“Life is filled with highs and lows, and I have definitely experienced hard times,” Ashley Martinet, a Southwestern Adventist University (SWAU) junior majoring in history, shared. “However, God enabled my SWAU experience to bring me closer to Him and give me hope.”
Ashley’s family moved to Texas from California when she was ten years old. Growing up, she and her twin sister, Jessica, were always very close, and Ashley shares that she was a protective sister. Jessica was born with down syndrome, but it never stopped her from living life to the fullest and loving hard. “My sister and I were always there for one another, through the good times and bad, we knew we had each other”, she says.
They attended public school all the way throughout high school while growing up Seventh-day Adventist. Her family attended a small church in The Colony, Texas. Unfortunately, the church didn’t have many kids her age, so her friends had different values and beliefs. With the multiple hospital visits and juggling everyday life, Ashley always questioned why God chose this to happen to her family.
In 2019, Ashley had two life-changing experiences. First, Jessica was having some routine tests when they found out she had liver cancer. “She grew up with health problems and had many surgeries,” Ashley said, “Her health was always a concern, but for the longest time she was doing so great until her last routine checkup.” While waiting in the hospital, Jessica collapsed. “She fell into my mom’s arms with all of my family around her,” Ashley shared. They later found out she had a brain aneurism. “It was very peaceful, and she didn’t suffer. We believe God took her that way because it was fast and painless.” Shortly after losing Jessica, Ashley’s grandmother passed away. This traumatic time changed her, and her family’s lives forever. “After losing both my sister and grandma within months of each other I knew SWAU is where I needed to be,” Ashley said. “I wanted to put myself in an environment where I knew God was going to be instead of one where I wasn’t going to focus on Him. I wanted to see my sister again, and I believe Jesus is the only way that will happen.”
After making the decision to come to SWAU, Ashley began to feel at peace. She could feel God’s presence around her. That fall, there was a Week of Prayer scheduled. It provided a daily program organized by Spiritual Life and Development (SLAD) for students to come together and worship God. “I felt touched that first day,” Ashley shared. “Eliab Quinones, a 2020 theology graduate, shared how someone died from his church and after talking with the family, he went home mad. He felt like he was mad at God and wanted to do something about it. But after some time, he realized that God misses them, too. It was like God was saying He missed His loved one just as much as I missed my sister.”
“Following that message, I had a deep conversation with two of my closest friends, Allie Cammilleri and Jack Bendall,” Ashley shared. “I met them when I first came to SWAU. They had been with me as I navigated the new chapter in my journey. They prayed with me and encouraged me to talk to Quinones about baptism. After talking and praying with Quinones, I made the best decision ever to be baptized.”
Leading up to the baptism, Ashley felt overwhelmed by the grace of God. Quinones and the SLAD team were there for her as she processed this life-changing moment. Ashley felt so excited to be baptized and wished Jessica could have been there to see that moment.
“The whole team was there for me with anything I needed,” Ashley shared. “They prayed over me and made me feel so loved. I knew this decision was the right one.” Ashley lives with the promise of God’s soon return knowing that she and her family will one day soon be able to reunite with her sister and grandma again in Heaven.
Even amid the worst storm, Ashley was able to grow closer to Christ. She looks forward to the future and strengthening her relationship even more with God.
SWAU is dedicated to empowering young people in finding their calling to serve God and those around them. After graduation, Ashley hopes to work with people with special needs, like her sister. For more information and to stay connected, visit swau.edu/slad.