Journal

Because He Said So

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Hola Hola, amigos!

The new year is off and running around the world and here in San Salvador! The first month of the year was a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Ali, Adriana and I have been preparing everything for Mission Team Season, which starts on February 18th, when we have our first of TWELVE teams this year! I have also been spending hours on end behind the screen of my trusty MacBook completely redesigning the Iglesia Gran Comisión (IGC) website!

For many people, our website is their first peek into what a mission trip to San Salvador will look and be like. We also have many supporters in the States who have never been here, so we want to give them the best idea possible about what our visions and dreams are for the Children’s Development Centers. All this to say that in our technology focused world, a chivo (Salvadoran slang for “cool” 😎) website is super important to our church.

Since most my time this month has been spent at the kitchen table or at various coffee shops, rather than detail for you every time I high-fived myself for accomplishing something on the new website (Just today I figured out ON MY OWN how to put the dark church logo on the dark website background in a section that was NOT image friendly. HIGH FIVE!), I thought I would share with you a bit about what God has been teaching me this month through His Word, His people, and prayer.

Every Sunday, I wake up early to watch the Rock City Church message from the week before. Pastor Victor’s weekly messages are still not much more than Spanish lessons. It’s getting better every week, but I am more focused on understanding words and phrases rather than internalizing ideas from the Holy Spirit. Plus, I must also admit that I just seriously miss Pastor Chad’s style of teaching.

For the past 4 weeks, Pastor Chad has been using the book, Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick as the basis of his preaching series. I actually read this book about a year ago. It was a gift from my dear friend “MartyMar.” The premise of the book is overcoming the voices of doubt in our minds and replacing them with the voice of God.

CONFESSION: I’m not good at everything.

Holy cow, Santo Dios, oh my goodness, I feel so much better, don’t you??

Truly, I’ve never really thought I was good at everything, but I’ve always had a few things I was good at that made up for the things I sucked at. Well, turns out, I’m not really good at a whole lot yet down here in San Salvador.

Spanish: Getting better!
Web Design: Fake it ‘til you make it!
Playing with kids: Which one are you?
Taking the drink order for mission teams: So we’re missing four Kolashampan’s and we have seven extra Sprites?!

So needless to say, I needed to re-hear the Crash the Chatterbox message. Right from the first message, God was speaking to me, Spirit to spirit.

{Most of these ideas are taken from S. Furtick’s book and I am sharing my interpretations #ForeverAnEnglishTeacher} 

Did you know that 80% of the 60,000 words we speak every day are discouraging?! Either to ourselves or to other people. 80%!!! So I am going to speak some encouraging words to myself and to you right now – Even if I don’t think I am wonderfully made, God says I am. 

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalms 139v14

It doesn’t matter what I think about myself as long as I believe what God says about me.

I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of being my own worst enemy. Once a critical thought locks in, I just take it for a ride down the dark trail of negativity. My greatest battle isn’t with the words of anyone else – my greatest battle is within me! But I have the power to be my own greatest champion! Look at the woman from Mark 5. She had been bleeding for like TWELVE years! And when she heard Jesus was passing through, she thought to herself, “If I can just touch His cloak!” Forget about all the people surrounding her telling her to go home because she was unclean, impure and didn’t deserve to be there. It all started with her own self-talk. “This WILL work…I CAN be healed…Jesus IS who He says He is…”

If I start believing all the negative thoughts that come into my head, they WILL start affecting my life. The more lies of insecurity I choose to believe, the more limited I become in my calling to El Salvador. Every lie will limit me in what God has called me to accomplish! God has called me to do crazy, wonderful things in this country for His people!

How many good things won’t be done because I chose to be directed by the chatter in my head and not empowered by the Word of God?!

The truth is, left on my own, I am completely incapable of the crazy, wonderful things God has called me to do. But the bigger truth is that I have not been plopped down in El Salvador and left on my own. God is with me and God is giving me His strength and His ability.

The chatter in my head will never stop. I don’t think anyone has found a way to make it stop. But I have a choice – will I listen to the chatter or to the voice of God? Whichever one I choose will determine how much God can use me for His purposes. My BEST defense against the chatter is God’s Word and the best way to overcome it is to know God and know His Word.

God’s Word matters more than any other word.

And if God says I am, I am.

How do you fight the chatter? What kinds of thoughts are getting into your spirit these days? Please share with me so that we can be actively praying for one another!

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And as always – please stay in touch! There are a number of ways to contact me!

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
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!)

Please Pray:

  • For Adriana, Ali and I as we embark upon Mission Season 2017! Sarah left her job in very capable hands, but it’s still a little nerve-wracking!
  • For Ali’s temporary residency. Things were going really well and then just stopped. She is not going to have to leave the country, but it is an exhausting and frustrating process.
  • For the Dental Clinic at our Guayabo (Volcano) Children’s Center. We have a beautiful building constructed for the Dental Clinic, we now need about $18k to equip it. Please pray that God provides that for His people here.
  • For the children at both Development Centers, Guayabo and Soyapango, as they began back to the Centers full-time yesterday! Pray for a new year of learning and growing in Christ.
  • For the 180 Youth group here in San Salvador and Soyapango. Pray that they would be able to show Jesus’ love to their peers and that they would allow God to use them to be a small part of His big plan.

be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
-Ashley

Merry + Bright

 

Christmas Eve with Sarah
Christmas Eve with Sarah

Hola Hola, amigos!

WOW! December was jam-packed with Christmas celebrations, New Year’s Eve festivities and OF COURSE, Infinito! This was my second Salvadoran Christmas, but my first New Year’s Eve! I hope it goes without saying that this month was filled with the love of the holiday season. It was definitely hard to spend Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s away from home. I miss all the traditions, the decorations and the GIANT tree at Dad’s house! And to be totally honest, it was so weird to experience December in 80-degree heat! I’m certainly not complaining, but it turns out, there’s something special about the chill, December air (but NO! I do not miss cold and snow and ice and sleet and slush and….haha!).

Instead of bogging you down with all the details of each event (and you know I would LOVE to!), I’ve created a little photo collage of some of the highlights from December! I hope you enjoy getting a tiny little peek into December in San Salvador!

1. The Turcios Family, Ali and I took Sarah & Jorge’s kids to a special Christmas program so they could spend the evening packing in peace! I wasn’t even upset that Gito (Hee-toe) only watched about 7 minutes of the show!

2. Ali, Meli and I at the Christmas Eve church service. I Love Christmas songs, but getting to hear them in Spanish was really special.

3. New Year’s Eve fireworks! Basically, every big holiday in San Salvador is marked with fireworks! After an evening of church, dinner, dancing and so much laughing, we set off $25 worth of fireworks (That goes a LOOOOOOONG way in San Salvador!)  in a nearby park! Don’t worry – only a few hairs were lost! After the fireworks, we visited family of friends, ate more and finally headed home around 2:30am!

4. Ali and I at the Iglesia Gran Comisión Christmas Dinner. The annual Christmas dinner is always a big event! There was a chicken dinner, hours of Christmas music performed by the church worship team and both churches, San Salvador and Soyapango came together in one place to celebrate Jesus!

5. Worship at Infinito! Infinito is a Youth Conference for the young people (and young at heart!) of Central America. It is hosted at a different IGC Church in Honduras every year. My favorite part of the conference was the worship. I felt like I was back at Rock City!

6. The Infinito Crew! After a long, hot, bumpy ride to Tegucigalpa, Honduras, we were finally there! This was my second Infinito – I went once before in 2014. But this year was different in a few ways. It was mostly different because I could understand and speak so much more Spanish! I was able to make new friends, understand the messages, and I didn’t feel so lost and confused! I got to share a hotel room with 6 other girls (I know, right?? Crazy!), most of whom were from our Soyapango church. It was the perfect opportunity to get to know them better!

7. On the second day at Infinito, we drove to another Honduran city to serve the local people. Our church paired with another church to evangelize in a local village. What a beautiful sight to see teenagers sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ!

8. The girls at Infinito! Pamela, Monica, Meli and Florence!

9. Christmas Morning Sunrise. Christmas Eve is similar to New Year’s Eve. After church, you eat a giant dinner, dance and spend time with friends and family. At midnight, there are kisses and fireworks (maybe it’s a metaphor?!?). Ali, Adri and I stayed up most of the night talking and playing cards. Finally, around 3am, the girls went to sleep and I took a quick nap before a friend picked me up at 4:30am to drive to the beach! We got there around 6am – just in time to see the sun come up. It was absolutely breathtaking. We enjoyed breakfast and bottomless coffee right on the beach. After a few hours, we headed home for a shower and lunch and spent the rest of the day at a local swimming pool club! That’s definitely not something you can do in Ohio on Christmas! (I told you I don’t miss the snow!)

10. The girls and I at our Children’s Development Center Staff Christmas party! We had a Secret Santa gift exchange, enjoyed a spaghetti lunch and each person shared what they were grateful for this year,

11. I was Adri’s Secret Santa!

12. Carlito and I after the December Women’s Meeting. He came with his mom! That little guy NEVER ceases to make me smile!

13. At the women’s meeting, Sarah shared a message about the difference between knowing about God and really knowing God personally. She used a metaphor to explain this! We can tell people from the States about pupusas – show them photos, tell them what they’re made of, etc. But until they actually taste and know that it is good, they don’t really know the pupusa! So of course, I got to be Sarah’s example! I’ve never scarfed down a pupusa so fast! Her directions to me were, “Just really get in there and ENJOY the pupusa!” Boy, did I!!!

14. Sarah’s last night, Christmas Eve, in San Salvador. I can’t begin to explain how sad I am that she and the family have left. Sarah has become a mentor, sister, and best friend to me. I am excited to see what God has in store for them in Maryland, but for a little while, I am going to be a little sad. But Sarah has left her job in more than capable hands and we are excited and ready to pick up where she left off!

ps…Happy JanuAshley! In January’s past, this month is one of multiple birthday celebrations! I am SO excited to finally spend my birthday beachside with some of my closest friends. If you would like to send some extra birthday love, my mailing address is below!

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
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!)

Please Pray:

  • Adriana, Ali and I as we prepare for Mission Team Season 2017! Our first team lands on February 18th! Sarah was our Mission Teams Coordinator and we have taken over her job. It will take the THREE of us to do what ONE Sarah was doing!
  • The people of our local churches in San Salvador and Soyapango. Please pray that they would surrender this year to God and allow Him to work in miraculous ways, exceeding even their greatest dreams.
  • Our Youth as they have returned from the Infinito Youth Conference filled up with Christ! Please pray that they would carry that excitement and determination far into 2017.

be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
-Ashley

#GIVINGTUESDAY

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Today is #GivingTuesday! Giving Tuesday is “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” You can be a part of #AshleysAmigos by supporting the people of San Salvador from the States! Since moving here, my support has dropped slightly. When I moved seven months ago, I was at 100% of my monthly goal. As of today, I am at 91%. THIS IS AMAZING!

It is my prayer that today, new people will step up to support my work in San Salvador and current supporters will increase their monthly giving! I am praying that by December 31st, I will be back at 100% to start the new year without ANY financial worries!

These are a few moments from the past seven months that I am most thankful for:

  • The feeling of excitement, uncertainty, AND certainty as the plane glided through the air from the US to El Salvador on a one-way ticket.
  • Seeing the smile on Jorge’s face as he walked into church after 50+ days in bed, completely healed from his back injury!
  • Watching a busload of kids from Guayabo experience the beach for the first time ever and watch three of them hand their lives over to Jesus as they were baptized!
  • Hearing the women of Soyapango laugh when I called a lychee fruit a “fresa con pelo” (strawberry with hair)!
  • Burning my mouth on a steaming (but SO DELICIOUS) empanada given to me by Virginia, the grandmother of Steven, one of the children at our Soyapango Development Center. Steven is only 10 years old and is already being pursued by the local gang. But he is persevering in his studies and his faith, and Virginia daily walks him through gang territory to the Center. Steven now has a special place in my heart, and I think I now have a special place in Virginia’s!

It has been friendships and moments like these that have allowed me to share Jesus’ love with the people of San Salvador. And that was just the first seven months! I am so excited to see what next year brings! Your continued and increased support will allow me to become even more effective in 2017. I will help fundraise for a new Computer and English Center at Guayabo, where doors to successful futures will be open to our students that have remained shut for years. I will help to create and lead an English Academy out of Iglesia Gran Comisión, helping the people of our church to not only have more successful careers but get connected to our church community as well. I will become a more integral part of our Mission Coordinating Team and I WILL become a translator for mission teams (#goals)!

If you feel led to begin supporting me or increasing your giving, simply go to reliant.org/ashley.arend to create/login to your account at reliant.org! Thanks to supporters like you, God has been working IN me so He can work THROUGH me to change the lives of His Salvadoran people.

AND DON’T FORGET TO TAKE AN #UNSELFIE OF YOURSELF SAYING WHY YOU SUPPORT GOD’S WORK HERE AND USE #ASHLEYSAMIGOS! 📸

#GivingTuesday + #AshleysAmigos

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This year’s Thanksgiving is being spent a liiiiittle differently than in years past. Rather than waking up early to cuddle with Dewey on the couch and watch the Macy’s Parade, I woke up early (at 4:30am!!) to go to the gym with Silvia. 💪🏼 Rather than warming up my stomach with Dad’s sunny-side-up eggs and bacon for breakfast, I enjoyed a typical Salvadoran breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, and cheese. Rather than setting the table for incoming family, I’ll be meeting with our team to plan the rest of the year. And rather than devouring Dad’s homemade turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing (inside AND outside stuffing!) and my own pumpkin pies, Ali and I will be attempting to cook a few of our US Thanksgiving favorites for friends and family here. 🍗

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, November 29th, is #GivingTuesday. Giving Tuesday is “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” Instead of scouring websites for ridiculously good deals (I was never emotionally stable enough to face the thousands of crazies IN the stores), this year, I will focus on using what I have to give back to the country I now call home. 💖

Check back here and on my Instagram over the next few days to find out how I will be giving back and how you can be a part of #AshleysAmigos, supporting the people of San Salvador from the States! 🇺🇸 🇸🇻

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

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…don’t worry, friends – I had my required Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte a few weeks ago! 😉

Hola Hola, amigos!

I know it has only been a little over 3 weeks since I last checked in, but I missed you! Also, Iglesia Gran Comisión has two more mission teams coming in the next three weeks, so I wanted to say HI! before life gets busy for a few weeks!

October is a busy month in my new home! Both of Pastor Victor and Silvia’s children have October birthdays! Victor Raul turned 12 on October 11th and Silvita turned 15 on October 21st! For Victor Raul’s birthday, we went to a local restaurant for dinner with Silvia’s family!

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To celebrate Silvita’s birthday, we enjoyed dinner at a local pupuseria (pupusa restaurant). The pupusas were as big as your head! In Latino culture, a girl’s 15th birthday is of equal importance as a girl’s 16th birthday in the States! So this means that this past Saturday night…we partied! Silvitia had a beautiful party at a local country club called Tuscania. She wore a gorgeous turquoise dress complimented by her first pair of heels and a pair of earrings gifted to her by Ali and me! The church worship band entertained guests with music while people visited and enjoyed dinner. It was an absolutely perfect evening celebrating Silvita!

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One of my closest friends here in San Salvador is Adriana. About a month ago, she became my new Spanish teacher! We have been meeting three days a week for 90 minutes at a time. Honestly, I get frustrated because I feel as though I should be progressing faster than I am, but she encourages me and insists that she is impressed by how far I have come, not just in the past few weeks, but in the past six months. I know that she is right and that I need to have more confidence in my abilities. One way I am trying to build my confidence is an attempt to speak only Spanish with everyone here. I will say that I feel pretty accomplished when I can rattle off a series of sentences in Spanish without having to stop and translate what I want to say from English into Spanish before I say it.

For the past six months, Pastor Victor’s Sunday messages at church have been more of a language lesson than a spiritual lesson. I am usually able to follow along thanks to the PowerPoint notes, but unfortunately, I miss the “meat” of his messages. To counteract this and feed myself spiritually, I have been waking up early on Sundays to watch the previous week’s Rock City message. I really don’t know how people survived as missionaries before technology!

BUT! Each Sunday I am understanding a little bit more of Pastor Victor’s message and hopefully, it will not be long before I am laughing along with his jokes instead of just smiling when everyone else laughs and hoping they assume that I got the joke too!

I thank God everyday for Adri’s patience and her diligence in teaching me.


Iglesia Gran Comisión has a monthly Women’s Meeting for the women of the church. October’s meeting was not only an excuse to get together, laugh and share God’s love, but it was an opportunity to learn more about our changing bodies! Dr. Valencia is a local doctor and part of our church community. He presented information on how to explain puberty to teenage daughters, what women can expect from menopause and his wife presented tips to keep us feeling healthy and young! It was a great time and we learned a lot!

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One of the main parts of my job this summer was to raise money for a Dental Clinic at our Guayabo Children’s Development Center. The people of Guayabo live in extreme poverty with very little access to health care. Children as young as three years old already have cavities, infected gums, and are in danger of having lifelong dental problems, so the Dental Clinic is of utmost importance for these people! The total cost to be able to complete construction is $40k. With the help of Pastor Victor and support from people all over the US, we have only $7k left to raise and construction in on track to be done in THREE WEEKS!

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And last but definitely not least, ALI’S HERE! She arrived just last week! A few local friends, including Sarah, a fellow full-time missionary, loaded up the microbus and headed to the airport to meet her! She had just one day to adjust and move in before jumping into the process of getting her temporary residency visa (we’re hoping she can avoid most of the headaches I experience)! And it was only 3 days after she arrived that our church hosted a new mission team! We are so glad that she is here to serve! We definitely love having her and need the help. I am excited to be able to spend so much time serving and living with one of my closest friends. I know that there will be ups and downs, but I am looking forward to the memories made that will be priceless and so much fun to share with our friends and families!

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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 incoming packages!) and calls from home! I love being kept up to date on what is going on in your lives, so keep the connections coming!

Please keep in touch!

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
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!)

Please Pray:

  • For completed fundraising for the Guayabo Dental Clinic and a quick construction completion
  • For God to sharpen my Spanish tools and for Him to break down language barriers
  • For Ali, as she adjusts to her new life, new job, new home…new EVERYTHING! Please pray that this experience would strengthen our friendship and our faith!
  • For the Iglesia Gran Comisión youth group as we continue fundraising to head to Infinito (a Latin American youth conference in Honduras) at the end of next month!

PRAISE BREAK!

  • For Diana, a little girl at our Guayabo Children’s Development Center. About 2 weeks ago, she was crossing the road in Guayabo, when an out of control motorcycle crashed into her. She had a broken leg, broken ribs, and cuts all over her face. Finally, after 2 surgeries, she was able to go home yesterday morning! You can see her photo and story here.
  • In my last letter, I asked for friends to send me some new books, and I have a few Book Angels sending them my way! Thanks friends!

be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley


Strengthen your weak hands and steady your shaking knees! Isaiah 35v3-4

The work of the Lord is difficult, but it is oh, so necessary! Be strong, friends!
Read more…

Daughter of Love

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For you are all daughters of light and daughters of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5v5

I was once told by a dear friend that I would never get over the death of my mother, I would only get used to it.

My heart longs for just one more year (anything less would have never been enough) with her. My heart aches at the thoughts of what she has missed and what she will miss.

But we are not children of darkness. Jesus was the end of our darkness. He is the end of our pain and He is the end of our suffering. We are children of light. Jesus is the light at the end of our pain. He is the light of our salvation.

I am a daughter of love. I am a daughter of laughter and a daughter of joy. From my father, I am a daughter of delicious steaks and empathy for the hurting. From my mother, I am a daughter of red wine nights on the patio and compassion for the poor and unnoticed. From the Lord, I am a daughter of unimaginable loss and undeserved forgiveness.

I am a daughter of the light and I am blessed to be a daughter of my mom.

Hug your kids and your moms today, sweet friends.

Six Months and Counting

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!).

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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!

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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!

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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!

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
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!)

Please Pray:

  • 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.
PRAISE BREAK!
  • 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!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

“You are precious in My sight and I love you.” Isaiah 43v4
Can we believe that today, sweet friends?

Hard + Holy Things

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“The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.” – Ann Voskamp

I can’t tell you that I know what I am doing, but each morning, I wake up, (maybe) workout, down a mug of coffee and set my eyes on the His. Sometimes I’m zoned in and my gaze doesn’t detract from God’s. And other days – most days – the things of this world distract me and I am constantly refocusing my vision. But God is never changing, always there, looking at me with love and devotion.

Living this life of a Christ-follower isn’t easy, but it is oh so necessary and oh so holy. Girls, God wants to use us to make Heaven full, no matter the state of our hair. Refocus. Take a step. He is there.


You keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because she trusts in you. Isaiah 26v3

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I don’t think anyone would describe me as “peaceful.” Even as a child, my parents had me tested for ADD. It turned out they were just raising a hyperactive daughter. #blessed

In Isaiah 26, the original Hebrew word for “stayed” is “sawmak” and it gives us a visual of propping something up. So in order to find perfect peace in God, it is essential that our minds are “propped up” by thoughts of our Heavenly Father. His Word is ripe with verses about setting our minds on Him. First and foremost, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our minds (Matthew 22v37). And He tells us to set our minds on heavenly things (Colossians 3v2), for the end is destruction for those who set their minds on things of this world (Philippians 3v19).

Today I thought a lot about the future – what my life here in San Salvador will look like 6 months, even 5 years from now. Not having control over the future is what ultimately causes me the most uneasiness.

I do not think it is bad to plan and dream for the future, but those desires must be propped up on the will of God. I don’t know exactly how God’s plan for my life will unfold, but I can but I can extinguish that fear and experience perfect peace if I place my plans and dreams in the palms of God’s hands.

Believe me – I am the first to say this is easier said than done. But I also know that God has the power to transform our minds – even the mind of this Type A control freak (Romans 12v2). If a wild & crazy girl like me can find peace in the midst of a world of unknowns, even for just 7 minutes a day, I believe with all my soul that perfect peace is available to you as well. As we practice setting our minds on Christ, what was once a difficult task will one day become a habit and eventually a normal state of mind.

We cannot only occasionally encounter God – He must be what continuously sustains our minds.
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What is propping up your mind today?

It ain’t easy.

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Woah. This post was a truth bomb to my soul today. “Just because it’s God’s will for your life DOESN’T MEAN IT’S GOING TO BE EASY.” Woah.

I’ve been living in San Salvador for 5 months now. Holy cow. 5 months. Time has FLOWN! And I love living here. But I can agree with this post with every fiber of my being. I know that God has called me here, but it definitely has not been easy.

A few of my more notable challenges:

  • Getting my temporary residency visa. It took almost 3 months, and if it took 2 days longer, I would have had to leave the country!
  • No transportation. I went from being an independent woman in the States who went where she wanted when she wanted, to a super-dependent woman who has to ask her friends to take her anytime she wants to leave the house.
  • Sharing the Gospel. I know, I know, I know. I’m a freaking missionary! And yet sharing the truth of God’s love and salvation remains one of the most difficult challenges for me. What if the person has questions I can’t answer? What if they say no to God’s gift of eternal life? What if I forget the Bible verses that prove everything Jesus said was true? What if…? And the list goes on.
  • Spanish. Ok, I’m sure I’m beginning to sound like a broken record with this one, but it’s a huge challenge to not be able to understand what is being said around me, to me, and about me. And I’m trying. Lord knows (literally!) that I’m trying. And even when I do try to speak Spanish with my bilingual friends, they eventually get frustrated with me and just give in and relent, “Ok…just speak English.” #cantwin

I haven’t questioned whether or not it is God’s will for my life for me to be here in San Salvador. But I have questioned if I’m doing it right. Am I serving enough? Am I learning Spanish fast enough? Am I even helping? Are people’s lives being made better because they know me? Or…Am I being lazy? Am I too old and stupid to become fluent in another language? Am I making more work for people to do instead of less?

Am I just a complete failure as a missionary?

And that, sweet friends, is the question and the accusation that sits heaviest and many days, rings most truthful in our hearts – what if we have failed? Whatever our calling – missionary, parent, student, youth leader – what if we worked so hard to identify God’s call on our life and chase it down, only to fail Him?

The Devil has placed a target on our hearts and he will use his weapon of accusation to end our career as believers and bearers of God’s goodness. Satan will use every tiny defeat and remind us daily of every one of our shortcomings in order to convince us that this work is better left for someone else; better left for someone stronger in her faith, someone more fluent in Spanish, someone better prepared.

But here’s the truth…

Here’s the good news…

There is nothing we can do to make God love us any more than He already does. No matter how many times I share the Gospel, no matter how much time you spend reading your Bible, and no amount of fancy-worded prayers will draw us closer to His heart, because we are already there. I don’t know how many people who love me would send their child to die for me, but God did. He did it for you and He’d do it again.

Look, God is quirky in the fact that He chooses to use people who are screwed up, have filthy pasts and to the human eye, seem completely incapable of doing anything right – let alone proclaiming the most important news in the world! But He does this for a reason. First of all, He wants to use us to show His life-changing powers. Hop on down to San Sal and buy me a mug of chai (I know I’m in the homeland of amazing coffee, but I can’t live without my chai!) and I will gladly share with you my sordid past. Not because I am proud of my decisions, but because I am proud that I can boast about a God who took a self-centered woman living for the physical pleasures of this world and turned her into a Jesus-centered (most days 😉) woman living for the pleasure of serving people whose only form of payment is their genuine affection.

Second of all, God uses people who know they are inadequate for their God-given calling. But in the awareness of their weakness, they are also aware of God’s strength in them. Yes, we can get some things done by our own power, but with God, all things, anything, everything is possible.

Do what you can and let God do what you can’t. By giving God access to the fractures of our strength – the fractures we are so ashamed of and do our best to hide from even those closest to us – we allow Him to step into those gaps and show His power.

Those Oh my goodness…I’m not sure how I finished that / accomplished that / overcame that…moments are sacred when you know the answer…because God.

Sweet friend, you do not disappoint Him and you have not failed Him.

In my moments of weakness, when I know I am completely incapable of the task at hand (sharing the Gospel with a new mom at our Children’s Center, or asking the pastor for advice in Spanish, or being okay with missing a night with friends because I couldn’t find a ride…), I must take a moment to invite God into my weakness. I cannot do this. Lord, I am unqualified! I need you here NOW.

It is at that moment when we admit our frailty that God will step in, grow us and change us. THAT is when we will experience our sacred “That was only God” moment.

My dear mentor Pam once told me over a glass (or two) of red wine, “Honey, international missions ain’t easy and it ain’t for wussies.” AMEN AMEN and AMEN! I am a wuss and I have experienced moments of failure…but if any of this was easy, why would we need God?

a song for you today: You Remain by Saints
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Though I have fallen, I will stand up;
though I sit in darkness,
the Lord will be my light.


✝ Want to know more about how Satan targets us and how we can fight him off? Check out this great series from Pastor Chad at Rock City Church: Angel of Light

Sweet Steven

This adorable, precious, innocent little man is Steven. He is 10 years old and a child at our Children’s Development Center (CDC) in Soyapango. A few weeks ago, I sat with his sweet, old grandmother, Virginia, in a Bible study. She asked for a prayer of protection over Steven. Just a few days before, while she was walking with Steven to the CDC, some local gang members approached them and threatened to take Steven from their home in the middle of the night. Well, that granny might be tiny, but she is tough. Virginia went to visit the leader of the gang and asked him why they were threatening her grandson; they hadn’t done anything to offend the local gang. He assured her that nothing was going to happen without his order, and he hadn’t ordered Steven to be taken…yet.

Friends, this – THIS – is why I believe so strongly that God brought me to San Salvador. Satan is ALIVE and WELL in Soyapango. He “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5v8) My friends and I are working with all our hearts and strength to PLUCK these beautiful children of God from Satan’s hands.

These are not just stories. These are the lives of REAL people. REAL children are disappearing daily from their homes to be taken into a family of gang members and a cycle of evil. But God can use me and every person in this city to share the love of Jesus with these children. He wants to show them that their true family is with His family and that He is their One, True Father. But most of all, what I want these children to know and what God assures us of in His Word over and over again is that He will NEVER leave us. No matter what happens, “the Lord your God is with us wherever we go.” (Joshua 1v9)

I pray that God will use us to change the life of just one child because that change can have a ripple effect: child family neighborhood city COUNTRY. Jesus is looking at us, reminding us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26)

#NOTTODAYsatan “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large stone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18v6)