Recently as I was doing some research for a chapel message on hope when I came across a story that was so powerful I just had to share it.
It is the story of how God transformed Ashley Smith’s life from one of hopelessness into one of hope through the most unlikely of circumstances.
Growing up in a Christian home and attending a Christian school, Ashley accepted Jesus as her Lord and Saviour at the age of seven.
However, during her high school years, Ashley changed friendship groups and started making decisions that no longer included God. Her new friends introduced her to drugs and before long she had become an addict. After being asked to leave her parents home she married a man who also struggled with addiction and together they had a daughter.
One night while in their home Ashley’s husband was brutally stabbed to death over drugs and she held him in her arms watching the life drain from his face.
She became both sad and angry and her regular use of ice caused her to suffer from physical and mental health problems. The courts decided she was no longer fit to take care of her daughter so they took her from Ashley and placed her in the care of Ashley’s aunt.
After turning up stoned at family events one too many times, Ashley was told that she was no longer welcome to visit them. After this Ashley’s aunt told her that she and her friends had started praying that if Ashley wasn’t going to turn her life around, God would just take her away.
In Ashley’s desperation, she attended a local church and during the service, a book was introduced that the pastor wanted the whole congregation to read. That book was called “A Purpose-driven Life” by Pastor Rick Warren.
Ashley left that day with a copy of the book and as she read the words on the front cover that said “What on earth am I here for”, she knew she needed to find the answer to that question.
When it looked like Ashley’s life couldn’t get any worse, it did. One night as she returned home from buying cigarettes at the local store and she noticed a man sitting in a car outside her apartment. Now it was two o’clock in the morning so Ashley’s initial instinct was telling her that something was wrong. However, she convinced herself that her years of drug abuse had made her paranoid. So, she ignored her instincts, got out of her car and headed to her apartment.
As she approached her door she heard the man coming up behind her. He pulled a gun on her and lead her inside her apartment. He then took her to the bathroom making her sit in the tub and he tied her up.
Remembering her aunt’s prayer Ashley was convinced that this was it. Her life was over. She was going to die.
For the next seven hours, Ashley spoke with the man (Brian) who through the course of the conversation revealed he was an escaped criminal who only hours prior had murdered four people. Brian asked Ashley if she had any drugs. She knew that if he went looking for them he would easily find them so she told him that she did.
Ashley believed that what happened next was the turning point in her life. As she handed Brian the drugs he invited her to join him. It was at this moment that something really strange happened. As Brian said the words, “So, what are you going to do”, Ashley felt like Jesus himself was speaking through Brian directly to her.
Ashley believed Jesus was offering her one last chance to turn her life around. She had an overwhelming sense that her decision at that moment would determine whether she lived or died. Her answer was ‘no’. From that moment on, Ashley felt like Jesus had taken control not only of her life but of the whole situation.
Ashley told Brian that she wanted to read and he replied as long as you read aloud so I can hear it. She turned to chapter 32 of her book and began, “What you are is God’s gift to you. What you do with yourself is your gift to God. God deserves your best, he shaped you for a purpose and expects you to make the most of what you have been given.” After asking Ashley what she thought her purpose was in life he then asked her what she thought his was. Ashley told Brian he needed to turn himself in then maybe his purpose could be to minister to people in prison.
After telling Brian she had a visit scheduled with her daughter in the morning he decided to let her go.
God took Ashley’s messy life that day and transformed it. Ashley found her purpose in life. It is to spend it sharing the hope that God has placed in her life with others.
I hope this story has been as much of an encouragement to you as it was to me. If you are interested in knowing more about Ashley’s story she has written a book titled “Unlikely Angel”. Alternatively, there was a movie made about her encounter with Brian Nichols called “Captive”.
Donna Newell, College Pastor