And so it begins…

ashley_blog-and-so-it-begins

Hola Hola, amigos!

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

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

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

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

Josué.

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

my sweet friend Andrea & I

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Please Pray:

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

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

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