Journal

#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)

Firestorm

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Our world is an interesting place. Especially when it comes to how we create memories. These days, many people think everything is worth preserving in a photograph. Just spend one day out in the world and you’ll see people taking photos (on their phones, no less! I never imagined THAT would be a thing!) of their fancy coffee, their dogs, their shoes, and of course, themselv…ies (get it? Selfies? See what I did there??)

Everything is worth remembering! And don’t get me wrong, I’m on board with this trend! Photography is very important to me! I studied it all four years of high school and even have a college degree in photography! Take just one glance at my Instagram feed (go ahead…enjoy yourself 😉), and you’ll see that I think even the routine, ordinary parts of my life are not only worth remembering but worth sharing with the world.

Today, August 18th, 2016, would have been my mother’s 68th birthday. Five years ago, exhausted from fighting and knowing that on the other side of the war was an eternal, painless life with Jesus, cancer overtook her.

I sat in my bed in San Salvador this morning, searching my computer for the best photo of Mom to memorialize her influence on my life. As I sifted through files of photos of her, I came to a heartbreaking realization – there will be no more photos of my mother. As her birthday and anniversary of her death pass each year, I will eventually be forced to use the same photos year after year.

And what about the memories from moments that weren’t documented with a photo? I grew up in a time when you only took photos for really important events – birthdays, weddings, Backstreet Boys concerts, etc. One of my greatest fears is that I will forget all those precious moments; that they will be scattered to the wind as time passes and my age begins to consume my memories.

There really is no “This sucks, BUT…!” conclusion here. As each year passes and new memories press up next to the old, I simply pray that God will spark memories of Mom in my mind when I least expect them. Perhaps the sound of the ocean will remind me of hours spent hunting for shark’s teeth in Florida. Or the Beach Boys popping up on my music playlist will remind me of sleeping in her convertible while she drove us to Lake Erie. Or the sight of a baby will remind me of how her eyes just sparkled when she got to take a newborn in her arms.

I know that I am not the only one who is blessed enough to have memories of Lois Elaine tucked in their minds somewhere. Please, if you would, share with me one or two of your favorite memories of my mom. through our shared recollections, we will never forget the love she brought to our lives.

Oh, and take all the photos, for they might just be the spark to a firestorm of memories.

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Christmas, around 2006

Mission Team Season in San Salvador!

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Hola Hola, amigos!

I am sorry that this email is coming a little late, but July was a crazy busy month! But down here, crazy busy is a good thing because it means that Iglesia Gran Comisión (IGC) is having lots of mission teams and lots of people serving the people of San Salvador! I am loving “Mission Team Season” because it means a weekly pupusa dinner, regular trips to the beach (my favorite place on earth!) and igniting fires in people’s hearts for the country I love so much.

First and foremost, the most important thing that happened in July in my personal life is that I FINALLY received my Temporary Residency Visa!! PRAISE BREAK! God is always teaching me patience in one way or another. I received my visa only TWO days before my 90-day tourist visa expired! If I hadn’t gotten it by then, I would have had to leave the country for a few days in order to renew my tourist visa! But God is NEVER late! After approximately eight visits to the Immigration Office (no, I am NOT exaggerating!) and three trips to various lawyers and notaries, they finally approved my paperwork and issued me a one-year temporary residency visa! Next summer I will go back to Immigration and renew my visa. Hopefully the process of renewing it won’t be nearly as frustrating as getting it in the first place!

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The week before I got my visa, there was a Rock City Church team serving in La Libertad, an oceanside city about 40 minutes south of San Salvador! I convinced a few amazing friends to drive me down so I could see some familiar faces from home and get a handful of the best Rock City hugs! Nate Eckhart, the Rock City Church Beyond Our Walls (Missions) Director was leading the team, and it was especially awesome to see him this side of the border and say, “Look! God did it! Our hard work, my patience and everyone’s prayers paid off!”


The last week in July began for IGC a busy, busy mission team season! On July 23rd, we embarked upon a 5-week period of mission teams, back to back, to back! We began with a team from Bay Area Community Church (BACC) in Annapolis, Maryland. This was a special team because BACC is Sarah’s, our IGC Missions Coordinator, home church! One of the best parts of their trip happened on Saturday, Beach Day! The two team leaders, Nylca and Diek, had decided to be baptized in the ocean! Nycla and Diek are married and have been walking with Jesus for many years, but had not yet made the public declaration of their inner transformation! So Sarah and Vladi braved the Pacific high tide and baptized Nylca and Diek! Hallelujah!

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The following team was my favorite yet (yes, I know I’m biased 😉 )!! ROCK CITY CHURCH!!! Not only was this team from my home church, but 14 of the 19 team members were people I know and love! My sweet girl Olivia from Rock City Youth came for the second time, along with her dad, Doug, and younger sister, Tatum. Also returning to San Salvador for another time was Ali!!!! Ali has been support raising to move her full-time since February, and she got to have a little break in the action to visit the people and places she loves in San Salvador! It was so, SO cool to watch Ali jump right back into serving San Salvador. She remembered every child’s name, served without being asked and spoke Spanish like a local. I am beyond excited to serve alongside her soon!

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My week with Rock City was simultaneously the best week and the hardest week of my 4 months here in San Salvador. It was the best because I got to serve alongside some of my most favorite people in the world. And when you’re serving people for Christ and sharing His love, it just doesn’t feel like work. It feels like the most necessary and most joyful thing in the world.

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{the Shank family // Tatum, Olivia + Doug}

 But those past seven days were also incredibly hard, because each passing day meant another day closer to the team leaving, many of whom I do not know when I will see again.

Rock City Youth has been one of the things that I have missed most from home. I knew how Rock City Youth worked. I knew how to do it and I knew I was good at it (but always with much room to grow 😉) and I LOVED it. But I’m not there yet with my job here. I love living in San Salvador, but it’s going to take a little more time to become adjusted to life and work here.

That week was a resuscitation of my heart a little bit. I felt happy and normal to be living life together with so many people whose lives are a permanent part of my story. So thank you Rock City Church and Rock City Youth for breathing new life into my lungs and restoring my heart to its full and joyful state once more!

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Thank you to all the folks who sent care packages along with the team! Receiving gifts has been my biggest love language for years, and your gifts filled my heart with love! From coffee creamer to my favorite journaling pens to Reese’s Pieces – it was ALL AMAZING! And an extra special thank you to Lindsey for lugging the giant goody-filled suitcase from Columbus to San Sal!

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OH! I can’t forget to mention that Staci, one of the team members, decided to be baptized! Unfortunately, our beach day was canceled due to bad weather, but the sunshine came out in time for us to have a pool baptism at the hotel! GOD IS GOOD!

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Last week, Iglesia Gran Comisión hosted a team from Total Health. Total Health is an organization of doctors, nurses and people who have a heart and passion for bring affordable healthcare to people who need it the most but can afford it the least. Total Health built and maintains a health clinic at our Children’s Development Center (CDC) in Guayabo and they will be opening one around November at our CDC in Soyapango!

This was my first medical mission team, so I had no idea what to expect! The team was made up of people from all over the country! It was so cool to see people from different parts of the States come together for one common goal – to bring physical and spiritual healing to the people of San Salvador.

All but one person on the team were “returners” (people who have been to San Salvador before and are returning again), so I am excited to know that even though it might not be for awhile, I will get to see all of their faces again!

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Our church is actually beginning a weeklong break in mission teams because one of our partner churches, Wellborn Church in Texas, had to cancel their trip last minute. Team leaders, Chad and Amanda Whisenant, were going to be returning with their 18-year old son, Nolan. On Wednesday night, August 10th, Chad and Nolan were in a terrible car accident. Their car rolled over and Nolan was thrown from the car. Chad has been released from the hospital, praise God, but Nolan remains in critical condition. At this moment, the latest update I have is that Nolan was rushed into surgery this morning. I don’t have a lot of information about his condition and I don’t know Nolan, but that doesn’t matter because God hears my prayers and will answer them according to His will. Please join us in praying for this family in their time of incredible need.

An extra important prayer request

Sarah Meehan de Solorzano is a fellow missionary here from the States. She has lived and worked in San Salvador for the past nine years! She is now married and has two beautiful children. Almost two months ago, her husband Jorge hurt his back and has been bedridden since. We are asking God for complete healing, but it is looking more like God’s plan is for Jorge to have back surgery. There are many options that Sarah and Jorge are trying to weigh out. We trust that God is using this period of idleness for Jorge’s good and His glory, but we can’t help but believe that Jorge can be better used back out on the mission field. I am including here an email sent by Sarah to her supporters in the States. Please read it and let us know if you or anyone you know can offer help. Thank you for your prayers and your support!

From Sarah:

I wanted to give you an update on Jorge’s back situation.  In 2009 Jorge had an emergency back surgery for a herniated disk. He had lost feeling in his left leg and they operated on him immediately to prevent further damage. They shaved the disk and the operation was successful. This surgery was done at a government hospital because at that time Jorge did not have private health insurance. After this Jorge (and our kids now) have private health insurance however because his surgery was done before getting private insurance, anything relating to his back is not covered with the private insurance because it is considered a pre-existing condition.

Jorge has been on bed rest and disability leave for one month now with excruciating pain. He just recently got the results back from an MRI and he has 2 herniated disks. He has gone to 2 appointments with neurosurgeons and they both said he needs surgery. And needs it sooner than later. The government hospital only does the most basic surgeries which would be to shave the disk and the waiting list would have him scheduled to have this operation around October where he shouldn’t wait that long and the don’t offer the best option of putting in a bracket or some sort of device. They only do that in private hospitals as far as we know.

So right now we are investigating a ton. We are talking with doctors from Total Health that is the organization in the U.S. that works with our Centers here in El Salvador. We are getting opinions from these doctors at Total Health and looking at all the possible options. We are asking specialists here too.

So here’s how you can help:

  1. Pray for complete healing for Jorge
  2. Pray for God to open a door and show us the best option
  3. Let us know if you know specialists we can talk to to get their opinion
  4. Pray for God’s provision because right now it looks like the best option is a private hospital and this means we will have to pay all out of pocket
  5. Pray for Jorge to be encouraged- he knows and is very aware that God is in control
Thank you so much for your love, support, and prayers.
In Christ,
Sarah

Please keep in touch! It fills my heart with gladness to hear from friends and family back home!

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 Nolan Whisenant and Jorge Solorzano. We know that God CAN heal them both completely with just a touch of His hand. We are praying that He WILL.
  • For continued support as Iglesia Gran Comisión continues to raise money to build a Dental Clinic above the current Total Health Clinic. You can help by sharing this informational video with your friends and family and on social media.
  • As always, for continued Spanish Acquisition! I had to take a break from my weekly lessons because of Mission Team Season, but I will be restarting my lessons this week!
  • For my stomach to adjust swiftly to this new environment.
  • That I would be able to make the changes necessary to have a daily quiet time with the Lord and His Word.

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.
Proverbs 3v27 MSG

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