By Hannah Ashford
“Know, recognize, and understand therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps covenant and steadfast love and mercy with those who love Him and keep His commandments, to a thousand generations.” – Deuteronomy 7:9 (AMPC)
My name is Hannah Ashford and I am 21 years old. I am a senior at Southeastern Louisiana University studying middle school education. I am so blessed and thankful that God has used my heart’s desires for His purposes and His glory. As far back as I can remember, my dream was to be a missionary in Africa. I prayed and sought God for this desire that was deep within me to become a reality. After 7 shorts months of prayer, fasting, and fundraising the Lord provided the funds. He made a way for me to go on an internship in Swaziland, Africa with Children’s Cup for the month of July, 2016. I never imagined that when I returned my world be flipped upside down, and my faith would be stretched and strengthened more than ever before.
Ministering in Swaziland was the best experience of my life. It was like nothing I could have expected. God orchestrated our team of an amazing group of girls from all different walks of life and knitted our hearts together. He used each one of our unique gifts to minister to the people of Swaziland. He took us deeper into His presence and challenged us in our walks with Him. The Lord taught us how to have patience and live simply. The Swazi’s blessed us much more than we could have blessed them. We were taught how to be thankful for the things we had, and challenged to sit in the quiet and wait on the Lord to speak. Our hearts were broken for what broke the Lord’s heart and our eyes were opened to the needs around us. The most profound thing I learned while I was in Swaziland is that God is faithful and His timing is perfect. Now, some of you may say, “Really, that’s it? God brought you all the way to Africa to teach you that? I mean, you didn’t already know this?” The truth is, of course I knew, but I had never experienced it and therefore, didn’t fully understand it. BUT GOD! He made a way to provide the finances for me to minister in Swaziland; God is faithful. The Lord placed this dream inside of me since I was a little girl and he unveiled it at just the right time in my life; God is faithful and His timing is perfect. While in Africa I had many fears of feeling alone and being away from home, but God is faithful and comforted me and brought peace to my fears. God showed me during my quiet time with Him that He was there every step of the way.
I looked forward to returning home from this life changing trip and sharing with others all that the Lord had taught me and brought me through. I was only home for two weeks when a terrible flood came and took out most of my community. My childhood home received 4 feet of water as well as my grandmother’s home. All of my friends and family were affected in some way. My mom finally retired, and my parents debt free, now find themselves in deep pain and worry of what the future holds. Driving around my community, I see nothing but piles of loved one’s belongings out for the trash. My heart aches as I think of how hard my parents worked to make our house a home. My mind is flooded with the countless memories spent in each room. Part of me doubts God, asking, “God, why would you do this? How could you take away everything from so many?” And in my crying out and despair I am quickly reminded of the words I wrote in my journal from Swaziland, “I am faithful and My timing is perfect.”
“All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else. But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved! God he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of His grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all He has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.” -Ephesians 2:3-7
The Lord quickly reminded me that our life is a gift from God. Nothing we have or possess is our own or from our own doing. This is not our home; this is not our eternal dwelling place. God owns everything we possess and He reigns supreme. He has all authority and control. He is always faithful and His timing is always perfect. God has been faithful to provide a warm place for my family to stay and plenty of food to eat. He has been faithful to bring the right people in our lives to remind us of His love and kindness. He has blessed us to be a blessing to others even in this season. Never did I think that those quiet times I spent in the Lord’s presence in Africa were preparing me for this unexpected time in my home town. But God is in control and He prepares us for every good work so that He may get all the glory.
No matter where you are in your walk with the Lord or what you may be going through I want you to remember that He has a plan much bigger than any of us can see or grasp. Sometimes we look at our lives and think, “God, I’m tired of waiting, it’s time for this happen.” or “God why on earth would you allow this to occur?” But God’s timing is always perfect, and what may not make sense to us, makes perfect sense to Him. God never said our walk with Him would be easy and He uses trials to produce endurance in us. We must always remember our dependence is upon Him. Our security is in Jesus Christ alone, whose timing is always perfect and whose faithfulness endures forever.
To see a video of Hannah's neighborhood her parent's house and grandparents house click here.
Meet Hannah Ashford
Hannah is a full time college student wrapping up her Secondary Education Major with Southeastern Louisiana University. She is engaged to be married to her high school sweet heart, Blake, and they are planning their June wedding. She has a heart for the Lord and helps lead life groups for the middle and high schoolers at her local church. She got saved from a young age and is passionate about the Lord. She teaches preschool at church on Sunday and serves wherever help is needed. Hannah is a treasure and I am honored to have her share with Refresh. - Jamie