Sweet Steven

This adorable, precious, innocent little man is Steven. He is 10 years old and a child at our Children’s Development Center (CDC) in Soyapango. A few weeks ago, I sat with his sweet, old grandmother, Virginia, in a Bible study. She asked for a prayer of protection over Steven. Just a few days before, while she was walking with Steven to the CDC, some local gang members approached them and threatened to take Steven from their home in the middle of the night. Well, that granny might be tiny, but she is tough. Virginia went to visit the leader of the gang and asked him why they were threatening her grandson; they hadn’t done anything to offend the local gang. He assured her that nothing was going to happen without his order, and he hadn’t ordered Steven to be taken…yet.

Friends, this – THIS – is why I believe so strongly that God brought me to San Salvador. Satan is ALIVE and WELL in Soyapango. He “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5v8) My friends and I are working with all our hearts and strength to PLUCK these beautiful children of God from Satan’s hands.

These are not just stories. These are the lives of REAL people. REAL children are disappearing daily from their homes to be taken into a family of gang members and a cycle of evil. But God can use me and every person in this city to share the love of Jesus with these children. He wants to show them that their true family is with His family and that He is their One, True Father. But most of all, what I want these children to know and what God assures us of in His Word over and over again is that He will NEVER leave us. No matter what happens, “the Lord your God is with us wherever we go.” (Joshua 1v9)

I pray that God will use us to change the life of just one child because that change can have a ripple effect: child family neighborhood city COUNTRY. Jesus is looking at us, reminding us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26)

#NOTTODAYsatan “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large stone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18v6)

Mission Team Season in San Salvador!

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Hola Hola, amigos!

I am sorry that this email is coming a little late, but July was a crazy busy month! But down here, crazy busy is a good thing because it means that Iglesia Gran Comisión (IGC) is having lots of mission teams and lots of people serving the people of San Salvador! I am loving “Mission Team Season” because it means a weekly pupusa dinner, regular trips to the beach (my favorite place on earth!) and igniting fires in people’s hearts for the country I love so much.

First and foremost, the most important thing that happened in July in my personal life is that I FINALLY received my Temporary Residency Visa!! PRAISE BREAK! God is always teaching me patience in one way or another. I received my visa only TWO days before my 90-day tourist visa expired! If I hadn’t gotten it by then, I would have had to leave the country for a few days in order to renew my tourist visa! But God is NEVER late! After approximately eight visits to the Immigration Office (no, I am NOT exaggerating!) and three trips to various lawyers and notaries, they finally approved my paperwork and issued me a one-year temporary residency visa! Next summer I will go back to Immigration and renew my visa. Hopefully the process of renewing it won’t be nearly as frustrating as getting it in the first place!

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The week before I got my visa, there was a Rock City Church team serving in La Libertad, an oceanside city about 40 minutes south of San Salvador! I convinced a few amazing friends to drive me down so I could see some familiar faces from home and get a handful of the best Rock City hugs! Nate Eckhart, the Rock City Church Beyond Our Walls (Missions) Director was leading the team, and it was especially awesome to see him this side of the border and say, “Look! God did it! Our hard work, my patience and everyone’s prayers paid off!”


The last week in July began for IGC a busy, busy mission team season! On July 23rd, we embarked upon a 5-week period of mission teams, back to back, to back! We began with a team from Bay Area Community Church (BACC) in Annapolis, Maryland. This was a special team because BACC is Sarah’s, our IGC Missions Coordinator, home church! One of the best parts of their trip happened on Saturday, Beach Day! The two team leaders, Nylca and Diek, had decided to be baptized in the ocean! Nycla and Diek are married and have been walking with Jesus for many years, but had not yet made the public declaration of their inner transformation! So Sarah and Vladi braved the Pacific high tide and baptized Nylca and Diek! Hallelujah!

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The following team was my favorite yet (yes, I know I’m biased 😉 )!! ROCK CITY CHURCH!!! Not only was this team from my home church, but 14 of the 19 team members were people I know and love! My sweet girl Olivia from Rock City Youth came for the second time, along with her dad, Doug, and younger sister, Tatum. Also returning to San Salvador for another time was Ali!!!! Ali has been support raising to move her full-time since February, and she got to have a little break in the action to visit the people and places she loves in San Salvador! It was so, SO cool to watch Ali jump right back into serving San Salvador. She remembered every child’s name, served without being asked and spoke Spanish like a local. I am beyond excited to serve alongside her soon!

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My week with Rock City was simultaneously the best week and the hardest week of my 4 months here in San Salvador. It was the best because I got to serve alongside some of my most favorite people in the world. And when you’re serving people for Christ and sharing His love, it just doesn’t feel like work. It feels like the most necessary and most joyful thing in the world.

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{the Shank family // Tatum, Olivia + Doug}

 But those past seven days were also incredibly hard, because each passing day meant another day closer to the team leaving, many of whom I do not know when I will see again.

Rock City Youth has been one of the things that I have missed most from home. I knew how Rock City Youth worked. I knew how to do it and I knew I was good at it (but always with much room to grow 😉) and I LOVED it. But I’m not there yet with my job here. I love living in San Salvador, but it’s going to take a little more time to become adjusted to life and work here.

That week was a resuscitation of my heart a little bit. I felt happy and normal to be living life together with so many people whose lives are a permanent part of my story. So thank you Rock City Church and Rock City Youth for breathing new life into my lungs and restoring my heart to its full and joyful state once more!

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Thank you to all the folks who sent care packages along with the team! Receiving gifts has been my biggest love language for years, and your gifts filled my heart with love! From coffee creamer to my favorite journaling pens to Reese’s Pieces – it was ALL AMAZING! And an extra special thank you to Lindsey for lugging the giant goody-filled suitcase from Columbus to San Sal!

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OH! I can’t forget to mention that Staci, one of the team members, decided to be baptized! Unfortunately, our beach day was canceled due to bad weather, but the sunshine came out in time for us to have a pool baptism at the hotel! GOD IS GOOD!

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Last week, Iglesia Gran Comisión hosted a team from Total Health. Total Health is an organization of doctors, nurses and people who have a heart and passion for bring affordable healthcare to people who need it the most but can afford it the least. Total Health built and maintains a health clinic at our Children’s Development Center (CDC) in Guayabo and they will be opening one around November at our CDC in Soyapango!

This was my first medical mission team, so I had no idea what to expect! The team was made up of people from all over the country! It was so cool to see people from different parts of the States come together for one common goal – to bring physical and spiritual healing to the people of San Salvador.

All but one person on the team were “returners” (people who have been to San Salvador before and are returning again), so I am excited to know that even though it might not be for awhile, I will get to see all of their faces again!

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Our church is actually beginning a weeklong break in mission teams because one of our partner churches, Wellborn Church in Texas, had to cancel their trip last minute. Team leaders, Chad and Amanda Whisenant, were going to be returning with their 18-year old son, Nolan. On Wednesday night, August 10th, Chad and Nolan were in a terrible car accident. Their car rolled over and Nolan was thrown from the car. Chad has been released from the hospital, praise God, but Nolan remains in critical condition. At this moment, the latest update I have is that Nolan was rushed into surgery this morning. I don’t have a lot of information about his condition and I don’t know Nolan, but that doesn’t matter because God hears my prayers and will answer them according to His will. Please join us in praying for this family in their time of incredible need.

An extra important prayer request

Sarah Meehan de Solorzano is a fellow missionary here from the States. She has lived and worked in San Salvador for the past nine years! She is now married and has two beautiful children. Almost two months ago, her husband Jorge hurt his back and has been bedridden since. We are asking God for complete healing, but it is looking more like God’s plan is for Jorge to have back surgery. There are many options that Sarah and Jorge are trying to weigh out. We trust that God is using this period of idleness for Jorge’s good and His glory, but we can’t help but believe that Jorge can be better used back out on the mission field. I am including here an email sent by Sarah to her supporters in the States. Please read it and let us know if you or anyone you know can offer help. Thank you for your prayers and your support!

From Sarah:

I wanted to give you an update on Jorge’s back situation.  In 2009 Jorge had an emergency back surgery for a herniated disk. He had lost feeling in his left leg and they operated on him immediately to prevent further damage. They shaved the disk and the operation was successful. This surgery was done at a government hospital because at that time Jorge did not have private health insurance. After this Jorge (and our kids now) have private health insurance however because his surgery was done before getting private insurance, anything relating to his back is not covered with the private insurance because it is considered a pre-existing condition.

Jorge has been on bed rest and disability leave for one month now with excruciating pain. He just recently got the results back from an MRI and he has 2 herniated disks. He has gone to 2 appointments with neurosurgeons and they both said he needs surgery. And needs it sooner than later. The government hospital only does the most basic surgeries which would be to shave the disk and the waiting list would have him scheduled to have this operation around October where he shouldn’t wait that long and the don’t offer the best option of putting in a bracket or some sort of device. They only do that in private hospitals as far as we know.

So right now we are investigating a ton. We are talking with doctors from Total Health that is the organization in the U.S. that works with our Centers here in El Salvador. We are getting opinions from these doctors at Total Health and looking at all the possible options. We are asking specialists here too.

So here’s how you can help:

  1. Pray for complete healing for Jorge
  2. Pray for God to open a door and show us the best option
  3. Let us know if you know specialists we can talk to to get their opinion
  4. Pray for God’s provision because right now it looks like the best option is a private hospital and this means we will have to pay all out of pocket
  5. Pray for Jorge to be encouraged- he knows and is very aware that God is in control
Thank you so much for your love, support, and prayers.
In Christ,
Sarah

Please keep in touch! It fills my heart with gladness to hear from friends and family back home!

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

Please Pray:

  • For Nolan Whisenant and Jorge Solorzano. We know that God CAN heal them both completely with just a touch of His hand. We are praying that He WILL.
  • For continued support as Iglesia Gran Comisión continues to raise money to build a Dental Clinic above the current Total Health Clinic. You can help by sharing this informational video with your friends and family and on social media.
  • As always, for continued Spanish Acquisition! I had to take a break from my weekly lessons because of Mission Team Season, but I will be restarting my lessons this week!
  • For my stomach to adjust swiftly to this new environment.
  • That I would be able to make the changes necessary to have a daily quiet time with the Lord and His Word.

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

Never walk away from someone who deserves help; your hand is God’s hand for that person.
Proverbs 3v27 MSG

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Hey There, July!

Hola Hola, amigos!

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

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

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

 

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

Please keep in touch!

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

Please Pray:

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

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

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

Estoy Aquí!

¡hola hola! 😎

I know many of you (ok, anyone who follows me on social media) may be surprised and even concerned that I have not posted ANY photos since moving to El Salvador last Thursday! But the truth is, I haven’t TAKEN many photos! I’ve been enjoying reconnecting with friends I have not seen in 16 months and figuring out how to live life as a Salvadoreña! But, estoy aquí! I am here! And life is great! My new family (Pastor Victor, his wife Silvia and their two children, Silvita & Victor Raul) have welcomed me with open arms as their adopted (and MUCH taller) daughter! My friends have resorted to speaking only 5% English with me, so I am learning very quickly! I have visited both the Guayabo and Soyapango Children’s Centers and been given more hugs than I can try to count! I will give a longer update later this week, but I wanted to check in and let you all know that I am safe, I am happy, and I am home. 🇸🇻

Soy Salvadoreña

Live Your Mission

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Whether you’re a coffee barista or youth pastor, new to your faith or have been walking with Jesus for years, in Columbus or San Salvador, our mission as Christians is to prepare people’s hearts for the message of the Gospel. Three months ago, I was unable to see that my extra time stateside was actually a gift – a gift to live life alongside some of my favorite people in the world and help mold their hearts to look like Jesus’. Living my mission doesn’t only mean serving the people of San Salvador. Serving my mission means serving God’s people and sharing the Good News of Jesus’ resurrection wherever I am, whatever I am doing.

Salvadorans have more physical needs than the Youth of Rock City, but we all have a huge, gaping hole in our hearts that only Jesus can fill – it’s a need for the revitalizing presence of God.

My mission field is wherever my feet are planted, and these days, God has me growing and blooming with some of the most beautiful people I know.