Hola Hola, amigos!
When you look back on the past 9 months of 2016, it feels like they just FLEW BY, right? But back in, say…March, October probably felt like it was years in the future! Well, I am currently experiencing that phenomenon. If you count by weeks, it was 24 weeks, or SIX MONTHS ago today that I changed my location on Facebook to San Salvador, El Salvador!
Remember that poster in the Guidance Counselor’s office when you were a kid – the one that had all the funny faces giving options of 30 different emotions you might be feeling in that moment? I have felt about 27 of them (gimme a few more weeks and I’m sure I’ll be able to add the other 3!). I lived in Columbus, Ohio my entire life. So, in perfect Ashley Style, rather than taking a normal baby step and moving to a different city or state, I up and moved to an entirely different country! So as you can imagine, the adjustments have been…interesting!
I have adjusted to hearing (and kinda understanding) only Spanish everywhere, changing my perspective to giving cars (NOT pedestrians) the right of way, lots of fresh fruits, veggies and meat, and not quite knowing just what I am doing here yet.
I thought that when I moved here, I would have a clear-cut job description and I would just jump in with all my Youth Ministry knowledge and start saving lives for the Lord! Well…I DO have a clear-cut job description, and I hope & pray that what I’m doing here plays a tiny part in saving lives for the Lord, but I definitely did not jump into Youth Ministry and start moving mountains. Rather, I jumped in wherever Pastor Victor and Silvia needed me. Some days that has been at the Children’s Development Centers (CDC’s) teaching English and sharing hugs. Other days it’s writing blogs for the church and reaching out to partners in the States for support of our projects here.
But where does GOD need me? Right where I am, wherever I am. That has been the biggest thing I have learned these past 6 months – to focus on God and He will use me, teach me, and provide for me wherever I am.
This past month I have spent a solid amount of time emailing the church’s supporters in the States requesting financial support for our new Dental Clinic at the Guayabo CDC. Clacking away at keys, pleading for donations quickly became routine and some days I even felt guilty for asking people…again…if they would see it in their hearts and wallets to donate towards the Dental Clinic. But once I refocused on God, I realized that He was using me to be the voice of those who have no voice – every child in Guayabo in desperate, debilitating need of proper dental care and hygiene. They have no way of asking for help, so I can be their voice.
Since moving here, besides Spanish, one of the most difficult adjustments was constant alone time. Because I do not have a car, I rely on friends to either come visit me at my home or pick me up and take me somewhere to hangout. At home in Ohio, it was so easy to just hop in the car and visit any one of my besties (whether invited or not!). I honestly wish I could say that in those moments of loneliness in my room, I cried out to God and He was my comfort, but that isn’t exactly what happened. I learned to cry out to God before crying out to people, but allowing Him to be my best friend and confidant in moments of isolation…that’s a practice I am still learning. But I began to pray to God for a friend. Someone who could be Salvadoran BFF. And He provided. Over the past month, Adriana and I have been required to work together more with mission teams and most recently, Pastor Victor hired her on as my new Spanish teacher! Plus, Adri and I are in the same small group and we have 99% the same friends. I am still learning to have God as my #1 BFF (it’s really hard because He’s awful at texting! It’s just this one, GIANT text! 😉), but while I learn, He provided for me someone to be my Bestie.
During the months of August and September, we hosted three mission teams and a health clinic. With our mission team season coming to a close, my daily routine became a little more relaxed. I am still going to the CDC with Silvia whenever I can, but I have chosen to spend more time at home in God’s Word. Some mornings, I spend hours in my Bible reading just one chapter and researching what the writer’s original intent was, what the words really mean and how I can apply writings from thousands of years ago to my life here and now. I read devotions, blogs, anything that can help me relate God’s Words to the life of a girl living cross-culturally in the new (it’s still considered new 16 years later, right?) millennium.
But, there are some days when I feel guilty because I am in the Word and not at the Center. I worry, Will Victor and Silvia think I’m not working? I run through my To-Do list…Is there something else I should be doing? And I always come back to the fact that my priority will always be to spend time with God, so I understand and can share His love with His people – especially in my first year as an international missionary.
I ask that you would pray for me to take more leaps of faith with God’s people here in San Salvador. In my comfort zone of English, I have no problem reaching out to new friends and spending time with them. But when there is a language barrier, I become timid and allow myself to shrink back from what could actually be opportunities for God to reach out to Salvadorans or even me! Even though I know that it is an imperative part of my work as a missionary, I am praying for more opportunities to take God’s Word out of this house and into this city.
As soon as I moved here, I joined a small group because I know the importance of “living life together” (you hearing me, Rock City??). My small group is made up of young singles (unmarried) from the church. We’re the group that’s somewhere between high school and being married. I love this group because it includes just about all of my friends here and it’s a chance every week for me to spend time with them. We meet every Saturday night and we alternate weeks of Bible Study – meaning, one week we meet at Andrea’s home and study the Bible and the next week, we go out and have an adventure! Over the past month or so, I have jumped into a waterfall (and subsequently lost my FitBit! What’s the point of walking without a tracker?!? But it was totally worth it!), hiked through La Puerta del Diablo (The Devil’s Door – part of a Salvadoran mountain), and swam in a lake surrounded by gorgeous mountains. I got to have all these adventures while building lifelong friendships, and of course – practicing my Spanish!
September 15th was El Salvador’s Independence Day! I celebrated with my Salvadoran family (Victor, Silvia, Victor Raul and Silvita) at a friend’s beach ranch! We cooked out, napped in hammocks and swam in oceanside, saltwater pools! The following weekend was our church’s monthly Women’s Meeting. Silvia spoke about how to prepare for and endure life’s challenges – because it’s not a question of IF the storm will come, but WHEN it will come! We all painted our faces with Salvadoran flags, worshiped, learned, and of course laughed together!
Also, last month was Sophie’s 5th birthday! Sophie is the daughter of Sarah, another missionary here from Maryland, and her husband Jorge. Her party was a Little Mermaid themed celebration at Burger King, complete with clowns (more like kid-friendly comedians), TWO! pinatas, and one of the most fantastic cakes I’ve ever seen!
Because I am living in a family with two kids (Silvita – 15 and Victor Raul – 11), I am trying to find ways to spend more time with them. A few weekends ago, I treated the kids (and myself!) to an afternoon of ice cream and a movie! We enjoyed ice cream and popcorn and saw Mi Amigo El Dragon (Pete’s Dragon!).
One of the greatest things that has happened since I last wrote happened to Jorge, Sarah’s husband. After about 50 days on his back with a pain level of 11 (out of 10) from a herniated disc, we believe, Jorge was miraculously healed by God. I was praying so very hard for his healing, and GOD DID IT. The day Jorge walked into church, unannounced, with a huge smile on his face, I knew something amazing had happened. I was literally filled with tears of joy! You can read more about his story on Sarah’s blog!
And last but not least (actually probably the MOST exciting!) – one of my mejor amigas and best friends, Ali Howard will FINALLY be moving here on October 25th – in 19 DAYS! She reached her support raising goal just hours before hopping on a plane to Colorado for a month of missionary training (sound familiar? 😏) !! Pastor Victor has built her a bedroom on the back patio (#Ali’sAbode) and soon I will be moving to another downstairs bedroom! I am so excited to have Ali here and to share in all these missionary adventures with her!
Thank you for all of your continued support in all of its forms – encouraging texts, Facebook posts, Instagram shoutouts, and even a few letters and calls from home! I even received a wedding invitation! Unfortunately, I can’t be there, but the thought brought much happiness to my little heart! I love being kept up to date on what is going on in your lives, so keep the connections coming!
Please keep in touch!
Mailing Address: Condado Santa Rosa, Condominio Aclaraban, Pasaje Pacún #42. Santa Tecla, El Salvador (simply stop by your local post office to purchase a Global Forever stamp, only about $1.25! Just give it about 2 weeks to arrive!)
- For continued Spanish learning! Adri and I are meeting 3 times a week now!
- For Ali, as she finishes her training in Colorado on Oct. 15th and moves 10 short days later! Pray that she would enjoy sweet time with her family and friends and would be able to say good goodbyes.
- For the Youth of both Iglesia Gran Comisión campuses – San Salvador and Soyapango – as they have begun raising money for Infinito, an annual Youth Conference in Honduras! We leave December 26th and return the 29th. The cost is about $80/person. I know it has the potential to change the lives of every person who attends, so please pray that every student would be able to go!
- That I would be able to trust that God is using me here, even if I don’t necessarily get to see or know exactly how.
- For Jorge’s healed back!
- That God is bringing more and more people to serve in El Salvador! You can follow Ali’s journey on her blog, alihoward.co!
- Our Dental Clinic is not yet fully funded, but we have begun construction!
- Last month I asked for more time in the Word – and thanks to a break in missions teams, I got it!
“You are precious in My sight and I love you.” Isaiah 43v4