As Missionaries 20+ Years
The Story of Gary & Kathy Ashley
The Lord has commissioned all those that have put their faith in Him to serve Him with their lives. He has given us a purpose on this earth: to please Him, to obey Him, and to serve Him. It was at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, Alabama, in 1991 that I accepted the Lord as my Savior. In 1997 I sat in a missions conference and watched the slides of veteran missionary Gerald Anglin to Colombia, South America, as he showed city after city with no witness for the Lord. God touched my heart and gave me the desire to give my life for Him on the mission field. I had met Kathy at Madison Baptist Church in 1991. In June of 1998 we were married. Our first meeting for deputation was our home church's mission conference and vacation Bible school. A year later on deputation, Kathy gave birth to our first son, Andrew. We finished deputation in eighteen months and packed the van for language school in Aguascalientes, Mexico, to learn Spanish. During that year of study we worked with veteran missionary Bill Hart at Liberty Baptist Church in Jesus Maria, Mexico. We completed language school in 2000 and returned to Alabama to prepare for a field of service. Veteran missionary Julio Velasquez had been in contact with Pastor Mike Allison searching for someone to help in Valencia, Venezuela. We accepted that Macedonian call to go and help in the ministries there. In November of that same year, our second son was born, Caleb. The following January we packed our action packers and boarded a plane in Atlanta for Venezuela. We worked with Emanuel Baptist Church in Valencia, Venezuela, alongside Bro. Julio and his wife Andrea. We were involved in many ministries of Emanuel Baptist Church. I taught the teen's Sunday school class and Kathy taught the children's class. She was also involved in the ladies' meetings and outreach. Through the teen outreach, we were able to start a Bible study in Guacara, a town outside of Valencia. This was the birth of the first Baptist church in Guacara, Venezuela. In 2003, our family continued to grow as Philip was born. We began a Bible institute in Valencia to train the nationals there. People were reached with the Gospel, led to the Lord, and followed in believer's baptism. In 2005, God gave us Stephen, our fourth son. We left the work in Guacara in the hands of a national and returned for furlough. After furlough, we were saddened to see that work hurt through a novice pastor. With gusto, we began to rebuild the work in Guacara. God had given that church a solid core of families that desired to serve the Lord. We had Bible club on Saturdays, kids' classes, and ladies' classes. yet, due to political struggles and rising problems, we were forced to leave Venezuela in December of 2007. As we packed what could be carried on a plane, we left the rest at the street. God provided a Venezuelan pastor, Luis Quilarque, from the work of Victor Paez in Caracas to take over for us at Liberty Baptist Church. The work there has almost tripled in these many years since and we rejoice to see what God has done. Pastor Luis has begun other missions in the surrounding areas, a ministry to soldiers, as well as other church activities. God does not make mistakes.
That December, my first week back in Alabama, God put a man in my path who told me to pray about moving to Puerto Rico. There are many churches that do not have pastors and many towns that do not have a single Baptist church. I immediately took a trip to see if that would be what God would have for us. In May of 2008, we packed our bags and four boys and moved to Puerto Rico. The first few months we traveled around the island visiting many churches. In September of that year God gave us a girl, Abigail, born in Puerto Rico. For three and a half years we worked in the mountains of Jayuya, at Mount Calvary Baptist Church that had been without a pastor for several years. We were able to see the people grow together, be grounded in God's Word, and move forward. God provided for Sunday school rooms and an apartment for a pastor during that time These are still being used today! When furlough came in 2011, God sent another missionary to take my place there. Since then, that missionary has moved on, but God has placed a national there to continue the work.
In 2013 we returned to Puerto Rico to a town that had only one Baptist church but no pastor. The church had been without a pastor for almost two years, and most had left the church. We began working in Fundamental Baptist Church of Manati with basically five people. Over the first two years we had some former members return ever so slowly and two of those original five moved to other places. Growth has been slow, but yet we have seen growth in the lives of the people. A major change for us was to clean out a storage room and begin to have Sunday school and Jr. church for children. We have had several children come and learn through those classes. My children have invited many neighbors who have attended church with us through these years. Kathy began a Girls' Club for the girls of our neighborhood. They continue to come and some of these girls have joined Abi in her Sunday school class at church. We desire to see these families come to know the Lord.
In 2017, after the island-wide destruction of Hurricane Maria, we have had the incredible task of rebuilding the church. Over and over again God has supplied in great and mighty ways! We were able to put on a new roof - of cement! - replacing the metal one. We also were able to put new wiring (and correct wiring) throughout the whole building. These are just a few of the major renovations that had to be done. We are still finishing up with these, but God has been so faithful. He knows what He is doing.
Being in the Lord's work is a life-long commitment. As Paul wrote in Philippians 1:12, 17, "But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel.... knowing that, I am set for the defense of the Gospel." The furtherance of the Gospel is my mission. There is still a need even in the "Island of Enchantment" Puerto Rico. There are cities here that do not have one independent Baptist church. Others have Baptist churches but no pastors. There is much work to be done. I count it a privilege to serve Him! Gary Ashley