Six Months and Counting

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Hola Hola, amigos!

When you look back on the past 9 months of 2016, it feels like they just FLEW BY, right? But back in, say…March, October probably felt like it was years in the future! Well, I am currently experiencing that phenomenon. If you count by weeks, it was 24 weeks, or SIX MONTHS ago today that I changed my location on Facebook to San Salvador, El Salvador!

Remember that poster in the Guidance Counselor’s office when you were a kid – the one that had all the funny faces giving options of 30 different emotions you might be feeling in that moment? I have felt about 27 of them (gimme a few more weeks and I’m sure I’ll be able to add the other 3!). I lived in Columbus, Ohio my entire life. So, in perfect Ashley Style, rather than taking a normal baby step and moving to a different city or state, I up and moved to an entirely different country! So as you can imagine, the adjustments have been…interesting!

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I have adjusted to hearing (and kinda understanding) only Spanish everywhere, changing my perspective to giving cars (NOT pedestrians) the right of way, lots of fresh fruits, veggies and meat, and not quite knowing just what I am doing here yet.

I thought that when I moved here, I would have a clear-cut job description and I would just jump in with all my Youth Ministry knowledge and start saving lives for the Lord! Well…I DO have a clear-cut job description, and I hope & pray that what I’m doing here plays a tiny part in saving lives for the Lord, but I definitely did not jump into Youth Ministry and start moving mountains. Rather, I jumped in wherever Pastor Victor and Silvia needed me. Some days that has been at the Children’s Development Centers (CDC’s) teaching English and sharing hugs. Other days it’s writing blogs for the church and reaching out to partners in the States for support of our projects here.

But where does GOD need me? Right where I am, wherever I am. That has been the biggest thing I have learned these past 6 months – to focus on God and He will use me, teach me, and provide for me wherever I am.

This past month I have spent a solid amount of time emailing the church’s supporters in the States requesting financial support for our new Dental Clinic at the Guayabo CDC. Clacking away at keys, pleading for donations quickly became routine and some days I even felt guilty for asking people…again…if they would see it in their hearts and wallets to donate towards the Dental Clinic. But once I refocused on God, I realized that He was using me to be the voice of those who have no voice – every child in Guayabo in desperate, debilitating need of proper dental care and hygiene. They have no way of asking for help, so I can be their voice.

Since moving here, besides Spanish, one of the most difficult adjustments was constant alone time. Because I do not have a car, I rely on friends to either come visit me at my home or pick me up and take me somewhere to hangout. At home in Ohio, it was so easy to just hop in the car and visit any one of my besties (whether invited or not!). I honestly wish I could say that in those moments of loneliness in my room, I cried out to God and He was my comfort, but that isn’t exactly what happened. I learned to cry out to God before crying out to people, but allowing Him to be my best friend and confidant in moments of isolation…that’s a practice I am still learning. But I began to pray to God for a friend. Someone who could be Salvadoran BFF. And He provided. Over the past month, Adriana and I have been required to work together more with mission teams and most recently, Pastor Victor hired her on as my new Spanish teacher! Plus, Adri and I are in the same small group and we have 99% the same friends. I am still learning to have God as my #1 BFF (it’s really hard because He’s awful at texting! It’s just this one, GIANT text! 😉), but while I learn, He provided for me someone to be my Bestie.

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During the months of August and September, we hosted three mission teams and a health clinic. With our mission team season coming to a close, my daily routine became a little more relaxed. I am still going to the CDC with Silvia whenever I can, but I have chosen to spend more time at home in God’s Word. Some mornings, I spend hours in my Bible reading just one chapter and researching what the writer’s original intent was, what the words really mean and how I can apply writings from thousands of years ago to my life here and now. I read devotions, blogs, anything that can help me relate God’s Words to the life of a girl living cross-culturally in the new (it’s still considered new 16 years later, right?) millennium.

But, there are some days when I feel guilty because I am in the Word and not at the Center. I worry, Will Victor and Silvia think I’m not working? I run through my To-Do list…Is there something else I should be doing? And I always come back to the fact that my priority will always be to spend time with God, so I understand and can share His love with His people – especially in my first year as an international missionary.

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I ask that you would pray for me to take more leaps of faith with God’s people here in San Salvador. In my comfort zone of English, I have no problem reaching out to new friends and spending time with them. But when there is a language barrier, I become  timid and allow myself to shrink back from what could actually be opportunities for God to reach out to Salvadorans or even me! Even though I know that it is an imperative part of my work as a missionary, I am praying for more opportunities to take God’s Word out of this house and into this city.


As soon as I moved here, I joined a small group because I know the importance of “living life together” (you hearing me, Rock City??). My small group is made up of young singles (unmarried) from the church. We’re the group that’s somewhere between high school and being married. I love this group because it includes just about all of my friends here and it’s a chance every week for me to spend time with them. We meet every Saturday night and we alternate weeks of Bible Study – meaning, one week we meet at Andrea’s home and study the Bible and the next week, we go out and have an adventure! Over the past month or so, I have jumped into a waterfall (and subsequently lost my FitBit! What’s the point of walking without a tracker?!? But it was totally worth it!), hiked through La Puerta del Diablo (The Devil’s Door – part of a Salvadoran mountain), and swam in a lake surrounded by gorgeous mountains. I got to have all these adventures while building lifelong friendships, and of course – practicing my Spanish!

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September 15th was El Salvador’s Independence Day! I celebrated with my Salvadoran family (Victor, Silvia, Victor Raul and Silvita) at a friend’s beach ranch! We cooked out, napped in hammocks and swam in oceanside, saltwater pools! The following weekend was our church’s monthly Women’s Meeting. Silvia spoke about how to prepare for and endure life’s challenges – because it’s not a question of IF the storm will come, but WHEN it will come! We all painted our faces with Salvadoran flags, worshiped, learned, and of course laughed together!

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Also, last month was Sophie’s 5th birthday! Sophie is the daughter of Sarah, another missionary here from Maryland, and her husband Jorge. Her party was a Little Mermaid themed celebration at Burger King, complete with clowns (more like kid-friendly comedians), TWO! pinatas, and one of the most fantastic cakes I’ve ever seen!

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Because I am living in a family with two kids (Silvita – 15 and Victor Raul – 11), I am trying to find ways to spend more time with them. A few weekends ago, I treated the kids (and myself!) to an afternoon of ice cream and a movie! We enjoyed ice cream and popcorn and saw Mi Amigo El Dragon (Pete’s Dragon!).

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One of the greatest things that has happened since I last wrote happened to Jorge, Sarah’s husband. After about 50 days on his back with a pain level of 11 (out of 10) from a herniated disc, we believe, Jorge was miraculously healed by God. I was praying so very hard for his healing, and GOD DID IT. The day Jorge walked into church, unannounced, with a huge smile on his face, I knew something amazing had happened. I was literally filled with tears of joy! You can read more about his story on Sarah’s blog!

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And last but not least (actually probably the MOST exciting!) – one of my mejor amigas and best friends, Ali Howard will FINALLY be moving here on October 25th – in 19 DAYS! She reached her support raising goal just hours before hopping on a plane to Colorado for a month of missionary training (sound familiar? 😏) !! Pastor Victor has built her a bedroom on the back patio (#Ali’sAbode) and soon I will be moving to another downstairs bedroom! I am so excited to have Ali here and to share in all these missionary adventures with her!

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Thank you for all of your continued support in all of its forms – encouraging texts, Facebook posts, Instagram shoutouts, and even a few letters and calls from home! I even received a wedding invitation! Unfortunately, I can’t be there, but the thought brought much happiness to my little heart! I love being kept up to date on what is going on in your lives, so keep the connections coming!

Please keep in touch!

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

Please Pray:

  • For continued Spanish learning! Adri and I are meeting 3 times a week now!
  • For Ali, as she finishes her training in Colorado on Oct. 15th and moves 10 short days later! Pray that she would enjoy sweet time with her family and friends and would be able to say good goodbyes.
  • For the Youth of both Iglesia Gran Comisión campuses – San Salvador and Soyapango – as they have begun raising money for Infinito, an annual Youth Conference in Honduras! We leave December 26th and return the 29th. The cost is about $80/person. I know it has the potential to change the lives of every person who attends, so please pray that every student would be able to go!
  • That I would be able to trust that God is using me here, even if I don’t necessarily get to see or know exactly how.
PRAISE BREAK!
  • For Jorge’s healed back!
  • That God is bringing more and more people to serve in El Salvador! You can follow Ali’s journey on her blog, alihoward.co!
  • Our Dental Clinic is not yet fully funded, but we have begun construction!
  • Last month I asked for more time in the Word – and thanks to a break in missions teams, I got it!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

“You are precious in My sight and I love you.” Isaiah 43v4
Can we believe that today, sweet friends?

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.”

And so it begins…

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Hola Hola, amigos!

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

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

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

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

Josué.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

my sweet friend Andrea & I

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

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

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

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


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

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

rocj_city


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

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


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

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

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85

Please Pray:

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

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

In the beginning…

ashley_blog-in-the-beginning

(This is an update from my first week here! There will definitely be another one coming soon! Sorry for the delay in posting!)

Hola Hola, amigos!

Well, I have been living in San Salvador for a little over a week now and think I owe you guys a little update!

First of all, and most obvious, I am alive and I have internet! PRAISE BREAK!

This past week has been a mix of work, fun and relaxation. The Turcios Family (Pastor Victor, Silvia, Silvita and Victor Raúl) has welcomed me with open arms and I am settling into my new home very nicely. This past Wednesday was Silvia’s 50th birthday (I know, right?? It’s gotta be the heat or something that keeps Salvadorans looking so young and beautiful!) ! The family and I went to dinner at a local restaurant, La Pizzeria to celebrate! We had calamari and 3 different types of pizza! After a night of laughter and sharing stories, I am already beginning to feel like part of the family!

Mi Familia


One of my biggest challenges has been and will continue to be my lack of fluency in the Spanish language. When I am with a group of friends, most of the time, I am able to generally pick up the topic, but I don’t understand enough to jump in the conversation…yet. I am listening to learn and speaking when I can. This often leads to one of two reactions: a cocked head and confused face or a fit of laughter. In Colorado, at Mission Training International, I learned that one of the perks of language learning is giving the locals a reason to laugh. So, here’s to bringing the joy!


I have had the joy of spending much of my week at the Children’s Development Center (CDI en español 😉 ) in Guayabo and one day at the newer CDI in Soyapango. The new Soyapango CDI is absolutely beautiful and barely recognizable from the single, open-air building it was the last time I saw it! There are fewer children at the Soya CDI, but one in particular has stuck in my heart since I first met him in June 2014, on my very first day ever in San Salvador. Cesar is now 12 years old, and I have had the joy of reconnecting with him each of the three times I have been to Soyapango. This week, when Cesar walked into his CDI and saw an (unforgettable??) tall, blonde girl sitting at his table, he shouted, “ASHLEY?!” What?? He remembered my name?? Man, I love these kids.

My days at the Guayabo CDI this week have literally been filled with precious moments. It has been a blessing to begin to build relationships with the sisters of Esmerelda, a sweet girl taken from us much too soon by cancer, last March 2015. Seeing that these girls have persevered through a loss too heartbreaking to conceive is pure, hard proof that God is working in the CDI.

On Friday, we had a grand day at the Guayabo CDI celebrating Silvia’s birthday with the kids! Marleni, one of the teachers, baked beautiful pink cupcakes for the morning class and got a GIANT cake for the afternoon class! We sang, laughed, and filled our bellies with delicious treats!

One morning, I was instructed to help a boy, Kevin, look through workbooks to find photos of natural disasters (volcanoes, earthquakes, flooding, etc) and assist him in finishing his poster board filled with hand drawn images and how to avoid each one. Needless to say, there was a bit of a language barrier, but sweet Kevin had patience with me, and as it turns out, I have quite a bit of information tucked away about where to live to avoid a landslide!

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This past Tuesday morning, my dear friend and co-worker, Adriana and I met with Pastor Victor to discuss our individual job responsibilities and what we will be working on together. For the time being, my job will not be focused on youth ministry, but I will begin to work with the pre-teens (middle school) in the next month or so. In the meantime, my #1 priority is helping to raise funds for the church, the Children’s Center and the Total Health Clinic. I will focus specifically on helping to raise the remaining $30,000 of $40,000 to build a dental clinic at the Guayabo CDI.

As expected, one of my other responsibilities will include managing the social media pages! There are three Facebook pages (CDI, Total Health Clinic, and Mission Teams) and one Instagram page. Along with the social media outlets, I will also work with Adriana to update the blog twice a month.

Because another part of my job includes accompanying mission teams every day when they are here, the fun starts tonight when Adriana and I travel with the van drivers to the airport to pick up my first of many mission teams! This ALSO means that when any of you Rock City folks come on a mission trip to San Salvador, yours truly will be greeting you with open arms to my new home! I am really looking forward to spending time with my Rock City family when they come down!


This week was a smooth warm-up to what my future here in San Salvador will look like, and based on what I have done and seen so far, it will be an exceptional challenge that I am more than ready and incredibly excited to jump into! The only thing missing is my girl Ali Howard. She is currently raising support with the bold prayer to move here mid-November. It will be a beautiful blessing to have her here. If you are interested in her Salvadoran ministry, please check her out at alihoward.co! Help get my bestie to San Salvador! The CDI needs her and I want her here!AliAshley

Thank you so very much for your continued prayers, financial support and outpourings of love. Each morning when I wake up in my bed with my Salvadoran family, in our Salvadoran house, I thank God that He is always and forever good and always comes through on His promises.

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.”
Habakkuk 1v5

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

Email: ashley.arend@gmail.com
Facebook: facebook.com/AshleyElaine85
Skype: ashleyelaine85

Please Pray:

  • That my Spanish would come quickly and that I do not get frustrated when I say something silly or can’t participate in conversations as I would like to.
  • For my ability to accomplish all the responsibilities entrusted to me and for the sunshine to keep my stress at a record low!
  • For overall culture adjustments. So far, so good, but I know a moment will come when something unexpectedly drives me crazy! Prayers for patience and calmness when it does!
  • For Ali as she continues her support raising journey!
  • For all the Rock City Youth students and leaders as they raise support to head to the NYC Dream Center for a week of serving!

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

February 2016 Update

Hola Hola, Amigos!

Oh my goodness! Where has February gone?! It has been a whirlwind month for me! The month of love was filled with just that – support and encouragement from the people who love me the most. It has been truly sweet!

This month wasn’t a monumental month, although there were a few memorable moments, it was more a month of maintaining. By the beginning of February, my Development Plan was in full swing. I have been more involved in Rock City Youth, I am being challenged weekly in my discipleship lessons with Pam and by mid-February, my counselor affirmed that we were accomplishing what we had set out to do! My favorite part of each week has been spending a few hours at home with my two favorite guys – Dad & Dewey! Last, but definitely not least, are my Spanish lessons! I have a long way to go before I am even close to fluent, but speaking, writing and listening in Spanish is becoming more natural.

Being able to maintain my Development Plan means being able to trust that God has me in the palm of His hand and that He has already mapped out this part of my life. Somewhere right around the middle of the month, being in Columbus no longer felt like being stuck. It began to feel comfortable and I became settled in the situation. I was no longer panicked or anxious about not knowing when I will move to San Salvador. Any obstacle that has been tossed into my path, God has removed in His perfect way. I know that I will move there soon and that whatever happens between then and now, it is all part of God’s plan and His hands are all over my life.

On January 18th, Rock City Church began their annual 21 Day Fast. Rather than giving something up this year, I chose to add something into my life. I didn’t remove anything from my life because I feel like I have been in a season of God taking things from me. He took my plans for leaving in December and He took my control over knowing and deciding when I would leave. So instead of giving up even more when I am already in a season of deprivation, I added in daily, focused prayer time. Every morning at 6am, I crawled out of bed and fell (sometimes literally!) to my knees in an hour of prayer to God. I wanted to be in conversation with God before anyone had a chance to text me, like my Instagram post, tag me on Facebook, or otherwise distract me from my Creator. Some mornings were awesome and the hour would fly by. Other mornings, I tried and failed at praying while sitting up in bed (“I’m awake! I’m listening, God. I’m herrrreee….zzz…”). The fast ended February 7th and to be honest, I was thrilled to have my extra sleep back in the morning. Although I was slightly better rested, my days were less purpose-driven. Not having my morning time with God (even the failed prayer mornings) took away the conviction of knowing that whatever happened, God’s got it under control. So I am now adding that dedicated morning prayer time back into my schedule a few times a week.


One of my favorite nights from February was an evening at Youth Pastor Amanda’s home. The Rock City Youth Core Leadership Team gathered for our monthly Family Dinner Night. We got close & comfy on the couch, shared praises of what has been going well in Youth and what needs modified. But before we got down to business, Amanda’s husband, Josh, joined us to lead us in an acoustic worship session on his guitar. It was such a precious time, sitting with some of my closest friends, giving God all our praise. After a few songs, we each shared where we were feeling weak and could use some extra prayer and we prayed over each other while Josh continued playing in the background. With our hearts out in the open, we were ready for God to make moves through us in the Youth of Columbus. We spoke truth to one another, sang each other’s praises and laughed – a lot. At one point, I stopped talking, stopped laughing, and just took it all in. I have been so very blessed to be surrounded by people who share my heart for Youth Ministry. The leaders of Rock City Youth have been my family for a year and a half. When I stopped to appreciate the moment, I realized once again just how much I am going to miss these people when I move. I completely empathize with Paul when he wrote,

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

Philippians 1v8


February held an especially sweet memory – Ali Howard returned back home to Columbus! She spent looooong 3 weeks away visiting San Salvador and attending Reliant’s New Staff Training so that she can begin building her ministry team! Ali will be moving to San Salvador full-time to serve at the Children’s Centers in Guayabo and Soyapango. It’s kinda cool to think that she will minister to the children while they are in elementary school and then she will hand them off to me when they’re old enough for youth group! My friendship with Ali was definitely unexpected but quickly turned into one of my most treasured relationships. There hasn’t been one day since we both confessed wanting to move to San Salvador full-time that I haven’t thanked God that we are going through this process together.

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{…and yet, our friendship just works. 💜}


For over a year now, I have had the pleasure of being discipled by my mentor Pam. Two weeks ago, I began taking what she has taught me and pouring it into someone else. Many of you know of Olivia, one of the sophomore Rock City Youth girls that has permanently taken up space in my heart. Olivia loves Jesus with all of her heart and I actually got to baptize her last spring! She is now in a place of her faith journey where she wants to know all she can about God and His Word. This provided a beautiful opportunity for me to practice discipleship from the other point of view! Olivia and I are working our way through the book of Philippians, discussing how Paul’s words speak to us and what confuses us. We are also spending time simply being in awe of a God who can take a man who one was murdering Christians and the next, that same man preached the Gospel and wrote a huge chunk of the New Testament. I am really excited to see where God leads Olivia and me on this journey. I am even more excited to hear how Olivia will take what she learns from our time together and passes it on to someone else. The process of discipleship is truly neverending!

{Discipleship Devotional with Olivia}

 

 

It has taken almost three months, but I am finally resting in God’s plan and actually enjoying it! Until I move to San Salvador, I am continuing to lean into God’s sovereignty and trusting in His word when He tells me,

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 8v28

Thank you all for your continued support! Each and every one of you is allowing God to work through you to encourage me to persevere on. The following verse from Hebrews speaks so clearly to me in this season of my life. Because I am surrounded by a cloud of people who love and support me, I am all the more able to banish from my life the evil one’s attempts to slow me down or stop me altogether. It is with your help and your love that I am able to focus on God’s purpose for me, no matter where in the world I am.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Hebrews 12v1

Please Pray:

  • For Rock City Youth as we travel to Canton, Ohio, March 3-5 for Love is Red, a Youth and Young Adult conference with the vision of “developing leaders and inspiring students to know God and to make Him known.” I got to go last year, and it is a beautiful thing to watch students from all over the country raise their arms in surrender to Jesus.
  • Friendships will be built and faiths will be strengthened. As my girl, Olivia Shank said when my departure got delayed, “Hey! This means you get to go to Love is Red, RIGHT?!” Right on, amiga!
  • Next week’s Rock City Youth Night! We will be hosting an anonymous Q&A with a panel of youth leaders!
  • For Ali as she begins building her Ministry Support Team! This season of ministry is one that requires much perseverance, but inevitably draws us closer to God. Sign-up to follow her journey here!
  • Rock City Church’s first mission trip of the year to San Salvador! Our Beyond Our Walls Director, Nate, leaves with a team of missionaries on March 5th to serve the people of San Salvador. Lives are going to be changed! Gracias Dios!
    For continued endurance and the ability to “relax and enjoy the journey in God’s presence.” (Jesus Calling)

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

Want a little sunshine in your inbox each month? WHO DOESN’T?!?

Click this link to get signed up for my monthly email updates ➳ You’ve Got Mail!

Please consider giving. You can get set up in five minutes by clicking the “Give to the Cause” button under my photo or by going to reliant.org/ashley.arend

January 2016 Update

Hola Hola, amigos!

Considering I started the month having no clue what to expect, January pleasantly surprised me! I moved into a new host family home, Rock City Youth came in like a wrecking ball, and my birthday was the highlight of everyone’s month!

January started out with a move! I am now living with Pam and Brad Boseker. Pam is my discipler (mentor). As part of my Development Plan from Rock City Church, she and I meet at on the couch once a week for a lesson on evangelism, how to study the Bible or we focus on one Bible theme. These lessons with Pam are changing how I view God, how I read the Bible and how I view myself in God’s plan. One-on-one mentor time with Pam is definitely something I would not be getting if I were in San Salvador right now, so I am appreciating that beautiful perk of being stateside! One of the greatest parts of living with my mentor is that I get daily encouragement and support for this unexpected life detour I’m currently in.

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After a month long hiatus, Rock City Youth came back in 2016 with a night of killer worship and a solid message from our Rock City Church Lead Pastor, Chad Fisher. Not only had Youth been on break for a month, but I was in Colorado for the month of November, so it had been since the end of October that I had seen my Youth comrades! Being back with the students laughing, catching up on life and praising God was just what I needed in the midst of my season of uncertainty. Turns out they weren’t so disappointed that I’m still around. 😉

View More: http://rockcityyouth.pass.us/011316

View More: http://rockcityyouth.pass.us/011316


A few weeks ago, Amanda, the Rock City Youth Pastor, and I decided that part of my uneasiness of being in Ohio was that I no longer had a schedule. Fortunately for me, Amanda is one of my more ingenious friends!

We sat down and figured that as a full-time employee of Reliant Mission, I should be working about 40 hours per week. So what am I doing with those 40 hours? My Development Plan from Rock City included:

  • Weekly counseling appointments
  • Twice a week discipleship meetings with Pam
  • Weekly Spanish lessons
  • Rock City Youth Leadership
  • Intentionally deepening my relationship with Dad before leaving the country

We scheduled out the appropriate amount of hours for each of those activities and I was left with about 13 hours to fill.

When I began serving with Rock City Youth, I was put in the position of the 9th-grade girls’ LifeGroup (small group) leader. I absolutely loved this job and it solidified my passion for youth ministry. Since then, I have been moved around a bit to fit the needs of Youth, but I have always been a LifeGroup Leader. Pastor Amanda decided that it was time to up my game and strengthen my building muscles.

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{a few of our 9th (now 10th!) grade girls!}

In Rock City Youth, I was a leader, spending time with the students and committing much of my schedule to connecting with them. I was now going to become a builder. I love being a LifeGroup leader, and honestly, I’m pretty good at it. But the next level, administrative stuff was where my skills were weaker. As a builder, I am building up new leaders to be able to go out and reach the students of Columbus.

I am now the Rock City Youth Leadership Coordinator! Youth is fortunate enough to be rapidly growing with students AND potential leaders. In the past, when someone has expressed interest in leadership, we’ve welcomed them aboard, background checked them and threw them in the pool! But as a growing organization, we need a more official and thorough process of onboarding new leaders. It is now my job to develop that process and implement it with oncoming leaders.

Yeah…I really had no clue how to do that, so this was going to be a challenge. I’m more of a people person – I can convince a brick wall to be my best friend! But coordinating all those friends into a well oiled Youth Leadership machine…?? I didn’t even know where to begin, but I was ready and willing to learn!

Amanda introduced me to a few of the web apps she has been using to organize her Youth Leadership Team. Using these apps, leadership requirements and my own experience as a leader, I got to work developing a process.

This has been a challenge for me because as much as I love being organized, getting organized can often be difficult for me to initiate and maintain. I also know very little about what requirements there are for a person in leadership at Rock City Church and how to accomplish those requirements. I also wanted to make sure we were developing a very clear process so that when I do move to San Salvador, whoever takes my place can simply step in and pick up where I leave off.

Amanda and I have a pretty good system worked out that includes a thorough system from a person’s initial interest to shadowing a Youth Leader Pro to placing the applicant in the best fitting leadership position.

Stepping out of my comfort zone of LifeGroup leadership and into a new, more administrative role isimperative for my future work in San Salvador. A year ago, Jorge, the Iglesia Gran Comisión Youth Director, told me that the leaders of the church had been “praying for someone to come and help with our youth ministry!” With my small group leading abilities and my leader-building skills, I will hopefully be God’s answer to that prayer. Whatever need is the greatest, I will be able to step in and begin to help.

Another immediate need is for someone to help update sponsors of the children in the Development Centers of El Guayabo and Soyapango. We are blessed to have over 200 children sponsored, but that means that there are over 200 people in the States wondering how their child is doing and how their money is helping. I am eager to jump in right away and begin connecting the sponsors to the child they help to support.


I’m spending more time in the Rock City Offices working with Amanda, still accomplishing my Development Plan, and enjoying life with my friends. It’s definitely not the ridiculously, crazy schedule I was maintaining over the summer and it’s not the blank canvas I was struggling to fill last month.

Call me Goldilocks, because this schedule is just right. (ha! I slay myself sometimes!)

OH! The greatest part of the month was my birthday! DUH! On January 21st, I solidified my position as a woman in her thirties by successfully turning 31! WOOOO!!!! As a Christmas gift, Dad and Cathy gave me some money to spoil myself with, so on my birthday, I did just that. I got a massage and a manicure, watched 2 hours of Law & Order: SVU and for the 19th year in a row, the fam went to Fujiyama Japanese Steakhouse for dinner! The following night, Dad was kind enough to host a birthday party in his home! I think the last birthday I celebrated with that many teenagers was back when I WAS a teenager! We had a selfie wall (a background for selfies – NOT a wall of selfies of me. Although that would have been clever), Chick-Fil-A chicken and the loveliest cupcakes I think I’ve ever seen! The night was filled with the people I love. It was the perfect end to a perfect birthday.

massage
{ahhh…the massage waiting room – complete with mimosa!}
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{my loves}
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{Dad, Cathy & I at the Selfie Wall!}
KAN
{BFFs 4EVA…somethings never change 😂}
cupcake
{sweet treats}

So. When am I leaving?

I still don’t know anything yet. And believe me, as soon as I do, the entire world will know! There will be a Facebook post, email, blog, cloud writing…believe me, you will know! But here is what I do know, to borrow a snippet from my previous blog post:

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

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

Psalm 116v2

Please Pray:

  • That God would continue to guide the days, weeks, and maybe even months that I am still in Ohio.
  • That people would continue to support my ministry, whether I am stateside or abroad.
  • That Rock City Youth would continue to grow! I recently discovered that “Make Out Calendars” are a thing, so it is evident to me that this generation is desperate for unending love and the only place they will find it is in the arms of their heavenly Father. This world needs youth ministry.
  • For growth in the Iglesia Gran Comisión (San Salvador church that I will be working for) Youth Program! The needs of youth are not specific to our country. The Salvadoran youth are just as desperate for love and acceptance and the church’s youth ministry is working diligently to point them towards Jesus.
  • That my Dad and I would continue to have quality time together and that through it, our relationship would continue to strengthen.

I would also love to pray for you! Please text me or call me letting me know what your prayer needs are. Rock City Church is on Day 12 of a 21 Day Fast. Rather than taking something away, I am adding something in to my life. Every morning at 6am, I am waking up before the sun for an hour of pure prayer. No devotional, no journal, not even my Bible – just me and God in the quiet stillness of the morning. It would be a privilege to include your prayers and praises in my new morning ritual.

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

Want a little sunshine in your inbox each month? WHO DOESN’T?!?

Click this link to get signed up for my monthly email updates ➳ You’ve Got Mail!

Please consider giving. You can get set up in five minutes by clicking the “Give to the Cause” button under my photo or by going to reliant.org/ashley.arend

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December 2015 Update

Hola Hola, amigos!

Ok, you’re still here. So what now? This is the question I have both been asked the most and asked God the most over the past month. A little over a month ago, I was ready to move to San Salvador to begin my full-time mission work. But God had other plans and it was decided by all parties (Reliant Mission, Gran Comisión San Salvador and Rock City Church) that I was to wait a little longer before moving to San Salvador.

My support raising is done (YAY GOD!) and most of my stateside requirements have been taken care of. My delay is due to things of a more spiritual and emotional nature. My logistics may be ready, but is my heart ready? Is my family ready? The honest, hard to say aloud answer to that question is, Ehhh….probably not. It’s hard to admit that my body, heart and soul are not ALL ready because I so badly want to be ready. I wanted to “GO! And MAKE DISCIPLES OF ALL NATIONS!” I wanted to go to Infinito (Central American Youth Conference that began on December 26th) with the Salvadoran youth and watch as God changed hearts and Latino youths raised their arms in full surrender to Him. I wanted to celebrate Christmas with fireworks! And selfishly, I wanted to celebrate my winter, January birthday on the beach, surrounded by my Salvadoran amigos.

But what I really want, above it all, is to live according to God’s plan for my life. Now, that isn’t hard to say, but doing it, that…that takes some serious trust.
God, what if I don’t make it to San Salvador by February?
Trust Me.God, what if I don’t have a place to live?
Trust Me.

God, what if I lose supporters?
Trust Me.

God, what if I don’t make it to San Salvador in 6 months?
Trust Me.

God, WHAT IF…?
Trust Me!

WHAT IF God is who He says He is? WHAT IF He is our Hope? WHAT IF HE is God Emmanuel, God With Us? Savior? God?

Well, if that’s all true, then I have no reason not to trust Him. And it is so very true. God is the reason I have hope. He has always provided just what I need, just when I need it. Prime example – at only a month old, God placed me in the arms of my parents, Tom and Lois, who from that day on would love and care for me beyond what anyone could have asked or expected. They adopted me and from that day forward, I was theirs and they were mine. God was faithful to my needs and to the desires of their hearts. Since the day I was born, God has been with me. And He remains at my side, whispering, Ashley, my sweet child, don’t you see how I took care of you then? I am faithful. You are Mine and I will continue to care for you. Trust Me.

God IS who He says He is. Therefore I will trust in Him.


Back to the original question…what now?

Well, most of my days are completely unscheduled. What was once a calendar filled with support meeting after support meeting is now a blank canvas. But before I allow myself to start forming a plan in my head for the day, I spend just a few brief moments with God, relinquishing my day to Him.

I am working closely with Nate Eckhart (Rock City Missions Director) and John Ransom (Rock City Executive Pastor) to decide how my extra days stateside should be spent.

I am continuing weekly Spanish lessons with Andrea Ramos, mimaestra de español  muy hermosa. My true learning will come once I am in San Salvador, but these lessons help me to be as prepared as possible before I move.

I am also continuing to meet with PamBoseker once a week for Discipleship. These are serious, hardcore Bible studies. I can freely admit that as a missionary, one of my weaknesses is my Bible knowledge. Pam is helping me to become better read, to memorize more key evangelism verses and to understand just what the heck does THAT even mean?! Pam is not only my Bible Study teacher, but she is also my spiritual mentor as well. As I walk through this season of trusting God more deeply than ever before, Pam has helped to teach me to still the evil voices in my head and reminded me time and time again of God’s faithfulness. As many of you know, my mother passed away 5 years ago from endometrial cancer. Over the past year, Pam has truly become a mother to me. She dries my tears when I feel like the earth beneath me is collapsing, she sings praises when my prayers are answered and she puts me in my place when I’m just being a downright dunderhead. She has blessed my life and will forever be in my heart.

pam

I have added in weekly sessions with a Christian, faith-based counselor. If I’m not sure that my head and heart are ready for this move, I figured I’d better ask a professional. We have only met twice and I am so excited to see how God uses her to grow me.

And best of all, I am using my extra time to love on my dad. As anyone can imagine, this move will be the hardest on him. I am an only child, his only little girl and I am moving to place completely unfamiliar to him. I will miss Dad most of all. He is my only Dad and my only living parent. Losing Mom was a season of brokenness, and I think this feels a little like loss all over again for us both. So the extra time has been a beautiful blessing. We get together weekly to share a meal and talk. Our Christmas this year spread across three days, was filled with laughter, Dad’s amazing cooking and will forever be imprinted in my memory. My unexpected time with Dad has been incredibly worth the moving delay.

Dad Christmas


The end of November and entirety of December has been spent living with my best friend Kristen, her husband Trai and their 19-month-old son, Dominick. They were incredibly gracious to let me stay with them. I got to bond with Dominick in a way that I know I will never forget and I hope just a smidgen of our time together remains in his memory.

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On New Year’s Eve, I will transition to one of my two part-time homes. Let me explain:

Doug Shank, a Rock City Youth Dad, has two girls, Olivia and Tatum. For most of the past school year, on Wednesdays, I would pick them up from school and we would hang out until Youth. As you can imagine, this created a pretty awesome friendship between the Shanks and me. Doug now has a work client that requires him to travel to Alabama Monday – Thursday (don’t ask me what he does. And DEFINITELY don’t ask Tatum 😉 ). Because he is gone those four days, the girls need a live-in caretaker. And since I need a place to live, I have agreed to play the part of the older and super cool sister by staying with Olivia and Tatum at their home Sunday night through Thursday evening. When Doug gets home, I will head to Pam and Brad Boseker’s home for a few days of rejuvenation. I am so excited for this because it is an opportunity to live with some of my best girlfriends and to live with my mentor and teacher – an opportunity I would not have had if I had moved to San Salvador this month, as was “the plan!”


 

Thanks to my monthly supporters, I have begun to receive a paycheck from Reliant Missions! This will help me to support the people housing me and with my stateside expenses. To all of you that have been and are continuing to support me with a monthly gift, THANK YOU. One of my biggest concerns when I was told that I would mot be moving in December was how I would support myself. Reliant decided that although I am not yet on the field working, everything I am doing here is preparing me for my ministry. Soon, I will also hopefully begin to help Pastor Victor, the pastor at Gran Comisión San Salvador, with things that can be done from afar.

Your gifts are helping to ensure that I am as ready as possible for this life-changing move and that once I am on Salvadoran ground, I will be as effective as possible.

Thanks to those of you that have given special, one-time gifts, my account is ready for when I am given the go-ahead! Your support allows me to purchase a plane ticket, helps cover the cost of my work visa and provides money for other, miscellaneous moving out and moving in expenses.

And my Prayer Warriors! Those of you that have been praying and encouraging me, THANK YOU. You are the reason I am not drowning in this time of uncertainty. You have asked God to provide money, a home, peace of heart and many other things I may never know about. Thank you. Keep it up!


This is all nice and good, Ash, but WHEN ARE YOU MOVING??

Believe me, I wish I knew. When I move will be a decision made by Rock City Church’s leaders. I am still going, I just don’t know when yet. I assume nothing and I am planning nothing…yet. But I am hoping to move in a few months. But I am trusting that God will reveal His timing to me. I will keep you all updated as time goes on and when decisions are made.

I call a woman for My purpose from a far off country.
Yes, I have spoken; so I will also bring it about.

Isaiah 46v11

Please Pray:

  • That God would continue to provide for my needs, both known and unknown
    • For the few nights that I will be spending at Pam & Brad’s, I am without a bed! My dad has a fancy, indoor air mattress that I can borrow, but if anyone has even a spare mattress I can throw on the carpet, that would be such a blessing!
  • That I would be able to trust God’s timing and His plan. I desire peace that surpasses understanding.
  • For God to put people in my life who will help me to be God’s hands and feet in San Salvador by financially supporting me. Even though I have reached my goal, a little buffer would be amazing.
  • That Rock City Youth’s January 13th kickoff would bring back familiar faces and bring in new kids, eager to feel God’s love in their lives.
  • That God will continue to open the hearts and minds of each person I am blessed to share my story with
  • PRAISE! On December 26th, a bus filled with 36 Salvadoran youth left for Infinito in Honduras! As I write this, they are on their way home. Most of them have not had cell phone service outside of their home country, but I understand it was 3 days filled with amazing worship, wise speakers, and an opportunity to serve the Honduran people. One of San Salvador’s own, Emilio, was one of the worship singers for the 2nd year in a row! Infinito hosted a baptism last night, and many lives were entrusted into God’s hands. YAY GOD!

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emilio

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

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Click this link to get signed up for my monthly email updates ➳ You’ve Got Mail!

Please consider giving. You can get set up in five minutes by clicking the “Give to the Cause” button under my photo or by going to reliant.org/ashley.arend

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September 2015 Update

Highlights

  • Dewey’s Birthday
  • Yard Sale
  • Signed up for COMPASS Culture Training
  • Hillsong Concert
  • 23.5% increase in 5 weeks

Hola Hola, amigos!

Our Ohio summer was too short for my liking! I suppose it’s a good thing I am moving to the land of eternal summer – San Salvador! September was a little less busy than August, but that’s not to say that the month wasn’t filled with fun and God continuing to do amazing things in my support raising adventure!

At the beginning of the month, my sweet little Dewdlebug turned FIVE! For the past five years, this little dog has been my comforter in sadness, my keeper of secrets and the joy of my days. Adopted after my mother passed away from cancer, Dewey’s initial role in my life was to lure me out of bed each morning to make sure my little puppy had a happy life. As the years have passed, he has added more happiness to my life than I could ever add to his! Where will Dewey live when you leave?? Alas, I cannot take the Dewster with me to San Salvador. Believe me, it’s almost enough reason not to move. Almost. Dewey will move into Tom’s Steakhouse, aka, Dad’s House. He will be loved on, walked daily, and fed the finest meat Weiland’s Market can provide. I know that Dewey will be in good hands with my dad.


Just like I can’t take Dewey with me down south, I certainly can’t take all of my belongings either! Amanda and her husband Josh graciously allowed me to team up with them for their annual neighborhood yard sale and sell most of the Barbie Dream House’s glamorous merchandise and fabulous crap! I was able to sell (after some exhausting haggling) my dining room table, kitchen table, futon, a handful of books and movies, some of my Ashley BC (Before Christ) wardrobe, a mini fridge and even my 8 ft tall pink Christmas tree! After everything was either sold, thrown on the free table or packed back up for better luck elsewhere, I made an impressive $731.25!

Slowly but surely my home is emptying of all my material goods, and slowly but surely my heart is beginning to ache for this place that I have called home for eight crazy, beautiful years.


As part of my preparation for mission work in a foreign country, Reliant requires me to attend Mission Training International’s COMPASS training in Colorado for 4 weeks. It is there that I will prepare to leave my culture and enter into one possibly much different from my own. I will learn how to deal with culture shock and missing home, how to say a good goodbye to my friends and family, and receive Spanish lessons! Honestly, beyond that, I don’t really know what to expect from the COMPASS training. But Colorado is a gorgeous place, so I could be told to go there for just about any reason for a month, and I’m there!

But the most exciting part of this upcoming trip is that I will get to spend 24 hours with my high school best friend, Heather! After high school and college in Columbus, Heather confidently stated the “mountains called” to her. So she moved to Boulder, Colorado, fell in love and married a mountain man, had a couple mountain babies and lives the Colorado mountain life! I was blessed to be in her wedding in 2008 (on the side of a Colorado mountain, of course!) and visited again in the spring of 2010. I haven’t been back since and the last time I say my girl was in 2012! Needless to say, I am more than a little bit excited!

Before a missionary can register to go to COMPASS training, they must have acquired 80% of their monthly support commitments. A few weeks ago, with just about 65% committed, I took a step of faith that by the time training starts on October 26th, I would be at 80% and registered. Being me, not ONLY did I register, but I booked a flight as well. Alright God, the ball’s in your court now!


This past Saturday night, I packed up my Honda CRV with a few friends and drove north to Canton, Ohio to see the Hillsong Worship team! If you have ever been to Rock City Church (my home church), chances are pretty good that we sang a Hillsong song. The group is based out of Australia and is now touring the country sharing their gift of worship. It was an amazing experience to sing my heart out to God as Hillsong played my favorite songs.

The highlight of the night was standing up front by the stage, arms up and soul surrendered to God asOceans resounded through the auditorium. There was something so powerful in pleading for God to “lead me where my trust is without borders…wherever He would call me” as Taya Smith belted her heart out. But…truth be told, I’d prefer to worship at home at Rock City Church, surrounded by people who have been encouraging me in this Salvadoran journey for over a year now, as Brooke, one of our Rock City singers, cries out to God on my behalf with her passionate, heart-piercing voice.

But yeah…Hillsong was pretty good ;)

ps…if you’ve never heard Oceans, do yourself a favor and set aside 8 minutes today to listen to this song and give your heart to God – again and again and again.

These past four months of building up my team of people who are going to be encouraging, praying and supporting me as I continue to prepare and eventually live in San Salvador have been a true opportunity for God to stretch out His arms and show me just what He can do when I surrender my life to him.

Before I can leave for San Salvador and begin doing God’s work with His people, I must reach 100% of my monthly support goal. Once I am in San Salvador working, I will be blessed to receive a salary through Reliant, made up of money from people who are eager and excited to financially support me. Most missionaries reach their goal in about 6 months to a year. I am boldly and brazenly praying for God to get me to 100% of my goal within 5 months. It is my goal to move down south in mid-December. The San Salvador youth group heads to Honduras for Infinito, a youth conference on December 26th and I would love to join them. I see this as a wonderful way for me to kick off my ministry, create new friendships and solidify existing relationships.

God is good and God is able. As of clicking publish on this post, I am at 87.5% of my monthly goal! That is a 23.5% increase since my last update, a short five weeks ago! I am asking that God would bring in the remaining 12.5% by the time I leave for Colorado on October 25th. By reaching 100% before the Colorado culture training, I can focus my attention on learning and when I return to Columbus on November 21st, I can spend my last few weeks tying up loose ends, figuring out last minute logistics, packing and saying goodbye.

When I initially began this journey, I begged for God to not only shut doors if a move to San Salvador was not in His plans for me, but to shut them, lock them, Holy Spirit super glue them and put His shoulder into it because I will knock a door down if I want through. I was asking Him to make it blatantly obvious and near impossible for me to get to San Salvador if I was barreling down the wrong path.

But God hasn’t done that.

God has opened door after door and put amazing, generous people in my life. I am asking to raise another 12.5% in 5 weeks. I know God can do it and I am asking you to help. Monthly gifts can be in any amount – whatever gives your heart joy to give. You will be helping me share with Salvadoran youth that they won’t find their joy or their identity in neighborhood gangs and no boyfriend or girlfriend will ever love them the way Jesus loves them. This is important. It is our job to make Heaven full.

“Give generously to the poor, not grudgingly,
for the Lord your God will bless you in everything you do.”

Deuteronomy 15v10

Please consider giving. You can get set up in five minutes by clicking the “Give to the Cause” button under my photo or by going to reliant.org/ashley.arend

Please Pray:

  • That the Salvadoran youth are able to raise the funds needed to send each and every student to Infinito in December
  • That our own Rock City Youth kids would continue to build lifelong bonds with each other that strengthen them to go out in their worlds and be a light of God’s love
  • That I would have no trouble emptying the Barbie Dream House of the last few items taking up residency here
  • That God will continue to open the hearts and minds of each person I am blessed to share my story with

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

Want a little sunshine in your inbox each month? WHO DOESN’T?!?

Click this link to get signed up for my monthly email updates ➳ You’ve Got Mail!

 

 

August 2015 Update

Highlights

  • I got to hug some Salvadorans at Gabi & Victoria’s Wedding!
  • I spent a weekend getting FAT with my fellow Rock City Youth Leaders!
  • I now have robot eyes with lasers!
  • Everyone loves fried chicken. I love San Salvador. Let’s put ‘em together!
  • In the past 5 weeks, we have increased my regular support by 22%!

Hola Hola, amigos!

This past month has been awesomely busy! I’ve been having fun, finally enjoying our Ohio summer and persevering through my first few months of building up my San Salvador support team!

At the end of July, I got to go to Toledo, Ohio for the wedding of Gabriel and Victoria Valle! Gabi is a friend I met in San Salvador. He used to drive one of the vans that would take our mission team from the hotel to the Children’s Center in Guayabo and around the city in the evenings. When I met Gabi, I knew that he was learning English, but I didn’t quite know why. It turns out, for our driver extraordinaire, English was his language of love! Gabi was learning so that he could move to the US and marry Victoria, a beautiful woman he met while she was on a San Salvador mission trip! Their wedding was beautiful and it was a breath of fresh air to be able to see not just one Salvadoran friend, but TWO! Albi was able to come up for the wedding! I hugged her so tightly that I think all my friends in San Salvador could feel it!

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The Rock City Youth leaders spent some time up at Indian Lake for a weekend of fellowship, silliness and learning. We are a “Student First” organization, but sometimes we need to focus on the friendships amongst the leaders and bond over s’mores and smiles. We started our days with leader-led lessons teaching us that FAT is beautiful! That is Faithful, Available and Teachable! We also reinforced that as followers of Christ and leaders of His half-grown humans, we must eliminate our “Say/Do Gap.” What we profess with our mouths must match what we do with our lives. Our afternoons were spent on the water of Indian Lake. I had the INSANE privilege of accompanying Youth Pastor Amanda for her first ever tube ride behind a jet boat! We had a blast, but were no match for the guys at the wheel! After a few hours of tubing, jet skiing and sunbathing, by starlight we sang worship songs to the Lord and giggled until sleep was inevitable.

It is a true blessing to live and learn alongside the leaders of Rock City Youth. Their hearts are on fire for teenagers and I will carry that fire in my own heart to San Salvador.

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As of yesterday morning, I have robot eyes!!! Okay…not really, but after years of waiting and whining, I was able to receive Lasik eye surgery in both of my eyes yesterday! I have worn glasses since I was 3 years old and contacts since I was 13, and I am over it! Not only are contacts an expense I am excited to no longer have to pay, but more importantly, I am relieved that the eye issues that have plagued me at least once a year for the past 17 years will no longer be a problem! I want my time in San Salvador to be as healthy as possible, so avoiding the eye doctor is definitely exciting!

My vision is still a little blurry, but I am told that is normal and in the next week or so I will notice a drastic difference. Huzzah for modern technology!
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Last week I had a fundraiser at a local Chick-fil-A restaurant! Waylon, the owner of that franchise is a fellow Rock City Church goer and was gracious enough to not only help set up the evening, but give a few lucky Rock City Youth kids a behind-the-scenes tour as well! By the end of the evening, Ashley’s Amigos helped to raise $100 towards my San Salvador Ministry! Ain’t nothin’ better than fried chicken for a mission!
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As I continue on my support-raising path, God continues to affirm that I am on the right path – His path. Since I wrote you last, I have gone from 42% of my monthly goal raised to 64% raised! That’s a 22% increase in 5 weeks! Dios es bueno! God is good!

As I make phone calls and meet with people to share my story, I am continually in awe of people’s support and encouragement towards my ministry. The Bible reminds me that, “Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her.” Luke 1v4-5

I may have 99 problems, but knowing my purpose isn’t one!

The purpose of my life is to help make Heaven full, and God has appointed me to reach out my hands to the Youth of San Salvador.

I know that God will get me to San Salvador in His timing. Before I can begin to live out God’s calling on my life with the Youth of San Salvador, I must reach 100% of my support-raising goal. I have in my spirit a fire of urgency because my days on this earth are numbered and the Youth of San Salvador are at risk. By the age of 20, the statistic is that 20% of Salvadoran youth will have joined a gang. Please consider becoming a monthly partner in my Salvadoran ministry so that God can use me to make a change in this statistic. Many of us spend $20 a month on drinks at the local coffee shop. If just a handful of you commit that amount each month, I’ll be able to spend my days in Salvadoran coffee shops sharing Jesus with students who desperately need Him. Please consider giving. You can get set up in five minutes by going here: reliant.org/ashley.arend

Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be.
Remind me that my days are numbered—
how fleeting my life is.

You have made my life no longer than the width of my hand.
My entire lifetime is just a moment to you;
at best, each of us is but a breath.
Psalm 39v4-5

Please Pray:

  • That our Rock City Youth students would be shining lights of God’s love as they go back to their respective schools
  • That the Salvadoran youth ministry (180 Juventud) would continue to reach the young people of their city
  • That God would give me perseverance to continue along His path towards San Salvador by continuing to open hearts and minds of the people I get to share my story with
  • I am able to check off the long list of logistics that must be completed before I can move!

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

Want a little sunshine in your inbox each month? WHO DOESN’T?!?

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