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Sink or Swim in the Pool Building Industry
The story of Ed “Skip” Ast, President and CEO of Shasta Pools and Spas.
Written by Kevin Miller . Used with permission. - S. Ast
"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your heart?" (Ecclesiastes 9:10).
Being a driven, results oriented individual is good when harnessed by an honorable purpose. Without an honorable purpose, the road can lead to disaster, as was the case with me for several years of my adult life.
Started with wrong priorities
While a freshman in college, I decided that making money and helping my father's business survive was a higher priority than achieving an education or fulfilling the football scholarship, which enabled me to attend. At the conclusion of the first year, I dropped out of school and started my career in construction. In the two years that followed, I married my high school sweetheart and suffered through the agony of my father's bankruptcy, in spite of my best efforts. After several days of contemplating my future, I went to work for another pool company where most of the people I worked with became my friends. In order to be a compatible part of this group I gradually exchanged my highly disciplined lifestyle as an athlete (weight lifting and well disciplined eating habits) for a lifestyle of heavy drinking, bar room brawling, gambling and many other negative traits which characterized this type of lifestyle.
This new lifestyle soon dominated my life; and, needless to say, the following nine years of my marriage became quite chaotic. Seldom did I see our four children, which we had during our first five years in one setting. It seemed as though the only time I saw my wife, Sharon, was after the bars closed, and those times usually ended in a quarreling debate.
In the latter part of the eighth year of our marriage, my father suddenly passed away. My wife and I were both very close to him, and his death only compounded the insecurities Sharon had developed due to my lifestyle. In spite of my father's death and Sharon's increasing insecurity, my compromising lifestyle continued to escalate. Several months later Sharon came to her wits end with me, and while contemplating ending it all, by taking her own life, she found herself listening to Billy Graham on the radio. At the conclusion of his life-changing message, she asked Jesus to be her Savior and the Lord of her life. In her own words, she became a child of God. In the nine months that followed, I witnessed a new peace and contentment in Sharon's life. This began to bring me to the realization of the terrible husband and father I had become.
Time for change
Due to her persistent request for me to attend church with her and the children, I finally gave in and attended for the first time in our married life. I was immediately approached and convinced by the pastor that I should enroll in a church training course, which if I completed, would allow me to be baptized and would then qualify me to become a member of the church. Realizing that if my lifestyle did not change, I would inevitably loose my wife and children and I didn't want this to happen so I accepted the pastor's challenge, completed the five-week course, was baptized and became an official member of the church.
However, there was still one major problem in my life. I was the same miserable person I had always been; still possessed by that old corrupt lifestyle and definitely not experiencing the transformation I had seen reflected in my wife's lifestyle.
Frustrated, I began to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for the inevitable loss of my family. I reasoned that God did not want anything to do with me or surely something positive would have happened in my life after my sincere commitment to the pastor's training challenge and subsequent baptism. This rationale continued for several weeks. Just as I was ready to throw in the towel on religion, several unusual experiences began to happen in the normal traffic pattern of my life.
Does Jesus love me?
Late on Friday evening, when I had been drinking and shooting pool for several hours it finally came down to one other person and me competing for the jackpot. About 12:30 a.m. I ended up winning and completely devastating my opponent. In his frustration he yelled out to the band and asked them to sing, 'Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.' Of course, the bandleader wrote him off as being just another drunk. Having gained somewhat of a respect for God (in spite of the lack of change in my life), I pushed Jess from a standing position into a chair and began to reprimand him for brining up anything concerning Jesus or the church in a bar. Then feeling sorry for him I handed him back ten dollars of his money. I can still remember his reply, 'Skip, Jesus really does love us.' With that, I turned and left for my truck.
The drive home seemed long; I couldn't escape the thought of what Jess had said about Jesus loving us both. I put the thought aside and turned on the radio to my favorite country and western station. To my amazement, a preacher had just started his weekly radio message. He was saying how much God loved the whole world and how Jesus had died a cruel death so that we could be forgiven of our sins. He said that He was buried and rose from the grave so that every single person could have new life in Him. He continued, stating that 'If any man be in Christ he is a new creature, old things are passed away and all things become new.' I quickly turned the radio off, feeling that I certainly wasn't one of those that God loved.
I arrived home about 1:00 am that morning, and was greeted by Sharon. She asked me if I had eaten dinner yet and reminded me that she and God really did love me. This reception was totally the opposite of the kind I had received ten months earlier. I left my money on the table and went to bed. The following morning I stopped at the restaurant for coffee and to read the sports section of the paper before going to work. While my head was buried in the paper, I realized the individual sitting next to me was calling my name and directing his conversation toward me. He began sharing with me about his newfound relationship with Jesus Christ. Looking up, I couldn't believe my eyes.
He was the only person I considered to be more of a sinner than I was. He was enthusiastically and powerfully sharing with me his changed life through Jesus Christ.
He asked me if he could ride with me for the next couple of hours so that he could share his complete story. At the end of two hours, as I dropped him off at the restaurant, he asked me to commit my life to Christ in prayer with him. In the back of my mind I knew that this wouldn't work for me either so, much to his disappointment, I declined his invitation.
My friend and I both had lived the same lifestyle. My frustrations with God and religion was only compounded knowing he had a life changing experience with Christ and knowing full well I hadn't. The following morning after church, the pastor again challenged me - this time to attend a Lay Institute for Evangelism sponsored by Campus Crusade For Christ. It was being held at the newly constructed North Phoenix Baptist Church. The purpose of the meeting was to learn how to share my faith in Christ, whatever that meant. So, I gave up my rodeo tickets for the following week and decided to attend, in spite of how I perceived God's view of me.
Finally, the missing link
On the following night, the guest speaker, Dr. Bill Bright said something that I had never heard before. He explained that every man, woman, and child had to be washed and cleansed of their sins by the blood of Jesus before they could establish a relationship with God. On one side of my mind I couldn't comprehend, on the other hand I had immediate conviction that this was exactly what I needed. This was the missing link in my life!
After Bill Bright concluded his message, we broke up into seminar training classes where I was again challenged to know Jesus Christ. I was told He loved me so much that He personally died and shed His blood for the forgiveness of my sins and that by receiving Him into my life by faith I would become a Christian. I knew this was exactly what I wanted to do but simply hadn't known how. The class leader asked those who had never invited Christ into their life to follow him in a prayer of invitation and Christ would come into their life as He promised.
As I bowed my head to pray, another voice was telling me I was a fool to consider such nonsense. I would forfeit and never again be a part of the drinking, gambling or party lifestyle.
It seemed like this struggle went on for a long period of time, though I knew it was only for a few seconds. The next thing I knew, I was saying 'Lord Jesus come into my life. Forgive me of my sins and make me the kind of person you want me to be.'
Jesus Christ did exactly what He promised to do and my life and the lives of my family have never been the same since that day. He began to teach me through His Word and the Holy Spirit, a new love, peace and power that enabled me to be a new husband, a new father and to experience a new lifestyle.
A new man
The following morning I felt like someone had plugged me into a giant vacuum, removed every bit of stench and guilt, and replaced it with a new peace that was beyond my understanding. I could remember the words of the radio preacher:
I knew that I had experienced what this verse of scripture had offered. One by one, God began to remove those old, corruptible habits from my life which had held me captive for so many years.
Soon after I had become a Christian, I found myself stopping at a favorite bar one evening where I knew the stakes were high, and that I could leave with some big money. As I walked into the bar the smell absolutely nauseated me. I ordered a drink and, after one sip, asked the barmaid to re-make it due to its horrible bitter taste. This happened twice before I finally said, 'Forget it!' When it was my turn up, I squared off on the que ball and missed three consecutive times. Disgusted, and with my money still on the table, I put the que stick up and left a loser. Starting my truck to leave that night, I sensed a voice within me saying very distinctly, 'Skip this is what I have delivered you from, never to return again.'
Only by God's grace
For the first time in my life I began to weep over something I had done wrong in the sight of God. Four weeks earlier I could not have cared less what God thought. When I arrived at home, I asked Sharon to bring the kids into the kitchen. When we were all together, I told them that Jesus had delivered me from drinking and gambling and that they never needed to worry about me again. Having said that, I went to the top cupboard and removed several bottles of liquor. I proceeded to empty each one into the kitchen sink as they looked on, and as I praised God from my heart. By God's grace, I have never touched a drink or gambled since.
Soon after this experience, God's spiritual surgery continued as He directed me to pay back a debt on a car, which I had promised to pay back, but never did. I rationalized that this had happened several years ago and he had probably forgotten about the debt just as I had. Why muddy the waters? But God's Spirit continued, convicting me to the point where I had to react in obedience to His desires. I went to Bill's house one evening and knocked on the door. I began to share with him how Christ had come into my life and directed me to repay a way over due debt. Bill shared with me that he had forgiven me years ago and that he and his wife had been praying for me for years to come to know Christ. We rejoiced together, he prayed for me and I left with another heavy weight lifted from my shoulders.
Searching for growth
In July of 1968, during this early period of my Christian life, my wife and I were baptized at North Phoenix Baptist Church and became members. My desire for growth continued when, during a Sunday morning Bible study, the teacher was teaching on Galatians 2:20, explaining how we are crucified with Christ. The idea that I could be crucified and still be living, was all new to me. I couldn't grasp this principle, and I became frustrated. Everyone else seemed to understand so I stayed after the class to ask George exactly how that applied to me. He wasn't really able to satisfy me with an answer except to say God would teach me this truth. I left that morning frustrated with him and myself that I couldn't get a better grip on this application.
Every year Sharon's side of the family had a Christmas party for all the relatives, which we had attended off and on since our high school years. This would be the first year that I was involved as a Christian. Sharon's dad and uncles always used this time to stage a wild drinking party in which I participated. As soon as we arrived, a couple of her uncles started ridiculing me for my conversion to Christ. My past had left me with a violent temper that still plagued me from time to time and these insults didn't help matters any. As I was standing alone and minding my own business, one of Sharon's uncles decided that he was going to have a little fun. Without me knowing, he slowly came up behind me and poured his drink down my back. Startled, I turned around to protect myself only to find him in a drunken stupor, laughing. I could hear Sharon yell to me not to hurt him. Much to my amazement I felt a deep sense of compassion and sorrow for him with absolutely no anger at all. I remember placing my arm around his shoulders and telling him how God had used him to teach me what it means to be crucified with Christ, that had I not been in Christ and Christ in me, they would have carried him out of the room that night.
George has said God would teach me what it meant that the old man was crucified with Christ, and He surely did.
God is glorified
What appeared to be a disaster, God used for victory and I left rejoicing that truly Jesus Christ was living in me. The results of Christ living in me have extended to my family and friends. During the first two years after my commitment to Jesus Christ, Sharon and I had the wonderful privilege of leading our four children to a personal relationship with Him. From the time of my conversion until the time they left home, our family rarely let a day pass that we didn't focus our time on seeking God's will for our lives through His Word and prayer.
Unlike their father, my three boys completed college on football scholarships. Along with my daughter, they are all happily married and Sharon and I are the proud grandparents of twelve grandchildren. Eleven of the twelve have come to know Christ personally and the twelfth grandchild, an infant, will surely walk down the path of salvation. The growth of their relationship with the Lord brings much joy to our hearts. In addition to seeing our four children come to Christ, God has given us the privilege of seeing many of my old friends, acquaintances and business associates come to Christ.
God continues to bless
God began working in the area of my career, as well. Within one month of my personal encounter with Jesus Christ, God opened a job opportunity with a small pool company. The offer would double my salary and give me full reign of its operations if I would make the change. Within three weeks, I made the transition and by God's grace at the end of the year, we had shattered all sales and productions records. We were now in the #1 position in the swimming pool industry.
In February of 1967, I began to have an overwhelming passion to own my own business. My brother was employed by a local home builder that would occasionally install pools with the homes. In late February, he called to ask me to consider joining him and the home builder in forming a division of the company designated to sell and build pools. The offer would also mean the possibility of part ownership for me, depending on the success of this division. The down side to this offer was a 35% cut in weekly pay, trading my new air-conditioned, radio-equipped truck for a very old and worn out truck as well as forfeiting job security.
On April 5, 1967, with only two months survival money and the assurance that God had led me in this direction, I became an employee for Shasta Construction a designated builder of the International Master Pool Guild. Within a week after my move to Shasta, the owner advised my brother that he had a sudden change in direction and decided his commitment to fund the initial advertising and a small amount of start up money was all off. He gave us two weeks to produce results or he would close the pool division. My brother suffered a mild heart attack from this very unpleasant news and I found myself alone to deal with a complete stranger who had made his position very clear.
Peace is from God
In spite of this totally unexpected set back, I had a deep sense of confidence that God would show me a way through this difficult time. I had recruited all the necessary resources and was ready to move forward. I knew time was of the essence and the odds were against us getting started so late in the pool season. That night, in spite of my lack of funds, I decided to create an advertisement for the newspaper. I approached the owner with the ad and a proposal. I explained that if he would commit to paying for one week's worth of advertising I felt we would receive the leads to generate enough sales to have a decent cash flow within a few weeks time. His total risk would be one week's worth of advertising - approximately $800. I simply asked him to accept my challenge.
I explained that at this point in time, I had taken all of the risk and that he would not be sorry for his commitment to follow me. The following morning he gave me the green light. The newspaper ran the ad that weekend, God opened the windows of heaven and we were off and running. Six months after starting, God's blessings on the company were so great that the owner proposed we each take a $20,000 bonus. I knew that God was confirming his call on my life.
During the months to follow, God continued to bless and multiply the business and by the end of 1968, Shasta had become Arizona's #1 pool builder. The owner then asked me to become president of the company and offered me one-third ownership. How I praised God!
Wisdom is also from God
In the latter part of 1969, the Valley began to experience a slight recession that accelerated into 1970. This recession caused the owner to again become very uneasy and very apprehensive about anything I did, to the point that most of our contact was confrontational. Going into 1971, this negative relationship accelerated, and I was coming to my wits end with frustration. Our stock value had grown to approximately $300,000 each. I knew it would be impossible for Bob and I to come up with the money to buy his shares out and still preserve cash flow and maintain our bank minimums. I began to ask God how He wanted me to handle this issue.
Approximately three days later, the owner called and asked to see me. I prepared for the normal confrontational. We hadn't been in the office over five minutes when he proposed that Bob and I buy him out for $40,000 to be paid out over a four year period of time. Before I could respond, I can still remember spontaneously lifting my arms and voice to God thanking Him for answering my prayer. He chuckled over my reaction as he often told me my Christianity was the only foolish part of my life. Needless to say, his proposal was accepted and the transition was complete within 24 hours. We parted on good terms and he was paid off within two years. In the years to follow, God continued to prosper the business. In the mid-1980s, I was informed that Shasta had become the #1 independent pool builder across America and around the world.
And blessings are from God
In 1982, God used some adverse circumstances in the business to direct us to start our own manufacturing division. God has blessed Shasta's manufacturing division with hundreds of national and international dealers using Shasta's patented systems and equipment products. We gave glory to God for the great things He had done! Also, that same year, my brother Bob was diagnosed with cancer. In 1989, he took permanent disability from the company and on July 9, 1998 he began his first ten thousand years in the presence of the Lord.
The most significant, pivotal point in my Christian adventure came in November of 1972. I was invited to a retreat sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ. During this retreat, I was very touched to hear the then chairman of Holiday Inn get up and testify how God enabled him to give a large sum to Campus Crusade for Christ in order to help change the world through supernaturally changed lives.
I knew in that moment, I had discovered God's purpose for calling me into the business world. From that day on, I have had the wonderful privilege of helping to provide supernatural solutions for changed lives through stewardship of my time and resources in and through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ as well as other ministries to which God has directed me. God began to teach me that I was 'owner of nothing, but rather steward of everything.'
I would like you to consider whether you have ever invited Christ into your life as I did in March of 1966? Are you sure, beyond any shadow of doubt, where you will spend eternity? If you were to die today would you miss hell and make heaven, based not on your religion or your own good works but on your relationship with Jesus Christ?
If you are unsure of your relationship with Jesus Christ, He is knocking at the door of your heart (Rev. 3:20) NAS, waiting to be invited in to forgive you of your sins and to usher in new life now and for eternity. If this is your desire, I invite you to pray the same prayer I did and Christ will come into your life as He promised He would do:
Then thank Him for coming into your life as He promised. Watch Him begin changing your life, relationships and circumstances as you begin walking in the great plans that He has for you.We would love to interact with you by email about the prayer you just prayed. Would you please fill in the form below and send it to us? Thank you!