Happy in Honduras // April 2019

¡Hola, amigos! ¿Cómo están?
Our God has been so good to us in the last several weeks. As always, I love sharing about what is happening here with my team that helps to make it possible. Happy reading!


Vertical 2019

Praise Jesus for safe travels and an amazing time of growth at Great Commission Latin America’s (our church network) annual holy week conference, Vertical! We woke up super early on April 17th to start the eight hour drive to San Pedro Sula, Honduras and arrived in time to rest before the conference started that night. Over a thousand people from countries across Latin America came together to praise God together and share in community as GCLA as a whole. 

The theme for the conference this year was “Retro: Uniendo Generaciones” or “Retro: Uniting Generations”. The leaders that shared during the three-day conference reminded us of the importance that each age group holds in fulfilling the Great Commission. Although youth may be strong physically and have more energy and time to devote to ministry, they still lack the wisdom and experience that the older generations have gained over time (and vice-versa). That being said, every one of us has a place in God’s plan and has a responsibility to love others better and tell people about Jesus for the sake of the Kingdom.

After we got back to El Salvador, Chepe told me, “Vertical always makes me proud to be a part of GCLA”, and I totally agree! It was great to connect with friends that are serving God in their own communities and to learn more about GCLA’s history.

Moriah and Daniel (pictured below), were our road trip buddies for the week! Moriah is from Iowa and served with us in San Salvador for six months in 2017 and arrived on April 1st for another 6-8 month period. Moriah is the first missionary (other than myself) to be working with us long-term since this time last year. Through her, God has reminded me that He provides what we need, because we are definitely making good use of  her help and support!

Daniel started attending our church two years ago after Chepe and I evangelized to him at a local park with a group of missionaries from Rock City! A couple weeks after we met him, he showed up to Sunday church service and shortly afterward began serving. Chepe has been mentoring Daniel and it’s been amazing to see the ways God has worked in his life in these two years. For both Moriah and Daniel, it was their first trip to Honduras and first time at Vertical! It was great getting to share that experience with them.

Nine people of the small group that Chepe leads on Saturdays also attended the conference–that’s over half! You may remember that we sold brownies and pupusas to help raise money to alleviate the cost of the conference, and we were able to surpass our goal and raised over $350. When you put your mind to it, selling brownies at 50 cents a piece really adds up! This small group has been a huge blessing for us this year. Not only do we get to spend extra time in fellowship with some great friends, but though this group God is giving us the opportunity to see more ways that He transforms lives for His glory.

Between our churches in San Salvador and Soyapango, over 85 people made the trip to the conference! This is way more than average, so it was really exciting to see so many people taking the big step to plan and save to be able to go. Please pray that what we learned at Vertical 2019 will help to shape this year and motivate all of us to be a little bit more like Jesus every day.

I couldn’t talk about the conference without saying THANK YOU to all that show me continued support financially and in prayer! That support makes it possible for me to be a part of Vertical, GCLA and all of what God is doing to change lives in San Salvador through the local church, medical and dental clinics and Children’s Development Centers. 


 

Life Update

A couple of you have asked how/if Chepe and I getting married this year will affect my role in ministry. Well, I’m happy to clarify that my role as a missionary here will remain the same!

Chepe and I both feel strongly that God is asking us to remain in El Salvador for the time being and focus on the ministry that He has already placed us in! For me, that means continuing to serve as Missions Coordinator and Child Sponsorship Coordinator as well as assisting with international communication. Chepe will continue in his role as the leader for Sunday service production and social media and as support with mission teams and to Pastor Victor.

As part of Chepe’s expanding role in the church, he has joined my world of earning a support-based salary! This transition has allowed him to quit one of the three jobs he was previously working to serve full-time for the church. He’s been a rockstar in raising financial support (directly through GCLA), and is only $275 in monthly support away from being fully-funded! I am currently $264 in monthly support away from also being fully-funded. Please pray for us over the next couple of months as we look to close this $539 gap.

If you or someone you know are interested in giving towards this deficit, please email me at ali.howard12@gmail.com or Chepe at avarela211@gmail.com for more information! 

After reaching 100%, we will create a new support budget and raise additional support that will be needed once we start our new life together (with increased expenses) in October. We aren’t sure how much that will be, but hope to have a better idea soon when we start looking for an apartment. This will be the first experience for both of us in looking for housing in El Salvador because he has always lived with family and I’ve always lived with the Turcios family. With that in mind, please pray for God to bring peace to us in this process and that we would be sensitive to His leading in where he wants us to live. 


 

I can’t imagine what this life would look like without God’s plan in bringing me to serve Him in San Salvador and without each one of my supporters that got me here and help to keep me here.

Bendiciones,
Ali

Prayer Requests

  • For what we learned at Vertical to become habit as we strive to love better and live more intentionally for God’s glory each day
  • For God to close the $539 gap in recurring, monthly support towards our salaries
  • For peace and wisdom as we start making plans for married life! This includes where to live, creating our new budget and growing in our relationship with Christ as we grow closer to each other

Long Time No Talk! // March 2019

First of all, I’d like to apologize for skipping my February update! I had quite a few things catch up with me at the end of the month, but that just means this update will be fuller than usual! Thank you for your patience.


Mission Teams Update

I’ve loved getting back into missions season! We hosted an exploratory team from NorthRock church in Ann Arbor, Michigan who will be sending their first missions team ever to us later this year. It was great meeting them and of course we love sharing our passion for what God is doing here in San Salvador. 

[ NorthRock exploratory team getting in on the pupusa-making action! ]

Rock City Church in Columbus, Ohio sent the first team of the year just last week! It was such a breath of fresh air seeing old friends and meeting more people from my home church. In both Children’s Development Centers in Soyapango and the Volcano, the team built beds for children that have never had their own bed, shared the gospel with many, and gave new shoes to every child and staff member in our program–over 250 pairs of shoes!

Apart from all the extra help they bring with them, my favorite thing about mission teams is that they remind me of the “why”. By telling them my story and the story of the ministry here, God’s calling for me to continue serving here is reaffirmed and it helps me to reset my mindset when lots of tasks may sometimes distract me from the purposeof completing them.

Enjoy the pictures below and click on the link to see a recap video of their week serving with us–one of Chepe’s main responsibilities with mission teams.

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Rock City Team Recap Video!

Over the next few months, my main focus as Missions Coordinator will be to prep for the other seven teams we will be hosting by the end of the year! Please pray for wisdom as we look to plan out the teams’ agendas according to God’s will.


Child Sponsorship Update

As Child Sponsorship Coordinator, I’m in charge of keeping updated rosters for our Centers, which change at the beginning of each year. So, I’ve spent lots of computer time making sure to update all of our kids’ data as well as add all of our new children to the list. For all new children, I needed to make their profiles to send out to potential sponsors and to update our website. 

Take a look at all the children currently in need of a sponsor HERE as well as read more about our program. Would you join us in praying that God would provide sponsors for these children? A deficit in sponsorship means we aren’t able to serve these children as well as we would like, and we don’t have a lot of room to provide for extra or emergency needs. So, we are trusting God to make up the difference since we know He was the one to bring these specific kids to us!

[ with some of our little ones at the Volcano Center, many of whom are without a sponsor ]

Over the next couple of months, my main goals for the Sponsorship Program are:

  • promote sponsorship to help decrease the current Sponsorship deficit
  • send out the first of two yearly, individual child reports to sponsors (a project which in the past has taken at a least a month to complete)
  • continue to follow-up with children that have stopped attending the Center after the holidays to keep rosters updated

Holy Week Prep

Every year, members from all GCLA churches across Latin America come together in San Pedro Sula, Honduras for a three-day conference. Taking advantage that most of Latin America has all of Holy Week as a national holiday, GCLA uses it as a time to connect those from different countries but all with the same passion for Jesus. This year, we will be heading to San Pedro Sula from April 17-20th to participate. We’re expecting over 50 people from our churches here in San Salvador and Soyapango to join us! 

Our youth small group (that Chepe has been leading since January), has been selling brownies and hosted a pupusa dinner to help cover part of the cost for those attending from our group. My contribution has been making over 20 batches of brownies! With seven people from our group attending, we’ve already hit our goal of raising enough to cover transportation costs! Praise the Lord!

[ one of many, many days of baking ]

Cultural Spotlight: Presidential Elections 2019

In early February, El Salvador elected a new president – Nayib Bukele. Nayib was an unexpected and polarizing figure in the race, and members of our church have varying opinions about who was the most qualified candidate. Because of the volatile nature of recent elections in Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua, etc.), there was some concern that similar riots or fraud could take place here. Praise the Lord that nothing like that occurred!

Personally, I stay out of political discussions here because regardless of who is in charge of the government, my mission and purpose for being here remain the same. Despite that, I  pray that the Lord would find ways to bend Nayib’s ear to His voice and that new ideas would ultimately improve the economic and international status of El Salvador. 

Would you join me in praying for El Salvador’s leaders, economy and relationship with the international community–especially with the United States? Gracias!

[ Nayib speaking with US Ambassador to El Salvador, Jean Manes, shorting after the election ]

Thank you!

Chepe and I wanted to thank all of you for your kind words and well wishes in this new season of being engaged. We are loving this stage of life and are so excited about our wedding this fall!

We are so fortunate to have this opportunity to continue serving the local church here and advancing the gospel in San Salvador in the years to come! Please pray for us as we prepare our hearts for marriage and that we would always stay sensitive to His leading.

Your support is essential to making this possible and we thank God for you daily!

Bendiciones mil,
Ali


 

Prayer Requests

  • For wisdom and discernment as I work to plan logistics for the seven mission teams we will host by the end of this year
  • For creativity and diligence in promoting Child Sponsorship in 2019
  • For safety and open minds as we travel to GCLA’s holy week conference, “Vertical” April 17-20 in San Pedro Sula, Honduras
  • For Chepe and I to find balance in our schedules as we continue to serve full-time in ministry, prepare for marriage and plan our wedding!

The One Where She Gets Engaged // January 2019

Hi!
It’s easy for me to say that January has been one of the greatest months of my 
life. There’s a lot to cover so, happy reading!

We’re Engaged!

I have been dating José for a little over a year, though many of you know him as “Chepe” (che-pay). Chepe is a nickname for José and what most people in our church call him, so it stuck with me early on! We met back in December 2014 when I was visiting El Salvador on an exploratory trip to confirm God’s calling for me to move here. We attended the same Christmas dinner party and exchanged a “nice to meet you” hug and a kiss on the cheek (customary for Salvadoran culture). I estimate we only spoke about two actual words to each other that night. We moved from acquaintances to friends when I was serving here as a volunteer over summer 2015, and I had more opportunities to bond with the youth of our church. 

A few months after my move to San Salvador, we realized that our friendship was growing into something more and sought advice from our family and pastors. This was a crazy time for me, as I was adjusting to a new job, culture, and home life all at the same time. We decided to only be friends for the year of 2017 and intentionally seek the Lord in that time. We (finally) began dating in December 2017, and soon after realized that we were going to be in it for the long haul.

After thirteen months of dating (which included visits from my family to San Salvador), Chepe began planning the perfect way to make it official. I was whisked away to a surprise location and taken up to a private terrace with a beautiful view of the city surrounded by volcanoes. Chepe gave a sweet speech (which I can’t actually remember any of), got on a one knee, and asked me to marry him! I can’t remember saying “yes” in all the excitement but he assured me that I was nodding emphatically. We celebrated with a private dinner on the terrace, watching the sunset and calling family and friends to share the news!


A Little About Chepe

My absolute favorite thing about Chepe is how he loves Jesus and uses his life to serve our God. He was born here in El Salvador has been a member of Great Commission Church since 2002, serving in the worship ministry and as a youth leader. He went on staff with our church in late 2017 – so we’re coworkers too! His main roles are managing our social media presence and overseeing production of Sunday services. He also helps me out a lot during the weeks that mission teams are here. I love when our roles in ministry overlap and I get to see his heart for the kids I love so much grow at the same time. 


Ministry Update

This month has also been full of ministry activity! After returning from my furlough on December 28th, I got to enjoy New Year’s with my Salvadoran family while planning out my goals for 2019. Last week, we hosted a visit from our partners, Total Health, that support our medical clinics in the Volcano and Soyapango. Our Children’s Centers also opened up for the year this week! For me, this means a lot of admin work as I need to verify that all of our kids officially register for the program and update any profiles needed. We always get a lot of brand-new kids at the beginning of the year too! Below is a sneak peek of a few absolutely adorable newbies that will be joining us this year. Will you join us in praying for all of our kids as they begin the school year and work back into a routine?

    

No matter how near or far you are from me, you guys are essential to my ministry work here in El Salvador. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement!

Bendiciones,
Ali

Prayer Requests

  • For Chepe and I. That we would savor this season of engagement and press into God’s guidance to make wise decisions about wedding plans, finding a home, etc. 
  • For 2019 mission teams. As I work more and more on the details, please pray that God would be present in that entire process. Also, pray for the hearts of the missionaries that are preparing to serve alongside us this year. 
  • For our children at the Development Centers. Please pray for motivation to start the school year out strongly and, as always, for their safety while living in these high-risk areas. 

A Year in Review

Hey, fam!
We’re ten days into the new year, and like many I’ve taken 
some time to reflect on all that I experienced in 2018. As you guys are a vital part of what God is doing in San Salvador, I wanted to share my thoughts with you. Happy reading!

This Time Last Year...

…I was walking into a season of transition in my roles here in ministry. Coming off of a year of teaching English and promoting child sponsorship, I was tasked with a big responsibility as Missions Team Coordinator. This meant I would no longer be able to teach and would instead focus on mission teams while I continued on as Child Sponsorship Coordinator.

I met this change with mixed emotions including excitement, apprehension and a few insecurities as well. I was hoping that God would take over the process but at the same time I doubted my capability to master this new title. Learning things little by little, the Lord reminded my heart about what my head has known all along: this is His.

This life I live, this role I play, these people we serve; it’s all His. He wasn’t expecting me to be the best at something I’ve never done before (and thankfully no one else did, either). Oh how incredible it is that He equips “you with everything good to do his will, working in us what is pleasing in his sight”. (Hebrews 13:21, CSB)

I’m so grateful for all that He’s taught me through this transition and through all the familiar faces and new friends that visited us this year. And now, with nine mission teams totaling 158 missionaries under my belt, I pray that God will continue to impact the lives of so many in San Salvador through the ministry I have the privilege to be a part of. 

 

 

This Time Next Year…

…I hope to have made a greater eternal difference. My physical life here on earth is but a blip on the radar that is spiritual eternity. Reminding myself of that as I walk into 2019, I want to make the most out of the time God gives me to serve in San Salvador. I ask that He teaches me to love better, learn more and live boldly for His glory this year.

He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also
put eternity in their hearts, but no one can discover
the work God has done from beginning to end.

Ecclesiastes 3:11 (CSB)

Let’s give God the space to make 2019 one for the books!

Bendiciones,
Ali

Got a ten? // November 2018

Got a ten? Help me stay in San Salvador ministering to children and families in poverty!

It may seem like an exaggeration, but 10 dollars will make a huge difference for my ministry in San Salvador…
 
As my partner in ministry, we’ve had the joy of journeying together over the last two years. We’ve seen young girls like Nelly, who felt forgotten by society, come to understand that God loves her, knows her and has a wonderful plan for her life. We’ve seen unwed mothers like Claudia find hope through Jesus because of her child’s involvement at our Children’s Centers. All of a sudden, this work that I came here to do has been transformed by God into something important in the community which reaffirms that I need to continue.

But, in order for me to continue here in San Salvador, our Lord needs to provide $600 in new monthly support.
While looking over my list of faithful ministry partners, I realized something incredible! I have 60 financial partners who have continued to faithfully be a part of this ministry.

That’s easy math! 

If each partner increased their giving by $10 monthly, I would be fully funded and free to continue ministering. That’s right, I need $10 in order to stay in San Salvador and continue serving the church and Children’s Development Centers. Would you take a moment right now to prayerfully consider increasing your partnership by just $10 a month?

How?

All you need to do is send one quick email.

Email gift.services@reliant.org with your name and that you would like to increase your monthly giving for Ali Howard to the amount you choose.

That’s it! – You’re done!

Is a phone call easier?
You can call Reliant Gift Services at 877-614-4600 to make any changes over the phone with the Reliant office Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm, EDT.

Not a financial partner?  I could still use your help! Would you consider partnering with me at $10/month or more? You can set up a recurring gift by visiting reliant.org/ali.howard and selecting “Give Now” or by calling Reliant Gift Services at the number above.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for choosing to be a part of what God is doing in San Salvador. You are making an eternal difference!

 

Bendiciones mil,
Ali