love love love

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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
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