In November 2013, Ashley had just started attending Rock City Church in Columbus, Ohio. During the week, she was busy teaching literature and grammar to high school students…and hating it. When an opportunity came up to go on a weeklong mission trip to San Salvador, El Salvador the following summer, she jumped at the opportunity to see the world and serve the people there, she jumped at it. She had never been on a mission trip before and loved seeing different parts of the world.
After months of fundraising and days of packing (the girl overpacks even for a mission trip!), on June 7th, 2014, a team of about 15 people, including Ashley, headed for Central America.
Upon arriving, the team was told to only drink water in the bottles and jugs provided them. Being that the temperature was a high of 89 degrees, everyone was guzzling water. The team’s first full day in San Salvador was a Sunday – church day! After spending the morning at the main San Salvador campus, they headed to the city of Soyapango for the afternoon church service. After disembarking the van, Ashley asked the local mission team coordinator, Sarah, where she could fill up her water bottle.
“Oh! No problem! See that guy over there to the right? He can tell you where the water jug is!”
Hmm…that guy was a coffee and cream shade of brown, and as far as Ashley could tell…didn’t speak a word of English. So gathering her courage and vocabulary of five Spanish words (she really should have prepared better!), she headed over.
Ashley holds up and points to her empty water bottle…
That Guy, looking a little confused answered, “Yeah, it’s right over here! I’ll show you!” in. perfect. English.
Oh dear God how embarrassing!
And that was how Ashley met Mario.
…and by the grace of God, he spoke English.
Fast Forward a few months and Ashley and Mario had connected on Facebook and developed a friendship through messaging and videochatting. As the friendship grew, so did the feelings. When Ashley finally moved to San Salvador in April 2016 to pursue full-time mission work, she and Mario were told that for the first year of her life there, they could only be friends. Ashley agreed that she would need time to adjust to a new job, new culture, new language, new everything! Adding a new boyfriend on top of that would emotionally strain everyone around her.
So Ashley and Mario spent time getting to know one another face-to-face in groups of friends and through their Bible Study group. In April 2017, the year was up and they were ready to up the relationship ante. With the pastor’s blessing and guidance, Ashley and Mario began dating. It wasn’t long (maybe 7 minutes into their first date) that they knew they wanted to spend forever together. Over the following weeks, they discussed their personal future goals, their deepest life desires and expectations from a future spouse. They agreed on 9 out of 10 things (“Ashley, you do not need a biweekly manicure!”), and so decided that marriage would be in their future.
In September 2017, Mario joined Ashley for 2 weeks in her home state of Ohio to meet her friends and family. After dinner with Ashley’s godfather Tim, Mario asked him for Ashley’s hand in marriage.
“Mario, I know I have only known you for about 4 hours, but I have very good discernment for who people are. And I can tell that you are a good man and that you will take care of our Ashley. You have my blessing.”
Ashley stayed for two more months in Ohio while Mario went home to San Salvador to plan Mission: Proposal.
Mario, knowing that Ashley is forever impatient, made every day that he didn’t propose worth the wait…