For the past eight years, Gordon Hospital has brought dynamic and exciting speakers to its annual Prayer Breakfast, this year promises to be no different when Atlanta hostage hero Ashley Smith tells the story of how she persuaded Brian Nichols, “Atlanta’s courtroom killer” to surrender to police. She will share her story at the 9th Annual Community Prayer Breakfast event set for Thursday, May 6, at Sonoraville Recreation Complex.
By her own account, Ashley Smith is far from an angel or a hero. Yet today, her face is known around the world as the single mother who persuaded Nichols to surrender to police. Nichols called Ashley “an angel sent from God, but, ironically, it was Ashley’s less-than-angelic past that allowed her to convince him to face justice.
Elizabeth Ashley Copeland Smith was born August 1, 1978 in Augusta, Georgia, surrounded by a God-fearing, sports-loving family. Her parents divorced when she was a toddler, and she spent much of her early years in the company of her mother’s extended family - especially her grandfather and aunt, who both worked at Augusta Christian, the private school Ashley attended through 8th grade.
At an early age she took up with, Mack Smith, and became pregnant less than a year into the relationship. The couple married just two months before baby Paige was born prematurely, weighing less than 3 lbs. It was a volatile marriage, but Ashley was determined to keep her family together. Things were beginning to settle down when Mack ran into his old gang, exchanged ugly words and was fatally stabbed by people he once called friends.
Following Mack’s murder, Ashley willingly gave her Aunt Kim temporary custody of Paige, who was now a healthy six year old. She wanted to be a mother to her daughter, but her addiction to methamphetamines kept pulling her farther away from her dreams. God kept calling, but Ashley always put Him on hold while she flirted with temptation. All of that changed dramatically on March 11, 2005, when Brian Nichols forced his way into her apartment following his deadly rampage at Atlanta’s Fulton County Courthouse. He asked for marijuana. Before thinking it through, she offered him her remaining stash of meth - the thing that had dragged her life down. Several miracles followed, which allowed her to talk to Nichols about God’s purpose for their meeting.
Among her few possessions was a copy of Rick Warren’s “The Purpose Driven Life.” She was on chapter 32—“Using What God Gave You.” During her seven hours as Nichols’ hostage, she read from this chapter and encouraged him to consider how he might be able to serve God if he surrendered, which he did the following morning.
Ashley believes that God led her through her dark hours with Nichols, and has called her to use the highly publicized experience to help unlikely angels everywhere find hope.
“Ashley’s inspiring story shows us that God loves us unconditionally, no matter what our circumstances might be,” says Kim Brazell, chair of the Prayer Breakfast committee. “His voice and His direction is a powerful guide in our life if we listen and surrender to him. We are truly thrilled to have Ashley come and share her story and experiences with our community.”
This year’s Prayer Breakfast theme will be “How Great is Our God.” The breakfast buffet will start at 7:00 am. The program will begin promptly at 7:30 am. “This is a wonderful time for fellowship and worship,” says Brazell. “I encourage everyone to come if you possibly can. It is a privilege for Gordon Hospital to host this event for our community each year. We see it as an integral part of our Christian mission.”
The event is free, however, reservations are required. To find out more about the Prayer Breakfast or to register for the event, please call 706.602.7800 ext. 2257 or visit www.gordonhospital.com and click on Events and Education/Calendar of Events.