Here So Soon, June? – May Monthly Update

Hola Hola, Amigos!

May was a wonderfully HOT and rainy month here in San Salvador! Fortunately, the rain doesn’t last long and many times is during the night, so it makes sleeping just lovely! We didn’t have any teams this month, so it was a wonderful opportunity to rest up and gear up for the NINE more teams we have coming this summer!

And now, I present to you,

ASHLEY’S FAVORITE FIVE
My Five Favorite May Moments!

1. Mother’s Day – Mother’s Day is June 10th here in El Salvador. I got to have breakfast with Silvia (Pastor Victor’s wife) and the family! We went to a local restaurant and had unending cups of coffee, pancakes, eggs, bacon – I think we had a little bit of everything! And once I was so stuffed I couldn’t eat anymore, I got invited to lunch with another family from church! We ate burgers and fries until we just couldn’t fit anymore – and then we went for an afternoon coffee and we just had to have sweet treats with our coffee!
2. Adri’s Graduation! – After years of hard work, my friend and coworker Adriana graduated from college with a degree in Industrial Engineering (smartypants 🤓) She asked me to take photos of her family graduation lunch and as a perk, I got to enjoy the lunch as well! Currently, Adri is our church’s Mission Team Coordinator, so we are all praying for wisdom on where God takes her next!
3. English Classes –  My fellow missionary Ali spent a few weeks in the States to be with her family as her sister just had a baby! Ali teaches the English classes at our Volcano Development Center, so while she was gone, I became her substitute teacher! To be honest, I was kinda nervous about going back to teaching, even if it was only twice a week for three weeks. But as He usually does when I am fearful about something, God proved me wrong and I really enjoyed myself! The kids were really well behaved and I loved focusing in on the ones who really have a desire to learn English.
4. Photo Project – As a project for mission teams, Ali and I are working together to take photos of every child at both Centers and create a wall of photos! This will help missionaries not only learn the kids’ names, but it will also be a great way for them to know which ones need sponsors, and they will hopefully be encouraged to sponsor one of our children! I have always loved photography, and this was a fun way for me to learn more of the children’s names myself and build friendships with them!
5. PIRATES – Anyone who knows me should know about my affinity for Johnny Depp. The 5th (and last?! 😩) Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out last weekend and not only did I see it once, but I saw it TWICE! And not only did I see it twice, but I saw it in Spanish AND in English! I am fairly biased, so I’m not sure I am the best reviewer, but I thought it was awesome and the man who does “Spanish Jack Sparrow” does a spot-on imitation!
LOOKING AHEAD
Starting next Saturday, June 10th, our church will be receiving three mission teams in a row! WOO! I am already super excited and super exhausted! Ha! The first of these teams is Rock City, so that will be a perfect way to kick off Mission Team Season! We have a total of nine more teams coming this year! I am really looking forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.As I mentioned in previous emails, Pastor Victor has had a dream of creating an English Academy out of the church for a long time now. It will be a tool for evangelism and inviting people to church. Being able to speak English can drastically improve a person’s life here, so we want to use that to bring them to Christ. The classes will be super affordable in hopes that teens will come and get connected in. And because learning a language from someone who is native in that language is best, yours truly will be the main teacher! He put me in charge of this project awhile ago, but I was hesitant to do anything because of my previous negative experiences teaching. I knew that God wanted me here and that He would challenge me and grow me through this project, but it didn’t do much to eliminate my fear. About a month ago, Pastor Victor created a dream team of people to make the English Academy happen. As expected, I will be the main teacher in charge of curriculum and teaching. I am still a little nervous about everything this project entails, but I am now surrounded by an amazing team of people that makes that fear a whole lot less. We are hoping to open the doors at the beginning of August! I am hoping God uses this as an opportunity for me to do some youth ministry again! Oh, how I miss it! Who knows – maybe God knew what He was doing when He brought a woman with teaching experience and a passion for teenagers to El Salvador 😏


“I don’t say this out of need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me.”
Philippians 4v10-13 (HCSB)

FROM EVERYDAY PEACE: STANDING FIRM IN HIS PROVISION by KATIE ORR:

Contentment is hard to come by, it’s not a guest that arrives naturally or stays willingly. Contentment is an enduring peace that is independent of circumstance.

The secret is this: nothing on this earth will ever satisfy me like being with Jesus. Not a different stage of life, a bigger salary, fewer responsibilities, or losing my love handles. Until I treasure Christ as my only true need, my only worthy pursuit, my only fulfilling hope, my soul will remain unsettled. Until I see every disappointment, disease, and difficulty I face as yet another chance to prove the worth of Christ, I will be disgruntled…unwavering peace comes only in the presence of the One who will never leave me or forsake me.

••♥︎••

Friends – what adjustments can we make in our lives this week to move towards contentment?


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!)


Please Pray:

  • I’ve actually had some sort of stomach bug for the past week! I finally got some serious meds last night and I am praying for a quick and thorough healing!
  • For Moriah Harris! Moriah is from Iowa and way back in June 2015, she and I went to our Reliant training together in Orlando! All in his timing, Moriah is finally moving to San Salvador in two weeks on June 15th! Please pray for an easy transition! She will be living with Ali and I and the Turcios family, so it will be wonderful to have another “gringa” here with us!
  • For energy during Mission Team Season! Working with teams is one of my favorite parts of my job, but our days go from 7am-8/9pm everyday, with no days off when we have back to back teams! Adri, Ali and I will need some serious energy and perseverance!
  • For the tenacity to go after this English Academy with everything I have! I truly believe in its necessity, I just need to believe in God’s ability to do great things through me!
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 Elote (el-oh-tay)! It’s grilled corn on the cob on a stick covered in butter, mayonnaise, ketchup and salsa negra (“What’s salsa negra? “It’s black sauce.” “CLEARLY. But what’s in it?” “I dunno” hahaha!) Elote is super delicious and now that I’m describing it to you I’ve given myself a craving for it! Ha!

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!

to inspire > to impress

Is my social media being used to bless others with encouragement and love or am I really just boasting on myself and feeding others’ unhealthy comparisons to me?

Well isn’t that a heck of a question?! Over the past month or so, I have been churning through Lysa TerKeurst’s (I can never spell her name without looking!) book, Uninvited. This book piqued my interest because I came to El Salvador with the expectation of former friendships made here to immediately grow and for everyone to become my bestie, available 24/7…and that didn’t exactly happen. My friends had lives they were living that needed tending to. They are college students, professionals, missionaries…they have job titles other than Ashley’s Friend. Add that unrealistic expectation to the feeling of being an outcast when in groups because I couldn’t understand what everyone was saying (#spanish), and pretty quickly I began feeling left out and lonely. And that is exactly what Lysa’s book speaks to – “Living loved when you feel less than, left out and lonely.” As you can imagine, I’ve underlined basically every word of this book. 

This particular chapter talks about how the devil uses our feelings of left out-ness and not good enough-ness to tear us down and attack us at our weakest. I have been both the victim of comparing myself to someone else’s perfect Instagram feed and the culprit, trying to make my life look lovely and shiny and full of beautiful, God-fearing unicorns (yes, my vision of a perfect life includes unicorns). And there have been times when I am both the victim and the culprit simultaneously. With one post, I am desperate for affirmation from friends and strangers and possibly causing those same friends and strangers to fall into the trap of comparison.

There is nothing we can do to control what others post. But what we can control is our intentions and how we react to others’ posts. What is my intention for going to social media? Am I bored? Looking for inspiration? Wondering what my friends back home are up to? Or am I looking for proof that someone else’s life is just as sucky as mine in that moment and desiring affirmation for my sucky feelings?

If I can identify in the moment why I am mindlessly scrolling through Instagram, I may be able to save myself a good amount of emotional stress. If I am looking for affirmation of my negative emotions, perhaps the better thing to scroll though is my Bible. That book is full of people who have felt rejected and left out. David for example – his own father didn’t even think he was good enough to be considered for king. Our parents are supposed to see and proclaim our wonderful abilities and qualities, but all David’s father saw was a scrawny shepherd. Yikes. Parental rejection is the worst.

Of course, there are many, many encouraging posts on Instagram that can help us learn to look to God in the tough times, become better prayer warriors, get closer to God….the list goes on of the amazing posts I have seen and leaned on in times of weakness. But before turning to the bloggers, I should turn to the Great Writer.

And then there are the times when I am truly just bored, scrolling through, looking at pretty pictures of flowers and adorable puppies and being inspired by insightful Christian bloggers and BAM! Yet another person engaged, who, really, I never in a million years thought would have a boyfriend, let alone get engaged before me! Really God?!? Like, do you even know what you’re doing up there?? I’m 32! THIRTY-FREAKING-TWO! I should be married, have 2 kids and know how to make the perfect pupusas and delcious browies all in the same hour! But NOOOOOOO….!! WAHHHHH!  This, dear friends, is the perfect (and oh-so-real) example of an unhealthy response to a friend’s happiness. And this can be controlled by choosing to flood my spirit with God’s truths. Immediately, the lies of not good enough-ness and never going to happen for me-ness flee in the presence of God’s truth. The truth that God DOES love me. God DOES care about me. And above all, God DOES have a plan for this life He created.

So friends, let’s be careful about what we post on social media. Let’s ask ourselves if we are hoping to encourage others or show off how immaculate our lives are. Because let’s be real – life is messy and it helps to know we aren’t alone in our mess.

love love love

ashley_blog-love-love-love

Hola Hola, amigos!

February is a month all about love, and I have certainly been learning a lot about what it means to love as a missionary!

Really, the overarching goal of my job is to love people. It’s pretty much the best job description ever. I get to dole out hugs, kiss the tops of heads as tiny bodies cling to my legs, and some days I get to share life stories over salted green mango slices. Those are the really good days.

But my job isn’t always tiny-human squeezes and long afternoon conversations. Loving like Christ means I agree to be inconvenienced by love. Loving like Christ means loving people even though you know it might very well break your heart.

I began learning the inconvenience of love two and a half years ago when my heart started falling for a ragtag group of 9th-grade girls in Rock City Youth. I knew that not long after making them a priority in my life, I would be leaving them for my ministry in San Salvador. But they needed a leader and I needed somewhere to place the love of Christ that I had finally identified in my heart. So I pushed on, knowing that each passing week was a week closer to heartbreak.

rc9

Last summer, I met a sweet boy named Steven and his adorable abuelita (grandma), Virginia, at our Development Center in Soyapango. Every time I went to Soya, she would be there waiting with a hug and a loving word to carry me through the day. One time, when she realized I was going to be at the Center all day, she went home and returned to the Center with a fresh, hot batch of fried yuca for me! Another time, she brought a beautiful, floral pillowcase from her bed for me to keep on mine. A few weeks ago, we discovered that one health complication had led to another and she passed away. Steven lived with Virginia, so I could only imagine his heartache. The next time I saw him, we held each other and cried. Loving the two of them meant allowing my heart to break alongside Steven’s.

But being inconvenienced by love isn’t always so tragic. Sometimes it means in the middle of a solid Jane the Virgin binge with a friend, giving her younger sister a ride to worship team practice in my new car that I did say was to help drive locals around. (side note: if you haven’t seen this show, do yourself a favor and check it out on Netflix!! #rogelio) Sometimes it means becoming fast, close friends with the people who come on mission teams from the States, and loving them with abandon even though it might be a year until/if I see them again. And sometimes, it means supporting one of my closest friends to move back to Maryland with her husband and kids, even though I know our friendship won’t be the same.

michelle_murfat
Michelle, Murfatt & I – Two girls who will definitely be in my heart forever!

Loving people is what we are each called to do, no matter our circumstances and no matter the cost. And the thing is, even though love almost always hurts, it is worth it 100% of the time to open your heart to another person. I’m pretty sure that Jesus knew that Thomas would doubt Him, Peter would deny Him and Judas would sell Him out. Even so, He gave His heart completely to them. Why? Because love isn’t about what we can get out of the transaction. Love is about what we can give to the other person that they might so desperately need. Thomas needed someone to prove him wrong, Peter needed to be confronted with his uncertainty and Judas…well, Judas needed Jesus’ love possibly more than any other disciple but was unwilling to accept it. And Jesus did it all in love.

So this past month, as is every month, every day, was a lesson in love. Each lesson is a story tucked away in the corner of my heart for days when I over scrutinize myself and become convinced that I’ve messed it all up and the only logical next step is a one-way flight home (I’m pretty sure every missionary has those days, right guys?? 😆)

One of my most recent stories that will stay in my heart forever happened just last week. Our church was hosting our first mission team of 2017 – Total Health. They provided free medical clinics in three different cities for five days in a row! Part of my job was taking photos and “directing traffic.” I helped tell the patients where to go and when. So most days, I was on my feet for a looooong time. One day in Soyapango, Marina, the Center cook, noticed I was dragging and needed a pick-me-up. So she fed me an extra cup of coffee and snuck me a second bag of salted mango slices. “Come, muñecita! Eat, little doll!” And again this week, Marina treated me to a delicious bowl of salty mango. She and I can’t give each other much, but a tender hug and a little fruit go a long way in the heart of a missionary.

health_clinic

A lot of my work the past two months has been behind the scenes – I accepted Pastor Victor’s challenge (“You have a blog, so I know you can do this!” ooooookay!) and created a brand new website for Great Commission Church San Salvador! Check it out here!

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And as always – 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!)

Please Pray:

  • Raw, honest moment: A few months ago, Pastor Victor gave me the responsibility of creating an English Academy out of the church. The real goal would be to share the Gospel and get people connected to our church. When he initially challenged me with this, my heart immediately said no. I tried teaching English. I was terrible at it. It was awful. Actually, I hated it. So the idea of doing that again turned my stomach and definitely did not inspire me. So for the past few months, I have been dragging my feet on this project. But maybe, just maybe, God is asking me to trust Him by trusting Victor. Maybe this is a doorway into youth ministry. Maybe, if I can be faithful in this, God will trust me to be faithful with more. So please pray that I would be courageous enough to completely accept the challenge and create an effective, heaven-filling English Academy.
  • This past Friday night, I had a new Salvadoran experience – my first night in a Salvadoran hospital! I’M FINE! After spending a week with clinics full of sick people, including one projectile vomiting baby, I contracted some sort of virus and spent about 7 hours throwing up Friday night. Around midnight, Victor and Silvia decided it was time to call in the professionals and we headed to a local hospital. Really, it felt more like what in the States we would call a 24-hour emergency clinic. Finally, after two rounds of IV medication for nausea, the vomiting stopped and I was able to sleep. I woke up feeling better, so they pumped me with one more round of meds and sent me home to rest the remainder of the day. I made a few risky diet choices this week (a friend’s birthday was Monday and we went out with a few folks to McDonald’s!), but I’ve survived them all without a relapse! The worst part has been an awful pain in the vein in my arm from the medicine, but it’s getting better each day. So please pray that whatever it was is gone and that I can stay healthy the rest of mission team season!
  • For the next three teams! We have one from City Church coming tomorrow and two teams, ROCK CITY (!!!!) and Bay Area, the week after!
  • My dad. I really miss him. Our relationship has stood the test of miles and technology, by I miss the big guy. I am praying and I am asking you to join me in praying that he would come for a visit soon!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
     -Ashley

Love, Ashley

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Amigos!

For many people, Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate the one you love and remind them of your affections. Some think it’s overrated and just an excuse to have to buy a card, gift, and candies for your significant other. Call me a romantic, but I think everyday should be Valentine’s Day! Sure, it definitely is a little rough for those of us without significant others (YET! Don’t give up hope!), but hopefully, we all have people in our lives we can say, without a doubt, that we LOVE. Maybe it’s your best friend, your siblings, your parents, or maybe even your dog (Dad + Dewey have been my Valentine’s Day power couple for YEARS!).

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They say it takes a village to raise a child. I have learned that it takes a multitude of people to support a missionary. It takes prayer warriors, financial supporters, encouragement bearers…the duties are many and each one is incredibly necessary (especially you, peanut butter senders! 😍).

Each of these people is an unsung hero of my ministry, and this Valentine’s Day, I want to sing of my love for my tribe, Ashley’s Amigos!

This year, I am committing to reading the entire Bible. I recently re-read the story of Moses and the Israelites fighting off the Amalekites in Exodus. God told Moses that as long as he kept his arms raised, the Israelites would stay on top, but as soon as Moses lowered his arms, the Amalekites would begin to take over.

Any good missionary knows the physical pain of keeping your praise arms raised high for the entirety of Oceans 😉 🙌🏻. If you’re feelin’ real spiritual, you might be able to make it to the “Spirit lead me…” bridge, but it’s gonna take a few fist pumps ✊🏼 to keep those arms up there. (If you’re not familiar with Hillsong’s song Oceans, check it out HERE. It’s an amazing cry to God to take us where we’ve never been before as we put our complete trust in Him.)

So I can only imagine the ache in Moses’ arms. And he wasn’t just dealing with an 8-minute praise song. He was dealing with a full on army BATTLE. So God gave him friends to support his arms – Aaron and Hur. When Moses’ arms started dipping, they were there to hold them up. We don’t hear much more about Hur beyond this story, but without his support, the Amalekites may have won and changed the entire outcome of the Israelites getting to the promised land. An unsung hero.

You – my tribe, my friends, my people, my supporters – are the unsung heroes of my ministry and for you, I am incredibly grateful. Because of you, I am learning to trust in God even when I can’t see the future and don’t understand the present. I am learning to support the vision of my pastor so that one day I will know how to foster my own. I am learning that just because I am called doesn’t mean the work will be easy. Above all, I am learning that God is preparing me for the thing He has prepared for me (very wise words from the amazing Christine Caine).

A career in ministry is so very difficult, but it is so very worth every moment of doubt, confusion, and frustration for just one moment of joy on a person’s face when they fully understand and accept just how much Jesus loves them. This is truly the best job a person could have and it is thanks to you that I get to do it.

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– Lysa Terkeurst

Thank you for every prayer, every dollar, every word of encouragement and every jar of peanut butter 😘 None of it goes unappreciated.

With all my amor this Valentine’s Day 💜,
Ashley

“When we get together, I want to encourage you in your faith, but I also want to be encouraged by yours.” Romans 1v12

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Because He Said So

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Hola Hola, amigos!

The new year is off and running around the world and here in San Salvador! The first month of the year was a lot of behind-the-scenes work. Ali, Adriana and I have been preparing everything for Mission Team Season, which starts on February 18th, when we have our first of TWELVE teams this year! I have also been spending hours on end behind the screen of my trusty MacBook completely redesigning the Iglesia Gran Comisión (IGC) website!

For many people, our website is their first peek into what a mission trip to San Salvador will look and be like. We also have many supporters in the States who have never been here, so we want to give them the best idea possible about what our visions and dreams are for the Children’s Development Centers. All this to say that in our technology focused world, a chivo (Salvadoran slang for “cool” 😎) website is super important to our church.

Since most my time this month has been spent at the kitchen table or at various coffee shops, rather than detail for you every time I high-fived myself for accomplishing something on the new website (Just today I figured out ON MY OWN how to put the dark church logo on the dark website background in a section that was NOT image friendly. HIGH FIVE!), I thought I would share with you a bit about what God has been teaching me this month through His Word, His people, and prayer.

Every Sunday, I wake up early to watch the Rock City Church message from the week before. Pastor Victor’s weekly messages are still not much more than Spanish lessons. It’s getting better every week, but I am more focused on understanding words and phrases rather than internalizing ideas from the Holy Spirit. Plus, I must also admit that I just seriously miss Pastor Chad’s style of teaching.

For the past 4 weeks, Pastor Chad has been using the book, Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick as the basis of his preaching series. I actually read this book about a year ago. It was a gift from my dear friend “MartyMar.” The premise of the book is overcoming the voices of doubt in our minds and replacing them with the voice of God.

CONFESSION: I’m not good at everything.

Holy cow, Santo Dios, oh my goodness, I feel so much better, don’t you??

Truly, I’ve never really thought I was good at everything, but I’ve always had a few things I was good at that made up for the things I sucked at. Well, turns out, I’m not really good at a whole lot yet down here in San Salvador.

Spanish: Getting better!
Web Design: Fake it ‘til you make it!
Playing with kids: Which one are you?
Taking the drink order for mission teams: So we’re missing four Kolashampan’s and we have seven extra Sprites?!

So needless to say, I needed to re-hear the Crash the Chatterbox message. Right from the first message, God was speaking to me, Spirit to spirit.

{Most of these ideas are taken from S. Furtick’s book and I am sharing my interpretations #ForeverAnEnglishTeacher} 

Did you know that 80% of the 60,000 words we speak every day are discouraging?! Either to ourselves or to other people. 80%!!! So I am going to speak some encouraging words to myself and to you right now – Even if I don’t think I am wonderfully made, God says I am. 

“I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” Psalms 139v14

It doesn’t matter what I think about myself as long as I believe what God says about me.

I don’t know about you, but I have a habit of being my own worst enemy. Once a critical thought locks in, I just take it for a ride down the dark trail of negativity. My greatest battle isn’t with the words of anyone else – my greatest battle is within me! But I have the power to be my own greatest champion! Look at the woman from Mark 5. She had been bleeding for like TWELVE years! And when she heard Jesus was passing through, she thought to herself, “If I can just touch His cloak!” Forget about all the people surrounding her telling her to go home because she was unclean, impure and didn’t deserve to be there. It all started with her own self-talk. “This WILL work…I CAN be healed…Jesus IS who He says He is…”

If I start believing all the negative thoughts that come into my head, they WILL start affecting my life. The more lies of insecurity I choose to believe, the more limited I become in my calling to El Salvador. Every lie will limit me in what God has called me to accomplish! God has called me to do crazy, wonderful things in this country for His people!

How many good things won’t be done because I chose to be directed by the chatter in my head and not empowered by the Word of God?!

The truth is, left on my own, I am completely incapable of the crazy, wonderful things God has called me to do. But the bigger truth is that I have not been plopped down in El Salvador and left on my own. God is with me and God is giving me His strength and His ability.

The chatter in my head will never stop. I don’t think anyone has found a way to make it stop. But I have a choice – will I listen to the chatter or to the voice of God? Whichever one I choose will determine how much God can use me for His purposes. My BEST defense against the chatter is God’s Word and the best way to overcome it is to know God and know His Word.

God’s Word matters more than any other word.

And if God says I am, I am.

How do you fight the chatter? What kinds of thoughts are getting into your spirit these days? Please share with me so that we can be actively praying for one another!

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And as always – 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!)

Please Pray:

  • For Adriana, Ali and I as we embark upon Mission Season 2017! Sarah left her job in very capable hands, but it’s still a little nerve-wracking!
  • For Ali’s temporary residency. Things were going really well and then just stopped. She is not going to have to leave the country, but it is an exhausting and frustrating process.
  • For the Dental Clinic at our Guayabo (Volcano) Children’s Center. We have a beautiful building constructed for the Dental Clinic, we now need about $18k to equip it. Please pray that God provides that for His people here.
  • For the children at both Development Centers, Guayabo and Soyapango, as they began back to the Centers full-time yesterday! Pray for a new year of learning and growing in Christ.
  • For the 180 Youth group here in San Salvador and Soyapango. Pray that they would be able to show Jesus’ love to their peers and that they would allow God to use them to be a small part of His big plan.

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

Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
-Ashley