‘Nurse Ashley’ uses New Life Ministries to spread the joy of holistic health

'Nurse Ashley' cares for a resident who has come by her office at Shepherd's Door.

‘Nurse Ashley’ cares for a resident who stopped by her office at Shepherd’s Door.

“You have so much value and so much worth and are so deeply loved by the Lord,” said Ashley Van Brunt as she spoke those words over the new women at Shepherd’s Door.

This was their first nutrition class with “Nurse Ashley.”

“Part of His love for you is wanting to see you healthy in a whole way––your mind, body, spirit. So I want to encourage you to think about your health like that.”

Ashley has worked as a nurse for the past seven years. She cares for our participants at Portland Rescue Mission, which includes Tuesdays in our New Life Ministry for men at The Harbor and Wednesdays in our New Life Ministry for women and children at Shepherd’s Door.

Ashley’s background is in cardiac nursing.  When she’s not with the Mission, she works at Providence Portland Medical Center in the Interventional Recovery Unit. Her husband, Tyler, is also a nurse.


Ashley has done medical work in Uganda, partnering with Children of the Nations.

Ashley has done medical work in Uganda, partnering with Children of the Nations.

As she continued to teach the women in her class, Ashley tells them that only God satisfies. When a person leaves an addiction, it’s easy to replace that drug with something else–often overeating.

She then goes to the white board and draws a person.

“God created us. He loves us. And we’re created to be in relationship with Him … We find our greatest fulfillment in that relationship, because that’s what we were made for…

“So you’re here at Shepherd’s Door, and right now we are taking these things away, and it can be a really easy temptation to want to replace what was there with food.”

“And sugar,” adds one of the women.

Ashley responds and then continues the discussion, “Tell me what other things you try to fill those moments you are needing to be filled, feel loved, to deal with anxiety, deal with stress…”

“…massive amounts of iced coffee… with lots of sugar,” shares the same gal.

“Is coffee bad?” Ashley asks.

“No…”

“No. But lots of it with lots of half and half with lots of sugar is not good…,” she responds.

“In your water bottle,” admits the woman.

As the conversation continues, Ashley engages the women with ideas for what healthy things they can do instead of stress eating, and what types of food to fill their plates with when they eat meals.


Ashley (second from left) and her husband Tyler (far right) both work as nurses. The have traveled together to Africa a couple times for medical ministry.

Ashley (second from left) and her husband Tyler (right) both work as nurses. The have traveled together to Africa for medical ministry.

“My hope and prayer is that residents coming into the program could really come to understand and believe that their lives matter, that they have value and that their health matters.” she explained. “I pray that through the time I get to spend with them they could feel that value and feel that care––and that when they eventually leave the program they would be better equipped and empowered to care for their themselves holistically.”

As part of Ashley’s mission, she encourages staff to refer participants to come see her for any health concerns. “Not just immediate ones, but anything health related: water, diet, exercise, nutrition, lifestyle, navigating the healthcare system. Anything.”

She keeps a signup sheet on her door so people can meet with her as she wants to be a resource to staff in their role supporting residents.

“I’m just so thankful to be partnering with an organization that is advocating for people in need, and I think that is God’s heart,” she said. “I love the health focused aspect to what I get to do because I believe that a tangible expression of God’s love is excellent physical and holistic care. So if I can bring that to Portland Rescue Mission and partner with the staff to advocate for the residents in that way, that’s my passion, that’s my joy.”