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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No Answers Yet

ashley_blog-no-answers-yetTuesday started out as a perfectly lovely day. Granted, it was 6am and I could barely actually see the day, but I knew it was going to be good. I had woken up early to join a few close friends at church for an early morning prayer meeting. Corporate prayer, people praying together, is a mighty powerful thing. It’s one thing to know the prayers that I am praying, but it is a whole other level of beautiful when someone gets down on their knees and echos my prayer. So even if it means waking up before the sun, it’s worth it to start my day in conversation with God and His people.

Another reason I wanted to begin my day by handing it over to God was because Tuesday was shaping up to be a very good, but very busy day. I needed to know that the day was God’s and He had His eyes on me. When I got back home after the prayer meeting for a few hours of Bible reading, I received a message from my friend Brittany. “Let me know when we can reschedule for!” Umm…what? Our 2:30pm coffee date had been in my calendar and confirmed for a week! I wasn’t cancelling!

“Let me know when we can reschedule for!”

“Why are we rescheduling?”

“You sent me an email canceling?”

“No? I didn’t mean to! My calendar has been acting up! But I’m still available today if you are!”
“Oh seriously!!?!?! Nuts!!! I told my cousin I could pick her up from school at 3pm because I thought you cancelled!!”
had been noticing that Sunrise, my iPhone and Mac desktop calendar app, had been on the fritz lately. My phone would have certain events scheduled while my computer had ruthlessly deleted them! #rude
I reached out to Amanda, my super cool, techy friend who introduced me to Sunrise, to see if she was having similar problems. She was, so we both began to Google their website to send Sunrise a strongly worded Tweet. Simultaneously, we stumbled across this headline of horror:

Microsoft Announces Plans to Discontinue the Popular Sunrise Calendar App

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

WHY GOD, WHY?????

DO YOU EVEN LOVE US????

Ok. Let me quickly explain why this was just devastating news – Amanda and I, and many of our friends, LOVE that app. Number 1, it’s pretty. And we’re all about the pretty. It’s easy to use. It syncs your calendars from iCloud, your Google account, Facebook, all of ’em. It allows you to quickly and easily invite people to appointments. It had an iPhone app AND a desktop app. Most calendar apps only have one or the other. It only cost a few bucks in the App Store. And dang, it was pretty!

For the time being, my Bible time had been pushed aside in favor of finding a new calendar app, because if I don’t have a working calendar, how will I even know when I have time for Bible time?!?

Amanda and I Googled. We Pinterested. We found ugly calendars from 2013. We found ovulation calendars. We found Make Out Calendars (side note: THAT is why we need Youth Ministry!). After almost 2 hours of searching and coming up empty-handed, the question remained:why

Well, isn’t that just the story of my life the past 2 months?!

“Hey Ashley! Soooo…you’re still here! Why?”

“No Answers Yet”

“Hey Ashley! It’s been 2 months, when are you headed to San Salvador?”

“No Answers Yet”

“Hey Ashley! Has anyone given you any idea, even a ballpark, of when you’ll be able to move?”

“No Answers Yet”

But that is just how God works sometimes. We pray and we pray and we pray, but God is silent. I have begged of Him, God, please! Just send me already! I’ve done everything I know to do! When is it my time? SilenceOk, God, fine. Make me wait. I will wait. But can you just tell me how long I have to wait? Please don’t leave me in this tunnel! Give me a light at the end! Silence.

So I wait in the tunnel. But what’s that noise?? Hello?? “OH HEYYYY FRIENDS! You brought me a present? I LOVE presents! It’s a flashlight…That’s actually just what I needed! Now I can see in this darkness! And a To-Do list? You know I love a project and a plan! What’s that? Oh! A cozy, little nook in the tunnel for me to live in! I guess I’ll just cuddle up here on the floor…A bed! Oh…that’s niiiice! Well, it’s still kinda dark in this tunnel, but now it’s kinda livable! Thanks guys!”

There is a big, over-arching part of my life that is uncertainty. Darkness. But God has not left me alone in that darkness. He is fighting for me. He knows what I want and He knows what I need. Obviously, I want to know when I will move to San Salvador! But do I need to know? Well, since God hasn’t told me yet, I guess I don’t. God doesn’t show us His love for us by giving in to all of our wants. Like a good Father, He shows his love for us by making sure our needs are taken care of first and then He tackles our wants. Can I trust the God of the Universe, the Creator, the One who knows all and sees all to know which of my wants are best for me? Well, when you put it that way…yes, of course. But do I also get frustrated when I cry, pray, and plead for a timeline and instead of opening the clouds, tapping me on the shoulder and yelling, “ASHLEY! Hey! Yeah! It’s me! That date you wanted to know? April 3rd! Ok, talk to you later!” God remains silent on the issue? Of course.


While I was at Missionary Training International in Colorado, I learned the importance of the word “Yet.”

  • “This culture doesn’t make sense to me…yet.”
  • “I haven’t learned how to do my new job…yet.”
  • “I don’t know how to speak Spanish…yet.”

“Hey Ashley! It’s been 2 months, when are you headed to San Salvador?” I don’t know…YET.

“Yet” means that I am still pursuing an answer, that what I am praying for will happen at the right time and that I still have hope. I rest in the truth that just because God is silent does not mean He does not hear me. God hears my cries and He will answer my prayer. He just hasn’t…yet.

Because He bends down to listen I will pray as long as I have breath

Psalm 116v2

 

This is The Day

ashley_blog-this-is-the-day

Today was my day. Well, today was supposed to be my day. The day everything changed. The day I left Columbus, Ohio with tears of sadness for the people I would leave behind. The day I stepped onto Salvadoran ground with tears of joy for the people God would touch through me. Today was going to be the day I changed my Facebook country of residency from The United States to El Salvador (because we all know it’s not really real until it’s on Facebook).

Today is not my day. Today, I sit in on a couch in Columbus, Ohio. Today, I long for my Salvadorans. Today, I meditate on what the apostle Paul preached and I practice walking by faith and not by sight.

Today is not my day.

One month ago today, November 23rd, I purchased a one-way plane ticket to San Salvador, El Salvador. I found the perfect ticket with the perfect departure time (so long as I didn’t mind kissing friends and family goodbye at 5am!), the perfect landing time, the perfect window seat and the perfect amount of free checked luggage. But if I am being honest with myself and with all of you, it didn’t quite feel perfect. But nevertheless, leaving at the end of December was the plan! I’d be in San Salvador for Christmas, I’d make it to the youth conference with the Salvadoran youth and I’d finally have my dream beach birthday in January! Nevermind that something felt a little off, the plan was coming together!

My plan.

Since the beginning of this journey, I pleaded with God to stop me in my tracks if moving to San Salvador to become a full-time missionary was a road not meant for me. I prayed, God, open the doors that will get me to San Salvador. But if this is not Your plan for me, shut the doors. Slam them. Lock them. Holy Spirit Super Glue them closed because (like He didn’t already know,) I will knock DOWN a door if what I want is on the other side. Father, make it hurt so that I learn my lesson. 

Proof that God hears my prayers: This hurts. I believe with my entire heart and spirit that God will get me to San Salvador. But I was on a road of my own planning and my own paving. And just as I asked, God gave me an obvious and painful detour. Telling my Salvadorans that I am not sure when I will be moving broke my heart. Explaining to supporters that my plans had been shaken up and that “this happens all the time in missions!” felt like slowly pulling off a scab each time it happened. Shouting at God in my moments of despair and frustration felt like an act I didn’t have the right to do.

I  don’t have any concrete answers yet as to why God still has me here in Ohio, but what I do have is healing. What was initially an excruciating pain is now a dull ache. The initial shock has worn off and I have settled into this new phase of my journey. The truth is, I may never know until I see God face-to-face why He has me on this particular detour.

Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.’
Lamentations 3v22-24

Because I know that God loves me beyond measure, I do not let my feelings of uncertainty and frustration overtake my spirit. Of course, I have moments when I wonder if God even knows what He’s doing up there. In these moments, I must make it a practice to close my eyes, envision God’s hands tenderly cupping my face and hear Him lovingly whisper, Little girl, didn’t I tell you that if you believed, you would see my glory? And I do believe. Even when it doesn’t make sense, I believe. God’s compassion for my weak spirit will never fail. He will continue to whisper His truths to my heart and the glory of His plans will be revealed to me.

My motto this month has been “I don’t ‘Be still and wait!'” I am wonderfully made by God and He made me a planner. I love a good, solid plan. Most of my plans are set in stone because it’s pretty dang difficult to erase stone carvings. Knowing that God has purposely placed me in a season of “Be still and wait” doesn’t exactly go along with my plans. But what choice do I have other than to do as I have been told? Bitterness against the people deciding when I can go to San Salvador will only cause me regret. Dreams of what could have been only wound my heart deeper. And making my own plan, outside of God’s will, certainly is no longer an option.

Because God is all I need, I will wait on His timing.

Because God bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath.†

And because He saved my soul, I will give Him all of my days.

Today is not my day.

Whatever plan for the day I come up with pales in comparison to the plan that God has already written for me. I trust that He knows my heart, knows my desires and as long as I keep my eyes on Him, whether I am seated on a plane headed to San Salvador or cuddled up on my best friend’s couch in Ohio, today is God’s day, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.


† Psalm 116v2

Keep My Eyes Above the Waves

ashley_blog-above-the-waves

It came and it went – 4 weeks in Colorado for missionary training was jam-packed full of language learning, culture learning and lots and lots of life learning. I was blessed to make friends with 29 other adults and 16 kiddos (all under the age of 7 going with their parents) headed to the international mission field. My time out west was a beautiful time of growth and restoration. I had spent 5 long months raising support and needed the time to relax.

While I was in Colorado, Reliant (my missionary sending agency) blessed me with their highly coveted “Hallelujah Call,” releasing me to assignment in San Salvador. I spent much of my free time scouring the internet for the perfectly timed flight with the perfectly placed window seat. Not quite finding what I wanted, I came home without my much sought after one-way flight. As it turns out, God was hiding it from me for a reason.


 

As many of you know, it has been my “big, bold prayer” from the beginning to be able to move to San Salvador by the end of December so that I could join their youth group in Honduras for Infinito, an annual youth conference for Central American youth. But what began as a huge prayer, deceptively turned into a huge goal. Praying for something big means knowing that the only way it can happen is with God’s intervention. Working towards a huge goal means knowing that it’s highly unlikely, but if you work hard enough, you can achieve it. I unknowingly had begun to take over control from God.

Over the past 3 days, I have come to realize that God is going to answer my big, bold prayer in a different way. Even though I have checked off all of the necessary boxes in order to be released to San Salvador, God has more work to do in my spirit and in my heart. After many honest and vulnerable conversations between Reliant, Pastor Victor in San Salvador, Rock City Church, and myself, we have all decided that it is best for everyone if I spend a little more time stateside before moving internationally.


One of the lasting lessons I learned in Colorado is that in life, we will have “Yay Ducks” and we will have “Yuck Ducks.” Yay Ducks are the good things that happen in our lives – things we are joyful about and thankful for. Yuck Ducks are the opposite – things that don’t go as planned, bumps in the road, moments that make it hard to be joyful. Life is full of Yay Ducks and Yuck Ducks. When you have both of them, as we all do, you have a pair of ducks…a pairaducks…a paradox.

{pause for eye roll and forced laughter}

Life is a paradox. I’ve heard it said before that if you want the rainbow, you’ve gotta tolerate the rain. In the midst of my troubles, I must see the joys. Deciding to extend my move date has been one of the fieriest trials God has allowed me to walk. It has taken me more than 48 hours to believe it, but God is in the midst of all this. He has still called me to mission work in San Salvador and He has not left my side. He knows that it is better for me to stay here a little while longer, building my faith muscle, than to go and have to come back because I wasn’t as ready as I could have been.

I will spend the upcoming weeks strengthening that faith muscle by learning to trust God in the midst of the unknown. God created me to be a Type A planner, but as many people know, life doesn’t always go according to plan. God is going to build up my “be still and wait” muscles as I attempt to do just that – be still and wait for His next move.

I will continue to work with Rock City Youth (HUGE Yay Duck!) to prepare myself for work in youth ministry in San Salvador. When asked what I will miss most about home, the answer is without a doubt Rock City Youth. Those kids fill my spirit with life and I believe that any extra time with them is the closest I will get to absolute joy this side of Heaven.


If you’ve ever been to the mission field, you know that one of the most important qualities you can possess as a missionary is flexibility. For better or for worse, things rarely go as planned and it is my job to remain flexible. Changing timelines are a perfectly normal facet of mission work. I have had story after story recounted to me over the past two days of missionaries who thought they were leaving in a month, which turned into 2 weeks, which turned into 7 weeks…they all eventually got to the mission field, but it was only after a season of flexibility.

During this time, I ask for your continued prayerful support. Trusting God is a moment by moment decision that has been made especially difficult in this time of uncertainty. What we can all be certain about is that I am going to San Salvador, we just don’t know when quite yet. I promise to keep everyone updated as things are made clearer.

When I prayed “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders,” this isn’t exactly what I expected, but God knows what He’s doing. He’s never failed me and He won’t start now.

Calm My Storm

ashley_blog-calm-my-stormMy life is chaotic. There is not one room in my home that doesn’t look me in the eyes and berate me with a tirade of to-do list items. I am overwhelmed to the point of standstill.

In exactly 10 days, I must be completely, 100% moved out of my home. On October 25th at 6am, I fly to Colorado for 4 weeks of cultural, international missionary training. On November 1st, while I am gone, the first of my two renters moves in. I am simultaneously maniacally deciding which of my life mementos I want to keep, packing for Colorado, packing for San Salvador and attempting to continue raising support so that I can get to San Salvador and begin walking out God’s call on my life. Oh, and at 8am this morning, I had my right eye tweaked (not to be confused with twerked. Nothing ever needs twerked. Ever.) and “re-lasered” because, although it was much better, my vision wasn’t quite perfect after my Lasik procedure 2 months ago.

My life is chaotic.

I have so much to do, just a few days to do it in, and yet I find myself sitting at my borrowed table (the only item of furniture left in my home is my bed), scrolling through Facebook for minutes on end. “Netflix and chill” is not longer a reward for a day of hard work – it has become an escape from the hundreds of things needing to be done in my life. After reading status after status about people actually doing things with their days, this becomes my thought process:

Do I go through my hundreds of earrings or do I sort through my office supplies? Will I need envelopes in San Salvador? I should keep these earrings – Mom bought them for me when she went on that one trip and now she will never be able to buy me earrings ever again. I wish mom were here. This is hard. I literally can’t even right now. Just ONE episode of Friends while I basic white girl out with my coffee with pumpkin creamer and pumpkin bagel with pumpkin cream cheese. Do they even have pumpkin flavored things in San Salvador? Awwwwww this is my last season of pumpkin flavored everything! Just one more episode. CRAP! There is so much to do and I’m not doing any of it! This will never get done!

Amidst all the turbulence in my life, I have become like Jesus’ disciples in the boat during a raging storm. Water is sloshing into the boat. Waves are threatening their buoyancy. It is dark and the land has disappeared. Jesus somehow sleeps through this turmoil, and His disciples awake him and clamor,

Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?

That, my friends, is where I don’t want to find myself – crying out to Jesus, HELLLOOOOO??? Do you even care that I am drowning here??  Rooms remain unpacked, my fine things are piled up to be sold in yard sales, my memories scattered to the wind…yet I know that Jesus is here among the disarray. I know that He is using all this disorder to teach me things about my own character and His. I know that Jesus is holding my flustered cheeks in His mighty hands, and as my eyes dart from room to room, from item to item on my to-list, He patiently whispers, Hey! Hey! Look at me! and when my eyes are finally able to focus on His eyes, Jesus asks of me,

My sweet girl, why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?

I am forced to ask this of myself – why AM I afraid? Am I afraid that God won’t get me to San Salvador? Am I afraid that I won’t pack the right things? Am I afraid that if I forfeit a memento to the trash that my memory of that moment will be forfeited as well? Because my answer is yes to each of those fears and so many more, I can only have faith. Without faith that God WILL get me to San Salvador, provide me with all that I need and fill my spirit with memories of my previous life, without that faith, my ship will founder. I will give into living in fear. I must have faith.

And as if in an attempt to remind me why I have faith in Him, Jesus draws me close and calms my storm. It is in the arms of my Savior that I am able to exhale, let go, and trust in Him.

Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.¹


¹ Mark 4v35-40