off campus (hotel desk clerk, city tour guide, health club lifeguard).” His varied activities as a student gave John familiarity with many fields. “I got experience, albeit basic, in publishing, organizational governance, management, upfront and behind-the-scenes leadership, public relations, community relations, and more.”

In 2007, the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM) asked John to assume leadership of the 100-year-old organization. Some might say that he was finally returning to his academic roots; John graduated in 1974 with a B.S. in Bible from the Department of Social Work. But John sees no dichotomy between the two main avenues he’s walked in since PBU. “Camps and missions are not as much about setting as they are about hospitality,” John says. “Both camps and rescue missions sleep people. Both offer food service. Both have chapel programs. Leaders at both oversee board development, administration, strategic planning, HR, PR, maintenance, fundraising, and so on. The focus of both, however, is hospitality. And when you understand that, the only difference is that people go to a camp or conference center because it’s a fun resort; they go to a rescue mission because it’s a last resort.”

John believes that biblical hospitality shows the character of Jesus Christ. “Giving food, accommodation, and assistance to strangers makes connections. And when connections like that occur, the conversations that follow break through the loneliness, discouragement, and despair that is prevalent in our world today. Furthermore, when biblical hospitality becomes a lifestyle, those who enthusiastically adopt it are usually in the forefront of producing new Christ followers through their actions as well as their words.”

God recently used a man named Brother Ron to remind John of this. As he showed John around the service agency where he worked, Brother Ron explained that because of the amount of time homeless people spend walking in worn-out, ill-fitting shoes, they often have illnesses that are born in their feet. When people come into the center, Brother Ron washes their feet, clips and files their toenails, and examines their feet to care for blisters, calluses, and sores. Before they leave, he makes sure they have clean socks and shoes that fit correctly. John was struck by the image: Brother Ron kneeling at the feet of the homeless, literally living out John 13.

“It’s my prayer that we would concentrate on loving our neighbors as ourselves,” John says. “May we keep preaching redemption through a risen Jesus, but all the while, never abandon the basins and towels that tell the world who Jesus really is.”

John Ashmen was honored as PBU’s Alumnus of the Year for 2010. Currently the president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions in Colorado Springs, CO, John also serves on the board of City Mission World Association and the Christian Hospitality Network. Previously, he was with Christian Camp and Conference Association for 15 years. John has a Master’s of Organizational Management from the University of Phoenix. His writings have appeared in books, journals, and websites, and he teaches college courses and ministry management seminars around the world. John’s wife Judi is a billing agent, nurse, and lab technician for a skin cancer surgery center. John and Judi have three married children.

[framed_box]Carrie Givens, M.A., has been a Communications Specialist at PBU since 2009 and an Adjunct Faculty member in the School of Arts and Sciences since 2008.