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|Touched by an Angel||
He called her an angel. In the sense that she served as a messenger of God, Ashley Smith certainly fulfilled that role.
After escaping from an Atlanta courthouse by overpowering his police escort and killing three people, alleged rapist Brian Gene Nichols shot and killed a US Customs agent, then took the 26-year-old waitress hostage. With the prospect of becoming Nichols' fifth murder victim hanging over her head, the single mother turned to a power greater than her kidnapper's rage or her own fear.
She turned to God.
Ms. Smith has had her share of challenges in life. A few years ago, her husband was stabbed by an unknown assailant and later died in her arms, leaving her to raise their only daughter by herself. As a teen, Ashley was arrested for shoplifting and put on probation. Later, she was arrested for speeding, drunk driving and battery.
But Brian Nichols charged into Ashley's life at a time when she was learning to put her life back together. She was back in school and working two jobs. She was in the process of moving into a new apartment when Nichols put a gun -- most likely the one used to take the lives of the other four -- against her side and ordered her into her new home. He bound her body with duct tape, but could not bind the hope in her heart.
She remained calm as her abductor watched the accounts of his killing spree on television. She began talking to him about her little girl, who desperately needed a mother since the death of her father. She talked about her faith -- a faith handed down to her from her grandparents during her childhood. She even read from Rick Warren's best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.
At one point, Nichols asked her to reread the portion of the book that begins, "We serve God by serving others." She gave him hope for the future by telling him, "You need to go to prison and you need to share the word of God with them, with all the prisoners there."
After more than seven hours, Nichols let her go. Smith immediately called 911 and officers moved in to peacefully apprehend him. In doing so, she likely saved untold lives -- the law enforcement officers pursuing the escapee, her own life, and even Nichols' himself.
Ashley demonstrated the kind of peace, composure and strength of character that America needs to face the danger that lurks outside our doorstep. The two of them -- criminal on the loose and innocent bystander caught up in the whirlwind of wickedness -- experienced supernatural intervention because this young woman yielded to Divine influence. Ashley had the kind of effect that all of us can have if we are in touch with the greatest Power in the universe.
The strongest defense against the threat that looms over the entire free world is the love, spiritual discernment and wisdom that only come from Above. In Ashley's ordeal, we received a glimpse of the grace that carried early Christians peacefully into the Roman coliseum, calmed millions who have walked through the "valley of the shadow of death" throughout the ages, and will overcome the evil that faces us individually, and as a nation, even today.
"Throughout my time with Mr. Nichols," Ms. Smith recounted, "I continued to rely on my faith in God. God has helped me through tough times before, and he will help me now."
Amen, Ashley. You are, indeed, an angel -- a true messenger of God.