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Hola Hola, amigos!

February is a month all about love, and I have certainly been learning a lot about what it means to love as a missionary!

Really, the overarching goal of my job is to love people. It’s pretty much the best job description ever. I get to dole out hugs, kiss the tops of heads as tiny bodies cling to my legs, and some days I get to share life stories over salted green mango slices. Those are the really good days.

But my job isn’t always tiny-human squeezes and long afternoon conversations. Loving like Christ means I agree to be inconvenienced by love. Loving like Christ means loving people even though you know it might very well break your heart.

I began learning the inconvenience of love two and a half years ago when my heart started falling for a ragtag group of 9th-grade girls in Rock City Youth. I knew that not long after making them a priority in my life, I would be leaving them for my ministry in San Salvador. But they needed a leader and I needed somewhere to place the love of Christ that I had finally identified in my heart. So I pushed on, knowing that each passing week was a week closer to heartbreak.

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Last summer, I met a sweet boy named Steven and his adorable abuelita (grandma), Virginia, at our Development Center in Soyapango. Every time I went to Soya, she would be there waiting with a hug and a loving word to carry me through the day. One time, when she realized I was going to be at the Center all day, she went home and returned to the Center with a fresh, hot batch of fried yuca for me! Another time, she brought a beautiful, floral pillowcase from her bed for me to keep on mine. A few weeks ago, we discovered that one health complication had led to another and she passed away. Steven lived with Virginia, so I could only imagine his heartache. The next time I saw him, we held each other and cried. Loving the two of them meant allowing my heart to break alongside Steven’s.

But being inconvenienced by love isn’t always so tragic. Sometimes it means in the middle of a solid Jane the Virgin binge with a friend, giving her younger sister a ride to worship team practice in my new car that I did say was to help drive locals around. (side note: if you haven’t seen this show, do yourself a favor and check it out on Netflix!! #rogelio) Sometimes it means becoming fast, close friends with the people who come on mission teams from the States, and loving them with abandon even though it might be a year until/if I see them again. And sometimes, it means supporting one of my closest friends to move back to Maryland with her husband and kids, even though I know our friendship won’t be the same.

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Michelle, Murfatt & I – Two girls who will definitely be in my heart forever!

Loving people is what we are each called to do, no matter our circumstances and no matter the cost. And the thing is, even though love almost always hurts, it is worth it 100% of the time to open your heart to another person. I’m pretty sure that Jesus knew that Thomas would doubt Him, Peter would deny Him and Judas would sell Him out. Even so, He gave His heart completely to them. Why? Because love isn’t about what we can get out of the transaction. Love is about what we can give to the other person that they might so desperately need. Thomas needed someone to prove him wrong, Peter needed to be confronted with his uncertainty and Judas…well, Judas needed Jesus’ love possibly more than any other disciple but was unwilling to accept it. And Jesus did it all in love.

So this past month, as is every month, every day, was a lesson in love. Each lesson is a story tucked away in the corner of my heart for days when I over scrutinize myself and become convinced that I’ve messed it all up and the only logical next step is a one-way flight home (I’m pretty sure every missionary has those days, right guys?? 😆)

One of my most recent stories that will stay in my heart forever happened just last week. Our church was hosting our first mission team of 2017 – Total Health. They provided free medical clinics in three different cities for five days in a row! Part of my job was taking photos and “directing traffic.” I helped tell the patients where to go and when. So most days, I was on my feet for a looooong time. One day in Soyapango, Marina, the Center cook, noticed I was dragging and needed a pick-me-up. So she fed me an extra cup of coffee and snuck me a second bag of salted mango slices. “Come, muñecita! Eat, little doll!” And again this week, Marina treated me to a delicious bowl of salty mango. She and I can’t give each other much, but a tender hug and a little fruit go a long way in the heart of a missionary.

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A lot of my work the past two months has been behind the scenes – I accepted Pastor Victor’s challenge (“You have a blog, so I know you can do this!” ooooookay!) and created a brand new website for Great Commission Church San Salvador! Check it out here!

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

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
Mailing Address: Condado Santa Rosa, Condominio Aclaraban, Pasaje Pacún #42. Santa Tecla, El Salvador (simply stop by your local post office to purchase a Global Forever stamp, only about $1.25! Just give it about 2 weeks to arrive!)

Please Pray:

  • Raw, honest moment: A few months ago, Pastor Victor gave me the responsibility of creating an English Academy out of the church. The real goal would be to share the Gospel and get people connected to our church. When he initially challenged me with this, my heart immediately said no. I tried teaching English. I was terrible at it. It was awful. Actually, I hated it. So the idea of doing that again turned my stomach and definitely did not inspire me. So for the past few months, I have been dragging my feet on this project. But maybe, just maybe, God is asking me to trust Him by trusting Victor. Maybe this is a doorway into youth ministry. Maybe, if I can be faithful in this, God will trust me to be faithful with more. So please pray that I would be courageous enough to completely accept the challenge and create an effective, heaven-filling English Academy.
  • This past Friday night, I had a new Salvadoran experience – my first night in a Salvadoran hospital! I’M FINE! After spending a week with clinics full of sick people, including one projectile vomiting baby, I contracted some sort of virus and spent about 7 hours throwing up Friday night. Around midnight, Victor and Silvia decided it was time to call in the professionals and we headed to a local hospital. Really, it felt more like what in the States we would call a 24-hour emergency clinic. Finally, after two rounds of IV medication for nausea, the vomiting stopped and I was able to sleep. I woke up feeling better, so they pumped me with one more round of meds and sent me home to rest the remainder of the day. I made a few risky diet choices this week (a friend’s birthday was Monday and we went out with a few folks to McDonald’s!), but I’ve survived them all without a relapse! The worst part has been an awful pain in the vein in my arm from the medicine, but it’s getting better each day. So please pray that whatever it was is gone and that I can stay healthy the rest of mission team season!
  • For the next three teams! We have one from City Church coming tomorrow and two teams, ROCK CITY (!!!!) and Bay Area, the week after!
  • My dad. I really miss him. Our relationship has stood the test of miles and technology, by I miss the big guy. I am praying and I am asking you to join me in praying that he would come for a visit soon!
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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Love, Ashley

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Amigos!

For many people, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the one you love and remind them of your affections. Some think it’s overrated and just an excuse to have to buy a card, gift, and candies for your significant other. Call me a romantic, but I think everyday should be Valentine’s Day! Sure, it definitely is a little rough for those of us without significant others (YET! Don’t give up hope!), but hopefully, we all have people in our lives we can say, without a doubt, that we LOVE. Maybe it’s your best friend, your siblings, your parents, or maybe even your dog (Dad + Dewey have been my Valentine’s Day power couple for YEARS!).

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. I have learned that it takes a multitude of people to support a missionary. It takes prayer warriors, financial supporters, encouragement bearers…the duties are many and each one is incredibly necessary (especially you, peanut butter senders! 😍).

Each of these people is an unsung hero of my ministry, and this Valentine’s Day, I want to sing of my love for my tribe, Ashley’s Amigos!

This year, I am committing to reading the entire Bible. I recently re-read the story of Moses and the Israelites fighting off the Amalekites in Exodus. God told Moses that as long as he kept his arms raised, the Israelites would stay on top, but as soon as Moses lowered his arms, the Amalekites would begin to take over.

Any good missionary knows the physical pain of keeping your praise arms raised high for the entirety of Oceans 😉 🙌🏻. If you’re feelin’ real spiritual, you might be able to make it to the “Spirit lead me…” bridge, but it’s gonna take a few fist pumps ✊🏼 to keep those arms up there. (If you’re not familiar with Hillsong’s song Oceans, check it out HERE. It’s an amazing cry to God to take us where we’ve never been before as we put our complete trust in Him.)

So I can only imagine the ache in Moses’ arms. And he wasn’t just dealing with an 8-minute praise song. He was dealing with a full on army BATTLE. So God gave him friends to support his arms – Aaron and Hur. When Moses’ arms started dipping, they were there to hold them up. We don’t hear much more about Hur beyond this story, but without his support, the Amalekites may have won and changed the entire outcome of the Israelites getting to the promised land. An unsung hero.

You – my tribe, my friends, my people, my supporters – are the unsung heroes of my ministry and for you, I am incredibly grateful. Because of you, I am learning to trust in God even when I can’t see the future and don’t understand the present. I am learning to support the vision of my pastor so that one day I will know how to foster my own. I am learning that just because I am called doesn’t mean the work will be easy. Above all, I am learning that God is preparing me for the thing He has prepared for me (very wise words from the amazing Christine Caine).

A career in ministry is so very difficult, but it is so very worth every moment of doubt, confusion, and frustration for just one moment of joy on a person’s face when they fully understand and accept just how much Jesus loves them. This is truly the best job a person could have and it is thanks to you that I get to do it.

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– Lysa Terkeurst

Thank you for every prayer, every dollar, every word of encouragement and every jar of peanut butter 😘 None of it goes unappreciated.

With all my amor this Valentine’s Day 💜,
Ashley

“When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” Romans 1v12

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Merry + Bright

 

Christmas Eve with Sarah
Christmas Eve with Sarah

Hola Hola, amigos!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11. I was Adri’s Secret Santa!

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

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

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

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

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
Mailing Address: Condado Santa Rosa, Condominio Aclaraban, Pasaje Pacún #42. Santa Tecla, El Salvador (simply stop by your local post office to purchase a Global Forever stamp, only about $1.25! Just give it about 2 weeks to arrive!)

Please Pray:

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

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

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
-Ashley

#GIVINGTUESDAY

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#GivingTuesday + #AshleysAmigos

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

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

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

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

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

Hola Hola, amigos!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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Thank you for all of your continued support in all of its forms – encouraging texts, Facebook posts, Instagram shoutouts, and even a few letters (and incoming packages!) and calls from home! I love being kept up to date on what is going on in your lives, so keep the connections coming!

Please keep in touch!

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85
Mailing Address: Condado Santa Rosa, Condominio Aclaraban, Pasaje Pacún #42. Santa Tecla, El Salvador (simply stop by your local post office to purchase a Global Forever stamp, only about $1.25! Just give it about 2 weeks to arrive!)

Please Pray:

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

PRAISE BREAK!

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

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

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley


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

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

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.

adri


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.

theword

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!

lifegroup_collage


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!

womens_meeting


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!

sophie_collage


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!).

movie


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!

jorge


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!

ali


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?