breathing again

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hola_hola.4Ohmygoodness – it has been since July that sent out an email update and since JANUARY that I posted one here! Let’s just say between our dreamy marriage and my new teaching job, life is busy!

On December 12th, I go on Christmas break until January 3rd! PRAISE! I plan on spending lots of time updating the blog! Hopefully, that first week of break (maybe sooner…Let’s not promise tooooo much here, Mrs. Ramírez!) I will post an update on the past five months!

I am reaching out now because I have a serious prayer request. Well, it’s a praise that has turned into a request.

As many of you know, my heart beats for youth ministry. Before moving to San Salvador, I was a youth leader within Rock City Youth and it was my jam. Those girls were my life and it devastated me to leave them.

When I moved to San Sal in April 2016, youth ministry was not in my job description. For the past two and a half years, I have yearned for an opportunity to get back into it.

About two months ago, I felt a spiritual nudge to reach out to one of my 11th grade students and begin a mentorship. We tried to meet up, but when it didn’t work out, I backed off, waiting for another nudge.

This time the nudge wasn’t so gentle. This time, God had me gasping to breathe. I jolted awake at 2am one morning, desperate for air. If I was to keep breathing, I needed to begin a girls’ ministry within the walls of my school.

This wasn’t an idea. This was a calling.

Unsure of how to begin, but totally sure I had to, I prayed and spoke with the school administration. Step by step, I moved up the ladder until I got to the school director, aka The Boss Lady. One day, she called me into the hallway. I don’t care how old you are or how long you’ve been teaching, when the school director calls you into the hallway, fear cascades down your spine.

“Hello Ms. Arend…” (the school already has a Mr. Ramírez, so to avoid confusion, I kept my maiden name at school) “…tell me about this girls’ group you want to start.”

“OH! Well – here’s the vision…”

And here it is friends.

• the vision •

Being a girl is just plain hard. We wonder if anyone else is going through the same thing and we wish we had someone we could be really real with.

Sisterhood is a girls-only group starting at our school, where girls searching for real friends and real talk can come together in a safe space each week to laugh, share, ask questions and just do life together — all to encourage each other on their own journey to becoming the confident, beautiful and strong women God designed them to be.

The Boss Lady loved it. I was told I could invite 25 girls from 10th – 12th grades (the classes I teach). This past Thursday, through our school’s holiday grams delivery service, I sent out 15 invitations to the core group of girls. The night before, Mario and I prayed over each invitation, we prayed for each girl by name.

As I watched the invitation delivery, my spirit was filled with fear.

Will they want to come?

Will they think this is weird?

What if no one shows up?

A short 10 minutes after delivery, one of the girls emerged from her classroom, smiling. “Thank you Miss Ashley!”

“YAY! You got it! Are you gonna come?”

“YES!”

Ohmygoodness. I got one. Just one out of 15 girls was a win.

But God had bigger plans.

By the end of the day, THIRTEEN girls responded yes. And four of those girls weren’t even officially invited, but wanted to come because their friend was invited.

Friends. I am so excited. God is doing something here. He is getting ready to change lives. And I get to be a part of it.

Guess who’s back, back again

Ashley’s back, tell a friend…

I’m back in Youth Ministry. I’m not sure exactly what I am doing, but I am trusting God’s leading. That midnight gasp thrust purpose into my lungs and I finally feel like I am breathing again.

Our first Sisterhood meeting is tomorrow, Monday Dec. 3rd at 4pm eastern time. It will be our only meeting before Christmas break. Will you please cover us in prayer tomorrow?

  • That all the girls that said they would come, come!
  • That other girls feel encouraged and welcome if they want to join us
  • That God would use me to meet these girls where they are and cover them in love and Godly wisdom
  • That I am filled with boldness and confidence and not fear. Fear is a liar.

Back in January, something told me to back to teaching. Against everything I had told myself when I quit teaching in 2015, I voluntarily went back. I think now I know why…

Thank you friends for your prayers and encouragement. God is moving.

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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,

Live Your Mission

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

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

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