A woman* is baptized by Pastor Scott Woods of Willow South Lake. *Not Ashley.
Growing up is not easy. We all have memories of that time in our lives. Some are good, and some are bad. For Ashley, memories from childhood are especially tough.
Her mother left when she was a young child, and her parents divorced. Her mom did not maintain contact, and because of this, Ashley felt as if her mom abandoned her. She lived with her father and grandmother and had to grow up quickly. Her grandmother was sick and on oxygen, so she had to learn to cook and clean at a very young age to help around the house.
When Ashley was seven years old, she was sexually abused by an individual who was her parents’ friend. That individual would frequently watch Ashley and her sister. Because she felt shame, she did not seek help or tell anyone about the experience. In addition, she was bullied at school and grew up with low self-esteem. Life did not get easier for Ashley.
At 14, Ashley began dating a man she thought was 16 but later learned was 21. At 15, she found employment to help with the family finances. At 16, she was forced to drop out of school to help raise her little brother. Her grandmother had gotten to a point where she could no longer actively watch the children, so this responsibility fell onto Ashley’s shoulders. The weight of her experiences led her to a point where she attempted suicide.
Ashley grew up attending church every Sunday and Bible Study every Wednesday. She didn’t connect with how the pastor taught certain things, so she started to pull away. Not only that, but the trauma from her childhood led her to question her faith in God. She said, “I didn’t understand why God would let things happen the way that they did.” Despite these hardships, Ashley she remained a positive person. She never entirely lost her faith in God, even though she knew she was lost.
She was not one to forgive or forget and also struggled with pride. Asking for help was challenging, and, as a result, she got deep into debt. Lastly, she was carrying years of hurt. When a friend invited her to Willow, she agreed to attend because she knew she needed a change in her life for herself and her family.
Ashley has found a home at Willow and is happy in her life. “I have learned to love myself again and to accept me for who I am,” she said. Through the community at Willow, her relationship with God has been repaired. “I have learned through the years that you cannot blame God for what you go through in life. He never puts us through things that e knows we can’t handle, and situations happen for a reason. In the moment, we don’t understand why, but He knows our strength, and in the end, you come out victorious.”
Ashley has done much reflection and prayer, and with God’s help, she knows she doesn’t have to carry hurt or be regretful. She frequently prays and asks God for signs. But more importantly, He has consistently answered her prayers, even when she was far from Him.
Through her restored relationship with God, she is reborn and gets to be someone who does not hold grudges and can forgive. Recently, Ashley made the decision to be baptized. Because she has been reborn, she wanted a physical reminder of that new beginning. Her rock has been lifted, and she carries God with her every day. Baptism, in her own words, “means new beginnings. I am leaving all of that pain and hurt behind me and looking to a brighter future–walking with God, being a happier person and
knowing that I am stronger than ever with him by my side. I want to learn to let go and forgive as God has forgiven us for our sins and to learn to apologize without being shameful.”
Ashley knows the work does not end with baptism. She continues to pursue a healthier life for her family than she did as a child. She wants to show her family love, like the love she has experienced from God, and help them know their purpose in Him.
Congratulations to Ashley for taking that step with God. He loves you, as do we!
If you have questions about baptism or want to register, learn more at willowcreek.org/baptism