I could write just one word to summarize my entire life story and that would be enough.
But I’m sure you want a few more details, so here’s my testimony 😉
I am so thankful for the home that I was raised in. Influenced by my parents, older sister, and close friends I don’t think I ever knew a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of God and his love. As a child I quickly understood that He was perfect in all His ways, yet I was a sinner separated from God and in desperate need of a reconciliation with Him. At age 6 I was taught of His ultimate act of love and I eagerly soaked up the Gospel message….God sent His Son Jesus to die the death I deserved and by his resurrection from the grave I had a second chance at living….On one of the nights that my dad share this with me I believed and was saved through faith.
Thirteen years old was a big turning point in my life. Up until then my faith lacked a true relationship with Christ, and I struggled with trusting God to direct my steps. When I realized and submitted to Jesus as Lord the entire direction of my life changed.
The opportunity to go on a short term missions trip through my church came up only a few months later after God began to reshape my life. I jumped at the opportunity to share my renewed love for Christ with unreached people in another part of the world. Little did I know how that one week would ignite my heart with a passion for missions…
I became crazy for missions throughout my teenage years. I incorporated the reading of missionary biographies into my school and eagerly sought out ministries to join with in prayer for the nations and God’s glory.
God broke my heart in an even deeper way over the endless cycle of poverty and and the hopeless lives tribal people all over Eastern Africa lived without Christ. My mind was unable to even comprehend the brokenness. I still can’t. Yet somehow I just knew deep down in my soul that a big calling God had on my life was to share the Gospel and serve in Africa. I felt knit to those people in some deep way and I just had to be with them!
Naturally, I immediately wanted to take action and move to my new “dream land”! But God, being very consistent in His ways, didn’t send me out immediately. As was common even in Bible times, when God calls people to a particular task for the future He often times makes them to walk through a “desert” for many years in preparation for that mission. In my case there were 4 painstakingly LOOOONG years right here at home in which the Lord carefully refined my faith and equipped my heart to best share the gift of Jesus with my African brothers and sisters. Along the way many of my lifelong dreams simply had to die as I learned to only thirst after Jesus and His ways. Other dreams fully blossomed, reminding me of the loving-kindness the Father has for His children. Through that entire season God taught me tons about contentment, helped me win battles against pride and insecurity, and assured me of His protection no matter where I am in the world.
Yes, I did eventually make my way onto African soil….and oh what a delight it was to finally wrap those beautiful people up in hugs like they were my long lost family!! Short term trips to both South Sudan & Uganda between 2012 & 2014 fueled my excitement about serving in Africa and gave me a greater vision for what a longer commitment might be like. Still, neither of those trips really confirmed what the future held. I just kept trusting God to light each step, and it just so happened that He faithfully did that 🙂
June & July 2015 I returned to Uganda as an intern with Four Corners Ministries. It was an amazing time of exploration, getting to actually live in Africa and spend 2 months floating around the various areas of the ministry at Abaana’s Hope to see if I might fit well into any particular role, and learning to share the Gospel with the people. I guess you’d call it a success because during that summer I left kicking and screaming, and it was impossible to ignore the immediate urgency God placed on my heart to return the next year! A plan to serve mid-term in Uganda for 6 months in 2016 quickly fell into place and now I realize why God timed it as He did!
The second internship, spanning from June to November 2016, is one I still struggle to describe. It was the best and hardest season of my life- faith stretching as I was given greater assignments, overwhelming and joyous as we shared Jesus and built strong friendships among the nationals, and sorrowful as we mourned the death of our missionary friend. The most defining theme of that whole half-year was the sovereign will of God…finally grasping the reality that God totally has the power over life and death, health and illness, hardened and softened souls. He divinely draws people to Himself on His timetable and in mysterious ways no human can take credit for. And most surprising to me was the fact that the Creator of the universe gives the most ordinary people like you and me His very Spirit and the boldness to proclaim and demonstrate the Gospel every single day of our lives so that the whole world will acknowledge and praise His Name! WOW!
In January 2018 I relaunched my photography business under the name Hannah Ashley Photography here in Birmingham, AL. In so many ways God used this venture to confirm that I need to embrace life right where I am at this time, and will have opportunities a plenty to show His love to every client I take pictures of.
All glory to God!