One Strand of Faith // August Monthly Update

“If there is only one strand of faith amongst all the corruption within us,
God will take hold of that one strand.”

August went by quickly, as the summer months tend to do!
Pour yourself some coffee and see what I’ve been up to!

Academia Gran Comisión

God has a funny way of proving me wrong…a lot. The English Academy at our church was something Pastor Victor tasked me with over a year ago. He figured that because I’m from the States, I was a teacher in the past and have serious “get-stuff-done” abilities, that I was just the person to do it.

Well, I dragged my feet on this project…a lot. I hated teaching in the States, I knew nothing about teaching English as a Second Language and I had no clue how to begin.

read more…


God is So Good!

On Sunday, August 20th, SIX people from our church in Soyapango were baptized! Hallelujah! And even more exciting, TWO of those people are children at our Development Center and one is our cook at the Center! 🙌🏽 God is moving in great ways in our churches here in El Salvador.

read more…


Worship is My Cardio

If you’ve ever seen me “get my worship on” at Rock City Church, you know that I love my worship time! For me, when I have my arms in the air and my life completely surrendered to God, that’s when He plants dreams in my heart and calls my spirit to Him.

This past Saturday, the youth (and young at heart!) of our church got together for a night of worship and thanksgiving. And we weren’t alone! Our churches in Soyapango and La Libertad joined us! It literally brought tears to my eyes to be singing alongside Salvadorans and people from the US. I sang in English and Spanish. God hears us all and He understands every language. Wow.

Vladimir, my lifegroup leader, shared a message about being thankful in every situation – happiness, stress, success, stress, gains, losses – we must remember to thank God for all of it!


Christ’s church is people…

…not a building! This Sunday, Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador will move from our current building to an auditorium in the Sheraton President Hotel! The rent at our current location was raised to a point we could no longer afford, so after months of praying and searching, our pastors found our new home for the next year!

 

 

 

We had our last service at the old space last weekend, and it was truly bittersweet. I am sad to say goodbye to the only place I have ever known as church in this country, but I am so excited to see what God does in the new place!


– AS TOLD BY ASHLEY –

Recently, our local church hosted a 2-week seminar on spiritual gifts. I had taken one of these tests years ago, but so much has happened in my life in the past 3 years that I thought I should probably try again. I was tied with two gifts – teaching and faith.

Well, teaching totally makes sense. But faith?? I usually feel like Peter walking on water – 2 steps on the water and 1 step drowning. My faith is super strong when I can see what God’s doing and understand His plan! But the other 99.99% of the time, my faith wavers because I have absolutely zero clue how He’s going to take care this situation or restore that relationship, and it’s hard to have faith in what I can’t see and don’t understand.

But I’ve come to learn that just because you have a spiritual gift, doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it yet. I liken it to someone with a natural gift for piano. Sure, she can sit down, read the music and plunk out a pretty good tune on the first try, but if she doesn’t practice day after day, month after month, her gift will go to waste.

So it is with my gift of faith. I can sit down, read the Bible and spout off a pretty good prayer, but if my faith is not tested, it will never become the gift God planted in my spirit.

Oswald Chambers wrote that if I can “Believe steadfastly on God, everything that challenges me will strengthen my faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test.”

I never really thought about that – when we close our eyes for the last time, it is our last test of faith that we will awake in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ. Now, THAT kind of faith I have! My faith is weak in areas where I have to trust that God has already resolved every troublesome situation in my life. My job, friends, marriage, family…God has it all figured out! He could tell me how it all turns out if He wanted to, but that’s the thing – God wants to see if I trust Him enough, if I love Him enough, if I have faith enough to hand over all those situations and the million possible outcomes to Him.

“Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us.” I have faith that God is with me through every trial, every joy, every moment of every day. Even when I cannot feel Him, He is there. Will His plan always be my plan? Absolutely not. Will that hurt? Probably. But is His hand always on my hand? Absolutely yes.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31v6

Hola? Aloha? Χαίρετε? It has been awhile since I’ve gotten any mail! Stay in touch! I would also love to videochat with you! Send me a message and let’s plan something!

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 our English Academy! We are three weeks in and it’s going so well! We have about 15 students, TEN of which are new to our church! This weekend we will be sharing the Gospel with them! Please pray that God’s words fall upon open hearts and that some soul-changing happens!
  • That the last approx. $2,500 would come soon for the Dental Clinic equipment.
  • For this weekend’s church service! It will be our first service at the Hotel Sheraton! There are many perks to this location (free coffee! 😻☕️), but also many quirks we will have to work out!
  • For the health and safety of all our children at our Development Centers in Soyapango and on the Volcano.
  • That my time back home (I’ll be in Ohio Sept. 27 – Dec. 8!) is rejuvenating and spirit filling!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
     -Ashley

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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!

Visa


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!

TotalHealth


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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Hey There, July!

Hola Hola, amigos!

I can’t believe how fast June just flew by me! It seems like just last week it was May! June was jam packed with equal parts fun and work – mostly because my job is seriously fun!

Three of the four weeks in June were spent with mission teams! The first of which, I am more than a little biased towards – Rock City! A team of ten people from my beloved home church Rock City came to serve my beloved city of San Salvador! They spent their week here serving our two Children’s Development Centers in Soyapango and Guayabo. But the most amazing day was the team’s last day here – not because it was beach day and DEFINITELY not because it was the day before they left – but because the team got to be a part of something really special – a baptism day! Six people (three kids and three adults!) from our Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador/Guayabo location asked to be baptized! So we filled a school bus with families from Guayabo and took them to the beach! Guayabo is a village on the side of an inactive volcano in San Salvador, so for most of these kids, that day was their first time in the ocean! There are few things more joyful than a child’s first steps on the beach!

The day started off cloudy, but we managed to enjoy ourselves anyway! After some splashing in the water and sand between our toes, we retreated to the pool for our baptisms! After six people left their lives at the foot of Jesus’ cross, we celebrated and God pushed the clouds aside and the sun came out!

 

When we have mission teams visiting and serving, my job is to assist Sarah, our Mission Team Coordinator with the team. I help with logistics, making sure everyone is where they should be, kind-of, sort-of translating and just acting as an extra pair of hands. I love serving with the teams because it’s a fresh breath of air talking with people from my own country. The hard part is that I bond with these people, and just as we’ve become close, they head back to the States!

After the Rock City team, we had a week break and then Cedar Creek came down from Toledo! It was an OH-IO month! We ended the month just a few days ago with a team from Bay Area Community Church in Annapolis, Maryland – Sarah’s home church! The Rock City team baptized people, the Cedar Creek team fixed the Guayabo broken-down swings and the Bay Area team repainted the church! WHEW! What a month of service!


When I get the chance to catch up with friends and family on the phone, most of the time, one of their first questions is “How’s your Spanish?!” Well…I’m definitely better than I was almost 3 months ago! Working with the children at the Guayabo Development Center has definitely helped my Spanish because they speak no English, other than the very limited basics that missionaries have taught them! There are many times when I ask them, “Como??” (What??), they repeat themselves and I understand and maybe even learn something new. But there are also times when I must concede and say, “Lo siento mi amor, pero noentiendo!” (I’m sorry my love, but I don’t understand!) Most times, they just shrug their shoulders, offer me a hug for trying and go about playing. They’re some of my most patient and helpful teachers!

I still have frustrations when I am hanging out in social groups and I don’t understand everything, but I’m getting better and eventually I will understand and be back to my old self, laughing along and making my own jokes!


In just three short weeks, on July 30th, another Rock City mission team is coming! This team is EXTRA special for me because a few of my most favorite people are on it!

  • Ali Howard, my best friend who will be joining me in full-time mission work here (hopefully!) in a few months!
  • Olivia, a 16-year-old student from Rock City Youth (you may know Olivia as my very sweet friend and disciple), her sister Tatum and their dad.
  • Carmen, another amazing Youth chica
  • A handful of other people who have been to San Salvador before, but never with me!

I am SO looking forward to this team! When they arrive, it will have been over 3 months since I’ve seen these “besties,” and my heart needs the refresher!

This will be the last Rock City team for the year, so it’s your last chance to send any care packages (aka, my love language 😉 )my way without paying international shipping 😃 I am so happy living here, but I definitely miss the States, so notes and packages from home will flood my heart with love and joy!


My current, and most necessary prayer request is for my temporary residency visa. I am currently in El Salvador on a 90-day tourist visa. It will expire on July 19th, in less than two weeks. The process for acquiring my temporary residency visa is quite complicated. It requires a lot of paperwork that must be filled out in just the right way. I went to Immigration two weeks ago with the hopes of being given my visa that day, but was given a litany of things that needed to be revised. For example, on the application, we wrote my nationality as “USA” and the government would prefer it to say “estadounidense,” a Spanish term for a person from the USA. My US background check was translated into Spanish at home in Columbus. The Salvadoran government wants it translated and notarized by a Salvadoran notary. We have since remedied these things and more, and will hopefully have the documents back from the lawyer and ready to go tomorrow, Thursday. I will go back to Immigration on Friday, where they will take all my documents and give me a date (most likely around Wednesday of next week) to come back and be informed about whether there are more changes to be made, or (hopefully!!) they will say everything looks great and they will issue me my 1-year temporary residency visa!

Please pray that everything looks good and that I receive my visa next week! If I don’t, I will request to have my tourist visa extended. But this requires almost as much work and the temporary residency visa itself, so I am praying it doesn’t come to that. The only other option is to take a little vacation out of El Salvador for a few days! Adventure awaits!

Whatever happens next week, I will keep you all updated!


It’s been almost 90 days living in San Salvador (I only know this exact number because that’s how long my tourist visa is good for, ha!) and I am happy, healthy and loving life! Thank you so much for those of you that have called, video-chatted, and otherwise reached out to me. It’s a strange thing attempting to maintain relationships back home while living a whole new life here. Part of my personal struggle is fearing I am losing friends back home while beginning to create new friendships in this country. So again, thank you for your prayers and encouragement – it comforts me to know that I am still in your thoughts and hearts! You can each be sure that you are in mine!

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:

  • As always, that I continue to learn Spanish without frustration and without wanting to just quit. Quitting is not an option here, folks!
  • For the process of acquiring my temporary residence visa!
  • Ali as she continues her support raising journey! She is currently at 75%! PRAISE BREAK! We are praying that she would reach 100% by the time she leaves for Mission Training International on September 19th! You can follow her ministry and support her on her blog, alihoward.co
  • For God to do a great miracle and to bring in $20,000 more by August. Wanna be part of the miracle? Click here!
  • For the Rock City team coming on July 30th! They’ll need health, endurance and love! And I’ll need to remember that I’m still at work – even if it is a little more fun than usual 😜
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

There’s a lot of smiling between us because there’s not a lot of talking. Magali is patient as I learn Spanish and forgiving when I don’t understand. I hope there will be a day when our conversations go on and on about life, Jesus and love. But until that day, the silence between us isn’t cold. The silence between us is a short, simple conversation. “Te quiero, hermanita.” “Yo sé, Ashley. Yo también.”

The Perfect Beach Day

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And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name. Acts 22v16

I think today was my best day yet in San Salvador. Usually, the last day of a mission team’s week is spent at the beach, enjoying each other’s company and relaxing after a long week of hard work. But today was different. Today, the church filled a school bus with children and adults from Guayabo, a village on the side of a volcano where our first and largest Children’s center sits, and drove them to the beach to be baptized.

For most of the children, today was their first time at the ocean! Any beach is my absolute favorite place on earth, so to share in the childlike joy of the waves crashing into your chest and the sand squishing between your toes, well that, dear friends, would have been enough to sustain my happiness for weeks. But because God is working in all the nooks and crannies of His creation, I got to witness the joy of six people (three kids!) dropping their sins at the foot of Jesus’ cross and walking away drenched in salvation.

As soon as the baptisms ended, what had been a gray and cloudy morning became a bright, sunshiny day! It was truly as if God parted the heavens to let us know that He and His angels were rejoicing with us. (Luke 15v10)

After the baptisms, I walked the beach with some missionaries and played in the pool with the kids. Although I still believe wholeheartedly that God created me for Youth Ministry, there’s just something about a child yelling my name and entrusting me to carry them to the deep end of the pool that makes me wonder if God might just have something extra planned for me here.

Jesus tells us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” Today, I began to believe that I might just be able to obey that command (as long as they’re always beach baptisms 😉😎).

My little loves, Gilma & Jose