I was met by a resounding roar of laughter, clapping and praising God as I rushed into a church one night in October 1995. Archbishop Veron Ashe, at that time, Prophet Ashe, had the congregation eating out of the palm of his hands. He had captured them with his wit, his charisma and his in depth knowledge of scripture and history. To be honest, I had never seen or heard anything like it. Deemed, the white man who preaches and sounds like he's black, Bishop Ashe has the keen ability to captivate any audience thus erasing color barriers and all other elements of prejudice.
Though it would be my first time seeing Bishop Ashe that night in October, it most certainly would not be the last. In the coming months and years, he would frequent our church and eventually grace the pulpits of many others quickly moving up the ranks elevating to Archbishop Mar Enoch (Ashe). While ministering at his Orthodox Church in the San Joaquin Valley of California, Ashe would receive an invitation that would change his life. Bishop Carlton Pearson had gotten a hold of one of his ministry tapes and wanted him to come to Azusa. Ashe complied. Not on the itinerary to speak, he was called on to give a 'little talk' while they waited for the guest speaker to arrive. This 'talk' would get him even more exposure landing him preaching engagements at The Potters House (Bishop T.D. Jakes) and New Birth Missionary Baptist (Bishop Eddie Long).
On fire, Ashe left a trail of delivered minds and souls in his wake. He was sought after nationally as well as internationally preaching sometimes over 200 days per year. He set up churches abroad, was a mainstay on the mission's field, mentored Pastors near and far all while maintaining his position as Senior Pastor of his own church. From humble beginnings, Bishop Veron Ashe had done well for himself, be it consciously or subconsciously, branding himself as the quintessential conference speaker. And then it happened; the blackouts. He started having fainting spells once passing out in an airport. He also began suffering from excruciating abdominal pain. At the urging of concerned friends, Bishop Ashe would eventually go to the doctors only to discover he was suffering from Mega Toxic Colon; a disease that would overtime progress to colon cancer.
No problem. Over the past several years, Ashe had amassed a fortune; approximately $6 million in assets and had great medical insurance. So taking a little time off to take care of himself should not have posed a financial threat to his well-being. Tragically, that could not have been further from the truth. After hospital administrators advised him that his insurance policy had lapsed, an audit determined that his closest confidant, his assistant, had embezzled somewhere in the neighborhood of $500,000 from him and had stopped paying his car notes and mortgages. In a very short time, Archbishop Veron Ashe would lose his houses, his cars and practically all of his worldly possessions save a few precious commodities that he was able to put into storage. However, when he missed paying the storage bill by one day, what was not auctioned off was thrown into a garbage bin. Precious art and other priceless commodities were now reduced to mere rubbish. And if things couldn't get any worse, Ashe would find himself sleeping on a park bench in Sacramento California and eating from a soup kitchen; but not before serving an 8 month prison sentence for Grand Theft Auto. (Shortly after losing his cars, Ashe rented a car from a well-known rental car agency to go visit family for the holidays; one that he had done business with for years. However, when he failed to return the car at the appointed time, Sheriffs would come to arrest him and cart him off to jail.)
Ashe spoke in one of his messages referring to the many preachers he reached out too while he was at his lowest. He spoke of calling different Faith Leaders yet never having his phone calls returned. Those same faith leaders whom he had preached for and taken in large offerings to help meet their conference budget now treated him worse than a common thief. It seems unjust; doesn't seem right that a man of God backed with an Ivy League education and fluent in several languages would be reduced to shopping at the Dollar Store and once eating a sandwich he had found on the side of the road while on prison detail of picking up garbage.
Nevertheless, all of these experiences, by Ashe's own admission, have made him a better man. He candidly speaks of being a public success yet a private failure. And though he once had a library comprised of over 25,000 books that I'm sure he had read each one, he is now content with one book; the bible. And as he was once an avid collector of fine art and precious treasures, he is now satisfied with one priceless commodity; God.
I have followed Archbishop Veron Ashe's ministry for over 15 years but have been out of touch with him as of late. Based on what I've seen online, I think he's still preaching from time to time. I hope he's doing well and I hope he is still on the mend; both physically and spiritually. I won't try to drive home a point or try to expound on the issues. Today I'm grateful; grateful to have had the opportunity to witness and experience the ministry of an incredible man of God. A man who has been through hell and back yet still finds the strength to give God thanks and praise once citing, 'I don't know if I will beat this thing (cancer) but I will go down fighting and knowing that God is able.' No, I won't try to drive home a point or expound on an issue. I'll simply sit back, reflect and thank God for His Grace.