#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…

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

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

ashley_blog-beach-day

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

 

And so it begins…

ashley_blog-and-so-it-begins

Hola Hola, amigos!

My first six weeks on Salvadoran soil have come and gone in a flash and I have so much to share! Vamos!

On April 30th, a mission team from New Life Church in Michigan came to San Salvador and I jumped right in with helping the team! Part of my job was to help support Sarah, our Mission Team’s Coordinator, with various activities throughout the day. I also got to take photos of the team working and update our Mission Team Facebook page every night with a summary from the day. It was super fun to be a part of a few people’s first experiences with San Salvador and encouraging to see the excitement from the people returning for their second, third (or more!) time!

One of my favorite parts of the week with the New Life Team was getting to go back to Ceren, a local private high school. Ceren is where, two short (but they felt really long!) years ago, I felt God calling me to Youth Ministry and life in San Salvador. I hadn’t been back since my first time there in 2014, so returning to where God first gave me my mission felt like I was right where I was supposed to be.

new_life

An added and completely unexpected wink from God happened on Wednesday of that week. One of the missionaries stayed back at the hotel for the morning, so right before lunch, our van driver, Roberto, and I went to get her. On the way to the hotel, at a stoplight, I happened to look at the intersecting street to my left and noticed a tall, white, scrawny red-head juggling in between cars in the street. Just as he turned around, our eyes met and he came running over.

Josué.

If you talked to me after my first mission trip, you got to hear Josué’s story. If you talked to me after my second mission trip, you got to hear Josué’s story. If you heard my pitch asking for support, you got to hear Josué’s story. Basically, If I’ve told you anything about San Salvador I’ve told you about Josué. But juuuuust in case you haven’t heard his story, here it is in as small of a nutshell as I can make it ;)

I met Josué at Ceren on my first mission trip. He stood out to me because he’s 6’ tall, has bright white skin and flaming red hair – not exactly the stereotypical Salvadoran. I asked some locals about him and they shared part of his story with me. Josué’s parents both passed away by the time he was 13. This left nowhere for he and his older brother to live. After months of being chased out of neighborhood after neighborhood by the local gangs, they learned that dealing drugs could be their ticket to safety and a place to live. Well, that solution didn’t last long, and both Josué and his brother ended up in jail. By the true grace of God, Josué was released and decided to get his life together. He got a room to stay in and began attending Ceren. Since then, life has been a rollercoaster for Josué. A few ups, but from what I can tell, some pretty steep dips.

Josué’s story is so very similar to so many other youths in San Salvador. I know that God was telling me, Ashley, you see this kid? He needs help, and so many other kids here do too. And I want to use YOU to bring them to me.

It had been almost a full two years since I had seen Josué in person when I moved here. Seeing him again and actually talking to him was a wink from God saying, Okay girl, you’re here. Now let’s get to work.

Consider this my promise to God, my friends, and my supporters: I will not leave this country until we see Josué lay his life at the foot of Jesus’ cross.


When mission teams are not here, I am continuing to help at the Children’s Development Centers. Because of the kids there, my Spanish is coming along rápidamente (quickly ;) )! Very few of them speak any English, and if they do, it’s very basic English, so I am forced to use only Spanish! Sure, there’s a lot of me telling them I don’t understand or to slow down, but they are patient with me! In exchange, I am teaching them English a few days a week! Ali will be developing a more formal English program, so in the meantime, we are having fun singing “Head, shoulders, knees and toes!” and I am using some of the techniques I learned in Colorado at Mission Training International to get the kids used to hearing English before attempting to speak.


As a more formal method of language learning, I now have a Spanish teacher! Sarah is a teacher at Victor & Silvia’s son’s school and she was more than eager to assist me in my language learning. We get together for about two hours every Saturday. Honestly, I think I initially surprised her with how much Spanish I can already speak!

Saturdays are for Language Learning! On Saturday mornings, I am now meeting with Malena and Lupita, two of Silvia’s friends from church who want to practice their English! They both learned English in college but have not had an opportunity to practice. So we are now getting together for coffee and English conversation on Saturday mornings!Both of these women are incredibly sweet and I am looking forward to building a friendship with them.


I am also very much enjoying getting to spend time with my Salvadoran friends! I joined the church’s young adult Bible study! We meet on Saturday evenings for…you guessed it! Bible study and fellowship. One week out of the month, we get together just to hangout and have fun as a group. This past Saturday, we gathered at Adriana’s house for pupusas and a movie. This is giving me a great opportunity to get to know people better and develop lasting friendships.

my sweet friend Andrea & I

I have a funny little story to share with you! I have a Fitbit activity tracker and I love it. I’ve had it for about a year and a half. Over the past few days, it stopped holding a charge for longer than a few hours (normally, it stays charged for a few days!). So I figured I could call customer service and have a replacement sent to a friend in the states and they could then get it to me either with a mission team or in the mail (God uses EVERY situation in my life to teach me patience!). The following conversation ensued:

“Hey! My name is Ashley. I am having trouble with my Fitbit and need a replacement. I’m a missionary in El Salvador and I am trying to avoid spending money on a new tracker!”
Fitbit Customer Service: “That’s actually really funny because I am answering from San Salvador!”
“Really??? Where do you work?”
“At the Plaza Merliot!”
“Holy cow. That’s only like 5 minutes from my house!”

{insert conversation more about why I’m here, how long I’ll be here and my other friends here that work for call centers than actually replacing my Fitbit! Jaja!}

Eventually, we did talk about my Fitbit (turns out charging it in the wall outlet was a bad idea – the different voltage zapped my battery!) and he is indeed sending a replacement to a friend in the states!


Last weekend, a team from Rock City arrived in San Salvador and I was so excited to see familiar faces and talk about home with my Rock City and Salvadoran friends. This team has spent their time at both the Guayabo and Soyapango Children’s Centers. One of their projects has been working to repair the playground that was built at Guayabo on my first trip here! It has been very loved and needs some maintenance so it can continue to be loved by the children!

And to the handful of you that worked to send me stuff with the team: MUCHO MUCHO GRACIAS!!!!

rocj_city


Thank you for your continued prayer, words of encouragement and financial support. Because of you, I am adjusting well! You have helped me to allow God to work in the process of moving, the actual move and my life here in San Salvador.

By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people.
Exodus 13v21-22


To those of you that have emailed, FaceTimed, whatsapp-ed, Facebooked – however you have reached out – THANK YOU. I believe that my heart will forever be in two places (perhaps even more!), but because of your friendship, it is not broken.

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

Please Pray:

  • For my health. My body is adjusting  to Salvadoran food, bacteria and life in general, but it comes with an occasional bout of stomach grossness. I am currently recovering from my latest spell. FYI, Dad and all my surrogate Moms out there – I am on medicine and feeling much better! It’s nothing to worry about and is to be expected when you move to any new country. My prayer request is that I would be healthy enough to work with the Rock City team this coming week and that my body would adjust QUICKLY!
  • That my Spanish acquisition continues without frustration or discouragement. I have my moments of both, but I am reminding myself that it is only with God’s strength that I will learn and become fluent.
  • For God to work in me to fundraise for The Dental Clinic at the Guayabo Children’s Center.
  • For another opportunity to see Josué and begin to build a relationship with him. Also, pray for his safety and well-being.
  • For growth and strength in our Iglesia Gran Comisión Youth Ministry. Many students have been burned by judgmental Christians before. I am praying that they will be willing to open their hearts to a different church with a different way of thinking. We like to call it love!
  • For the Rock City Youth mission team headed to NYC to serve at the Dream Center! They leave on June 21st (just 3 weeks away!), and I know there are many students still in need of financial support. They will all need prayer support while they are there. I believe that God will change lives that week.

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

Livin’ the Dream

ashley_blog-livin-the-dream

I spent almost 11 months working my butt off to make my dream of moving to San Salvador a reality. Five of those months were spent having meeting after meeting with friends, loved ones and even strangers inviting them to share in my dream and be a part of the imperative crew of people sending me to San Salvador. One of those months was spent at Missionary Training International, learning how to learn Spanish and how to adjust to a new culture (#DifferentIsntWrong). Another one of those months was spent grieving the loss of Plan A – moving to San Salvador on December 23, 2015. The following three months were spent making lemonade (“When life gives you lemons…”) and learning everything I could about Youth Ministry and being in leadership. And the last month was spent trying (and failing) not to cry when I said goodbye to my favorite people and figuring out how to fit nine years of adulthood into three, 70 lbs or less, suitcases.

This is the best I could do...
This is the best I could do…

And now Here I am, in San Salvador, literally living the dream. But this weird thing happened about a week after I got here – living the dream got HARD! I expected learning Spanish to be challenging, but it is one thing to know something will be difficult and it is a completely other thing to walk out that challenge and not give up.

I landed in San Salvador with what I would call “Kitchen Spanish.” Hola amigo! Que tal? Tengo treinta-un años! Donde estas mi pizza? But I figured what everyone told me was true – the best and fastest way to learn any language is by full immersion. And my Salvadoran friends have been super eager to assist in my full immersion program! But from Day One, that was the challenge – being fully immersed in a language I barely know. When I am one-on-one with my bilingual friends, our conversation is easy because we mostly speak in English. But add even one more person, and I feel like I’m living in my own telenovela! This is actually really beneficial though because a large part of learning a new language is simply listening.

But I can only listen for so long before trying to understand every word becomes not only exhausting but impossible. There is definitely a part of myself that has gotten lost in the language. I don’t feel like myself when I am in a group of people. I can’t share my opinion, spit out a funny one liner or contribute to the conversation topic (most likely, I have no clue what the topic of conversation actually is.)

I would guess that 98% of my life in San Salvador is spent in confusion. Just last week, I was in the car with Silvia (the wife of the family I am living with) after our work day at the Children’s Center. Just like every day, we drove to pick up her kids from school. When we got to school, she informed me that we would have to wait about an hour for her son, Victor Raul, to get tutoring. Fine! No hay problema! I can nap in the car! After about an hour, Silvia and I walked into the school to retrieve Victor. He walked back to the car with us, but we didn’t leave right away. Curious… A few minutes later, his teacher joined us in the car! Ooookaaaay….maybe they invited her over for dinner as a thank you! About 10 minutes later, we were in a neighborhood I didn’t recognize. Turns out, we were taking Victor’s teacher home because she lives only a few minutes from our house! This is just one of about 10 days that have included journeys and adventures I had no clue were about to happen!

My first chocobanano! An after-work adventure I DEFINITELY wasn't expecting!
My first chocobanano! An after-work adventure I DEFINITELY wasn’t expecting!

Not being able to participate in Spanish conversations with a group of people has also had the effect of making me feel really dumb. Thoughts run through my mind like I’m so stupid! I will never learn Spanish! Why can’t I do this?? I have a college degree AND a Master’s degree! I should be able to learn Spanish! It’s like the easiest language in the world! But possibly, and most crushing to my spirit, I feel like everyone around me thinks I’m an idiot too.

Even so, not by my own strength, but by the strength of God, every day, I wake up and tell the family “Buenos días!” During the week, I go to the Children’s Center and ask my new friend, Kevin, “Ya comes? No? Quieres huevos? Siiiii! Y cuántos tortillas? Café con azúcar??” And some days, I even help with math homework! (math AND Spanish?? Si se puede! Yes, we can!) And with God’s Holy Spirit within me, I am learning. Words that escaped my memory, no matter how many times someone told me, are finally sticking. Thanks to the patience of my friends, their willingness to speak slowly, (and hand gestures) I am understanding way more than I can speak.

Girl Talk
Girl Talk

I am also appreciating this season of listening. In the States, I am so quick to speak and slow to listen. I try really hard to empathize with what people share with me, but many times, how I can relate, and how I feel about their problem and what I am going to say next are the thoughts running through my mind as people open up their hearts to me. So perhaps God has purposely placed me in this challenge as a way to teach me to listen to understand, not to listen and respond.

I also recently found a Spanish teacher! Sarah is one of Victor Raul’s teachers at school, and she was eager to help me learn! We had our first lesson last weekend and it went really well! I am finally learning the alphabet, I learned that English “-tion” words are “-ción” words in Spanish, and I began reading the classic, El Gato con Botas (Puss in Boots)! Sarah is super friendly and willing to help however she can. Just today she messaged me reminding me she is only a text away if I have any questions “sobre español!”

My most important lesson in language learning isn’t that “perrito” is a completely different word from “pedito” (the tongue-roll on those R’s is suuuper important), or that although mostly harmless in English, “estúpido” is really pretty offensive in San Salvador. The most important thing I can learn and must remember is that God has called me to this place and He will give me the tools and abilities to bring glory to His Kingdom. He IS going to use me here. In Spanish. And you know how I know? Because Satan is working overtime to convince me He won’t.

There has never been the slightest doubt in my mind that the God who started this great work in you would keep at it and bring it to a flourishing finish on the very day Christ Jesus appears.

Philippians 1v6 The Message

This is why I want to learn Spanish. Two days ago, two sweet girls, Lorena and Claudia, called on the name of Christ and trusted Him with their lives! And now what? These girls need someone to walk beside them as they begin to figure out just what it means to walk with Jesus. I believe God has called me to be that person someday soon.

 

This is why I want to learn Spanish. Two days ago, two sweet girls, Lorena and Claudia, called on the name of Christ and trusted Him with their lives! And now what? These girls need someone to walk beside them as they begin to figure out just what it means to walk with Jesus. I believe God has called me to be that person someday soon.