Ohio 2017 // Home Again

hola_hola.4“You will never be completely at home again, because part of your heart always will be elsewhere. That is the price you pay for the richness of loving and knowing people in more than one place.”

After the past nine weeks in Ohio, this quote absolutely rings true. Before I left to come to Columbus, I told people I was “so ready” to be home for a few months. Now, as I sit in San Salvador, I am “ready to be home again.” I now have two homes – here in San Salvador and there in Columbus.

My time in my Ohio home was absolutely wonderful. The entire purpose of my visit was to spend time with friends and family, connect with my supporters and rejuvenate myself to go back to work in San Salvador. I definitely accomplished my mission!

When I reflect on my time home, the overarching theme is that even though things change, they stay the same.

Columbus itself has changed – new restaurants, new highways, new animals at the zoo! – but it still has that lovely, midwestern feel to it. People smile as they pass by, they help you find that totally random brand of soup your wife sent you to buy, and they’re just all around friendly. It felt comfortable coming back to a place I lived for the first 31 years of my life, but exciting to see all the new things!

My people have changed too. Friends have gotten married, had kids, bought homes, switched jobs…It was so exciting to meet my friends’ growing families, hear about new adventures and challenges along the way. But even though the external changes, my friends are still my friends and some things never change. Truly the best part of being home was getting together with friends only to realize that even though years and distance separated us, our friendships remained the same. It was as if no time had passed at all.

And THAT was what I needed most of all.

Being in the United States made me feel like myself again! It’s true that when you live cross-culturally, you develop a different personality in your second home. Different cultural norms, practices and traditions force you to adapt to your new home’s values. I am continuing to learn to blend in with the Salvadoran lifestyle but with my own “Ashley Flair.” Being home was a chance to express my true self in all of my boisterous ways, surrounded by my tribe of people that know and love me.

Columbus and my people within it are not the only things that have changed since I moved 19 months ago. In so many ways, I have changed. I am constantly learning and growing to be the best possible version of myself and this visit home highlighted some of the ways the mission field has changed me.

  • I am more eager to serve. I was fortunate to grow up having all of my needs met even before I could voice them. But because of this, it has been very hard for me to see the needs of others and meet them without being asked. Before San Salvador, I would (usually begrudgingly) help when asked. After San Salvador, I have learned to keep my eyes peeled for ways I can serve without being asked. I am blessed to serve alongside amazing people in San Salvador who daily show me how this is done!
  • I am more flexible in my plans…kind of. This one will forever be a work in progress! To my core, I am a Type A, planning machine. I love to plan events and follow those plans through. But life happens. Rarely do we follow through on Plan A. Life is more frequently lived on Plan L. Before San Salvador, a change in plans threw my life into a whirlwind. After San Salvador, plans changing still freaks me out, but I am learning to handle the chaos like a normal adult.
  • I am in love with Jesus even more. How could I not be? I get to live and work with some of the kindest, most loving people on the planet. It is through them that I have seen God’s biggest blessings – people receiving jobs after months of unemployment, health revitalized, broken relationships restored and people with every reason to exude extreme sadness instead radiating with joy.

And I must mention how wonderful it was having Mario with me for the first two weeks! We had so much fun exploring Columbus! We saw the zoo, ate hamburgers LITERALLY the size of our heads, experienced Rock City church, and most importantly, my Ohio VIPs got to meet one of my Salvadoran VIPs! OH! And we became a pupusa making MACHINE! Toting FIVE POUNDS of pupusa cheese to the States was totally worth it!

I don’t know when I will be back in the States next, so until then, please keep the emails, phone calls, videochats, birthday cards, etc. coming! Everything you do touches my heart and keeps me attached to my northern home. And I love every bit of it!

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:

  • That Christmas would be a time of joy for all the people we serve in El Salvador
  • That the children in the Development Centers would remain healthy and close to Jesus during our Christmas break
  • That I am able to jump back into work with a rejuvenated spirit
  • For the next chapter of my life after this first chapter of serving

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

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,


A super special shoutout to Lindsey for letting me stay at her house for 9 weeks!
(I know you hate being the center of attention, but you’ll survive 🤣 love yooooou!)

When I emailed her about 4 months ago asking if I could stay, we barely knew each other except for the few days she had come to San Salvador on mission trips! But bless her heart, she prayed on it and “SHE SAID YES!”

I will forever treasure our time together. We binged on Grey’s, learned how to make lasagna (#pinterestWIN!), cried together, laughed together, shared our stories and on my very last night, her sweet dog FINALLY kissed my nose! It’s official – I’m in the fam!

“Dear friend, when you extend hospitality to Christian sisters, even when they are strangers, you make the faith visible. They’ve made a full report back to the church here, a message about your love. It’s good work you’re doing, helping these travelers on their way, hospitality worthy of God himself! In providing meals and a bed, we become their companions in spreading the Truth.”
3 John v5-8

365 Days + Counting

Hola Hola, Ashley!

HOLY CRAP IT’S HAPPENING! You’re on the plane, headed to a new life in San Salvador! This is IT! This is what we’ve been working and praying and crying and thinking about for almost 2 years now! And here it is! IT’S HAPPENING!

Okay woman, calm down. I’m you 365 days from now. It’s April 21st, 2017. You’ve lived here in San Salvador for a year now and it’s been a heck of a year. I know you’re all “LIFE IS AMAZING – EVERYTHING WILL BE WONDERFUL – LET’S GOOOOOOO!” and that’s great and you’re right, but I am here to give you a head’s up about a few things.

First of all – Spanish. Santo Dios, Spanish. This is going to be your greatest challenge this year. As it turns out, you’re not going to learn Spanish through osmosis. Immersion is a thing and it certainly does help, but you’re going to have to put in some serious effort. And you’re going to want to quit approximately 7 times a day. But woman, you live in San Salvador now! They speak Spanish! So DON’T QUIT! But guess what – you’re going quit. Like 17 times this year. You’re going to hit a plateau of ability, get frustrated that it’s not coming easier and you’re just going to stop trying to learn anymore. It’s ok. Spanish is hard. But quit quitting! Your mama didn’t raise no quitter AND she told you like 18 years ago that you should learn Spanish (and you chose French 🙄). So remember who you are and why you need to learn Spanish (y’know- so you can love people in their own language!) and JUST DO IT!

Second thing – relationships. You are going to strengthen the friendships you already had here and you are going to be able to make new ones with some pretty amazing people. Salvadorans are a beautiful, loving, kind people who will pretty much do whatever they can to help you when you need it. Ash, we have always been good at loving people. It will be a little more difficult to love people the way you are used to due to language barriers and culture differences (for example, I think Lelys thinks we’re hilarious simply because she doesn’t understand our Spanglish 85% of the time!), but you will learn to love people in ways you never have before. Enjoy that!

Third and last thing – God. Your relationship with God is going to be chaotic. At times it will be passionate. You will see God working in everything and everyone. You will find God in the unrelenting grasp of a child’s hug, in the sound of hundreds of Latino youths worshipping Him, and you will definitely find God in the taste of Easter Torrejas! But I’m going to warn you – those are going to be rare times. Most of the time, you are going to question if God even knows where you are, if He’s doing anything in your life and why He’s not speaking to you. Ash, this is normal. It’s not fun, but it’s normal. The truth is, God knows exactly where you are every moment of every day. He is using every success and every failure for your good. And He is always speaking to you. You must learn to listen! These are only dips – they will not last forever. Keep searching for Him. Keep your eyes peeled and He will show you His presence.

You are about to begin an amazing year and I want to tell you some of the really cool things that are going to happen:

  • Moving to another country! Some people never leave the city they were born in! But you?! Florida? Nope. California? Nope. Colorado? Nah. EL SALVADOR? Why the heck not?!
  • With your help, a beautiful Dental Clinic at the Children’s Center will be constructed so that the people of the Volcano can live longer, healthier lives.
  • Inspiring short-term missionaries to dedicate their lives to serving God in their own country. This one you aren’t going to be verbally assured of very often, so you just need to know it in your soul – God is using you to inspire people. Through you, God is demolishing the fears people have about completely surrendering their lives to Him. They will see you and God will instill a sense of “Hey if she can do it, I can do it!” in their spirits.
  • Loving people! Ash, the truth is, there aren’t going to be a whole lot of “LOOK WHAT I DID!” moments this year. This is a year of learning and adjusting. But oh my goodness, you will love people as much as you possibly can. And they will love you back! That’s the best part! So soak up all those little kid hugs, say yes every time someone invites you to coffee and thank God that love really does transcend spoken language.

This year was pretty great, Ash. WE DID IT! You persevered through what I am pretty sure will be one of the greatest challenges of your life – adjusting to a new country with its culture and language, a new job, new home (living with your boss/pastor and his family!), new everything.

I’m not sure what this new year will bring, but I have a hunch that it’s going to be even greater than this year. Keep up with the Spanish and you’ll be able to serve more, connect more and love even more than before. And above all, let go. Sure, God’s driving the car, but sometimes you seem to think you still have the map! Sweetheart, move to the backseat, roll down the window and enjoy the ride.

God is good and He is good to you.
Blessings,
2017 Ashley


Thank you to each and every one of you for your continued encouragement! I believe that the word over not only this past year, but over my life, has been PERSEVERANCE. I would not be able to persevere the valleys of life without the support of the people around me. Thanks to each of you, I celebrate more, laugh louder and smile bigger (and occasionally speak Spanish better 😉),

The day I moved to San Salvador, I posted a photo and wrote a caption that remains true 365 days later – I may be God’s hands and feet, but you are His heart. 


And as always – please stay in touch! I have received a number of cards and care packages this year and each one brings such genuine joy to my heart!

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 the next 365 days! Only God knows what they will bring, but please pray that I would be obedient to His will and open to hear His voice.
  • For a renewed spirit of motivation to continue learning Spanish! My mama didn’t raise no quitter! 😝💪🏼
  • For José Valle, a brother in our church and my dear friends Meli and Florence Valle’s father. He was hospitalized last week for an infection in his leg and respiratory issues. He seems to have stabilized. Please pray for a miraculous healing and peace for his wife and daughters.
  • For ongoing fundraising for our Dental Clinic at our Volcano Children’s Development Center.  In 2016, we were blessed to be able to raise $40,000 to build the clinic above our current Total Health Clinic. Now, we need $18,000 more to purchase dental equipment. The need for dental care, hygiene and education is great at the Volcano.

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

Thankful + Blessed to Work with You,

     -Ashley (2017 😉)

love love love

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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.

health_clinic

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

Love, Ashley

ashley_blog-love-letter

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…

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