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Atlanta courthouse hostage recounts ordeal to Denver church audience

Hundreds packed the sanctuary of Denver United Methodist Church Sunday night to hear the testimony of Atlanta Courthouse hostage Ashley Smith.
Smith told the crowd of her life on drugs and how God helped her through the hostage situation at the hands of Brian Nichols, the man who stands accused of fatally shooting three people at the Atlanta Courthouse on March 11, 2005.
“My drug addiction was so hidden, the fact I was on drugs, didn’t come out until after the incident,” said Smith.
Her ordeal started with a telephone call from her dad that warned her about what happened at the courthouse that day.
Smith said she didn’t think anything of the situation at the time.
“I thought ‘yeah, yeah, there’s a million people in Atlanta. Why should I be worried,” she said.
Smith went to work about 11 a.m. that day. She returned home around 9:30 that night and continued packing for a move to another apartment.
Around 2 a.m. on March 12, she went to the store to get cigarettes.
She encountered Brian Nichols when she returned home.
Nichols, according to Smith, admitted to one of the killings during the hostage situation.
“He kept saying he was a soldier for his people,” Smith said. “He didn’t make a whole lot of sense from the beginning. The whole situation didn’t make a whole lot of sense.”
Smith told the crowd she offered him drugs to try and appease Nichols.
The drug she offered was crystal meth amphetamine, also known as “ice.”
“When he heard I had drugs, he was like ‘oh really’,” said Smith. “It was bad that I offered him drugs but God used that and turned things around to my advantage.”
The pivotal moment where Smith said she submitted fully to God happened when Nichols offered Smith drugs and Smith refused.
“I had made him the offer of drugs in part to save my life,” said Smith. “God even used that bad decision for His honor and glory.”
Smith said instead of paranoia and hyperactivity – the usual effect meth has on a user — the drugs actually calmed Nichols down.
During the next several hours, Smith said she witnessed to Nichols about Jesus.
Around 9 a.m., she told Nichols she had to go watch her daughter perform in an event and he had to let her go.
“Otherwise, people would know something is wrong,” said Smith.
Nichols asked Smith if she would come visit him in prison. Smith refused and said it wasn’t a good idea.
When Smith obtained her freedom, she said it felt like the most beautiful day in the world.
“It’s like God wrapped his loving arms around me,” Smith said.
According to Smith, Nichols’ trial is scheduled to start in January. Smith said she fully expects to testify.
Since the ordeal, she’s penned a book called “Unlikely Angel.”
The proceeds from the sale of the book go to the families of the three fatalities in the courthouse shootings.
“The lowest point of my life came two days before the book released,” said Smith. “I thought no one would believe my story. I then realized that I’m telling the truth and God is smiling on me.”
When she first encountered Nichols, there was a note of irony that Smith noticed.
“I’m going into my dark apartment with this guy and a gun at my head,” said Smith. “The darkness of my apartment mirrored the darkness of my life.”
On drugs, Smith said, she lost everything: her husband, who was stabbed in the heart over drugs; her daughter, where custody had been given to her aunt in Augusta, Ga.; her material possessions and even her mind.
According to Smith, her family wanted nothing to do with her. Her aunt had actually been praying for God to intervene in Smith’s life in the most difficult of ways.
“She actually said if Ashley can’t get off drugs to take her to Heaven,” Smith said. “I didn’t even think God wanted me around. He wanted me to surrender to Him.”
In early February, Smith started reading the book “Purpose Driven Life” because she knew the only way off drugs was to submit to God and live a life for Jesus.
“I told God my life was a complete mess,” said Smith. “I’ve got to start somewhere and I know that I need to change.”
She was at the chapter entitled “Using what God gives you” when Brian Nichols entered her life.
Chad and Lori Smith – no relation to Ashley Smith – and their daughter, Gillian, purchased copies of Smith’s book at a reception following Smith’s talk in the church’s fellowship hall.
“I have a brother who’s a self-confessed drug addict and alcoholic,” said Chad Smith. “I hope I can take Ashley’s message through her book back to him.”
Smith added the talk by Ashley was inspirational.
“I’d take away the fact that she is an unlikely angel, that people like her think they don’t amount to anything. God uses those people.”
by Jon Mayhew

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