Ward: God and Michael AshfordWritten by Lisa Renee Ward | | firstname.lastname@example.org
Right from the beginning it did not appear that the Jan. 15 swearing-in ceremony for Michael Ashford’s new position as State Representative of District 48 was going to be ordinary.
It wasn’t the location of Indiana Missionary Baptist Church; swearing-in ceremonies have probably taken place in church halls. It wasn’t the number of people in attendance; swearing-in ceremonies have probably had more than 200 in attendance.
As Ashford’s wife, Ruth, gave the welcome, she shared a story about the Bible that was going to be used to administer the oath of office. It was given to her by her grandmother, who raised her. She had put it away in a plastic bag to preserve and save it. When Michael told her he wanted to use that Bible, she got it out of the bag, and a yellowed piece of paper fell out that said, “Matthew 19-26,” so she said she turned to that passage.
“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible,” she quoted.
At another point in the ceremony, at least 30 ministers from area churches surrounded Michael and Ruth Ashford. As they laid hands on each other and on the Ashfords and prayed, some in the audience had tears on their faces.
“Toledo needs you,” was the closing refrain of the prayer led by Reverend John E. Roberts before the crowd gave a resounding, “Amen.”
Near the end of the program, the former District 4 Toledo Councilman made his remarks. He said the main focus of what he was going to say was directed at the youth who were present. He hoped what he would say would inspire or motivate them.
“God has a purpose for you and he had a purpose for me,” Michael said.
After thanking those who had supported him and sharing a few personal stories about some of those who were there, he stated he was going to share something that few people knew about. Something that he had not told his wife of more than a decade until three years ago, something that had happened almost 45 years to that date.
He said he first needed to share some of his family history for context. He was originally from Omaha, Neb. His paternal grandfather had 11 children one after the other. Due to this large family, he had “a ton of cousins” who were all fairly close in age.
Ashford said every Saturday night they would go to one of the relatives’ houses and watch old scary movies. He reminisced about the popcorn they made and the bond they shared.
“So one night, myself and two brothers, along with two other cousins were supposed to go visit my Aunt Margaret, who had four kids, so I think she was going to end up with eight kids that night, maybe 11 at this stage. But because we were poor and we had unreliable transportation, myself and my two brothers did not attend the sleepover. Nor did my other two cousins. So the only people who were at my Aunt Margaret’s house were her four kids.
“I was very disappointed, as kids are. I’d never missed a single scary night hangout with my cousins in about a whole year since we had developed this. The next day my mother woke me up to say my cousins had died in a fire.
“God had protected me.
“It wasn’t luck, it was God,” Ashford said.
He said from that moment his mission to serve others was clear.
“It’s not the elected officials who can move this community forward, it’s people who are entrenched in our neighborhoods,” he said.
Ashford said there is much work to be done in Columbus. He has been assigned to serve on four standing Ohio House of Representatives Committees: Finance and Appropriations, Financial Institutions, Housing and Urban Development, Insurance and Public Utilities.
If you ask the lifelong Democrat, who said he prays every morning — he’s old fashioned in that he gets down on his knees every night to pray again — how he’ll face the upcoming challenges, he credits those who love and support him in his family and the community and his personal relationship with God.
“I stand on your shoulders because you made it possible,” he said.
Toledo Free Press contributor Lisa Renee Ward operates the political blog GlassCityJungle.com.