The year 1989 was life-changing for me. Having come from the South, a small fundamental Baptist church, a good Christian school, a godly pastor’s family, I found myself suddenly without all with which I had been surrounded. No one from my church or Christian school had attended Fairhaven Baptist College. Yet, I knew that was where God wanted me to be. Through those four years I learned many, many things. The professors were excellent, the music studies were a favorite, the ministries were enjoyable, and the lessons of life that I learned were priceless. Even my work scholarship in the kitchen has been invaluable to me on the mission field in planning banquets and activities and cooking for large amounts of people by myself. God knew what He was doing! In 1993, I graduated with an elementary education degree and returned to Alabama to teach in my dad’s Christian school. I began learning Spanish to start a Spanish Sunday school for children as my father had begun a Spanish ministry in our church.
From 1993-1998, I served in the music of the church, the Spanish ministry, and teaching. The singles group of our church had many activities and we as a group became very close friends. It was there that I met Gary Ashley. He also had grown up in a Christian home with a Christian education. One of his friends attended Madison Baptist Church (our church) but disliked it. He told Gary, “You don’t want to come to my church. That pastor preaches against everything! I only go because my parents make me.” That piqued Gary’s interest and he began attending Madison Baptist in 1991. He became convicted of his need for a Savior and accepted Christ while waiting for choir practice to begin. He became involved in the church ministries and the Bible institute. The following year God called him to preach; he attended the Bible college of our church. We were in the singles group together for those five years. He felt that God wanted him to be a missionary and took a survey trip to Colombia, S.A. In 1997 we began dating and in June of 1998 we married. We immediately began deputation and in eighteen months we headed to Aguascalientes, Mexico, to study Spanish.
In 2001, we returned to the states to prepare for the field. Colombia was a hotspot of problems at the time, and our pastor encouraged us to look elsewhere until the situation settled. A veteran missionary in Venezuela, Julio Velasquez, called our pastor asking if he knew of anyone that could help them in the work there. Gary readily accepted; in January of 2002 we flew to Venezuela. With Bro. Velasquez we were able to see the ministry in Valencia grow and were able to start a new work in Guacara, a city on the outskirts of Valencia. In June 2005, we returned to the States for furlough and in 2006 we returned to Guacara. The new work that we had established had been through many problems, so we returned to strengthen them. We bought a house and were determined to stay there for the rest of our lives, but political unrest emerged. It became increasingly dangerous for Americans to stay in Venezuela. After a short eighteen months of work, our pastor told us to leave. Within five weeks my four boys and myself returned to the States. Gary stayed one more month to take care of the church, the house, and all our goods. This was a difficult year for us as we left our hearts there.
With much prayer we began looking for where God would have us serve. The first Sunday that Gary was back at Madison Baptist, a missionary from Puerto Rico was there to speak to the Spanish church. He found Gary in the hallway and invited him to visit Puerto Rico. Gary immediately went to survey it and in 2008 we left for Puerto Rico. Abigail was born there. Gary took a church in the mountains in the town of Jayuya. We served there until 2011. Since our return from furlough in 2013 we have worked in Manati, Puerto Rico. God has been so good!
Kathy Allison Ashley