School is now in session in Jamaica. Our tailors who set up their machines in the open air and on street corners have finally gotten a breather. ACE students look bright and cheery as they walk to school with their new book bags in their school uniforms.
With 223 students sponsored by our generous donors, it’s very easy to smile these days knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of these young ones and their families. They may not all get to the educational levels we strive for here in America, but we will however meet the goals of instilling hope and the fact that someone loves them and cares about their family and needs. People in our area know how to manage with very little. They make a go of things with what they have. This coming year, ACE will be focusing on extending that hope to a deeper level per household. The ground team has completed extensive visits to each child’s home to update our files and familiarize ourselves with the situations at home. It’s been exhilarating.
I was reading an article recently by Andy Bannister about what does it mean to be human. As we move forward into our pruning winter months with ACE, Andy lists five things the Bible tells us about this topic.
- The Bible tells us that human beings are designed primary for relationships.
- Human beings have incredible value and dignity
- The dignity God bestowed on us extends to choice. There are real, meaningful choices to be made and the choices we make have consequences.
- The Bible tells us that there is such a thing as love, and that love is ultimately defined by the character of the God who created us.
- The Bible tells us that there is a big story. And that big story is ultimately a love story, a story of how the Creator God reaches toward each one of us, with our hang-ups and our fears.
Our goal for our friends and loved ones we serve in Jamaica is important in all these areas: as Bono of U2 put it, “the goal is soul”.
If you want to get more involved with our ACE vision, please call us, write us, email us, text us. We have a place for you to serve and make a difference in the lives of our friends in St. Mary.
If any of you love growing roses, you will know that it’s not an easy task. When you purchase the rose plant, it’s most of the time a green stick with a thorn or two sticking out.
Over time, the gardener fertilizers it with special fertilizer made just for roses. If all goes well – the sun shines, the rains come, and the gardener doesn’t lose interest – within a short time, the fragile flowers appear, bringing fragrance and beauty to all who pass.
Professionals will tell you that the best time to prune back roses is shortly after the plant blooms its fullest. By cutting back the top part, the base of the plant is allowed to grow stronger so it can produce more flowers and grow resistant to many diseases.
With all this back-breaking labor, it is easy to be tempted towards finding an easier way. As for ACE, we have been growing roses for many years in Jamaica. Our beautiful roses have names and faces, however, and represent the very essence of what all of us strive for in ministry.
ACE has enjoyed being a part of nurturing Dacia and Tracey and watching them bloom in the garden of life. These two ladies have served with ACE in our Educational Department for years. Tutoring our children, overseeing our Quiz Bowl between schools, helping write those thank-you letters, and most of all showing their love to all who come to serve with us as well as to their students.
The sign of a true teacher is the passion to have one’s own classroom of influence. Tracey and Dacia have left us to have their own classrooms of primary students, one in Ochi, the other in Kingston. We thank Tracey and Dacia for being part of ACE, for being the beautiful roses who have provided us so much joy.
We recently enjoyed a going-away party where, as usual, we all had chicken and rice cooked by our staff. Will we see them again? You betcha. When school is in break sessions, they promise to come by ACE and continue to be connected to our larger vision of “changing lives and transforming communities”.
Anyone ever get a yearbook at the end of their senior year of high school? You know the ones that have at least one picture of every senior in there doing something wonderful so you have to order the book for memory’s sake? Then, just a few weeks before graduation, you receive the book, and everyone you even slightly like, including teachers, is asked to sign your book.
When you go back to look at what people write, there seems to be this common theme penetrating the pages by your picture: “Gone, but not forgotten”, “I’ll never forget you” and “It was nice knowing you!”
That’s not exactly how ACE felt this month as we dropped our 2017 iQuest interns off at the airport. Instead, we took it to the next level. It was something along the lines of “ We already miss you and can’t forget you…and we want to see you back in Jamaica soon!!”
Yes, it’s true: this year’s iQuest Team had to be one of the best group of young adults we’ve had in a long time. In addition, they were joined by two high school students in our 4-S program who had been ACE Child Sponsorship students since fifth grade, and one of Pastor Watson’s young men. Our iQuest 2018 and 4-S program will begin taking applications starting September 1st. ACE would love to see some of you consider spending the summer with us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to apply.
Thank you to all the leaders, teachers and trainers who flew down for a week of investment with our student/adults. At the end of the summer, it’s these programs that thrill our hearts and continually remind us of our slogan we’ve had for years: ACE is truly “changing lives and transforming communities”.
If ACE had a summer yearbook to sign, I think it would read more like: “Gone for a season, but back for a lifetime” Go ACE!!!
Many of our regular readers know that Pastor Kermit Jones lost his bride of 58 years last November. It was a shock to all of us as Gloria’s departure was sudden. Since that time, Pastor had struggled with the sudden empty space in his life.
About the same time, Orlando – who has been one of the “outside” children with ACE for 13 years – was hitting a low in his life, looking for direction. If you recall, Orlando was the recipient of a loan for his first cow click here to see the story. While Orlando paid off his loan and now has seven cows, there was an emptiness in his life as he made choices in his lifestyle that seemed to be right choices but isolated him from the friendships that were going a different way.
ACE, seeing the need in both men’s lives, decided to branch out and hire Orlando four days a week to become Pastor Kermit’s driver and assistant. Speeding forward four months, Orlando is now the grandson Pastor Kermit never had and Pastor Kermit, the grandfather Orlando always wanted.
This Saturday, ACE was invited to attend a birthday party for Orlando given by Pastor Kermit. Orlando turned 21. What a party! There was dancing, singing, lots of food, and, of course, big story telling – all in the carport of the house where now Orlando and Pastor Kermit live. Yes, the two are inseparable. Orlando has his own bedroom and cooks for Pastor, while Pastor helps Orlando improve his reading and writing skills. Orlando is a great driver while Pastor Kermit is a great talker… and ACE is so happy to see God taking care of two of our favorite men.
Thank you, partners, for providing this type of investment into the lives of two great men who take care of each other. What goes around comes around, as they say in Jamaica. We will keep you updated as Katie and Pastor Kermit continue to build relationships through the health clinics.
Many of you have already met the 2017 iQuest interns at Galina Breeze this summer. For many decades now, ACE has had a program designed for young adults right out of high school through age 25 to come live and learn about leadership in a hands-on way.
This year however, we were so excited to introduce a new program that blends with the iQuest internship, called the 4S program (Second Story Summer Series). This program consists of our Jamaican National young adults who have come up through the ACE student sponsorship program in our primary schools.
Leadership is such an important tool for individuals to possess going into the world, whether it’s work life, church life, or home life, so ACE wants to equip all of the young Nationals and Americans to face the many challenges of life moving out of school.
For approximately 75 days, we have been fortunate to get to know seven of the most outstanding students in many years. We decided to show you pictures of them in their element. Thank you, Austin, Alvana, Audrey, Hannah, Tajeb, Mallory, and Michael.
Summer is here, and we have started our field trips each week with the infirmary residents to the Galina Breeze Pool for physical therapy. This is always a spectacular day for everyone. I had no idea how cherished it was until recently, when we were painting the outside of the men’s ward at the Centre. Christopher, who some of you may know, asked if he could help. With some hesitation, he was given a paint brush and a little paint.
Before long, several other residents joined him in their request to paint. Soon, we were looking like salt and pepper hitting a massive wall of color. It was hard work but fun as we saw so many of our golden children participating in painting “their” wall. At the end of the day, we were all covered in paint.
That’s when Christopher handed me this simple note, as I was leaving for the hotel: “Thank you for the field trip.” At first, I thought it was the pool therapy he was referring to, but he had not been to the pool yet this year. That’s when I realized that, sometimes, field trips can be right in the yard of the infirmary. It was actually his day of painting on his wall that broke up the monotony of the day, and fresh purpose was created. It made me smile and enjoy the moment of play.
Yes, summer has begun – come play with us at ACE! It brings out the kid in you again and certainly gives all our golden children at the infirmary purpose.
Marla and Allen
This week, Dr. Marie, a Board Member for ACE, gave her time and talent to begin the basic teaching structure for our new school. Everything starts with a vision of what can happen when great minds come together. These stickies are a picture of what the beginning of needs look like for our new school. Don’t strain your eyes, as we will be publishing a list of those needs for the school so it will be more readable. Pray that we get the land we have our eye on adjacent to the Campus that ACE desperately needs.
I have learned a lot of things while being down here, but one of the main things is to embrace the Martha persona instead of Mary. In Luke 10, Jesus goes to Martha’s house where she quickly tries to do things for him, while Mary sits at his feet and talks. Martha asks Jesus to tell Mary to help him and instead Jesus says “Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42, NASB). This is such a great explanation of my time in Jamaica. I am a doer; I like to stay busy and help wherever I can. The most impact, however, is not the physical things I did, but instead the friendships and times I have been able to get to know people. I have been able to see relationships grow, myself grow, and other people grow, Jamaicans and teams alike.
We have a group from Ohio State University that has come down for the past two years, led by a past intern. This is a business fraternity and a mix of people. They may not all be believers, but they all are hard workers and have a servant’s heart. They came down this past March and worked super hard with two full days of construction and an infirmary field trip, but they loved every minute of it. The awesome part was not just the work that they did, but also the work God was doing with and through them. They had about six people return from the previous year and you could visibly see the work God was doing in them. It was such a blessing and awesome experience to sit with them and talk about what God is doing in their lives and how he is opening their eyes. It also made me realize that while not all of our teams are believers, they have an impact on the community and even better God can be seen in what we are doing. Isn’t that what we are all meant to do? Allow others to see Christ through us and bring people into the kingdom of God.
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.