Take a Look – June Monthly Update

Hola Hola, Amigos!

Oh my goodness! June was such a whirlwind! Our church, Iglesia Gran Comisión, hosted THREE mission teams in a row this month! It was super fun but also super exhausting! The teams started with a team from Rock City, led by Nate Eckhart, so that was a wonderful taste of home! Sylvia, one of my friends and a missionary on the team, even took time to give me a haircut! Thanks girl!

Because this month was so crazy busy with mission teams, I decided to do something a little different and update you with a Photo-a-Day series!

And there you have it! A month in photos!
Our A-Team (Ashley + Ali + Adri) has added an M to the Team – MORIAH! We have become an amazing, beautiful, well-oiled machine when it comes to mission teams! Which is great because we have SIX more teams this year! It is definitely a lot of work, but I truly love spending time with mission teams. Not only are they a breath of fresh air from the States, but what I love most of all is showing people just why I love it so much here. El Salvador isn’t just the violence you see on the news. El Salvador is a country literally filled to the borders with people ready and waiting with open arms to offer you an afternoon coffee, pan dulce (pastry), and spend hours talking about life. I love it when people see the spark of a brighter future for this country in the eyes of the children we serve in our Centers. And I absolutely love it when people to commit to helping be a part of the change here in El Salvador.
I don’t have solid dates yet, but I have talked with Reliant and Pastor Victor and it is looking pretty certain that I will be home for the months of October and November this year! I am so excited to connect with each of you! As soon as I have more solid plans, I will let you know!

I’m so excited to see Dad + Dewey 😍


If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.
Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
Philippians 4v10-13 (HCSB)

Selflessness is an area where I am continuously learning to grow. I was raised by amazing parents who were themselves incredibly selfless and consistently put my every need before their own. But what this led to then was an adult woman who isn’t always so good at putting others first.

How’s that for vulnerability in a simple monthly update??

Whereas many people are naturally gifted at seeing needs before they are noticed by anyone else – and then meeting those needs – I must keep my eyes actively peeled for how I can help, especially when I am serving mission teams.

••♥︎••

What about you? In what ways is God growing you this month? How can I pray for you in this growing season? Remember – this life is a constant journey with God of growing and refining who we are.
We are forever beautiful works in progress!


It has been awhile since I’ve gotten any mail! Stay in touch! It will require a bit of flexibility due to our crazy mission team schedule, but I would love to videochat with you! Send me a message and let’s plan something!

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 ENERGY! Even this girl gets drained after being with mission teams 12+ hours day, 7 days a week!
  • That working with mission teams would not become routine and commonplace. I am praying that I can see God moving in and through each of our teams.
  • For the English Academy! It is in the solid planning phase! We are talking with nearby schools to gauge their interest in partnering with us and beginning to plan lessons and work out the logistics! GREAT NEWS! Thanks to the giving heart of one of our missionaries, we now have enough money to begin our Academy and get it off the ground and running!
  • Plans for my first trip home since moving here 14 months ago! There are many details to iron out and I am working on trusting that God already has everything figured out!
  • That we can finally finish funding equipping our Dental Clinic at the Volcano. We now have one dental station but are aiming to get a second so that we can serve not only the children in our program, but the community and the children of Soyapango as well! We have $7000 left to raise!
be cheerful no matter what // pray all the time // thank God no matter what happens.
Thankful and Blessed to Work with You,
     -Ashley

These are some of my besties at our Development Center in Soyapango!
Franklin – Dani – Karla – Kelly – Katy – Jessica

💜💜💜

Advertisements

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.

Because He Said So

ashley_blog-because-he-said-so

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!

gift_box

birthday_button

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

#GIVINGTUESDAY

ashley_blog-giving-tuesday2

Today is #GivingTuesday! Giving Tuesday is “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” You can be a part of #AshleysAmigos by supporting the people of San Salvador from the States! Since moving here, my support has dropped slightly. When I moved seven months ago, I was at 100% of my monthly goal. As of today, I am at 91%. THIS IS AMAZING!

It is my prayer that today, new people will step up to support my work in San Salvador and current supporters will increase their monthly giving! I am praying that by December 31st, I will be back at 100% to start the new year without ANY financial worries!

These are a few moments from the past seven months that I am most thankful for:

  • The feeling of excitement, uncertainty, AND certainty as the plane glided through the air from the US to El Salvador on a one-way ticket.
  • Seeing the smile on Jorge’s face as he walked into church after 50+ days in bed, completely healed from his back injury!
  • Watching a busload of kids from Guayabo experience the beach for the first time ever and watch three of them hand their lives over to Jesus as they were baptized!
  • Hearing the women of Soyapango laugh when I called a lychee fruit a “fresa con pelo” (strawberry with hair)!
  • Burning my mouth on a steaming (but SO DELICIOUS) empanada given to me by Virginia, the grandmother of Steven, one of the children at our Soyapango Development Center. Steven is only 10 years old and is already being pursued by the local gang. But he is persevering in his studies and his faith, and Virginia daily walks him through gang territory to the Center. Steven now has a special place in my heart, and I think I now have a special place in Virginia’s!

It has been friendships and moments like these that have allowed me to share Jesus’ love with the people of San Salvador. And that was just the first seven months! I am so excited to see what next year brings! Your continued and increased support will allow me to become even more effective in 2017. I will help fundraise for a new Computer and English Center at Guayabo, where doors to successful futures will be open to our students that have remained shut for years. I will help to create and lead an English Academy out of Iglesia Gran Comisión, helping the people of our church to not only have more successful careers but get connected to our church community as well. I will become a more integral part of our Mission Coordinating Team and I WILL become a translator for mission teams (#goals)!

If you feel led to begin supporting me or increasing your giving, simply go to reliant.org/ashley.arend to create/login to your account at reliant.org! Thanks to supporters like you, God has been working IN me so He can work THROUGH me to change the lives of His Salvadoran people.

AND DON’T FORGET TO TAKE AN #UNSELFIE OF YOURSELF SAYING WHY YOU SUPPORT GOD’S WORK HERE AND USE #ASHLEYSAMIGOS! 📸

#GivingTuesday + #AshleysAmigos

givingtuesday

This year’s Thanksgiving is being spent a liiiiittle differently than in years past. Rather than waking up early to cuddle with Dewey on the couch and watch the Macy’s Parade, I woke up early (at 4:30am!!) to go to the gym with Silvia. 💪🏼 Rather than warming up my stomach with Dad’s sunny-side-up eggs and bacon for breakfast, I enjoyed a typical Salvadoran breakfast of scrambled eggs, beans, and cheese. Rather than setting the table for incoming family, I’ll be meeting with our team to plan the rest of the year. And rather than devouring Dad’s homemade turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing (inside AND outside stuffing!) and my own pumpkin pies, Ali and I will be attempting to cook a few of our US Thanksgiving favorites for friends and family here. 🍗

The Tuesday after Thanksgiving, November 29th, is #GivingTuesday. Giving Tuesday is “a global day of giving fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.” Instead of scouring websites for ridiculously good deals (I was never emotionally stable enough to face the thousands of crazies IN the stores), this year, I will focus on using what I have to give back to the country I now call home. 💖

Check back here and on my Instagram over the next few days to find out how I will be giving back and how you can be a part of #AshleysAmigos, supporting the people of San Salvador from the States! 🇺🇸 🇸🇻

Daughter of Love

img_ab5e04eaa76e-1

For you are all daughters of light and daughters of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness.

1 Thessalonians 5v5

I was once told by a dear friend that I would never get over the death of my mother, I would only get used to it.

My heart longs for just one more year (anything less would have never been enough) with her. My heart aches at the thoughts of what she has missed and what she will miss.

But we are not children of darkness. Jesus was the end of our darkness. He is the end of our pain and He is the end of our suffering. We are children of light. Jesus is the light at the end of our pain. He is the light of our salvation.

I am a daughter of love. I am a daughter of laughter and a daughter of joy. From my father, I am a daughter of delicious steaks and empathy for the hurting. From my mother, I am a daughter of red wine nights on the patio and compassion for the poor and unnoticed. From the Lord, I am a daughter of unimaginable loss and undeserved forgiveness.

I am a daughter of the light and I am blessed to be a daughter of my mom.

Hug your kids and your moms today, sweet friends.

Hard + Holy Things

lapuertadeldiablo

“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

peace

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.
⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
What is propping up your mind today?