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This Life with Gracie: Salvation, Swahili and a sold sign in one good deed

Just two months after Ashley Myrick got her real estate license, she sold her first home — a five-bedroom, three-bath single-family home in Lithonia.

She didn’t pocket much money on the deal, but Myrick has never felt more accomplished.

The real estate deal was easy enough, but Myrick’s clients, immigrants from the Republic of Congo, spoke Swahili and very little English.

Refugee family from the Democratic Republic of Congo have many needs to start life in Austin.

As it turns out, that wasn’t much of a problem either for the 29-year-old.

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Prior to the deal, Myrick, a devout Jehovah’s Witness, learned through her religious organization that increasing numbers of Swahili-speaking refugees from Congo, Rwanda and Burundi were settling in Clarkston. Being thousands of miles away from their country and customs, life as they knew it had completely changed. What hadn’t was their love, respect and hunger for God’s word.

It was all Myrick needed to hear. She’d already spent nearly half her life sharing the hope of her faith with others — no matter the cost.

In 2014, Myrick left her English congregation and moved to a Swahili congregation to learn the language, customs and Central/East African culture. Twice, she traveled to Tanzania to immerse herself in the language at her own expense.

Within a year, she could hold a conversation with the Swahili-speaking members of her congregation and those she met in her volunteer ministry. She could translate for them at doctor’s visits, help them register their kids for school or help them learn to read and write both their native tongue and English. Most importantly, she could use her Swahili to conduct home Bible studies.

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“When they see someone who has taken the time and effort to learn their language with the sole purpose of connecting with them and helping them to draw closer to Jehovah God, it means so much,” Myrick said. “For me, it’s getting to see God’s message go from their ears to their hearts because they are able to hear it in the language of their heart.”

After learning Swahili, Ashley Myrick was able to coach a Congolese couple through the often-tedious process of buying a home. CONTRIBUTED (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

It’s not all that unusual to find people willing to give of their time to those in need. In that regard, we Americans are some of the most generous people in the world.

A survey released by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016, the most recent year available, shows that about one-quarter of Americans, or 25 percent, take the time to volunteer.

And we’re not just generous with our time. We dig deep in our pockets.

Last year alone, Charity Navigator says that we gave a total of just over $410 billion, up 5.2 percent from the year before. While foundations gave $66.9 billion of that, the largest component — almost $286.65 billion — came from individuals.

Why the increase?

Because our incomes rose. Sadly, people with financial shortfalls are more apt to keep it for themselves, fearing they won’t be able to meet their own needs.

That’s what makes Myrick so special. Not only was she willing to give of her time, she was willing to put in that time to learn another language and pay for it, too.

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Most of us embrace that teaching until it requires us to make a sacrifice. But sacrificial giving moves beyond self and what we can afford. It looks instead to the needs of others.

Ashley Myrick not only knows that intellectually, her life shows it.

Each week, Gracie Bonds Staples will bring you a perspective on life in the Atlanta area. Life with Gracie runs online Tuesday, Thursday and alternating Fridays. (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

She says Swahili was a fairly easy language to learn, but that’s not the point. The point is she put in the time and the money, even though she didn’t have a lot of either.

And when she joined the staff of Keller Williams two months ago and they asked her to name her “Big Why” for wanting to join the agency, Myrick had a ready answer: “To have more time for her volunteer ministry.”

Working in real estate afforded her the level of work-life balance she needed to focus on her primary goal of obeying Jesus’ command to “go therefore and makes disciples of all the nations … .”

And when the agency got its first Congolese refugee client, Myrick was prepared for the assist. As it happened, her goal of helping the Swahili-speaking community spiritually afforded her the opportunity to help them in another way — to become homeowners.

“I’ve yet to find another agent who can speak Swahili,” she said.

In all, Myrick estimates she puts in more than 840 volunteer hours in her organization each year, and she’s not done.

People don’t understand why we knock on doors, she said.

“I have seen for myself how applying Bible principles have helped in my own life,” she said. “I want others to have the same experiences, and the same sure hope for the future that the Bible foretells.”

If you’ve ever wondered what Jesus’ commandment to die to self and to live for others means, this is it.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.

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