Allen and I just came from Dayton, Ohio, where we had the opportunity to share in the celebration of life of a wonderful woman with her family we consider to be our family and many friends.
I mention this because, you see, we only got to meet Chris Guy during her fight with cancer, to which she ultimately succumbed. Most of you, by the time you reach middle age, probably will witness the transition of friends and family that seemed to be taken too early in life.
While we were honored to get to spend the day after the celebration at the Guy home, with Steve Guy and his incredible family of eight children, their spouses, grandchildren and other relatives, I realized that it’s the relationships we’ve been given during our lifetime that really matter at the end of the day.
On the way home from our friends funeral, Allen and I watched a movie called Collateral Beauty with Will Smith. One of the lines in the movie was about a woman who never had any children of her own, but the words spoken to her from a coworker reminded me of a truth. “A person might not have come out of you, but many people have passed through you.” Wow, that sort of sounds like me and this ministry! I’ve been honored to have cultivated so many wonderful relationships over the years, and the number grows with each new team that comes down, but, sometimes, I forget the finer points of relationship-building.
This past month, as ACE volunteers experienced our first thrift sale of the year, many teenagers and adults saw Marla “blow a fuse”. It wasn’t dignified for me or anyone else watching. You see, I, too, get overwhelmed and tired and, well, just fleshy at some of the worst times. This was one of those times.
As I snapped out orders to these young excited adults, I realized too late how I had bruised their perception of me, this person God had put in charge of ACE. At the end of the day – and many people later – the entire day was a huge success for all of us. But not because of me.
That night, when I was invited to attend the group debrief, I sat and listened to what God was doing all week. And none of it was about me. Instead, it was about giving until it hurt, sharing until it felt comfortable, serving because no one else would do it. The impact went on and on. In fact, none of my bad behavior had tainted the acts that God had done during that day. His hand gently touched the hearts of each person in that meeting that week. Including mine.
I was reminded again that God doesn’t make mistakes, only His followers do. It’s not so much the mistakes you make in life but how quickly you recover from them that counts. That’s what I tell my interns and staff all the time, but I sometimes forget that myself. I was awed by the love this faithful group had expressed to me and by all that God is doing at ACE in Jamaica. It was that Grace card again. I felt very humbled and asked God to forgive me (again).
Thank you, God, for a great reminder that it’s not so much what comes out of us in way of production all the time but rather what flows through us daily – minute by minute – that reflects God’s kindness and mercy. Next time, I’ll be better because of You.
I’ve been blessed to work as the Stateside Logistics Coordinator for ACE for nearly two years, come August. Until February, every trip I’ve made to Jamaica so far has been more work-related, not with a team from beginning to end, so I was grateful to have a chance to come to the Men and Women’s Conference. There, the most extraordinary people came together to share four days of hard work, laughter and God’s blessings.
I was especially impressed with the lone teenager who came with her mom, surrounding herself with a sea of adult strangers and never blinking an eye. She was my daughter’s age, and, from the first day, I kicked myself for not having pulled my daughter out of school to experience this with me, knowing now that she would have had a friend. Every day that I watched this teen interact with school children or help on a task, I thought, “I wish my daughter were here.” Still, there was work to be done and no time for regrets.
As we came together on Sunday at church, I was pleased to hear the pastor give a shout out to ACE, telling the congregation about our wonderful conference that was to start that evening. It was a great moment when he asked Paul Jones, a member of our team, to lead everyone in song. It was a song I had never heard before, and it touched me deeply. Hearing the crowd sing along with him in unison, I truly could feel the Spirit of the Lord in the room. That moment stayed with me all week. Even better, each night at the conference when Paul led the crowd in praise and worship, that song was requested and sung, so I heard it every day.
After four days of breaking out of my comfort zone, leading small groups of local Jamaican women in discussion and prayer, hugging tons of people, and working hard with the team, I came home around midnight, exhausted and filled with peace. I said a quick hello to my daughter, who had stayed up to greet me. I told her she would have loved it, that I wished she’d had been there. She said, “I want to go next time! And you can tell me all about it tomorrow.” It was too late to go into details, so I wished her good night.
The chaos of the next morning brought no time for stories, and she rushed out past me with a “Love you, Mom! Glad you’re home! Gotta go!” on her way to school. Once she arrived, she texted me: “Sorry to rush out this morning. Talk later. By the way, I heard a song on Sunday that I loved! I thought you might like it, too. I’ve listened to it all week.” She texted me a link to a video.
You guessed it – it was the same song Paul had sung to the congregation on Sunday, the same song I’d heard all week on my head and at the conference every evening. She had been connected all along. God made sure of that. I had to take a deep breath at the wonder of it all.
Now that might seem like the end of the story, but as you know, God connects us in more ways than one. Bear with me, there’s more….
My mom had been sick and in a nursing home for the last seven years. Visits were often rushed, but I tried to slow down a bit and really have conversations with her about what’s happening outside her four walls. Her side of the conversation was usually about how sick she felt and what she wanted me to bring her from the grocery. It had been a hard mother-daughter relationship, but it was ours, and we had that unspoken love for each other.
Shortly after I returned from the Men and Women’s Conference, I visited her to tell her about my trip. I was especially excited to tell her about my God-wink (that is a term for coincidences guided by God) with my daughter and that song. She was amazed and smiled widely as I told her, and she immediately wanted to hear the song. I pulled up the link and, together, we watched the eight-minute video.
She didn’t say a word the whole time; I wasn’t sure she’d even watch the whole thing, but she did. She held my phone intently and let the song fill her room. When it was finished, she had tears in her eyes. I felt compelled to grab her hands and say, “You know God is here with you. I know it’s been hard.” And we prayed together, mother and daughter, for the first time that I can remember. We prayed for healing and for peace. That was not a normal thing for us to do out loud, but it felt right to spend a moment with each other, in God’s grace, knowing that He was holding us both.
I only had one more visit with my mom after that. On Holy Thursday, two weeks ago, she passed away unexpectedly.
My experience with ACE, my time at the conference, my interaction with my daughter, my attachment to a song… that became my finest moment with my mother, when we could hold hands and let God connect it all together. I am grateful for each and every coincidence that happens, every God-wink that brings my life meaning. The Spirit of the Lord will always connect the dots for us if we let Him.
This spring break was a good one for ACE. We had so many new volunteers that came with a fresh perspective of what we are all about. The last group that left us was one of our oldest, dearest partners at ACE: Mountain Lake Church. While we have so many partners that are precious to us, there is something special about the generations of people that flow through this church to serve ACE. You see, it all started with one person thirteen years ago wanting to expose his group to another culture. While that man is still in ministry, he has long left MLC and the original group that came is more than likely spread all over the States doing what they feel called to do, but this partner church keeps sending their best young people to serve with our ministry, thank the Lord!
Here is a great video showcasing God working through them:
Have you ever just not known what to do in a circumstance? We’ve all been there. Whether it’s choosing the right job, working out those difficult relationships that just don’t make sense, or perhaps choosing the right mate, whatever the situation — if you live long enough — a time will come where you don’t have the answers you need.
That’s where our need for God comes in. The Bible says that out of all the things that King Solomon could have asked God for, he asked him for Wisdom (I Kings 3:5-10). And wisdom is what God gave Solomon. The history books have King Solomon as the wisest and richest man to ever live on the earth, and that alone is worth reading his books Song of Solomon, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. However, reading Ecclesiastes can be depressing as Solomon seems to have done it all, experienced it all, and yet comes up empty. How can that be? Isn’t the “spice” of life filling enough? The experience of success, having multiple choices, being one’s own self — isn’t that what life is about?
According to Pastors Helen and George and the original men who began the Men and Women’s conference in 2008 in Jamaica with ACE, it’s empty without the supernatural wisdom of God interacting in and through us. This year’s conference was no exception. From a humble beginning in a rural church in St. Mary of six men to, this year, over 150 locals driving, walking, and taking taxis, this year’s event was magnificent. Thank you, Americans and Jamaicans, for giving tirelessly to the success of all three nights at the conference.
If you have never experienced the four-day Men & Women’s conference in February at Galina Breeze Hotel each year, it’s time you marked your calendar for this event. Every time, our understanding grows more and more as to why we were created and what our purpose is in this life. Except, our time together is always too short and fast. How about a whole week next year?
Anyone who has ever been to Jamaica with ACE knows real quick that Marla and the staff love animals almost as much as people. “After all,” Marla says, “they are God’s creation too.”
Currently, ACE owns ten dogs and a cat. All are rescued and were on their last legs, so to speak. Then there are the “outside” families of animals…. like Shelli Ann’s dogs. We have a Jamaican vet here who is giving us great discounts to neuter and spade our furry friends, but it’s still expensive. The costs to neuter these animals cost about $100US for everything: meds, surgery, and follow up. Doc Moses comes to our campus and performs the surgery right there.
A few weeks ago someone threw hot water on ACER at the office. We nurtured her for weeks. Aloe was the trick… and prayers. Today, her fur is growing back and the scars are not as bad as we thought they would be. I don’t know about you, but I pray for our pets. God and aloe have ACER where she is today.
Would you like to sponsor an animal? That’s not to take away from our children, but we can help our furry friends, too. If you’d like to donate to a fund we have set up for the animal bills, just PayPal us or send a donation to ACE and mark it “Animal Bills”. Our bills are around $1000US currently and it would be nice to know we can keep our dogs (and cat!) around . Thank you all for allowing me to be candid about animals. I know some of you are big dog lovers like we are. Normally, it’s all about the people. It’s just that, this time, these little ones seem be taking a beating in the community, and it’s hard not to intervene when they look up at us with such love.
Last November, the ACE Board of Directors met for our annual Board meeting in Jamaica. During that time, ACE was notified of what we would consider a critical desperate situation happening to one of our sponsored children in the Mason Hall community. The situation was worse than expected. Everyone, including the dogs, was starving, no food, no water, no place to live. Two children, ages three and six, live with a mother who is terminally ill.
Many of our Board Members were so moved by what was happening that several of us committed individual funds to get immediate shelter for Shelli Ann and her family. As we began, we didn’t have the full funding to complete the house, but we had volunteers coming down that would give us a day. Our construction team, lead by Foster, worked daily to get Shelli and her family under shelter. We even hauled water to the top of this hill to fill up barrels of water for them to cook, clean, and live.
Today, thanks to everyone who made this a priority, Shelli Ann and her children have a home. Well, not just a home, but a safe place, a bathroom to be completed by March using our recycled toilets and sinks from the hotel. Did I mention we are feeding her dogs and hoping to get them spayed? The family was seen last week by our doctors and dentists. They are not yet up to par for perfect health, but they are safe. Thank you to everyone for joining into this commitment to keep a woman and her children safe and well.
For those of you who get up in the morning to go to the bathroom and feel every creak in your bones popping, here’s a story that will make you stand a little bit straighter…
Pastor Kermit Jones, our 82-year-old friend and neighbor, saw his wife, Gloria, graduate about a month ago to Heaven. Since that departure, it would be safe to say that Kermit has experienced loss that you can’t imagine unless you’ve lost your best friend of 58 years who was always beside you.
As he and I were sitting outside the jerk center one afternoon talking about life, it occurred to me that there is never any mention in the Bible about retirement for workers who age in this world.
Fast forward: Pastor Kermit reported to work last Wednesday to help assist in the Prayer Room at the Clinics with our Healthcare team lead by Dr. Steve Guy. As the team arrived back at the hotel one evening, Pastor Kermit all but leaped out of the bus and came walking over to me with a big smile. When asked how his day went, he just said, “Thank you. I need to do what I’ve been called to do….serve”.
Pray for Pastor Kermit, as he will be working for ACE two days a week and staying at the hotel the one night. If you would like to sponsor Pastor Kermit (he doesn’t know this) with your financial support, ACE would appreciate it as it’s not in our budget. It comes out to be $300US a month. He’s worth the investment as he has invested in many lives over the past 70 years. We want to support him until he graduates to be with his bride, Gloria.
Remember our little Amber who arrived ten years ago in Jamaica for her first mission trip with ACE?
Most of you know the story: she came with her church from Ohio, wide-eyed and ready to discover God’s best for her life. Amber served in Jamaica with ACE for five years before returning to the states to finish her degree in Christian Leadership and Management. Moving to Atlanta, GA, was a big change. From the simplicity of country life in Jamaica to fast-paced city living in Atlanta, Amber has now been in the states for almost two years. She will tell you in her own words, “It’s been a big challenge readjusting to middle-class American culture after serving a rural community in St. Mary. But looking back, I see God’s hand guiding me along the way and preparing me to fulfill a greater purpose. ACE was a good launching pad for me, and I am truly grateful for all the life lessons, support, and love that flowed out of this ministry. Plus, Jamaica driving was merely training ground for me to handle Atlanta traffic.”
While serving with ACE two days a week in administration, Amber is also working with another non-profit, Blake’s House of Independence, as the Creative Skills Developer. Amber helps to oversee Dreams@Work, which is an innovative, groundbreaking project helping people with special needs define, create and manage micro-businesses to generate income for their livelihood, fulfilling their purpose and ultimately providing them independence. Amber is now living out her vision that she once struggled to discover, while utilizing many skills that God used ACE to teach her.
For all you who have supported Amber through ACE, please know that your prayers and financial support hasn’t gone unnoticed or unappreciated. You have invested in a woman who is investing in Kingdom business. As Amber moves into other areas of ministry, we would like to challenge you to consider shifting your support from Amber to another employee in Jamaica who could use the step up. Please contact our office for more info. Our Jamaican staff at ACE – Lecepth, Dacia, Tracey, Saskia, Foster, Mr. Matthews, Katie, Myers, Lorna – all send their love.
Did you ever hear the sentence, “Wow, the time flies by…”. Now I know why – because it does! It’s 2017, and we are all very excited to see what God will do not only in the US but in our country here in Jamaica. As I sat watching the inaugural, the peaceful transfer of power from one president to the next, I found myself still in awe over the process.
It doesn’t matter who you voted for at this point. What matters is that we recognize we are a blessed nation under God and come together in unity. The whole world is watching us to see if we will pull together or be divided. I have been in Jamaica many years when elections were held. Some were better than others, but everyone knew not to go out the day of elections or that night. It wasn’t safe. We all did what we were told and things settled down.
What an example we as Americans set for the world. As we move forward into what we all agree will be change, let’s not forget that all of the world will be watching us. Strive together and serve together in 2017. It all matters.
Hope to see you on the island this year. We need you and appreciate you so much.
Marla & Allen
While the art camp was going on in Galina, a special project was being created with more garbage and trash and whatnot from the shores of our beaches in St. Mary. On the first day, the youth and volunteers went out to the beach in Port Maria to collect what would turn out to be a beautiful art piece for the Infirmary garden.
It’s amazing how plastic, board, glass and all those things that are thrown into the sea can actually be crafted and magically turned into art. With a small presentation, the arbor was placed gently in the infirmary garden for all to see and enjoy. Even Alrick thought it was something worthy of getting his picture taken with.
Sometimes, the simplest things make the greatest gifts.