Thursday, September 27, 2012

Stories are powerful

Today was a very powerful day. We accomplished a great deal of work in our work projects, but more importantly we had time to listen to stories. For me, (Mike) it was especially exciting to listen to Tom and Jim tell us the stories and hear their passion for reaching previously undiscovered Indian people. One of the things they are most proud of is their work with the Shipibo Indians. The Shipibo Indians are regarded as the lowest class in Peru; it is interesting to see two men who have been so committed to reaching "the least of these" and offering them a place to stay when they come to town, and a chance to reach their own people with the Gospel. 
The sewing room was also powerful today. After spending a week working with the Indian women every morning our team has been able to break the natural walls and the language barrier to develop relationships with the women. We've been amazed by the way God has allowed us all to communicate on this trip. In the sewing room, all of us are speaking a second language. Spanish is a second language for the Shipibo Indians and for our team, but despite that barrier we are able to teach techniques that can help better their lives while laughing and sharing life. Today the Indian women were more confident in the sewing techniques we've taught them this week. They were all diligently working on a third sewing project were helping each other along the way. They were also sharing jokes about our team members' personalities and expressing their pleasure in the time we've had with them this week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Rainy Season

We are on the tail end of dry season, getting ready to start the official rainy season, here in Peru. Today did not get the memo that we are in the end of dry season, as it rained all day. The rain impacted the amount of work the men were able to accomplish, as they were only able to work inside under cover. The men worked hard to mix 16 wheelbarrow full loads of dirt and cement, and get it poured during the morning, but were unable to do anything other than this. 

The ladies worked hard in the sewing room again this morning, working tirelessly to help the ladies finish the shorts they started yesterday. The ladies that are learning to sew are incredibly excited at the new skills they are learning. Several of them have already made some of the bags they were taught to make on Monday. 

Tonight our team headed out to the South American Mission prayer meeting: a gathering of missionaries from the area from different missions organizations getting together to pray. We had a great time sharing our stories with them, and hearing them share their heart and passion, for Peru, with us. We had a great time getting to know them, ministering to them through the international love language of ice cream socials, and spending time doing arts and crafts with their kids. 

Please continue to pray for us, as we work on our projects, and for the rain to hold off as we continue to work on pouring cement in the entrance to the institute. Please also pray for the ladies, as they continue the most important work of the trip: teaching these women valuable life skills they can use to support themselves and their families as they go through the institute and share the gospel with the Indians in their villages. 



Today several of the Indian ladies from the institute brought their homemade crafts to where we are staying and we were able to buy them. Not only are these items well made, it was satisfying knowing that we were helping out people who need it, with our purchases. Needless to say, we are happy to have purchased a large portion of our gifts and souvenirs without having to leave our lodging.

Besides having a great opportunity to shop, today we continued our work projects. The men mixed and poured two sections of cement; and cut and laid the rebar for the sections to be poured tomorrow. The ladies continued in the sewing room, teaching the women of the institute, in the morning, how to make shorts; definitely a necessary skill. In the afternoon, the ladies of the church were taught how to make wallets. One lady in particular, Celestia, was apprehensive, as she has been scared of sewing machines since she suffered an injury to her hand, in her youth. It's been rewarding to hear that since we started, on Saturday, Celestia has been going to her sister's house daily to practice her sewing. Today, she used the machine to make a wallet, and loved every minute of it; she was so excited to be caught up and enjoying the activities all of the other ladies were enjoying.

Regardless of how many square feet of cement the men pour, how many feet of rebar they cut and tie; the sewing room will be the most useful project of the trip. It is great watching the women teach the local ladies skills that will benefit them for years to come.

Please continue to lift us up in prayer as we continue to work. Today we had several members from our team encounter difficulty with dehydration. Also, please pray for us as we go to the South American Mission prayer meeting tomorrow night, that we will be an encouragement to them.


Monday, September 24, 2012

monday, day 4

The Peruvian people, especially those we are working with, are very stoic. However, when the local ladies we are working with finished their purses this evening, in the sewing room, it was near impossible for them to not want to take model-posed glamour shots. Needless to say, the ladies of our team were happy to oblige. Our team was encouraged to further develop the relationships with these women, especially since several of the women have been working with these local women for several years during this trip; and of course, they loved to pose like models for pictures with their brand new handbags.

The men worked hard pouring sections for new sidewalks, and an entrance to the institute. In Peru, one mixes the concrete with only a shovel; needless to say, the guys are a little sore but feeling more than a little accomplished.

One of the more interesting, and encouraging things, about the day was the opportunity we had to interact with different people. The construction team had a great chance to play soccer with some of the children staying at in the institute's lodging rooms. It was neat to see the children smile, and laugh and have a great time doing something as simple as kicking a flat soccer ball, on a dirt field.

            Regardless of the work projects we accomplish, what we teach the local people, what we accomplish to assist our partner; the most important thing we continue to do is to build relationships, to share God's love across language barriers, and to show the Indians and the Peruvians the gospel, with our actions transcending language barriers.

            Another incredibly encouraging thing is the way we interact as a team. Each evening, around 8:00 we get together to have Bible study, and just talk about the day and the different things we took away from it. It is nice to see the different perspectives our team brings to the discussion, and the way we constantly encourage and lift up one another. God is a great God, and has put this team together on purpose, for a purpose; it becomes more and more obvious each day.

            Please continue to pray for our safety and health as we are continuing on our work projects. Please also pray that God will continue to put people in our paths for us to interact with and love on and share the story and love of Christ with. 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

bridging the gap

Our day started at a local church, singing along to unfamiliar songs
and listening to a sermon where not every word was clearly understood,
yet we connected with the global body of Christ nonetheless. The
church is located in the heart of the city and as traffic and people
hurried on outside, the inside provided a glimpse of heaven: prayer
and praise bridged cultures and languages. Most of the ladies that
worked on the sewing project the day before were also in attendance.

In the evening we were invited to play volleyball and soccer with the
youth groups of several churches and we were able to make connections
and relate through common interests. As our relationships, both within
the team and with the locals, deepen, so does our fascination with
this beautiful place and its people.

One of our team members mentioned something that peaked my interest in
conversation, regarding perceptions and expectations going into a
mission trip. I've asked him (Rick Day) to put some pen to paper to
share his thoughts, please enjoy reading them below.
"As a mental health counselor for thirty plus years, I'm in touch with
reality enough to know that cutting wire to build a foundation for
laying concrete is not my area of expertise (and I have two blisters
to prove that point). But a more important reality I've learned is
that laying a foundation that can positively impact the lives of
others for years to come changes one's perspective. An even more
profound reality is that rather than focusing on building my kingdom
on earth (which I'm guilty of) we need to realize there's only one
kingdom that's truly significant- the Kingdom of God. "

Please continue to keep us in prayer as we get back to our work
projects tomorrow. The ladies are excited to have an opportunity to
run multiple sewing rooms, while the men mix and pour concrete to
create a walkway in the institute.
We also covet your prayers for us to be intentional in meeting and
ministering to the local people of Pucallpa.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Handbags and Rebar

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There are several things in life that are universal: the desire for food, water, shelter and a woman's desire for an adorable handbag. Today we kicked off our work projects, in earnest, with the ladies teaching several of the local pastors' wives how to sew handbags; the ladies were thrilled to learn a skill that is useful and profitable while also allowing them to create something they love. While the ladies were teaching useful life skills, the men worked hard at the Bible Institute preparing the entrance to have concrete poured early next week. The men cut, laced and tied rebar together after carefully leveling the ground. While working at the institute, several of the men had an opportunity to meet and get to know a student by the name of Wilart who is in his first year. Wilart was excited to meet the team and to have an opportunity to hone his English language skills; he told the team about the tension he feels, as his family does not support his decision to become Christ follower and pastor.  We pray that God will continue to strengthen him and prepare him for a life of service, especially as he continues to minister and share the gospel with his family and village.

As a team, we are excited to worship tomorrow at a local congregation, knowing that worshipping God transcends all language barriers and cultural differences. We are also excited to continue the different work projects and continue to develop the relationships between our team members and our partners as we work towards advancing their vision and mission to reach previously unreached people groups with the gospel and to continue to develop strong, capable, national leaders to reach their own villages.

Please continue to lift us up in prayer as we continue our work projects that they will be helpful and useful to our partners and that we will be safe while working.  Pray for our partner, Tom, as he faithfully works to share the gospel with the people of Pucallpa as well as unreached people living in the jungle.

Pray for the Indians, attending the Bible Institute, as they return for classes Sunday September 30.








Friday, September 21, 2012

Here We Are!

After a long, uneventful, flight from Miami to Lima we were thankful to have the opportunity to sleep in the food court of the Lima Airport. We then boarded our final flight, over the mountains, to Pucallpa, Peru. We arrived at 6:30 am; twelve hours after taking off from Miami International Airport; needless to say we were all beyond exhausted. We arrived at the home of our missionary, Tom Hough, where we were thrilled to have the opportunity to have a short rest until lunch. Following our lunch we quickly unpacked all of the supplies we were able to bring with us and then headed out to take a seaplane ride and view the area where our missionaries work with the indigenous people. For the majority of us it was a unique experience to ride in a seaplane. 

Thank you all for your continued support while we were on this trip. There are several ways you can continue to lift us up

  1. We are very exhausted as a team, please pray for rest as we start our work projects tomorrow
  2. Pray we will continue to grow our relationships with each other, as well as create new ones with people we will come in contact with
  3. Pray for our continued safety, as a team, especially as we work and travel within Pucallpa

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Wipeout Kick Off Party

This year is all about CF.... Jeremy gave his kidney to Ashley and now I (Kate) am serving on the committee for a Cystic Fibrosis Charity Event - Arthur's Jam.

The Charity Event is October 13th at the Lake Front Pavilion on the Waterfront in Downtown West Palm Beach. The theme this year is Wipeout - classic Surf. And I am chairing the you know it is going to be a great party.

Our Kick Off Party is this Wednesday, Aug 29th at Cha Cha's on Palm Beach. There will be free Sangria and light bites. And stay for dinner and receive a free pitcher of Sangria.

Hope you can make it...we would love the support and to continue to raise funds and awareness for CF.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Kate's Golden Birthday

Since we just celebrated Ashley's Birthday.... I thought I would share how we celebrated Kate's Birthday.

Back on May 30th, I turned the BIG 3-0.... Not only was it a monumental birthday, it was also my Golden Birthday {turning 30 on the 30th}.  I took the liberty and informed Jeremy that a Golden Birthday is a big deal.  He then created "30 Days of 30".  The most Amazing Birthday Celebration Ever!

For the 30 days leading up to my 30th Birthday, he gave me a gift every day.  Yes, everyday I got a gift!  I LOVED every minute of it and did not want it to end.

Here is a highlight of some of the gifts he gave me....

If you didn't think he was the most amazing man when he donated his kidney to my best friend.... now you really have to think he is the best husband ever!  Over the 30 days, I posted pictures of all my gifts.... we found that every girl was jealous and wanted her husband to do likewise AND that every man was mad at Jeremy for making them look bad.  But no matter who it was, they all agreed it was a very special birthday celebration!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Ashley

Today is Ashley's 32nd Birthday!!!
Ashley at a bowling fundraiser a couple of weeks ago.

We are so excited that we can celebrate another year with her - and a healthy year at that!!!  We only wish we could be in NC with her.

Ashley on her 30th Birthday - a Surprise party in the hospital
It is amazing to think what just two years will do.  two years ago, Ashley celebrated her 30th Birthday at UNC.  It was during that hospitalization that Jeremy and I surprised visited Ashley.  It is also the day we started the donor application process. 

This Birthday we Give so much Thanks for all the Blessings this Year has brought.... and we Wish Ashley many more Healthy Birthdays to come.  We Love You!

Monday, July 30, 2012

6th Peru Mission Trip

 Jeremy and I are so excited to be heading back to Pucallpa, Peru this September.  We typically lead the trip in June, but this year it got moved to the end of September - God must have known we needed the extra time!  Plus the Christ Fellowship is rolling out a new Mission Model, so we are now aligning our trip with their new format..... meaning - cultivating life mission minded team members, raising more funds to significantly impact the local regions, going more often, and increasing resources and impact.  Really, the things Jeremy and I have been praying about for 5 years.  It has also been exciting to go through their new trainings and finding that our way of doing missions pretty much align with their goals - so it has been a huge blessing all the way around.  So with all this long wordiness, I am trying to say we are heading back to Peru and are super excited. 

 Please read my support letter below!

Dear Friends and Family,
This year has been an exciting time for Jeremy and myself.  Many of you have followed along with our organ donation journey and the successful kidney transplant surgery on February 21st.  The entire donation story can be found on our blog at  Since the surgery, both Jeremy and Ashley have recovered wonderfully.  There has been a few setbacks, but we are so blessed that both of them are healthy!  Throughout this entire processes we have felt God's presence and protection and we know this journey is just another part of God's plan for our lives.      
It is amazing to think that the kidney donation story started over 5 years ago in Peru.  Really it was that first trip to Pucallpa that was a catalyst for change in both Jeremy and my life.  It is where I met my future husband and watched the friendship between Jeremy and Ashley begin.  It is amazing to reflect on how our work in Peru has furthered God's kingdom and significantly impacted our lives.  So with much joy and excitement, Jeremy and I are heading back to Pucallpa, Peru for the sixth straight year.  As we return to Peru, we want to share with you the ministry that God has laid on our hearts.   
This year we are leading a team of 14 members  on September 20th – 30thAgain this year we will be going through Christ Fellowship and partnering with United Servants Abroad, a ministry that focuses its efforts in the jungles of Peru through medical care, and Bible and leadership training.  The Bible Institute in Pucallpa trains couples, in a two year program, to reach remote villages through discipleship and church plantings. Our mission trip will be focused on the construction and sewing needs of the institute.  The construction team will likely be completing the third story expansion of the Chapel.  The sewing room has two focuses;  Making curtains and sewing lessons for the Indians.
Jeremy and I have been so touched this year by the out pouring of your love and support.  Throughout the kidney donation, we knew we had a strong network of people praying over us.  As we plan to return to Peru, we ask for your prayer and support again.  We truly appreciate all those who have supported us since our first trip and those who have come along side us these past six years.  As this trip comes together, we know it is only possible through Christ.  We ask that you pray for this mission trip, for our whole team, safety and for the work to be done.
           In addition to your pray, financial contributions will also help our mission.  As a team, our goal is to raise over $28,000.  We are each required to raise $2,000 to fund our portion of the trip.  We have increased the cost of the trip per person so that the funds of the trip can better serve the mission of Pucallpa.  Donations can be made to each individual team member through online giving or donations to Christ Fellowship Life Missions. 
            We will also be selling T-Shirts again this year.  The design and details will be posted on our blog in the next week or so.  We will also be posting updates and status of our trip HERE on our website.  
Thank you for your continuous love and support.  Jeremy and I cannot express enough how much we appreciated our friends and family this year.  We know that God has and can do great things in and through our lives.  And each step of the way, we have been blessed by your kindness and support.  We look forward to sharing more of the exciting ministry in Pucallpa and the ways God continues to move in our lives.     

Donations are accepted through a secure site on the Christ Fellowship Website.  When making the donation, please choose “Peru-Pucallpa Mission Trip 2012” and then select the team member you wish to support.  Not every team member has been added to the donation site, so you may choose "Unassigned" and write Kate & Jeremy Morris in the Memo line.

You may also makes checks out to Christ Fellowship with a blank memo line.  Please mail checks with an attached note stating Pucallpa Peru Mission trip and the team member name.  Checks can be mailed to:

Christ Fellowship
Attn. Life Missions Department – Peru
5343 Northlake Blvd
Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33418
Donation Page

or Click HERE

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The past 5 months

Jeremy and I (Kate) started this blog back in January of 2012 to document his Kidney donation journey.  It has been an amazing past few months and we have been so blessed by those you have followed along.  Really, this blog has been the perfect way to share our story.

For many of you, this is the first that you are finding our story.  Recently the Ashley/Jeremy/Kidney Cutie story has been in the press.  Catawba College, Ashley & Kate's alma mater, featured the donation journey in this article.  And Ashley wrote this article for her local town newspaper.

A while back, Jeremy wrote a Cliff Notes version of the donation - that post is a great overview of where this journey has taken us and the time frame of all the events.  The entire story of the kidney donation is just beautiful, and I would highly recommend you reading it all.  You can simply click on the months and each post on the right side of the blog page.  Below is my shortened version of the story with a ton of links.  You can click through and read all the highlights of the donation.   

If you are new to the blog, you can read where it all began in this post that Jeremy wrote.  Jeremy told the story of him meeting Ashley really well in this post - make sure to read this one, it has been known to cause a few tears.  The posts that followed were a way to tell the story and bring everyone up to date.... there was much talk about our engagement, our wedding (our love story according to Kate), trips, and the testing process to become the kidney donor. 

There are some great posts and stories in all these entries, really I could link to each one.  If you have a spare hour or two, start at the beginning and read the whole thing.  I am not promising a perfectly written book, but it will be a great story that will renew your faith and inspire you.

This is a fun little post Jeremy did about the things you learn when donating a kidney.  And this one is Kate's List.

So back to the Kidney Donation.  After all the waiting and the waiting, this is where is all starts to really happenThis is Jeremy ready for surgery.  And here is the Successful Surgery Update. February 21st, the day of the surgery, was a very emotionally charged day.  We felt so much love and support from our friends and family and we knew we were wrapped in Prayer and God's protection.  This is the post I wrote in reflection of that day - it still brings tears to my eyes reading through it now.

Once we made it through the surgery, it was on to recovery.  The recovery highlight came when Jeremy and Ashley first got to see each other - another tear filled moment captured here.  There are several posts talking about the long road to recovery.  We talked about finding a new routine and the ripple effect of the surgery.

Throughout the blog, we also talk about Ashley's health and recovery.  Her post surgery progress was a little bumpier, with a few set backs.... but she is now healthy, strong and doing better then ever.  Ashley wrote her first entry in the blog back in May, and of course it was just beautiful.  You can read all about her trip down to visit us here.

Now that the kidney donation journey is coming to an end - with much joy and praise that both Ashley and Jeremy are healthy - this blog is taking on a new purpose.  As you read through the beginning posts, much of story began in Peru.  And now we are heading back to Pucallpa for our 6th mission trip.  Jeremy wrote all about it in this post, and I will be writing about it soon.

We hope to continue to post and share our hearts and our life with you all.  Plus, we have some fun posts in the works - like recapping the wonderful birthday celebration Jeremy had for my 30th.  So we hope that you check in from time to time and share in our life.  We have truly come to cherish all those who have been praying and cheering us on during the kidney donation process.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pucallpa, Peru 2012 Support Letter

Kate and I once again will be leading a team from Christ Fellowship Cityplace to the jungles of Pucallpa, Peru.  We will be leaving on Sept. 20th and returning on Sept. 30th.  I have attached a copy of my support letter, please take a read and let me know if you have any questions.

Looking back on the last few years, it is amazing to see the work God has done in Kate and my life.
For those of you who don't know I donated a Kidney to Kate's best friend from College Ashley Quinones on Feb. 21st. If you would like to learn more I blogged about the whole process and you can check it out at our website
  It was over 5 years in the making as the first time I met Ashley was when I met Kate on the first trip to Peru.  It is hard to believe that it has been that long, and that the plan that God had for the three of us when he sent us on that trip.  I could have never imagined that I would have met my future wife on that trip as well as have an opportunity to be an integral part of something as amazing as an organ donation.  I feel incredibly humbled that God chose to turn my life around and use me in this way so that he can hopefully be Glorified in my life. I can only imagine if this is what year 5 since that trip looks like, what year 10, 15 or 20 might look like.
2 Thessalonian 1:12 "We pray this so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, 
and you in him, according to the grace of our God and Lord Jesus Christ"
This summer we will be going on our sixth mission trip to Pucallpa, Peru. It is such a blessing to know that God not only brought us together through this mission trip but He also gave us a passion for Peru.  As we continue back to Peru, we want to share the ministry God has laid on our hearts.
Kate and I will be leading this year's mission trip to Pucallpa, Peru on Sept 20th through Sept 30th. This is the fifth year we will be leading, and God has blessed us with our largest and most diverse team yet.  The team of 14 people is from the Cityplace Campus of Christ Fellowship Church.  We have four members who will be returning for the 3rd time,  and this will be everyone else first time to Pucallpa.
Again this year we will be working with United Servants Abroad, a ministry that focuses its efforts in the jungles of Peru through medical care, and Bible and leadership training.  The Bible Institute in Pucallpa trains couples, in a two year program, to reach remote villages through discipleship and church plantings. Our mission trip will be focused on the construction and sewing needs of the institute.  The construction team will likely be laying a third story concrete floor, tile work and painting.  The sewing room has two focuses.  Making curtains, which serve as the couples' only privacy in shared rooms and are often used as their towels, tissues and napkins.  And sewing lessons for the Indians, and more specifically making shorts and shirts.     
Kate and I have been so blessed by all of your prayers and support throughout the years.  As this trip comes together, we know it is only possible through Christ.  We ask that you pray for this mission trip, for each team member, for flexibility in such a large group, safety and that we will glorify God through it all. In addition, I seek your prayers for Kate and myself as we lead this trip. Please specifically pray that we will have the discernment to lead this large group in a successful manner; and that we will be a faithful witness to our team and the people of Peru.
           In addition to your pray, financial contributions will also help our mission.  As a team, our goal is to raise nearly $28,000.  We are each required to raise monies to fund our portion of the trip. We do take a team approach to fundraising, so any additional monies contributed will benefit the entire team. Any surplus funds raised beyond the total expenses for the team will be given to the ministries in Peru.  Donations can be made to each individual team member through online giving or donations to Christ Fellowship.  Please click on online giving and select Pucallpa, Peru 2012, Kate or my name from the list to make a donation, if neither of our names are there please select unassigned and put our names in the notes section. 
    We will also be selling T-Shirts again which you will be able to find at our website we will also keep you updated of the status of our trip here as well.
Thank you for your continuous love and support. I know that Kate's and my life have been and will again be blessed by your kindness. I look forward to sharing with you all the memories and accomplishments of this mission trip, and the glorious ways God was revealed.     

Monday, July 9, 2012

Telogen Effluvium = New Hair Style

Back in mid June, Ashley received another diagnosis - Telogen Effluvium. Telogen effluvium is a form of acute-onset, nonscarring alopecia that causes massive hair loss. It's brought on by stress/trauma.  I think the fight for the transplant, the surgery and several months of pain afterwards qualifies one under the stress/trauma category. 

The bad news of Telogen Effluvium is that Ashley is losing her hair.  Before her transplant, one of her medications caused extreme hair growth.... now she is having hair loss.  The poor girl can't win either way.

So a week or so ago, Ashely got an adorable hair cut! 

 And to Ashley's true form - she made the most of it.... even sporting some colorful wigs.

This hair cut is close to the same style she had back when she met Jeremy for the first time in Peru.  Here is a picture from that very first mission trip to Peru in 2007

Even with the new short hair cut..... it was time to shave it all off.  So on Saturday, the 7th it was wig shopping and shaving day!!!!

Here Ashley is getting ready to have her Brother-in-Law Billy shave all that fluff

Ashley with NO HAIR!!!

Ashley and her sister Kelly had a fun time shopping for wigs.  She tried on several and ended up with an adorable new Hair Style! 
I think it is a great look for this Kidney Cutie

There are more pictures on Facebook if you want to check them out HERE

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Grateful Article

Here is the article Ashley wrote for the Sanford Herald.  There might have been a few editorial changes made, but this is pretty close to the exact article.

On May 21, 2012, I celebrated the 3 month anniversary of my kidney transplant. I know that a lot of people in our community have kept up with my story, so I wanted to make a public thank you to everyone who has supported me, whether through prayer, well wishes or financially.
My family moved to Lee County in 1985 from Harnett County. We were, in a lot of respects, in a strange new land. My sisters and I had to start new schools and my mom, who was already a student at CCTC, had to make friends in a new neighborhood. We didn’t have any family here. Our closest relative was my aunt who lived in Bunnlevel. For all the isolation we might have felt, we were greeted with welcome arms by essentially everyone we encountered. It was not long before my mom had made friends that were as close to her as sisters. My sisters were always going to a friend’s house or going to the movies. I feared that my disease would keep people from wanting to befriend me, but other than a few instances, that was never the case. People saw me for who I was, not for what I had. I am not just talking about other children; I am also talking about adults.
We lived in Sanford for 5 years. While there, I attended Jonesboro and J. Glenn Edwards Elementary. When I was 10, my mother bought a house in Broadway, so I had to switch schools once again. By the time I entered East Lee Middle School, I had attended 4 elementary schools.  Also, when I was 10, I experienced my first exacerbation of Cystic Fibrosis. I had spent my life doing breathing treatments, chest percussion and taking pills, but I never understood what having this disease really meant… until one day, I was climbing a dogwood tree in my front yard, and I felt something stabbing me in the chest. I dropped to the ground in pain. My mother rushed me to the emergency room at Duke and I was diagnosed with pneumonia. It was at that very moment that my childhood ended. I was still the energetic, mischievous child I had always been, but I understood something about the world that most children have the privilege of never even thinking about – that life could be devastating. After the doctors told us that I would have to be admitted, they left the room. I crawled into my mom’s lap and cried while she rocked me and assured me I’d be ok. In that moment, I only knew the comforting warmth of her embrace. Now, 21 years later, I shudder thinking about the fear she too must have felt and I am amazed by the strength it took for her to never reveal that to me.
It was only a week into my hospital stay when I received a package from Broadway Elementary containing around 50 handmade cards from other students in my grade wishing me well and telling me to hurry and get back to school. This is a story that would repeat itself all the way up to my high school graduation.  With every hospitalization, and honestly, there were too many to count, came letters, cards, phone calls, and visits. Most people who have been in a hospital will tell you that it is the last place to go to get rest. This is the truth and for me it was not just because doctors and nurses are coming in and out of your room 24 hours a day, but because between visits, reading my mail, decorating my room with my cards or flowers, and talking on the phone, there wasn’t any time to rest!  My senior year of high school I spent 4 months in the hospital, 3 at Duke and 1 at Baylor in Houston, Texas. During that time, the combination of my disease and my medications caused me to drop to a dangerously low weight and I even lost the ability to read. By the time I returned to school, I had taught myself how to read again and worked my way through a small part of Jack London’s Call of the Wild.  No one in my medical community thought I would be able to graduate and even tried to talk my mom into holding me back a year. But my mom never believed in holding me back from anything. I graduated that year with the rest of my class. I remember on graduation when my name was called out, everyone began cheering for me. After I had crossed the staged, I collapsed into the arms of my guidance counselor, Mrs. Kite. I was weak in the knees and sobbing uncontrollably. I had done it…I had defied every diagnosis thrown my way, and I had achieved my goal of living long enough to receive my high school diploma.

Graduation was 14 years ago, and I am still defying diagnoses. I will be 32 years old on August 1st and my mother was originally told that I would never live to see 9 years old. My fight for life hasn’t been easy and has involved numerous surgeries and treatments, including a double lung transplant 11 years ago and my kidney transplant in February of this year. This fight, however, has not been fought alone. People have come out to my fundraisers in freezing cold, rainy weather. They have donated, even when the expense was too much for them to bear. I have received Facebook emails from children as young as 12 years old asking if they can donate their kidney to me. I have been given prayer after prayer begging God to heal me in some way, shape or form. People have even written letters to our government asking them to help me be able to afford my medical care. I feel as if my community has just as much stake in my health as I do or as my family does. I am beyond ecstatic to tell them that now, over 3 months post transplant, my kidney functions are the best they have been since I was in pediatrics. I am happy to say that I now can go an entire month, working 7 days a week, without needing a nap.

It is important to me to share my life with those who have held me up and helped me maintain my strength and dignity throughout my battle with Cystic Fibrosis. I want for other families who have children with this disease to know my story and, therefore, to know that their child has a fighting chance … but it is a fight and you have to be a warrior. I tell my stories with such personal candor because I feel they exemplify what the human spirit is capable of and because I think they clearly demonstrate how we live in a community that is willing to sacrifice for the good of another person, regardless of superficialities like race, religion or politics. So, again, I say thank you to everyone out there for going out of your way to not only ensure that I remain healthy, but also to make sure I get to wake up every morning to a brand new day!
Readers can follow my story at and by reading my living donor’s blog at
Thank you,
Ashley Quinones

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Catawba Article

Here is the article from Catawba College's Campus Magazine.
You may also find the full issue HERE
and the article HERE

Thanks Catawba for sharing our story!

PhotoFriendship, faith and a kidney have come together to irrevocably connect two Catawba College alumnae and the husband of one.
In February, Jeremy Morris of West Palm Beach, Fla., husband of Kate Merrell Morris '04, donated a kidney to his wife's best friend, Ashley Quinones '04 of Sanford. For Jeremy and Kate, the decision to donate the kidney was one grounded in faith.
"We just really felt like it was something we could do ... that God called us to do it," Kate explained in a phone interview before the Feb. 21 transplant surgery took place in Chapel Hill. "We have a strong belief that God has put us on a certain path back in 2007 and this has been the largest project for us to speak God in our life. It's much bigger than just a kidney."
Kate first met Ashley while both were students at Catawba. Kate remembered, "The first time I met Ashley, I was working in the Student Center doing my work study. Ashley came to see Jan Gillean [Catawba's director of student activities] and Jan wasn't there. Ashley laid down on the couch in the office down there and went to sleep. That was right before her double lung transplant.
"Later in the fall of 2002, Ashley and I sat next to each other going over on the plane to England. We went over and studied for the semester. Ashley and I really struck up the friendship on the first plane ride. She was adventurous like me."
Ashley's Cystic Fibrosis necessitated her double lung transplant in 2001 while she was a student at Catawba. Her studies were interrupted for most of the year due to her illness and recovery from the transplant, but the campus rallied around her. In April of 2001, her fellow students in Dr. Karl Hales Discussion and Parliamentary Procedures class organized a fundraising dance for her, "65 Roses for Ashley Quinones."  All proceeds went to the Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) in Ashley's name. The name "65 Roses" was chosen because many children with CF cannot say "Cystic Fibrosis" and the term comes out sounding like "65 roses."
While Kate and Ashley became dear friends while students at Catawba, Jeremy entered the picture after their graduation. Jeremy, a graduate of Palm Beach Atlantic University, and Kate attended the same church in West Palm Beach, Christ Fellowship. Ironically, Kate recalls that her relationship with Jeremy also really started when she sat beside him on the plane ride to Peru in 2007, where the three of them were going on a mission trip. The relationships formed on that mission trip in 2007 resulted in the marriage of Jeremy and Kate in 2009, where Ashley was a bridesmaid.
"In Peru, we talked about how we had this sibling type connection to each other," Ashley recalled about Jeremy in a phone interview shortly before this year's transplant operation. "Now, he and I are  going to share an organ — something that I can't share with anyone else.
Photo"It hasn't been easy. It's been a rollercoaster this past year and a half and they've [Kate and Jeremy have] stuck with me. They've had every opportunity to pull out of this process. It's something that the three of us over this process have really had to come to terms with — that God is going to take care of it — we have to accept life on God's terms not on ours. It has been daily new lessons in our life that this process has taught us. They've chosen to stick with me. If Jeremy's scared, he doesn't show it — he's been a rock. Through my eyes, I see a really brave, courageous Christian man, and I see how lucky my best friend is and I'm happy for her. He says, 'Don't worry.'  He says that no matter what happens he'll never regret this decision.
"We very rarely talk about what this means in the big picture. There are certain things you can't express in words and this is one of them. At the end of the day, a thank you doesn't cut it, but Jeremy doesn't want any thanks from me. He's doing it because it's the right thing to do, not because of recognition or approval."
Ask Jeremy why he decided to donate his kidney to Ashley, and he will tell you because it was the right thing for him and Kate to do as a couple. The couple learned that Ashley needed a kidney when they visited her in the hospital on her 30th birthday in 2010.
Ashley remembered that visit and telling her friends about her dire situation. "Kate and Jeremy came to visit me and once they were face to face with me, I told them I needed a kidney transplant. It didn't take them 5 minutes to offer to donate. They both asked me what blood type and I told them A+ and so are both of them. They knew how sick I was — they saw me. I shared with them how scared I was to go home."
The hospital would only test one person at a time as a possible kidney donor match for Ashley and Jeremy stepped up. "I knew Kate was going to do it, but we discussed all the pros and cons and decided I was the best option. It is something I can do, not only for my wife but also for a dear friend.
"You can't make a decision based on the  what ifs and fears. We just really felt like it was something we could do and that God called us to do it. We wanted to share our story and our faith during this journey. That's why I've written the blog [] about our decision and process," he said.
That decision came to fruition on February 21st at UNC Chapel Hill. Both Jeremy and Ashley's surgeries were better than text book, according to their transplant surgeons. Two days after the surgery, Jeremy walked down to Ashley's room for what proved to be an emotion and tear filled reunion. There is an undeniable bond; "I am quite smitten with your husband" Ashley admitted to Kate. To which Kate replied "For you, I am ok with that."
The trio even named the kidney — JASH — a combination of Jeremy and Ashley.

PhotoSince the transplant surgery, Ashley and Jeremy have reached all their recovery milestones nicely. Jeremy has returned to his job as a systems administrator specialist and Kate to hers as owner and operator of Katydid Designs, a business she established while a student at Catawba. Ashley, who has used her undergraduate and graduate degrees in theatre arts and  master's classes in mental health counseling to work with marginalized communities, returned to work as an ESL Instructor and CAP worker this spring. Ashley and Jeremy were even able to plan for Ashley to make a surprise trip to Florida for Kate's birthday celebration Memorial Day weekend.
"I keep asking God, 'What are you teaching me in all of this?  Aren't you tired of giving me lessons?' " Ashley explained. "I always assume that's all about me, but this whole thing going on with my kidneys could be about someone else. The world doesn't revolve around me, and I forget that sometimes. Realizing that has helped me get through it. It's helped me fight to get through it. I've had to fight to get through it, fight to get the insurance, but it's never crossed my mind to ever give up on any of this. I look at Jeremy and see how brave he is through it and that helps as well."

EDITOR'S NOTE:Although Medicaid funded the cost of Ashley and Jeremy's transplant surgeries, many medical expenses remain. Those who wish to assist with this effort may make donations to COTA.
Friends may contact Ashley at and Kate and Jeremy at

Monday, July 2, 2012

Kidney Cutie in Print

Kidney Cutie is making headlines again!

The kidney donation of Jeremy, Kate and Ashley was featured in Catawba College's Campus Magazine.  Catawba College is both Kate & Ashley's alma mater, and the birthplace of their friendship.  Catawba is very dear to our hearts and we are so blessed to have them share our story.

   Click HERE if you would like to open the entire issue of Campus Magazine. Page 20

Truth be told, this is not the first time for Kate or Ashley to grace the pages of the Catawba's magazine.  While in school, Kate wrote an article about a mission trip to Mexico, had a feature article Katydid - the business she started at Catawba and was pictured at graduation.  Ashley graced the pages several times for her theater performances and had a featured article when she graduated (which showed Ashley fixing Kate's hat..... which is REALLY funny, considering it was Kate who just finished getting Ashley dressed properly in her gown... but that is a whole post in itself).  If I can locate these said article, I will make sure and post them.

Ashley was featured in The Sandford Herald. ; her local newspaper.  In the article, Ashley recounts her journey through Cystic Fibrosis and the many blessings to be thankful for.

Check back tomorrow, we will try to have the full articles in an easier to read format!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ashley Comes to Florida for Kate's 30th Birthday

Normally I turn to Jeremy and Kate to be the public voice of our transplant, but today I decided to venture out and actually write a blog post myself. You’ll have to forgive me as I can’t quite capture humor in writing as Jeremy does, or details like Kate. They are both weighing heavily on my mind right now. I’m sitting in the Atlanta airport waiting on my flight to North Carolina to board. I’ve just left from my first visit to see them since the surgery. It is actually my first time flying since I spent a month in California with my family in 2009. Jeremy and I (admittedly, mostly Jeremy) have been secretly planning this trip for over a month. Kate turns 30 on the 30th, and this visit was a birthday surprise. What a great husband, right?! And yes, I’m required to sing his praises since he did give me a kidney and all.

We just passed our 3 month anniversary, or more aptly, our 3 month transplantversary on May 21st. Perhaps that is why I felt so full of emotion on the flight down. Every time I visualized the look of surprise on Kate’s face I would well up and have to swallow down any urge to cry. I’m not big on ugly crying in public. The closer we got to West Palm Beach, the more anxious I began to feel. For a reason I cannot explain, part of me felt afraid. Eventually I reached the airport and went to meet them outside. When they pulled up, Kate sat blindfolded in the front seat of the door-less Jeep.  Jeremy had blindfolded her so she wouldn’t be able to guess her surprise. When he took her blindfold off, a huge smile took over her face and we hugged for what must have been a good 5 minutes. I could hear the people surrounding us laughing. I imagine we were quite the sight!  I would like to say that all of the feelings I was having on the plane melted away when I saw their Jeep pull up to get me, but that was not the case. When I realized I was going to have to ride in a Jeep without any doors, I can honestly say I knew exactly why I felt afraid at that moment! I buckled myself in securely and would occasionally close my eyes on the ride home whenever I was sure we were going to wreck and I was about to die.

We spent my time there in a timeshare on the beach in Delray, Florida. We relaxed, shared wonderful, if not enlightening, conversation, laughed, and ate some delicious food. Kate and I were both reading The Hunger Games, she was finishing The Hunger Games and starting Catching Fire and I was finishing Catching Fire and starting Mockingjay.  Our first night there, we stayed on the beach until dark reading. Then we stayed to catch up on one another’s lives, while periodically going on tangents and laughing at ourselves. You know ... the kind of moments memories are made of. I got to see her family, who are as close to my heart as my own family, and I got to meet some of the people from Kate and Jeremy’s small group. When we went to church on Sunday morning, one couple from the small group gave me a card that was from everyone in the group. Inside the card was a beautiful message and a very generous gift. I was pretty surprised and very thankful.

On Sunday, Kate’s sister Amy, her husband Nathan, and their children Alivia and Jackson came to visit us in Delray. Both Alivia and Jackson were little water bugs. Jackson, being not even a year old, stayed in my arms the whole time we were in the pool … and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. He was the most precious thing I have experienced in a long time. He just laughed and squealed and enjoyed the world around him. It’s that kind of genuine happiness that I think most of us lose as we get older. It takes more and more to make us feel even the slightest bit of complacency.  We just want and want and want, without even noticing the simplest joy. Even Alivia was alternating between enjoying the water herself and taking in the antics of her little brother. 

While they were there, we had ourselves a little barbeque. Or at least, we attempted it. Jeremy manned the grill while Nathan cut and prepared the watermelon and the rest of us prepared the sides, plates and drinks. Nathan and Amy took turns feeding Jackson. We had ourselves a nice little feast: shrimp, chorizo, bratwurst, corn on the cob, chips, potato salad and watermelon. The meat and the corn were on the grill still cooking when the bottom fell out of the sky. I’m not talking about a little rain, or even a medium amount of rain. I’m talking about lightening, thunder and rain so heavy it flooded the canopy we were huddled under…plates in hands, hopelessly devouring the food Jeremy and Nathan were running out to the grill with towels draped over their heads to secure for us. I think I may have actually eaten almost an entire pound of shrimp. No exaggeration. I also helped myself to the chorizo, a brat, some corn, and a big helping of potato salad. When it became clear that I wasn’t going to be able to get my hands clear of all the shrimp debris until I was able to get under a faucet with some soap, I had Alivia hand feed me cool ranch Doritos. She was a bit cheeky, feeding me mere morsels while saving the large chips for herself. I can’t blame her though, they are delicious. Once the rain had died down and we had cleaned everything up, we all went to Dairy Queen. I was way too full to eat ice cream, but everyone else seemed to be in Hog Heaven
The experiences I had over these past few days remind me of why Kate and I became friends in the first place, how we grew so close and why it was so easy to welcome Jeremy into my life with open arms – even before I knew he wanted to date Kate. There is easiness between us. We don’t have to try, we can just be. We don’t have to talk, we just automatically understand. Kate and I, by all superficial accounts, are polar opposites. She is a Florida girl, almost everything in her wardrobe is either pink, sea foam, or turquoise. I’m Carolina born and bred – I could live the rest of my life in the middle of nowhere riding a horse and reading a book and never once complain. Unless someone asked me to do those 2 things at the same time. But, we think the same and we love the same … without abandon and without the care of taking a risk. We both believe that without the risk, it’s probably not worth our time and definitely not worth repeating as a story later on! 

And that is where Jeremy fits so wonderfully into our puzzle, friend…husband…friend. He is identical to us in those respects. He is the biggest risk taker of us all. The man wielding metal tongs racing out in a lightning storm to rescue our barbeque.  The man who reminds the two of us, and anyone else in his life, to hold themselves accountable – not just to themselves, but to God. The man who wants to go skiing right before donating his kidney.  And there you have it … the man willing to lay his life down for those he loves…to allow the doctors at UNC to put him through test after test and then to trust them with his life knowing he will wake up in pain, with one less vital organ. And for what? For me? No, it’s more than just for me. It’s for God. The one being he loves more than anyone else in this world. That is the man whose kidney I now hold in my body. That is the friend I am leaving behind as I return to North Carolina. But there is solace in the fact that a piece of him remains, forever, with me. And a piece of my friend Kate who, without, I would have never gone on that first mission trip, therefore never meeting Jeremy, stays with me as well. Perhaps not in my body, but in my heart. And I think that’s as good a place as any.