Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

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…don’t worry, friends – I had my required Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte a few weeks ago! 😉

Hola Hola, amigos!

I know it has only been a little over 3 weeks since I last checked in, but I missed you! Also, Iglesia Gran Comisión has two more mission teams coming in the next three weeks, so I wanted to say HI! before life gets busy for a few weeks!

October is a busy month in my new home! Both of Pastor Victor and Silvia’s children have October birthdays! Victor Raul turned 12 on October 11th and Silvita turned 15 on October 21st! For Victor Raul’s birthday, we went to a local restaurant for dinner with Silvia’s family!

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To celebrate Silvita’s birthday, we enjoyed dinner at a local pupuseria (pupusa restaurant). The pupusas were as big as your head! In Latino culture, a girl’s 15th birthday is of equal importance as a girl’s 16th birthday in the States! So this means that this past Saturday night…we partied! Silvitia had a beautiful party at a local country club called Tuscania. She wore a gorgeous turquoise dress complimented by her first pair of heels and a pair of earrings gifted to her by Ali and me! The church worship band entertained guests with music while people visited and enjoyed dinner. It was an absolutely perfect evening celebrating Silvita!

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One of my closest friends here in San Salvador is Adriana. About a month ago, she became my new Spanish teacher! We have been meeting three days a week for 90 minutes at a time. Honestly, I get frustrated because I feel as though I should be progressing faster than I am, but she encourages me and insists that she is impressed by how far I have come, not just in the past few weeks, but in the past six months. I know that she is right and that I need to have more confidence in my abilities. One way I am trying to build my confidence is an attempt to speak only Spanish with everyone here. I will say that I feel pretty accomplished when I can rattle off a series of sentences in Spanish without having to stop and translate what I want to say from English into Spanish before I say it.

For the past six months, Pastor Victor’s Sunday messages at church have been more of a language lesson than a spiritual lesson. I am usually able to follow along thanks to the PowerPoint notes, but unfortunately, I miss the “meat” of his messages. To counteract this and feed myself spiritually, I have been waking up early on Sundays to watch the previous week’s Rock City message. I really don’t know how people survived as missionaries before technology!

BUT! Each Sunday I am understanding a little bit more of Pastor Victor’s message and hopefully, it will not be long before I am laughing along with his jokes instead of just smiling when everyone else laughs and hoping they assume that I got the joke too!

I thank God everyday for Adri’s patience and her diligence in teaching me.


Iglesia Gran Comisión has a monthly Women’s Meeting for the women of the church. October’s meeting was not only an excuse to get together, laugh and share God’s love, but it was an opportunity to learn more about our changing bodies! Dr. Valencia is a local doctor and part of our church community. He presented information on how to explain puberty to teenage daughters, what women can expect from menopause and his wife presented tips to keep us feeling healthy and young! It was a great time and we learned a lot!

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One of the main parts of my job this summer was to raise money for a Dental Clinic at our Guayabo Children’s Development Center. The people of Guayabo live in extreme poverty with very little access to health care. Children as young as three years old already have cavities, infected gums, and are in danger of having lifelong dental problems, so the Dental Clinic is of utmost importance for these people! The total cost to be able to complete construction is $40k. With the help of Pastor Victor and support from people all over the US, we have only $7k left to raise and construction in on track to be done in THREE WEEKS!

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And last but definitely not least, ALI’S HERE! She arrived just last week! A few local friends, including Sarah, a fellow full-time missionary, loaded up the microbus and headed to the airport to meet her! She had just one day to adjust and move in before jumping into the process of getting her temporary residency visa (we’re hoping she can avoid most of the headaches I experience)! And it was only 3 days after she arrived that our church hosted a new mission team! We are so glad that she is here to serve! We definitely love having her and need the help. I am excited to be able to spend so much time serving and living with one of my closest friends. I know that there will be ups and downs, but I am looking forward to the memories made that will be priceless and so much fun to share with our friends and families!

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Thank you for all of your continued support in all of its forms – encouraging texts, Facebook posts, Instagram shoutouts, and even a few letters (and incoming packages!) and calls from home! I love being kept up to date on what is going on in your lives, so keep the connections coming!

Please keep in touch!

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 completed fundraising for the Guayabo Dental Clinic and a quick construction completion
  • For God to sharpen my Spanish tools and for Him to break down language barriers
  • For Ali, as she adjusts to her new life, new job, new home…new EVERYTHING! Please pray that this experience would strengthen our friendship and our faith!
  • For the Iglesia Gran Comisión youth group as we continue fundraising to head to Infinito (a Latin American youth conference in Honduras) at the end of next month!

PRAISE BREAK!

  • For Diana, a little girl at our Guayabo Children’s Development Center. About 2 weeks ago, she was crossing the road in Guayabo, when an out of control motorcycle crashed into her. She had a broken leg, broken ribs, and cuts all over her face. Finally, after 2 surgeries, she was able to go home yesterday morning! You can see her photo and story here.
  • In my last letter, I asked for friends to send me some new books, and I have a few Book Angels sending them my way! Thanks friends!

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

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley


Strengthen your weak hands and steady your shaking knees! Isaiah 35v3-4

The work of the Lord is difficult, but it is oh, so necessary! Be strong, friends!
Read more…

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Hard + Holy Things

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“The world has enough women who know how to do their hair. It needs women who know how to do hard and holy things.” – Ann Voskamp

I can’t tell you that I know what I am doing, but each morning, I wake up, (maybe) workout, down a mug of coffee and set my eyes on the His. Sometimes I’m zoned in and my gaze doesn’t detract from God’s. And other days – most days – the things of this world distract me and I am constantly refocusing my vision. But God is never changing, always there, looking at me with love and devotion.

Living this life of a Christ-follower isn’t easy, but it is oh so necessary and oh so holy. Girls, God wants to use us to make Heaven full, no matter the state of our hair. Refocus. Take a step. He is there.


You keep her in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because she trusts in you. Isaiah 26v3

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I don’t think anyone would describe me as “peaceful.” Even as a child, my parents had me tested for ADD. It turned out they were just raising a hyperactive daughter. #blessed

In Isaiah 26, the original Hebrew word for “stayed” is “sawmak” and it gives us a visual of propping something up. So in order to find perfect peace in God, it is essential that our minds are “propped up” by thoughts of our Heavenly Father. His Word is ripe with verses about setting our minds on Him. First and foremost, Jesus tells us to love the Lord our God with all of our minds (Matthew 22v37). And He tells us to set our minds on heavenly things (Colossians 3v2), for the end is destruction for those who set their minds on things of this world (Philippians 3v19).

Today I thought a lot about the future – what my life here in San Salvador will look like 6 months, even 5 years from now. Not having control over the future is what ultimately causes me the most uneasiness.

I do not think it is bad to plan and dream for the future, but those desires must be propped up on the will of God. I don’t know exactly how God’s plan for my life will unfold, but I can but I can extinguish that fear and experience perfect peace if I place my plans and dreams in the palms of God’s hands.

Believe me – I am the first to say this is easier said than done. But I also know that God has the power to transform our minds – even the mind of this Type A control freak (Romans 12v2). If a wild & crazy girl like me can find peace in the midst of a world of unknowns, even for just 7 minutes a day, I believe with all my soul that perfect peace is available to you as well. As we practice setting our minds on Christ, what was once a difficult task will one day become a habit and eventually a normal state of mind.

We cannot only occasionally encounter God – He must be what continuously sustains our minds.
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What is propping up your mind today?

Sweet Steven

This adorable, precious, innocent little man is Steven. He is 10 years old and a child at our Children’s Development Center (CDC) in Soyapango. A few weeks ago, I sat with his sweet, old grandmother, Virginia, in a Bible study. She asked for a prayer of protection over Steven. Just a few days before, while she was walking with Steven to the CDC, some local gang members approached them and threatened to take Steven from their home in the middle of the night. Well, that granny might be tiny, but she is tough. Virginia went to visit the leader of the gang and asked him why they were threatening her grandson; they hadn’t done anything to offend the local gang. He assured her that nothing was going to happen without his order, and he hadn’t ordered Steven to be taken…yet.

Friends, this – THIS – is why I believe so strongly that God brought me to San Salvador. Satan is ALIVE and WELL in Soyapango. He “prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5v8) My friends and I are working with all our hearts and strength to PLUCK these beautiful children of God from Satan’s hands.

These are not just stories. These are the lives of REAL people. REAL children are disappearing daily from their homes to be taken into a family of gang members and a cycle of evil. But God can use me and every person in this city to share the love of Jesus with these children. He wants to show them that their true family is with His family and that He is their One, True Father. But most of all, what I want these children to know and what God assures us of in His Word over and over again is that He will NEVER leave us. No matter what happens, “the Lord your God is with us wherever we go.” (Joshua 1v9)

I pray that God will use us to change the life of just one child because that change can have a ripple effect: child family neighborhood city COUNTRY. Jesus is looking at us, reminding us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19v26)

#NOTTODAYsatan “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to have a large stone tied around your neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18v6)

Hey There, July!

Hola Hola, amigos!

I can’t believe how fast June just flew by me! It seems like just last week it was May! June was jam packed with equal parts fun and work – mostly because my job is seriously fun!

Three of the four weeks in June were spent with mission teams! The first of which, I am more than a little biased towards – Rock City! A team of ten people from my beloved home church Rock City came to serve my beloved city of San Salvador! They spent their week here serving our two Children’s Development Centers in Soyapango and Guayabo. But the most amazing day was the team’s last day here – not because it was beach day and DEFINITELY not because it was the day before they left – but because the team got to be a part of something really special – a baptism day! Six people (three kids and three adults!) from our Iglesia Gran Comisión San Salvador/Guayabo location asked to be baptized! So we filled a school bus with families from Guayabo and took them to the beach! Guayabo is a village on the side of an inactive volcano in San Salvador, so for most of these kids, that day was their first time in the ocean! There are few things more joyful than a child’s first steps on the beach!

The day started off cloudy, but we managed to enjoy ourselves anyway! After some splashing in the water and sand between our toes, we retreated to the pool for our baptisms! After six people left their lives at the foot of Jesus’ cross, we celebrated and God pushed the clouds aside and the sun came out!

 

When we have mission teams visiting and serving, my job is to assist Sarah, our Mission Team Coordinator with the team. I help with logistics, making sure everyone is where they should be, kind-of, sort-of translating and just acting as an extra pair of hands. I love serving with the teams because it’s a fresh breath of air talking with people from my own country. The hard part is that I bond with these people, and just as we’ve become close, they head back to the States!

After the Rock City team, we had a week break and then Cedar Creek came down from Toledo! It was an OH-IO month! We ended the month just a few days ago with a team from Bay Area Community Church in Annapolis, Maryland – Sarah’s home church! The Rock City team baptized people, the Cedar Creek team fixed the Guayabo broken-down swings and the Bay Area team repainted the church! WHEW! What a month of service!


When I get the chance to catch up with friends and family on the phone, most of the time, one of their first questions is “How’s your Spanish?!” Well…I’m definitely better than I was almost 3 months ago! Working with the children at the Guayabo Development Center has definitely helped my Spanish because they speak no English, other than the very limited basics that missionaries have taught them! There are many times when I ask them, “Como??” (What??), they repeat themselves and I understand and maybe even learn something new. But there are also times when I must concede and say, “Lo siento mi amor, pero noentiendo!” (I’m sorry my love, but I don’t understand!) Most times, they just shrug their shoulders, offer me a hug for trying and go about playing. They’re some of my most patient and helpful teachers!

I still have frustrations when I am hanging out in social groups and I don’t understand everything, but I’m getting better and eventually I will understand and be back to my old self, laughing along and making my own jokes!


In just three short weeks, on July 30th, another Rock City mission team is coming! This team is EXTRA special for me because a few of my most favorite people are on it!

  • Ali Howard, my best friend who will be joining me in full-time mission work here (hopefully!) in a few months!
  • Olivia, a 16-year-old student from Rock City Youth (you may know Olivia as my very sweet friend and disciple), her sister Tatum and their dad.
  • Carmen, another amazing Youth chica
  • A handful of other people who have been to San Salvador before, but never with me!

I am SO looking forward to this team! When they arrive, it will have been over 3 months since I’ve seen these “besties,” and my heart needs the refresher!

This will be the last Rock City team for the year, so it’s your last chance to send any care packages (aka, my love language 😉 )my way without paying international shipping 😃 I am so happy living here, but I definitely miss the States, so notes and packages from home will flood my heart with love and joy!


My current, and most necessary prayer request is for my temporary residency visa. I am currently in El Salvador on a 90-day tourist visa. It will expire on July 19th, in less than two weeks. The process for acquiring my temporary residency visa is quite complicated. It requires a lot of paperwork that must be filled out in just the right way. I went to Immigration two weeks ago with the hopes of being given my visa that day, but was given a litany of things that needed to be revised. For example, on the application, we wrote my nationality as “USA” and the government would prefer it to say “estadounidense,” a Spanish term for a person from the USA. My US background check was translated into Spanish at home in Columbus. The Salvadoran government wants it translated and notarized by a Salvadoran notary. We have since remedied these things and more, and will hopefully have the documents back from the lawyer and ready to go tomorrow, Thursday. I will go back to Immigration on Friday, where they will take all my documents and give me a date (most likely around Wednesday of next week) to come back and be informed about whether there are more changes to be made, or (hopefully!!) they will say everything looks great and they will issue me my 1-year temporary residency visa!

Please pray that everything looks good and that I receive my visa next week! If I don’t, I will request to have my tourist visa extended. But this requires almost as much work and the temporary residency visa itself, so I am praying it doesn’t come to that. The only other option is to take a little vacation out of El Salvador for a few days! Adventure awaits!

Whatever happens next week, I will keep you all updated!


It’s been almost 90 days living in San Salvador (I only know this exact number because that’s how long my tourist visa is good for, ha!) and I am happy, healthy and loving life! Thank you so much for those of you that have called, video-chatted, and otherwise reached out to me. It’s a strange thing attempting to maintain relationships back home while living a whole new life here. Part of my personal struggle is fearing I am losing friends back home while beginning to create new friendships in this country. So again, thank you for your prayers and encouragement – it comforts me to know that I am still in your thoughts and hearts! You can each be sure that you are in mine!

Please keep in touch!

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:

  • As always, that I continue to learn Spanish without frustration and without wanting to just quit. Quitting is not an option here, folks!
  • For the process of acquiring my temporary residence visa!
  • Ali as she continues her support raising journey! She is currently at 75%! PRAISE BREAK! We are praying that she would reach 100% by the time she leaves for Mission Training International on September 19th! You can follow her ministry and support her on her blog, alihoward.co
  • For God to do a great miracle and to bring in $20,000 more by August. Wanna be part of the miracle? Click here!
  • For the Rock City team coming on July 30th! They’ll need health, endurance and love! And I’ll need to remember that I’m still at work – even if it is a little more fun than usual 😜
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.

Con todo mi amor y bendiciones,
-Ashley

There’s a lot of smiling between us because there’s not a lot of talking. Magali is patient as I learn Spanish and forgiving when I don’t understand. I hope there will be a day when our conversations go on and on about life, Jesus and love. But until that day, the silence between us isn’t cold. The silence between us is a short, simple conversation. “Te quiero, hermanita.” “Yo sé, Ashley. Yo también.”

And so it begins…

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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.

Thank God No Matter What Happens

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

1 Thessalonians 5v16-18


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Since the first of the year, I have been recording my daily gratitudes. It’s a practice that helps me to be thankful to God even on the hardest days. It’s so easy to allow myself to think just because one thing did not go according to plan (and you KNOW I love my plans!), everything else has gone to crap too. But remembering the good in each day helps me to dispel that belief. One bad moment doesn‘t mean a whole bad day.

Today, I am grateful for a quiet bedroom and a cool, morning breeze coming through my window – it makes for the perfect place to read God’s Word and listen for His voice. 

What are you grateful for today?

In the beginning…

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(This is an update from my first week here! There will definitely be another one coming soon! Sorry for the delay in posting!)

Hola Hola, amigos!

Well, I have been living in San Salvador for a little over a week now and think I owe you guys a little update!

First of all, and most obvious, I am alive and I have internet! PRAISE BREAK!

This past week has been a mix of work, fun and relaxation. The Turcios Family (Pastor Victor, Silvia, Silvita and Victor Raúl) has welcomed me with open arms and I am settling into my new home very nicely. This past Wednesday was Silvia’s 50th birthday (I know, right?? It’s gotta be the heat or something that keeps Salvadorans looking so young and beautiful!) ! The family and I went to dinner at a local restaurant, La Pizzeria to celebrate! We had calamari and 3 different types of pizza! After a night of laughter and sharing stories, I am already beginning to feel like part of the family!

Mi Familia


One of my biggest challenges has been and will continue to be my lack of fluency in the Spanish language. When I am with a group of friends, most of the time, I am able to generally pick up the topic, but I don’t understand enough to jump in the conversation…yet. I am listening to learn and speaking when I can. This often leads to one of two reactions: a cocked head and confused face or a fit of laughter. In Colorado, at Mission Training International, I learned that one of the perks of language learning is giving the locals a reason to laugh. So, here’s to bringing the joy!


I have had the joy of spending much of my week at the Children’s Development Center (CDI en español 😉 ) in Guayabo and one day at the newer CDI in Soyapango. The new Soyapango CDI is absolutely beautiful and barely recognizable from the single, open-air building it was the last time I saw it! There are fewer children at the Soya CDI, but one in particular has stuck in my heart since I first met him in June 2014, on my very first day ever in San Salvador. Cesar is now 12 years old, and I have had the joy of reconnecting with him each of the three times I have been to Soyapango. This week, when Cesar walked into his CDI and saw an (unforgettable??) tall, blonde girl sitting at his table, he shouted, “ASHLEY?!” What?? He remembered my name?? Man, I love these kids.

My days at the Guayabo CDI this week have literally been filled with precious moments. It has been a blessing to begin to build relationships with the sisters of Esmerelda, a sweet girl taken from us much too soon by cancer, last March 2015. Seeing that these girls have persevered through a loss too heartbreaking to conceive is pure, hard proof that God is working in the CDI.

On Friday, we had a grand day at the Guayabo CDI celebrating Silvia’s birthday with the kids! Marleni, one of the teachers, baked beautiful pink cupcakes for the morning class and got a GIANT cake for the afternoon class! We sang, laughed, and filled our bellies with delicious treats!

One morning, I was instructed to help a boy, Kevin, look through workbooks to find photos of natural disasters (volcanoes, earthquakes, flooding, etc) and assist him in finishing his poster board filled with hand drawn images and how to avoid each one. Needless to say, there was a bit of a language barrier, but sweet Kevin had patience with me, and as it turns out, I have quite a bit of information tucked away about where to live to avoid a landslide!

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This past Tuesday morning, my dear friend and co-worker, Adriana and I met with Pastor Victor to discuss our individual job responsibilities and what we will be working on together. For the time being, my job will not be focused on youth ministry, but I will begin to work with the pre-teens (middle school) in the next month or so. In the meantime, my #1 priority is helping to raise funds for the church, the Children’s Center and the Total Health Clinic. I will focus specifically on helping to raise the remaining $30,000 of $40,000 to build a dental clinic at the Guayabo CDI.

As expected, one of my other responsibilities will include managing the social media pages! There are three Facebook pages (CDI, Total Health Clinic, and Mission Teams) and one Instagram page. Along with the social media outlets, I will also work with Adriana to update the blog twice a month.

Because another part of my job includes accompanying mission teams every day when they are here, the fun starts tonight when Adriana and I travel with the van drivers to the airport to pick up my first of many mission teams! This ALSO means that when any of you Rock City folks come on a mission trip to San Salvador, yours truly will be greeting you with open arms to my new home! I am really looking forward to spending time with my Rock City family when they come down!


This week was a smooth warm-up to what my future here in San Salvador will look like, and based on what I have done and seen so far, it will be an exceptional challenge that I am more than ready and incredibly excited to jump into! The only thing missing is my girl Ali Howard. She is currently raising support with the bold prayer to move here mid-November. It will be a beautiful blessing to have her here. If you are interested in her Salvadoran ministry, please check her out at alihoward.co! Help get my bestie to San Salvador! The CDI needs her and I want her here!AliAshley

Thank you so very much for your continued prayers, financial support and outpourings of love. Each morning when I wake up in my bed with my Salvadoran family, in our Salvadoran house, I thank God that He is always and forever good and always comes through on His promises.

“Look at the nations and watch—
    and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days
    that you would not believe,
    even if you were told.”
Habakkuk 1v5

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:

  • That my Spanish would come quickly and that I do not get frustrated when I say something silly or can’t participate in conversations as I would like to.
  • For my ability to accomplish all the responsibilities entrusted to me and for the sunshine to keep my stress at a record low!
  • For overall culture adjustments. So far, so good, but I know a moment will come when something unexpectedly drives me crazy! Prayers for patience and calmness when it does!
  • For Ali as she continues her support raising journey!
  • For all the Rock City Youth students and leaders as they raise support to head to the NYC Dream Center for a week of serving!

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