ACE enjoyed a wonderful spring break with our volunteers. We so appreciate individuals taking time out of their lives in the U.S. to give back to Jamaica. As much fun as we have with teams, it is a lot of work, so two weeks ago on a Friday, we surprised our National ACE staff with an outing to a beach that no one had visited before.
Jamaicans enjoy the beach differently than most Americans. I know my first order of business is to always scope out the best place to get my lounge chair situated. Then I look for the closest snack bar and find some place where the waiter comes to me versus me parading around the pool to get a drink (do I sound middle class?).
Not our ACE team – they went straight for the tables in the shade and set up their dominoes and got two teams going. Then the girls walked around and took pictures of themselves and tested the pool. No one went in the ocean. Arlene and I loved it… just watching everyone have fun and do nothing. For those of you who forget to celebrate events no matter how small, just find a Jamaican to relax with for a day and you will enjoy even the little moments. Our staff definitely deserved a day of rest in anticipation of seeing all your smiling faces this summer.
We will be thinking of you all as we celebrate this beautiful Easter season. I am a lover of painted eggs, but Easter is really about the big fact that separates Judeo Christianity from all religions — the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you don’t believe that part, the rest is all a fun story. The Easter Bunny is all about marketing – great for chocolate companies, and we all love chocolate – but the real gift is the one given by Jesus for all of us. Keep that in your hearts!
Blessings, and Happy Easter!
MarlaRETURN TO NEWSLETTER
Not only do the sponsored students get field trips with ACE each year, but we take the entire grade with us — and this season was no different. Students in primary schools study local community and government just like in the states. Remember when you were young and went on a field trip to the capitol or maybe the police station? Our little ones get the same experience. With ACE providing the means and schedule, our students enjoyed the day in Port Maria, learning all about their local community.
We visited the police station where students received a talk from the sergeant about safety and laws, then the mayor gave the students his undivided attention to answer questions. Another group was addressing letters to themselves and mailing them from the post office. The funny part about this field trip is that our own ACE staff seemed to enjoy it as much or more than the students. We even learned that our grown adults had never addressed and stamped and mailed a letter at their own post office. A real change in times, right? What a great experience for everyone!
After lunch with patties, the students received the finale at the fire station, where they got to climb into the firetruck and hold a hose spraying water. Is it any wonder all our third graders decided they wanted to be part of local government? Jobs like fireman, policeman, and postal attendant were all at the top of their lists, but no one wanted to be mayor! Perhaps it was the big desk he sat behind that looked very large or scary. Either way, we are grateful for our local servants in Port Maria for making the two days of field trips very educational and fun.
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Our famous experienced canners returned to Jamaica again this winter to see how our mothers and staff were doing in canning food since last year. All of our canners from the States were pleasantly surprised to find not only was canning going well, but our ladies had branched out into making preserves.
As the week began, everyone who canned last year got to open their jars from a year ago and prepare for lunch at the Campus. Part of the canning program is not just about canning meats and soups and vegetables but also demonstrating how these sealed jars can last a year or more on a shelf inside a home that doesn’t have air conditioning or refrigeration. Many of our Jamaicans had raised eyebrows as they wondered if the chicken they canned a year ago would be good to eat.
Carefully and methodically, the cans were opened and the food heated and put in with the rice. It was funny to watch as each National waited on the other one to eat first. Of course, our American counterparts dove in and then, everything was okay! Lots of food, lots of laughter and lots of sharing all week in between the new canning. Thank you, ladies, for making a great concept for Jamaica come alive at the Campus.
Some of you may remember ACE building Kal a home in the Galina area a few years ago. During that time, one of his peers who was working with ACE then, Lecepth, ran into some challenging problems where he, his wife and two children were living. Lecepth asked if he could rent the house ACE was building for Kal until he could get his home built right next door.
Kal and ACE agreed, allowing Lecepth to rent his home for approximately $28US a month. Many of you and your churches helped complete what is now the prettiest house in the neighborhood.
Lecepth and his family are now safely in their home next door, and Kal is finally in his! Needless to say, Kal is quite happy. For the first time in his life, he has his own water meter in his name and, soon, his own electric meter. Why is that a big deal? In Jamaica, many people “borrow” electricity from the power company. We used to see in the paper where people were electrocuted weekly. Unfortunately, it hasn’t stopped and many times, church people are guilty of the very same thing. But Kal officially owns his own utilities, and this speaks volumes for who he is. He may be deaf, but he knows that part of ownership is taking responsibility.
And he loves the colors Marla picked out for him! All he needs now, he says, is a swimming pool in the back yard! Congrats, Kal, for a growing up and becoming independent.
We’ve got a great update for you regarding Mr. Byrd and Ashley’s sight challenges.
ACE took Mr. Byrd and Ashley to a private specialist in Kingston to find out what we could do to help them see better. Mr. Byrd was diagnosed with glaucoma. With him being in his 80’s, most of his sight cannot be restored; however, he is being given drops each day to help him at least maintain what sight he has.
He is so grateful – and did I mention, on the trip back from Kingston, we stopped in his home town so he could say hello to everyone? We think that did more healing than the drops! ACE will continue to supply him with the expensive drops available only through private pharmacies.
Ashley received her special glasses. This little girl is a super star! While her vision is a “born” challenge, the glasses are compensating for the loss of sight. Ashley is so surprised to see leaves on trees!! Imagine, all your life, just seeing big blobs of things and not details. And life really is in the details.
Thank you, friends, for stepping up to this challenge of helping those that cannot help themselves.
Next time you go to the dentist, take note of the pictures that surround you in the waiting room. Last time I went, I got to watch a rotation of people with crooked, chipped, and missing teeth smile into a camera with the bottom header saying “Before”. Then the next clip showed a picture of the same mouth with straight, white, clean teeth all lined up to present a “game show” smile, with the heading below stating “After”.
While ACE doesn’t claim to be a reconstructive ministry, we have found ourselves doing quite a bit of “Before and After” shots this past summer. So many of our families in St. Mary who are in our programs from Child Sponsorship to Green Life Farms and Galina Breeze Hotel were living in the “before” shot.
That’s until our friends, sponsors, and donors decided to invest their treasure into other people’s lives here in Jamaica. By making a monetary donation to families who were living in the “before” house, lives were incredibly changed into their “after” home… and this was not for just one or two, but many. You see, ACE believes not only in Education, Wellness, and Spiritual Discipleship, but ACE also believes that all humans deserve a place to be safe and clean. The simple things middle-class Americans enjoy every day but don’t think about – a roof, a bed, a lock on the door, food, running water – we call them basic needs, but they are not always for everyone. Here’s a highlight of what happened to change lives and help transform our communities.
While ACE is just touching the tip of the iceberg in Jamaica, believe us, it’s making a huge difference for almost a hundred people who may not live in the house but who see the goodness of God being poured out on their friends and neighbors who struggle to survive. Who knows, with your help and prayers, we may be able to get another community settled in, safe and sound and dry for the night. Thank you, supporters.
Who would know more about that than professional canners? With so many of our sponsored families lacking in refrigeration, preserving whole foods is a key ingredient to growth and development in children. Many of our homes simply lack electricity, and when they do have it, it’s “borrowed” from a neighbor. A few years ago, ACE began looking into teaching canning in Jamaica.
As most programs go with ACE, it takes a few years to develop into a full-blown plan. In this case, that’s partly because Jamaica doesn’t know anything about canning food nor does the ACE staff. We all grew up with wonderful grandparents and parents that canned, but somehow our culture didn’t move forward with that expertise. But times are changing – just take a look at these pictures! The men made the shelves and the ladies taught canning. It was wonderful!
We learned to can whole chicken, soups, beets, vegetables… and the best part is they can last up to two years on a shelf! All the mother has to do it open the lid, heat it up, and it’s a full meal for her family and children. Thank you, Castine, Bethel, and Ringgold, for getting us off and running. More next month on our foodbank and how you can get involved.
We can dance, we can play, we can sing…. so the storyline goes! With a very successful Christmas party and art camp, ACE finished the year with a bang in Jamaica.
Last year, if you remember, Sondra from First Christian Church from Stillwater brought her team of young adults to Jamaica and launched the first ART camp for students on school break. It went so well that we had to do it again. This time, however, we had another longtime friend of ACE add her team to the mix – Tina and her students from Rebel Ministries. From Art Camp to the Christmas party, we were absolutely in awe as both leaders and teams came together to give our sponsored and non-sponsored students a great week of fun.
Speaking of the Christmas party, ACE tried something this year that wasn’t exactly a spiritual part of ACE – Santa Claus! Here is where middle-class American thinking met Jamaican traditions. When our sponsored students walked in and saw this brown-skinned man with a white beard in a red suit sitting by their presents, hesitation grabbed them. They stood and stared, wondering who this person was and what was he doing at their party.
While the experience went well, we quickly learned that Christmas without Santa will do just fine next year. Let’s keep the reason for the season and not add to the story. It was another learning moment for ACE and our volunteers, and, ultimately, a good time was had by all! Thank you, Child Sponsors, for sending your love. Perhaps you can come down sometime and enjoy the moments you create for your students and us with your support!
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.
It is a bittersweet time when I have to say goodbye – or rather “see you later” – to my Jamaican family. At the same time, I leave looking forward to the future and married life. Many of you have watched me grow up over the past few years, from my internship to now. I have embraced the culture of friendship and “no worries”. I have learned to be comfortable in my own skin and enjoy what I am doing. I cannot thank you enough for making this experience what it has been. By partnering with ACE and helping them minister in Jamaica, you have also invested in me through encouragement, friendships and great memories. It is with a heavy heart that I write this, but I know God has a plan for me, and I will forever cherish this time in Jamaica.