Sam Landstra—Staff Writer
The Dordt Commons bustles with activity on a Friday night. Students talk of weekend plans in front of full plates of food. Recently-hired Discipleship Coordinator Sam Ashmore eats at an eight-person table with his wife Gale and 18-month-old son Zion. Growing tired of his dinner, Zion begins exploring the tables and chairs around him while donning a Dak Prescott Dallas Cowboys jersey.
Evenings like these are not uncommon for the Ashmore family, who dine at the Commons once every couple of weeks. The buffet-style dining allows them to forego cooking for themselves.
“We want to be where students and community are,” Sam said. “If that means going to the Commons to have conversations with students as a family, that is something we love to do.”
Ten months earlier in late April, Ashmore received a text from Dean of Chapel Aaron Baart regarding an open position in Campus Ministries. “Is this still Sam Ashmore’s number?” the message read.
“At first it was kind of an immediate no,” Gale said.
At the time, the Ashmores lived in his childhood town of Arlington, Texas, where Sam worked as a student pastor for junior high and high school students, and Gale taught at Pantego Christian Academy. However, after continued prayer and consideration, the two felt God calling them to Dordt College. In late October, Sam officially started at Dordt.
A town of 7,500, Sioux Center pales in comparison to Arlington’s population of nearly 400,000. The vibrant city life, countless restaurants and multiple professional sports teams, including Sam’s favorite Dallas Cowboys, provided for a lifestyle that was “go, go, go… spend, spend, spend,” Gale said. In Sioux Center, the Ashmores have come to enjoy the slower pace of life and small town culture.
“To raise a family in this community was a big appeal,” Sam said. In addition to Zion, the Ashmores are expecting a fourth member of the family in August.
On a cold and windy November morning, Sam delivers his first chapel at Dordt in the BJ Haan Auditorium. Reading from Psalm 92, Sam discusses God’s desire for His children to rest— a rest he has been craving throughout a busy moving process.
“That was a hard transition,” Sam said. “We had a great community of friends in Texas… in some ways we are going to have to start that over.”
The Sioux Center community is not completely foreign to the Ashmores, however. Gale grew up in Sioux Center and the two attended Dordt College together. Sam and Gale first met in 2010 at the beginning of the year East Campus Block Party. A freshman at the time, Sam recalls thinking sophomore Gale was “the most beautiful human I had ever seen.” However, Gale does not remember this first interaction. The two ended up finding themselves in the same friend group and married four years later after Sam graduated in the summer of 2014.
Majoring in Theology with an emphasis on Biblical Studies and Missions, Sam also continued his passion for football at Dordt. Positioned at outside linebacker for three years, injuries forced Sam to move to inside linebacker his senior year where a broken leg and dislocated ankle kept him on the sidelines for much of the season.
During Sam’s junior year, his father attended every single one of his games—driving twelve hours from Arlington weekly. Sam hopes to model the active presence his father exhibited with his own son.
“I love watching Sam be a dad,” Gale said. “He has an amazing balance of being fun and loving and having random dance parties… but then also being very intentional and speaking truth over Zion and reading scripture and praying with Zion.”
In the west end of Student Services, Sam Ashmore’s office remains largely empty. A small blue couch and chair sit in a corner where Sam meets with students and faculty to discuss small groups, mission trips and other spiritual matters. A ceramic clown from his late grandma, a stuffed koala bear given as a Valentine’s Day present from Zion and a talking Jesus doll Sam bought at Wal-Mart 10 years ago perch upon a tall bookshelf next to his desk.
“Part of my goal is to be in my office as little as possible,” Sam said. “I kind of like to let it marinate and add things as I see fit.”
One of the individuals Sam meets with regularly is junior theology major Tom Oord, who recalls Sam reaching out to him during Sam’s first week on campus.
“He’s the guy. He’s the presence that Dordt’s campus needs,” Oord said.
As Discipleship Coordinator, Sam wants to help students trust and believe in the grace of Jesus to the extent that they feel comfortable sharing their difficult circumstances with each other.
“My heart for discipleship on Dordt’s campus is to create a culture of brokenness and vulnerability in a community of grace,” Sam said. This desire also comes with the difficulty of bearing people’s burdens.
“Sometimes that can be heavy,” Sam said. “And it’s beautiful. It’s one of the best parts about the job.”
In the future, Sam and Gale wish to take their heart for ministry and plant a church together. Currently both enrolled in seminary, the Ashmores are balancing their studies, jobs and family life.
“It’s been this process of receiving from the Lord,” Gale said. “The Ashmores are very humbled to be a part of Dordt again.”