But what is his secret?
[notice]Kurt Van Vollenhoven interviewed a Port Elizabeth newspaper vendor who blesses motorists every day with his friendly, joyful demeanour. Kurt wanted to find out what makes him so cheerful. He was inspired indeed by what he discovered.[/notice]
The 27 September 1974 was a huge day for the Kingdom of our Lord. On that day in the community of Schauderville, Port Elizzabeth, a son of the Kingdom was born. He was named Ashley and he was to become a great encourager and one who would influence so many people’s lives. He grew up in a family of five brothers and two sisters, so it is no wonder that he relates well to people.
I still remember when I first saw Ashley Munnick at the intersection of La Roche, Driftsands and Strandfontein drives in Humewood – the waving of his hands was so animated and his manner was so friendly and chatty that I wasn’t sure if he was assigned to this intersection as part of a new government initiative to help speed the traffic along in the mornings or whether maybe he was just selling newspapers. After much observation of this chap, I realised that he was quite aware that his task was not merely to sell newspapers but to answer a higher calling and a Kingdom purpose – to encourage and put smiles on the faces of weary and worn-out motorists in the mornings.
I managed to catch up with this guy who had to squeeze me in among his appointments with fellow community leaders and troubled youths. It really felt like I was having coffee with a Hollywood A-lister, since every second person who caught a glimpse of us seemed to know him. On that thought, he might not be on be on the cover of People magazine or on Forbe’s list of most highly paid actors but I know he’s definitely one of PE’s finest and on God’s list of coolest people.
When I asked him how he came to know the Lord Jesus Christ, I didn’t know that I was embarking on a journey and that the story he would tell me would be filled with so much hope and so many miracles. He came to know the Lord in 1999 and the way that it happened was so amazing – it wasn’t through a particular ministry but through a life choice that he had to make.
It all began while he was serving a sentence in Patensie Prison. He was connected to a gang in the prison, known as the 26ers. He was about to get more involved when the Lord spoke to him one Saturday morning, which was exercise day for the inmates.
“As I was about to leave for the field, the Lord spoke to me in an audible voice and told me that if I joined this gang I was going to die or spend the rest of my life in prison. The Lord showed me that I was at a crossroads to choose either death or life.”
Ashley explained further that the Lord gave him the answer that day and said “Choose life.” You must also understand that to join the 26ers you have to murder a warden or an inmate as a form of initiation. He told me that the Lord also gave him a verse to look up and that verse was Ezekiel 33:11 – “I take no pleasure in the death of a sinner.” On that morning he chose life because he didn’t want to face the consequences.
“Then Father started teaching me His Word and about Himself while I was in prison.”
In fact, he said that his turning point experience on the Saturday morning in prison was not the first time he had heard God speak to him audibly. Once while he was gambling he heard “Isaiah 65:11 (NIV)” which reads “But as for you who forsake the Lord and forget my holy mountain, who spread a table for Fortune and fill bowls of mixed wine for Destiny, I will destine you for the sword.”
When asked how he told his friends and family of the news of God’s decisive intervention in his life in prison, he replied: “A pastor friend signed surety for me and took me to PE for a weekend. I went to a friend’s house and stayed there until the wee hours the following morning sharing what God has done in my life.”
Soon after that he gave his life to God in the very same church that the Lord had shown him in a dream.
He was in prison another 18 months after his conversion and during that time the Lord used him to change people’s hearts and lives. The Lord softened the hearts of the wardens towards him and he had favour in their eyes. The nature of his crimes excluded him from being considered for parole but the Lord intervened and he was released. Since then he’s continued to be “hectically” in love with Jesus.
When I asked Ashley in the beginning of the interview how he manages to share so much joy with motorists in the mornings, he made sure that I understood the complete picture of his radically changed life before answering my question. He said that when he accepted God into his life, His joy became his life. He believes that God has placed him at the traffic intersection to change the atmosphere.
I asked him where he saw God taking him next.
“Well, you need to understand that my life is a journey. I am involved with an organisation called Endangered Species where we work with drug dealers — so-called gangsters — and the community as a whole. We get to know them on a first name basis and work with them because they are people in need of God’s intervention in their lives too.”
Ashley said that because he was once involved in a gangster lifestyle he can understand where the gangsters are coming from. He can testify that he hasn’t drunk any alcohol or smoked anything for 13 years.
There truly is freedom in Jesus Christ and He is mighty to save!