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.
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?
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.
There is no better way to begin the new year of 2017 than with a camp for the ARTS and Jamaica. One of our favorite partners, First Christian Church-Stillwater from Oklahoma, rounded up their best artists, musicians and dancers to come down and teach a fabulous arts camp.
In our rural public schools, the arts are a special commodity in the classroom. If you have ever been around Jamaican children, you will know that they have incredible gifts for dancing, singing, and creating art from nothing. Our friends from FCC-Stillwater had been planning this camp for two years where these young adults could teach our students all about “putting it together”.
Paul Jones from Cokesbury UMC in Knoxville, TN was asked to lead the team in the Music, and our own Amber came down to lead the total team in bringing it together. The goal was to give the newly-elected Mayor a concert, as well as gift for his wall made out of recycled trash found on the beaches in St. Mary. It could not have gone better.
The presentation on the last day was the highlight as both Jamaican and American youth presented the gift with dance and music to our Mayor of St. Mary, the Honorable Richard Creary.
Hey, let’s do it again next year!! I think, FCC Stillwater, you have started something great!
What a headline! We all know and love the children in our Child Sponsorship program, but did you know that our own employees love them too? Dacia one of ACE teachers just could not NOT be involved. Read her story on why she now sponsors a child….in a very real way.
How I Became a Mom
By Ms. Dacia Campbell
Imagine becoming a teacher at a new school, working your hardest and doing your best to impact students’ lives. Well, that was my exact situation in September last year. In the third grade class I taught, there was one little girl that caught my attention right off the bat. She did well with her studies, but she always came to school dirty, without any food or money. She didn’t even have a bag to take her one notebook to school. So, of course, I started to pay for her lunch and break daily, and I saw her blossom from a sad child into an excited learner.
Her mother, who has three children including her, had no means to provide what they needed, so it was a blessing for them to be sponsored. This little bit of help, however, was not enough. Her mother was in a bad place, having run away from home at an early age to live with her dad. She thought she would have better opportunities in life, but she ended up taking care of younger siblings and didn’t attend school at all. As a result, she had no source of income and no birth certificate to get a job. She was being verbally abused by her three babies’ fathers who were almost a non-existent in their children’s lives. I saw where the cycle would have continued with this little girl and I couldn’t bear to let that happen.
I developed a special relationship with the little girl, but this still didn’t change the state of my shock when one day, I was told by her mom, “Take her, no, Miss Campbell?” I thought she was joking, but she absolutely meant it. I agreed to take her home with me for a weekend. She enjoyed the time, and when she went home, she told her mom that she was going to live with me. This reminded me of the scripture in the bible that says we must be like a little child to enter God’s kingdom. She had so much faith and believed wholeheartedly that she would live with me. Of course, at the time, I was adamant that I could in no way afford to take care of a little girl’s needs and send myself back to school in Kingston. That’s what I believed.
She came home with me another weekend and that weekend stretched into eight months. I still have her and make sacrifices weekly to ensure that she has all she needs and that she is happy, confident and comfortable. My parents have become her grandparents and my brothers her uncles, and not a day passes in our house where she fails to make someone laugh with her antics. Everybody misses her when she goes home to spend time with her mom. I know God must have sent me to Mason Hall for this purpose — he must have. I sincerely pray that he continues to help me to provide the love and support that she needs for however long he allows me to be in her life. Keep us in your prayers; we certainly need it.