Monthly Update • January 2018

 

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31 days of 2018 came and went in a whirlwind!
Grab some coffee and let’s catch up!


ABC + 123

January was a month of planning! The Children’s Development Centers (CDCs) have been on vacation and our English Academy was on break, so I had time to devote to lots of dreaming!

Starting tomorrow, February 3rd, Iglesia Gran Comisión will begin its second semester of our English Academy (Academia Gran Comisión)! The heart of AGC is to appeal to the people’s desire to learn English and use that to share with them the love of Christ. Not only are students receiving English classes, but they are also receiving Jesus’ Gospel truth and tangible examples of His love. I will be teaching the advanced level classes. I am excited to see returning students and make new friends!

Along with teaching in the Academy, I will also take over teaching English in both of our Development Centers! I have been fortunate to build strong relationships with the staff and children in our Soyapango Center, but I honestly didn’t spend much time at our Volcano Center. I am looking forward to building friendships with the children and parents there!

I have spent the past few weeks lesson planning for both the English Academy and the CDCs. As are most things in my life, I am learning as I go – hoping to provide an imperative skill to people and children I love while showering them with the love and grace for mistakes God (and my Salvadoran friends!) have has given me.

 


The Wedding Planner

As you can imagine, since December 30th, I have become a wedding planning MACHINE! We are getting married June 8th, a mere four and a half months! 18 weeks! 126 days! So at any moment, I have approximately 27 tabs open to a variety Pinterest searches and Etsy conversations (thank GOD for the internet!).

Planning is going very well! So far we have a venue locked down (toes in the sand, you know it!) and even a few friends from the States already have their plane tickets! Last week, Mario and I even signed a lease for an apartment! It’s fully furnished, so we don’t have worry about buying furniture or appliances! We will start moving our stuff in on June 1st and then our first night in “La Residencia Ramírez” will be after the wedding!


The next six months for me will be a time of transition. Not only will I change my last name, but I will change my responsibilities within Reliant. My last day as a full-time missionary with Iglesia Gran Comisión will be Friday, April 27th. My job as a missionary is 24/7. My life is pretty much my work. And I love that! I love my life and I love my job, so that works out well! There are things I am able to do as an unmarried woman that will become difficult as a newlywed. For example, when our church hosts mission teams from the States, I am with that team from 6:30 in the morning until around 8 o’clock at night. And I love it! Working with mission teams is one of my favorite parts of my job! But there are times when we have two, even three, mission teams in a row. That means 21 days without a day off. As soon as one team leaves, another one is already here. Now imagine I’m just married (soon we won’t have to imagine it!) and that is my schedule for the month. Not so great for the developing marriage. I’d be hurt if that was Mario’s schedule for a month.

At the end of April, I will take a step back from full-time ministry and enter into a new role with Reliant. I still have a heart for missions and want to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ taken to every sunny beach, every dark alley and every unreached person. I do not want the people I serve in San Salvador to suffer because I am unable to serve them with all my time as I was before, and I certainly do not want my marriage to suffer because I am giving all my time to my work.

We have classes at the English Academy until the end of May, so I will continue with those responsibilities until May 26th. I will continue to volunteer with the church, but as a regular church member and not a full-time missionary! I will still be working with Reliant, but my ministry will change. I don’t have a lot of details on this yet, so I am going to leave you in suspense until next month when I hope to have more solid details!

I love that I get to partner with each of you on this journey! Some of you may have supported missionaries before who left their ministry completely after marriage- that is not my case. Although I will not be working full-time with the church, I will still be working in ministry with Reliant (more details coming soon!), so your continued giving is vital during this time! Your support is what allows me to do my job here without having to worry about how I will pay rent to Pastor Victor, if I have enough money to afford groceries and, every once in awhile, your support even allows me to have girls night with the ladies here I cherish the most!

Change is risky and at times, it is difficult. But what I know for sure is that God is with me through it all, and more than anything, change is exciting! Thank you for walking with me through this time of transition! If nothing else, change is best experienced with you all at my side.


 

Hola? Aloha? Χαίρετε? Let’s stay in touch! I love videochatting with friends back home! Send me a message and let’s plan something!

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

Please Pray:

  • For the people who will walk through our doors and into our English Academy tomorrow morning – that their minds would be open to a new language and their hearts would be open to the language of God they already know
  • For the children at the Development Centers – that they would continue to know and feel Christ’s love for them in this new year.
  • For Mario and I as we continue planning our wedding and our future. This time can be stressful and fun. We want more of the fun!
  • That we can sell La Gorda (my car)! Mario and I have decided that we will share his car and use the money from selling my car towards our future together. I have posted the car online in numerous places and put FOR SALE signs in the windows…no bites yet.
  • That our wedding would be a reason for people to come together after years apart.

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together,
will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,

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Monthly Update 💍 December 2017

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I hope everyone up north is staying safe and warm!
Pour yourself some hot chocolate and see how exciting December was!

Most of December was spent back in San Salvador! I came back right before the super cold hit Ohio, so it was perfect timing! It felt so great to be back in my Salvadoran home, with my Salvadoran friends and my missionary coworkers, Ali and Moriah! It actually did take a little bit of time to get back into the swing of Salvadoran life (toilet paper in the trash can!)!

December was full of celebrations here in San Salvador! The weekend after I returned, on Saturday, I got to go to the beach with friends to celebrate Mario’s sister’s 26th birthday and Sunday was our Lifegroup Christmas dinner! It was great to reconnect with so many friends so soon after returning!


Christmas at the Development Centers

The following week was filled with Christmas parties at our Development Centers on the Volcano and in Soyapango! We were all bewildered by a magician! He pulled boxes out of empty bags, turned three ropes into one, and in Soyapango, he even made one of our girls float in midair! Each child was given a gift selected just for them. For many of the children, it was probably their only Christmas gift. The parties ended with a traditional Salvadoran Christmas meal – panes con pollo (grilled chicken sandwiches)! It was a wonderful way to see the children after being away for so long! I hope to never forget getting out of Silvia’s truck in Soyapango and being hug-attacked by a beautiful bunch of children, yelling my name! It was definitely good to be back!

see more photos…


a little vitamin sea

As a gift to the staff of the Development Centers, we got to spend a day at the beach! The grownups had a chance to be silly for a change! We enjoyed splashing in the ocean, a delicious lunch, and Ali, Alonso (the medical assistant in Soya), and I even had a little rock climbing adventure!


The weekend before Christmas brought our annual Iglesia Gran Comisión Church Christmas dinner! This year, both the San Salvador and Soyapango campuses were together in a giant banquet hall at the Sheraton Hotel! Our worship team performed a beautiful set of Christmas songs, Pastor Victor shared God’s Word, and we all enjoyed a fantastic dinner of chicken, mashed potatoes and grilled vegetables! For me, the best part of the dinner was having so many people from both churches together in one place!

see more photos…


Feliz Navidad!

In El Salvador, Christmas Eve is bigger than Christmas Day! I spent the day at church in the morning, lunch at Pollo Camero and then in the kitchen cooking all afternoon! Mario’s family entrusted me with the responsibility of cooking Christmas dinner! I don’t have much experience in this area, so I went with a tried and true meal – lasagna and mashed potatoes! I know they don’t usually go together, but everyone loved it and we were all STUFFED to the brim! After dinner, Mario’s sister Monica led dance lessons for Moriah and I (Ali left for Ohio earlier in the week!), and OF COURSE we celebrated midnight with firecrackers! You could hear them all over the country, I think!

click here to see me try to light a firecracker!


#TODOSALACRUZ

(Everyone to the Cross!)

On Thursday after Christmas, the youth from San Salvador and Soyapango loaded into a microbus and headed to the oceanside city of La Libertad for Great COmmission Latin America’s annual youth conference – Infinito! The conference is usually held in Honduras, but because of a presidential election that has led to protesting and riots, it was determined unsafe for us to travel to Honduras, if we could’ve even made it across the border. So Plan B was regional conferences! As much as I love the “bigness” of Infinito in Honduras and seeing friends from other churches, the conference in La Libertad was a giant success. We got to hear messages from Pastor Victor, my lifegroup leader Vladimir, and the youth leader in La Libertad, Giovanni! We worshipped our butts off (literally! I’ve never sweat so much from worshipping!) and two people were baptized on Friday afternoon! I believe that teenagers need a space where they can jump and yell and be the weird children of God that they are, and Infinito is just that. But more than that, teenagers absolutely have the ability to change the world, one neighborhood at a time and Infinito is a place where they can know they are valued, know they can make a difference, and be reaffirmed about God’s love for them.



Hola? Aloha? Χαίρετε? Let’s stay in touch! I love videochatting with friends back home! Send me a message and let’s plan something!

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 my job! We have recently gone from four people on staff to two! This means that responsibilities have shifted. Please pray for Ali and I as we navigate our new roles within Iglesia Gran Comisión.
  • For Mario and I! Being engaged has already been super fun, but also super overwhelming! Please pray that we would remain a team as we plan our wedding and our future together and that this would be an opportunity for God’s love to shine through our relationship!
  • For Moriah, our fellow Reliant Missionary. Moriah moved back home to Iowa on Christmas Day to continue support raising so that she can move back to San Salvador full-time! We definitely need her here! Please pray that God would bring people to support her ministry.
  • For all the missionaries we will see this year, our upcoming projects and whatever else God has in store for Iglesia Gran Comisión in 2018!

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray.
Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.
Do that, and God, who makes everything work together,
will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,

Ohio 2017 // Home Again

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

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

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

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

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

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

And THAT was what I needed most of all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please Pray:

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

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

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,


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

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

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

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

One Strand of Faith // August Monthly Update

“If there is only one strand of faith amongst all the corruption within us,
God will take hold of that one strand.”

August went by quickly, as the summer months tend to do!
Pour yourself some coffee and see what I’ve been up to!

Academia Gran Comisión

God has a funny way of proving me wrong…a lot. The English Academy at our church was something Pastor Victor tasked me with over a year ago. He figured that because I’m from the States, I was a teacher in the past and have serious “get-stuff-done” abilities, that I was just the person to do it.

Well, I dragged my feet on this project…a lot. I hated teaching in the States, I knew nothing about teaching English as a Second Language and I had no clue how to begin.

read more…


God is So Good!

On Sunday, August 20th, SIX people from our church in Soyapango were baptized! Hallelujah! And even more exciting, TWO of those people are children at our Development Center and one is our cook at the Center! 🙌🏽 God is moving in great ways in our churches here in El Salvador.

read more…


Worship is My Cardio

If you’ve ever seen me “get my worship on” at Rock City Church, you know that I love my worship time! For me, when I have my arms in the air and my life completely surrendered to God, that’s when He plants dreams in my heart and calls my spirit to Him.

This past Saturday, the youth (and young at heart!) of our church got together for a night of worship and thanksgiving. And we weren’t alone! Our churches in Soyapango and La Libertad joined us! It literally brought tears to my eyes to be singing alongside Salvadorans and people from the US. I sang in English and Spanish. God hears us all and He understands every language. Wow.

Vladimir, my lifegroup leader, shared a message about being thankful in every situation – happiness, stress, success, stress, gains, losses – we must remember to thank God for all of it!


Christ’s church is people…

…not a building! This Sunday, Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador will move from our current building to an auditorium in the Sheraton President Hotel! The rent at our current location was raised to a point we could no longer afford, so after months of praying and searching, our pastors found our new home for the next year!

 

 

 

We had our last service at the old space last weekend, and it was truly bittersweet. I am sad to say goodbye to the only place I have ever known as church in this country, but I am so excited to see what God does in the new place!


– AS TOLD BY ASHLEY –

Recently, our local church hosted a 2-week seminar on spiritual gifts. I had taken one of these tests years ago, but so much has happened in my life in the past 3 years that I thought I should probably try again. I was tied with two gifts – teaching and faith.

Well, teaching totally makes sense. But faith?? I usually feel like Peter walking on water – 2 steps on the water and 1 step drowning. My faith is super strong when I can see what God’s doing and understand His plan! But the other 99.99% of the time, my faith wavers because I have absolutely zero clue how He’s going to take care this situation or restore that relationship, and it’s hard to have faith in what I can’t see and don’t understand.

But I’ve come to learn that just because you have a spiritual gift, doesn’t mean you’ve mastered it yet. I liken it to someone with a natural gift for piano. Sure, she can sit down, read the music and plunk out a pretty good tune on the first try, but if she doesn’t practice day after day, month after month, her gift will go to waste.

So it is with my gift of faith. I can sit down, read the Bible and spout off a pretty good prayer, but if my faith is not tested, it will never become the gift God planted in my spirit.

Oswald Chambers wrote that if I can “Believe steadfastly on God, everything that challenges me will strengthen my faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test.”

I never really thought about that – when we close our eyes for the last time, it is our last test of faith that we will awake in the glorious presence of Jesus Christ. Now, THAT kind of faith I have! My faith is weak in areas where I have to trust that God has already resolved every troublesome situation in my life. My job, friends, marriage, family…God has it all figured out! He could tell me how it all turns out if He wanted to, but that’s the thing – God wants to see if I trust Him enough, if I love Him enough, if I have faith enough to hand over all those situations and the million possible outcomes to Him.

“Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us.” I have faith that God is with me through every trial, every joy, every moment of every day. Even when I cannot feel Him, He is there. Will His plan always be my plan? Absolutely not. Will that hurt? Probably. But is His hand always on my hand? Absolutely yes.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified…for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31v6

Hola? Aloha? Χαίρετε? It has been awhile since I’ve gotten any mail! Stay in touch! I would also love to videochat with you! Send me a message and let’s plan something!

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 our English Academy! We are three weeks in and it’s going so well! We have about 15 students, TEN of which are new to our church! This weekend we will be sharing the Gospel with them! Please pray that God’s words fall upon open hearts and that some soul-changing happens!
  • That the last approx. $2,500 would come soon for the Dental Clinic equipment.
  • For this weekend’s church service! It will be our first service at the Hotel Sheraton! There are many perks to this location (free coffee! 😻☕️), but also many quirks we will have to work out!
  • For the health and safety of all our children at our Development Centers in Soyapango and on the Volcano.
  • That my time back home (I’ll be in Ohio Sept. 27 – Dec. 8!) is rejuvenating and spirit filling!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
     -Ashley

Take a Look – June Monthly Update

Hola Hola, Amigos!

Oh my goodness! June was such a whirlwind! Our church, Iglesia Gran Comisión, hosted THREE mission teams in a row this month! It was super fun but also super exhausting! The teams started with a team from Rock City, led by Nate Eckhart, so that was a wonderful taste of home! Sylvia, one of my friends and a missionary on the team, even took time to give me a haircut! Thanks girl!

Because this month was so crazy busy with mission teams, I decided to do something a little different and update you with a Photo-a-Day series!

And there you have it! A month in photos!
Our A-Team (Ashley + Ali + Adri) has added an M to the Team – MORIAH! We have become an amazing, beautiful, well-oiled machine when it comes to mission teams! Which is great because we have SIX more teams this year! It is definitely a lot of work, but I truly love spending time with mission teams. Not only are they a breath of fresh air from the States, but what I love most of all is showing people just why I love it so much here. El Salvador isn’t just the violence you see on the news. El Salvador is a country literally filled to the borders with people ready and waiting with open arms to offer you an afternoon coffee, pan dulce (pastry), and spend hours talking about life. I love it when people see the spark of a brighter future for this country in the eyes of the children we serve in our Centers. And I absolutely love it when people to commit to helping be a part of the change here in El Salvador.
I don’t have solid dates yet, but I have talked with Reliant and Pastor Victor and it is looking pretty certain that I will be home for the months of October and November this year! I am so excited to connect with each of you! As soon as I have more solid plans, I will let you know!
I’m so excited to see Dad + Dewey 😍

If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 4v10-13 (HCSB)

Selflessness is an area where I am continuously learning to grow. I was raised by amazing parents who were themselves incredibly selfless and consistently put my every need before their own. But what this led to then was an adult woman who isn’t always so good at putting others first.

How’s that for vulnerability in a simple monthly update??

Whereas many people are naturally gifted at seeing needs before they are noticed by anyone else – and then meeting those needs – I must keep my eyes actively peeled for how I can help, especially when I am serving mission teams.

••♥︎••

What about you? In what ways is God growing you this month? How can I pray for you in this growing season? Remember – this life is a constant journey with God of growing and refining who we are.
We are forever beautiful works in progress!


It has been awhile since I’ve gotten any mail! Stay in touch! It will require a bit of flexibility due to our crazy mission team schedule, but I would love to videochat with you! Send me a message and let’s plan something!

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 ENERGY! Even this girl gets drained after being with mission teams 12+ hours day, 7 days a week!
  • That working with mission teams would not become routine and commonplace. I am praying that I can see God moving in and through each of our teams.
  • For the English Academy! It is in the solid planning phase! We are talking with nearby schools to gauge their interest in partnering with us and beginning to plan lessons and work out the logistics! GREAT NEWS! Thanks to the giving heart of one of our missionaries, we now have enough money to begin our Academy and get it off the ground and running!
  • Plans for my first trip home since moving here 14 months ago! There are many details to iron out and I am working on trusting that God already has everything figured out!
  • That we can finally finish funding equipping our Dental Clinic at the Volcano. We now have one dental station but are aiming to get a second so that we can serve not only the children in our program, but the community and the children of Soyapango as well! We have $7000 left to raise!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
     -Ashley

These are some of my besties at our Development Center in Soyapango!
Franklin – Dani – Karla – Kelly – Katy – Jessica

💜💜💜

365 Days + Counting

Hola Hola, Ashley!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


Please Pray:

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

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

Thankful + Blessed to Work with You,

     -Ashley (2017 😉)

fri-YAY FAVORITES! March Monthly Update

Another month has just FLOWN by us! March was filled with Mission Teams and fun with friends! To change things up a bit this month, I am giving you MY FRIDAY FAVORITES!

FRIDAY FIVE

Five of my Favorite March Moments

  1. My visit from Becke – She is a sweet friend from home who came for a weeklong visit! We enjoyed (SO MUCH) coffee, movies in bed, (SO MUCH) girl talk, and a sweet time of prayer before she left. I have been more homesick than usual recently and Becke was a breath of fresh (Columbus!) air! 
  2. Beach day with the Rock City Teams – That’s right – I said, TEAMS! Plural! We had a team from  Rock City (my home church) here a few weeks ago, and at the same time, there was a Rock City team in La Libertad, the beachside city to the south. We got to put both teams together and enjoy a day at the beach on their last day! It was so much fun to see friends from home. It was truly rejuvenating.
  3. Outings with our youth groups –  Last Saturday night, our lifegroup got together for a night of basketball! Needless so say, none of us are very good, but it was great fun being silly with my friends!  The next day, Sunday, the Soyapango youth group got together and spent the afternoon at a local park playing soccer, basketball, eating junk food from the local vendors and just laughing together! Their leader, Dani, shared about unity and how God created us to live and work together with our different talents and abilities. We finished out the day with a pupusa dinner! OF COURSE!
  4. Bay Area Team – Oh my goodness! This was a HARDWORKING team! They spent 3 days at the Volcano Development Center helping with the beginning steps of creating a soccer field! Basically, it required A LOT of digging in the dirt making trenches. I’ve never seen a team so dirty!
  5. Birthday Dinner with Adri – Adri celebrated her 24th birthday on March 16th! She got to celebrate her day with the Rock City and Bay Area teams and the following week she and I went to dinner to continue the festivities! I am continuously grateful for our friendship and am learning from her as a professional in ministry and as a woman of God.

FRIDAY FIFTEEN

Fifteen of My Favorite Things in San Salvador

  1. Popsicle Flavor: Nutella + Banana. We now have a tradition with mission teams of going to this delicious popsicle place after our pupusa dinner! They have all kinds of amazing flavors!  
  2. Pupuseria: The 3 pupusas for $1 place! Now that I can afford! They’re delicious AND the owners gave me a mug for Christmas for being a regular customer!
  3. Pupusa Flavor: beans + cheese. Pretty standard. Pretty delicious. (ps…Kristen – frozen pupusas ARE NOT real pupusas! #sacrilege!) 

    yup…this should be enough for the four of us! 😂
  4. Non-Pupusa Restaurant: LacaLaca! It’s a Mexican restaurant and OHHH MYYY GOODNESS….the nachos are SO GOOD! You get a plate as big as your head (and are expected to share it with your friends… -_-)
  5. Salvadoran Dessert: Semita Alta made by Pastor Victor’s family in La Libertad! It’s a pastry filled with different flavored jam and the Alta means it’s THICK! And when it’s fresh from the oven?! Que rico!
  6. Nail Salon: Salon Ramirez, jaja! A friend from church and her daughter often offer to paint my nails! Hey, even a missionary wants to have nice cuticles!
  7. Worship Song: Cuan Grande Es Dios. It’s the first song I learned (and understood) in Spanish!
  8. Movie Theater: Multiplaza – they have a candy gummies section AND caramel popcorn!
  9. Place to Work on the Computer: The Coffee Cup at La Skina shopping center. I can walk there and they know my order! I’m a regular!
  10. Coffee Shop: Ben’s Coffee on the Volcano! They can make all kinds of designs in your coffee and there’s a gorgeous view of the city.
  11. Drink at Ben’s Coffee: I know I’m in the land of AMAZING coffee, but I will always be a chai tea girl!
  12. Beach Resort: This simple little place close to the Atami beach resorts. Some friends and I went there for the Christmas morning sunrise and it was beautiful!
  13. Salvadoran Dog: CACHUN! He’s a Boston Terrier that belongs to my friend Lelys! She lets me pretend he’s mine.
  14. Salvadoran Slang Word: Puchica! It basically means DANGIT!
  15. Place: Anywhere on the beach. The beach will forever be where I feel most connected to God and most at peace with His presence.

I want to report to you, friends, that my imprisonment here has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being squelched, the Message has actually prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of this Messiah. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly about God, about the Messiah. Philippians 1v12-14 (The Message)

FROM HER BINDER PROJECT MARCH DEVOTIONAL:
Walking along the beach, you may find treasured sea glass. Some pieces are big, some small, and each is a different shape, size, and color…Each piece has one thing in common: they are all broken. Tossed in the ocean, they have experienced rough waters, storms, and rough sand. All of which has smoothed and re-shaped the piece of glass into a treasured item…We are also like the treasured piece of sea glass. Broken, we have experienced storms, rough waters, and heartbreak. We are also treasured in God’s hands…Our stories can also be used to point others to God’s healing grace. Our scars and storms are a part of our story, an intricate piece that brings us to where we are today. They reflect the love, redemption, and healing power of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

Friends, who can we share our brokenness with today? Who can we encourage? Who can we assure that they are not alone?


Please stay in touch! There are a number of ways to contact me!

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


As always, thank you for your continued prayers and support! And an extra HUUUUGE thank you to those of you that sent care packages with the Rock City team! Your letters and cards and gifts have spoken such love to me! My heart smiled as I opened each package! My heart is filled with jewelry, beef jerky, lemon Oreos, and SO MUCH peanut butter (that’s an odd food combination! ha!)!

Please Pray:

  • For our mission team coming from New Life Church in Michigan tomorrow. They will only be with us for two days before heading to La Libertad for the rest of the week. This is much shorter than normal! Please pray that in those two days, God would speak to them and they would hear His voice!
  • For our church family as we drive to San Pedro Sula, Honduras on April 12th for the annual Great Commission Latin America Conference! Please pray for safe travels, lots of learning, and quality connections!
  • For ongoing fundraising for our Dental Clinic at our Volcano Children’s Development Center.  In 2016, we were blessed to be able to raise $40,000 to build the clinic above our current Total Health Clinic. Now, we need $18,000 more to purchase dental equipment. The need for dental care, hygiene and education is great at the Volcano.
  • For my relationships here – that they would continue to grow and always be God-honoring.
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
     -Ashley

This is an Empiñada! It’s basically just sugar and starch that’s been rolled suuuuuuper thin. It reminded me of a giant communion wafer, but tastier!