I have been debating the perfect time to write this blog. I have sent a few emails out to churches that have been following my journey through BMS but have held off on making the news “officially public” I suppose you could say that I have wanted all plans to be perfect and set in stone before I was able to share such news, however what I am coming to realise is that “perfect” simply doesn’t exist. I do not believe there will be a defining moment where all my planning and preparation has come together enough that everything fits in a neat and tidy box. This really is a case of trusting God each and every day and taking some massive leaps of faith.
This story is by no means linier. As God does, he has been weaving my story together over all the years I’ve been on this planet, I believe even before. In my short life I have treaded upon many different paths. I have made some mistakes that have broken me deep down in my soul. I embarked on a degree and quit university after a short while. I handed out leaflets on the streets of Oxford in a bid to bring people in a club. I adventured across the waters to France in a hope of being a Nanny to 3 beautiful little girls only to find that it wasn’t the Parisian chicness I had anticipated. All these little twists and turns that I had travelled upon would begin to make up the story of Ashleigh Gibb’s life.
This story is by no means linier. As God does, he has been weaving my story together over all the years I’ve been on this planet, I believe even before.
From a young age, sports were my bread and butter. When I was growing up in school I embraced everything that was thrown at me; team sports, athletics, cross country running. All of it lit up my soul. (All of if except Netball, I was told I was little too aggressive for this sport 😉 Over the years as I buried myself in a lifestyle that hid my pain, I turned away from sports. Drinking and parties became the means in which I fuelled my heart, little did I know at the time it was actually destroying me. Later on, as I came to university, I took the gift of exercise that was given to me and I abused it. Coupled with an eating disorder, it became another blanket for my emotions, copious amounts of exercise took over my life.
Moving back from Paris was a big reality check for me. I realised that I was very uncertain about my future. My failings of university hung over me with a voice that told me I was never going to amount to anything. I had debt from a degree that sat incomplete and void and was unsure about the skills I possessed.
Fast forward a few years and I became a qualified Personal trainer and was thriving in my position. I had gone back to that first love and had found solace in my own healthy exercise routine. I had gone on a journey of healing and was re-learning to love my body for what It could do. I believe that God was showing me that exercise was a gift from him to help with my trauma and to celebrate the body he had blessed me with. This was a body with a lot of emotional scars, but I was learning to see the beauty in it as God’s creation. A verse I will always hold dear to my heat and one that God often reminds me of is found in Proverbs 31 vs 25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future” This was becoming a reality in my life and I wanted other women to have this to.
Being a Personal trainer meant that I had the absolute joy of journeying alongside women who had been though similar things to me. I loved speaking truth and life over these women and encouraging them that their bodies were beautiful and powerful. Empowering women with this truth would always be my life’s mission. Tucked away in the corners of my heart was a little dream stirring, I wanted to use my passion for training to work with women who were vulnerable, women who had known pain and suffering. I was yet to know what this looked like.
Proverbs 31 vs 25 “She is clothed with strength and dignity and she laughs without fear of the future”
You are aware of where life has taken me over the past couple of years. Working with BMS and Nightlight to fight against the injustices that I have seen take place in Thailand has to date been the most difficult work I have ever gone into but exactly the right place in which God has put me in. My heart has been pushed and pulled in ways I could have never imagined and each day I see things that continue to make me weep when I am alone at night. It’s because of this I accept this calling and want to continue with this work until I sense otherwise.
About a year and half ago my best friend and I took a retreat to one of Thailand’s beautiful islands. We had a vision that was stirring deep within us. We wanted to start a gym that reached out to women who had known pain, women who were victims of trafficking or any other form of abuse and we wanted to take them on a journey of wholeness and healing through the means of health and fitness. We believe this is what God was calling us to. Both of us had a passion for training and had similar stories that brought us to together. Our friendship with one another is a gift from God and we knew he had brought us together for a purpose.
A few months down the line I felt a prompting to share my testimony and the vision in church. The scheduled date for me to do this had been changed 3 times but finally had been arranged and I was able to share. Not only did awesome things happen in that service, but a friend of mine approached me and said a friend of hers was walking out this vision in Chicago! She felt it was imperative that I reached out to her. I had a browse and did some research into The Salt and Light Coalition and saw that this ministry was using fitness and wellness as a means of reaching out to victims of Human Trafficking in Chicago. Upon doing my research my jaw dropped. This ministry was so in tune with my heart and vision, this simply could not be ignored.
After some connection with the founder of Salt and Light, it transpired that she had it on her heart to expand this organisation and asked if I would be willing to partner with her and bring the Coalition to Thailand. This was beyond anything I could imagine. When I say a lot of prayer went into this, I mean A LOT. I was in this battle of thinking that I did not deserve such a dream come true and then the voices that often spoke louder confirming that this path was open to me and I was called walk down it. My biggest concern was how it fit in with the vision with my best friend. She was my soul sister and I did not want to walk away from a dream that God had given us both. Her life story was going in an exciting direction, she was newly wed to an absolute darling of a husband and they were making plans to move to the UK for the next 3 or so years. We had extensive conversations over this and knew God was calling her to be present in her situation. He was guiding her and equipping her in ways that were far beyond our plans. We knew that we were still to come together, and both still believe that in the future this will happen ❤
I said a big yes to Salt and Light but more than this I said a big yes to God. This truly was to be a leap of faith, it was fair to say that I had no idea what I was doing but I knew that I was to walk forward.
After giving my response, plans and forward thinking began. I was doing my research for how this organisation would work in Bangkok and making connections with other local N.G.Os. A few months later I went on my Home assignment back to the UK. I shared with a few close people what my plans for the future consisted of and notified churches that God was stirring a plan in my heart. This home assignment was the biggest blessing to me. It was am extremely busy schedule with not much time to rest but it was an absolute joy to tour churches and speak about something I was truly passionate about.
In one of the churches, I visited I gave it my absolute all not only telling of the work in Thailand but pouring out my testimony and with that my heart. After the service two completely unrelated people approached at different times and said they sensed in their spirit that something was about to happen. They both said that God was about to do a new thing in my life but that it did not look like what I had been thinking. I was to watch what he was doing and go with it. Of course I pondered this but did not know what it meant.
Heading back to Thailand within my first weekend back I competed in a CrossFit comp. Last year when I competed in that same comp I was struggling with a lot of things and was still placing my identity in things of the world. I was easily distracted from what God has for me. This year told a completely different story. I am so sure of my identity in Christ and who he says I am.
Something that continues to blow my mind about the God that I serve is that he redeems our biggest downfalls. He turns ashes into beauty. I have watched him do this in my life more times than I can count. The city in which I felt a sense of shame in would be the place that he was to call me to. When I returned from Chiang Mai I had an email waiting for me from the owner of Crossfit Chiang Mai asking if I would join his coaching team. He, a fellow Christian had pressed into a deep desire of mine. After informing him about my vison to plant Salt and Light Thailand he asked if there was a way in which we could join together and a potential to use his space.
There is a beautiful verse in Ephesians 20 that says Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.”
When we step back from our plans and ego and let God be God, it is stunning the things that take place.
I am still unsure about every detail of how this ministry is going to work but one thing I am certain of is God’s grace and that he can do more than I ever could have dreamed.
There are many logistics still to play out in this as I figure out partnerships and building a team but for now I continue to take things day by day. I have come to a realisation that there is only so much self-equipping I can do. I have been drowning myself in leadership books and podcasts to make up for the skills I lack. Whilst this is not bad in itself I need to remember who goes before me and who does the real equipping.
I am so blessed to have a solid support system around me who love me as I am. They love me enough to support me in the things I need, and they love me enough to tell me when it’s time to rest, something that has always been a struggle for me.
I am so excited to share this news with you and hope that you chose to stay with me on this bumpy journey as I seek and pioneer. I know that the journey ahead will not be easy but I with great joy and anticipation I am choosing to take my creator’s hand and run with him every step of the way.
With love xx c
Photo credit : RJ. Rojvira
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt