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Returning as a celebrity

Most returned-missionaries would relish a visit to their former field of labor. But to return and perform missionary work once again?

"That was a dream come true," said Stephanie Ashcraft, an LDS woman who was the subject of several newspaper articles and radio interviews during her recent return to Chile, the South American nation where she fulfilled a full-time mission several years ago.

First some background.

An Indiana native, Sister Ashcraft — then Sister Dircks — served in the Santiago South Mission in the mid-1990s. After returning home she married Ivan Ashcraft, a Ph.D. candidate at Brigham Young University in Utah. Soon the couple were expecting their first child. Their son, Devan, arrived shortly after Sister Ashcraft finished her own degree. What little money the young family had was used to cover bills and pay tuition. Confident that the Lord would care for them, the Ashcrafts prayed to find out if Sister Ashcraft should find a job outside their home.

"We both felt strongly that the answer was for me to stay home," Sister Ashcraft said.

A short time later Sister Ashcraft began taking a cooking class at a local grocery store. Soon she was asked to teach one of the classes "because I could do anything with a cake mix." Sister Ashcraft was raised in a large family where money was tight. Growing up, she remembers experimenting with cake mixes during family home evening. She concocted cake mix recipes ranging from cookies to cheesecakes.

Her cooking students were smitten by her cake mix ingenuity and began asking for a collection of the recipes. Using their home computer, the Ashcrafts published the recipes into a book they titled 101 Things to Do With A Cake Mix.

The couple originally thought the book would be little more than a Christmas gift for friends, but soon people were buying copies. 101 Things to Do With A Cake Mix was eventually picked-up by a national publisher and the book climbed all the way to the ninth spot on the New York Times Best-seller List.

Her prayerful decision to stay home resulted in unexpected blessings — and prominence.

Revenues from the book sales helped fund a return trip to Chile, where members of the media were anxious to talk to the LDS missionary-cum-best selling author. Interest in the cook book allowed Sister Ashcraft to talk about missionary work, tithing and opportunities for women in the Church.

Sister Ashcraft also spoke to a March 8 multi-stake gathering of women in Santiago celebrating the anniversary of the Relief Society program. She told the sisters how prayer and obedience had strengthened her and her family.

"We've been so blessed by following the counsel of the leaders of the Church and the prophet," she said.


E-mail: jswensen@desnews.com