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 too, 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.
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:
My favorite movie of all time is Mary Poppins – in full color, of course! Some of you who know me might not be surprised as I love work, organization, and using wide imagination to help the “medicine go down”!
As ACE grows closer to our 30th year of presence and outreach in Jamaica, it seems the colors of ACE are not only permanent but vibrant as if it was the first day spent on this beautiful island. You read about our seasoned medical/dental teams being recognized by name from our community healthcare locations. Smiles as teeth get cleaner with less “pullings” and more “savings” through fillings and fluoride. Sugar checks and eye glasses to see better makes seeing an ACE Healthcare volunteer a happy moment in time.
This is where long term commitment pays off in the ACE world. So many volunteers leave their personal concerns and needs at home, to join other professionals in St. Mary clinics and schools. Treating, coaching, training, and praying for students, patients, mothers, and the elderly who truly need a moment of time and care — that’s what ACE Healthcare is all about.
Thank you, long-time committers, for not making ACE another “Poverty Tourism” stop in the passport book but rather a date every year with Nationals who have grown to love you for your long-term stake in their Parish and location. We, too, have something to smile about.
From Marla, Allen & The ACE Team
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?
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.