Peat and Repeat

Peat and Repeat

The rhythm of life is different than this time last year. It’s humbling, frankly, to know that in a matter of days, everything we’ve done in the human realm can be wiped out … that is, if God wasn’t in charge.

We started this newsletter with the title “Peat and Repeat” because that’s exactly what this month looks like compared to last month.

  1. Our volunteers are not in Jamaica.
  2. Face masks are being washed out each night.
  3. Sun is hot with no rain in sight right now.
  4. We all continue to pray and grow stronger. We see less people getting sick and no more deaths other than the nine from last month. There have been many more recoveries and lots of answered prayers.

Repetition doesn’t need to be boring, when we look deep enough. There are some wonderful repeats happening in the ACE community during all this.

In the 33 years ACE has been in Jamaica, our Board of Directors have never had to write a request for help the way they did this month. When they sent out a letter to all our friends and family of ACE, the response was a faith builder. This past week, one of our dear friends, Tina Gerke, held a fundraiser for ACE, raising over $10,000! In addition, many of our spring and summer teams sent in funds even though they had to cancel their trips. All of these donations will enable our ministry to keep our employees working and keep our families fed.  You never fail to come through for us – repeatedly! – and we are always grateful! Let us officially say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

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Last week, we made the rounds, meeting with staff at the farm, in the office, security, Jerk Centre – all the normal places staff is working. During this time, we began to notice a phenomenon that is being repeated everywhere with our staff and our friends in the community. Families are talking more, doing more reading and writing. Children are playing with siblings. Parents are spending time with their children, even grown children! And they are using their time wisely, learning and passing on life skills. From washing clothes, learning to cook, paint, garden, and farm, kids and adults are sharing chores and taking on new challenges, stepping out of their normal routines and having a great time doing it! And the more they repeat these new skills and personal connections with loved ones, the richer their lives will be!     

In addition to all the new projects for our St. Mary families, our staff has continued to keep busy, too, on ACE-related work. Since the virus hit the island, no one has been allowed to enter the Infirmary, including us, and the Matron lost all her help with groundwork. If you recall from our social media posts, we went over last month to clean up the driveway outside the Infirmary fence. ACE did a repeat of this last week. We not only finished up the first part of the driveway we worked on in April, but we completed the task of cleaning it all to the end. We were able to see some of our residents as Richard, Norris, and Christine say their hellos through the fence. As usual, they keep asking if they can be on Ms. Marla’s list for the field trip. We are looking forward to the day (we hope soon!) that you, our volunteers, can make that dream come true!

Finally, one of the most important blessings happening on the ground is that we were able to go out and buy enough food, mackerel, rice, flour, sugar to support every family in our program for one to two weeks depending on the size of the family. That is not only a repeat but a “Big Up” size repeat, thanks to your donations!

So many repeats of so many great things! We can’t wait for a repeat of our mission trips from past years, seeing some familiar faces ready to take on new challenges.

A Word From D’Vaun

A Word From D’Vaun

We’ve told you about our ACE staff visiting the homes of our sponsored children. Here are some behind-the-scene moments from D’Vaun on how these visits are going.

The very first greeting we get as we approach any home is, “I hope the ACE family are all safe” or “How is my sponsor doing?” This reaffirms within me that the sponsored families are not simply looking to us for handouts but they do care. To them, ACE is not a welfare system; ACE is a part of their family! These kids whose lives sponsors are changing understand the value of the help being given. During a visit in Oracabessa to a four-year-old sponsored child, we took a picture with her that she thought was a video. While waving at the camera, she said, “Hello, I hope you are staying safe from Corona and I love you!”  To all the donors who make it possible for these families to meet their basic need for food, I’d like to tell you from the inside… you are meeting an even greater need for love. Thank you for making the sacrifice during this time and being God’s hands and feet, regardless of your own struggles.

Visiting my kids and their families during this time has been a humbling experience. One would think that we’re the ones giving to them, but what we receive through the relationship with these families is so much more than something tangible with an expiry date. Last week, during the process of praying with a family in Hampstead, I got the chance to sit with a family of four, a single mother with three girls, ages 16, 13 and 9. We got to have a heart-to-heart about the well-being of the girls and the struggles the mom faces with passing on solid values to the next generation. During that discussion, there was a drunken passerby who was, for some reason, within earshot of our conversation. I could have ignored this seeming degenerate, but, in that moment, God reminded me that He came to save the lost. There and then, I got the chance to pray for him and planned on meeting when he was sober. Through that experience, I had the opportunity to teach the kids a lesson about God’s love as I was reminded myself.

Our kids have to be out of school and the demographic we cater to does not have ready access to the internet which means they do not get to continue the studying process. While one would think kids would be nonchalant about the fact that they have no school, our kids are thirsty for knowledge. On our visits, the ACE team takes the time to read with the kids (while social distancing) a book about prayer. At the end of the book, everyone – from tiny tots, even some babes who can barely speak, to the adults – joins me in saying the foundational prayer “Our Father”. At the end of this, the kids will ask “Do I get a book?” to which I’m happy to let them know there are books in the packages we hand out. In that moment, you can physically see the delight on their faces which is amplified by me adding, “You also have a special toy to play with!” thanks to all the donations we get during the summer from our teams.

Pray for our single mothers who have been laid off due to the pandemic, our kids who are missing out on months of schooling with no means to catch up, our families who can’t predict their next meal after receiving what we’ve given and our staff who put themselves at risk to be God’s hands and feet as they continue to change lives and transform communities.

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A Family Reunion

A Family Reunion

Guess who came back to Jamaica to attend the ACE Men and Women’s Conference? You guessed it – Amber, or, as her Jamaican students called her, Miss Amba! If you have served with ACE in the past ten years, you’ve met this good looking blonde whom everyone asked if she was single. Well, it so happened that Amber married a prince (Prince Brinson) with two young children, and they are living happily ever after in Atlanta. We are thrilled that part of Amber’s heart is still with ACE, so much so that she returned to teach her former students, who are now teens, at our conference.

As you may know, Amber’s aunt, Dawn, also became a member of our ACE staff back in 2014 when she took over the role of Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator. Dawn’s job has been to work with D’Vaun and other members of our ACE staff on the needs of children and families in our program. Like Amber, she had not been back down to Jamaica for many years, due to health reasons. Having Dawn able to reconnect with staff and the beauty of Jamaica and to finally connect with “her” children was an answered prayer!

Thanks, Dawn and Amber, for choosing your ACE family reunion in Jamaica and serving at our conference… because it really was “about time” that you returned.

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April Firsts!

April Firsts!

ACE did a number of firsts this Easter season!

FIRST – Through Facebook, we live streamed a Sunrise Service down by the sea at Galina Breeze Hotel. You can still view it online! 

FIRST – Sunrise Service for the Jamaicans! No one except Arlene even knew what a Sunrise Service was!

FIRST – We’ve certainly never used a paper plate and duct tape as an intro to an ACE program, but it worked!

FIRST – We’ve never felt so instantly connected to all our friends, family, and supporters of ACE across the states and Canada at the same time!

FIRST – And maybe the beginning of an Easter tradition! We were so grateful to have been able to gather in prayer and song on Jamaican soil in a place of peace among the turmoil. The sun rose as we celebrated the Risen Son!

With our 2020 calendar still so uncertain (all spring teams have cancelled and we expect the same for early summer), we ask that you consider a donation to help ACE with our everyday needs. Trip revenue is how we pay our Nationals, and without that, we are struggling. Many staff members have had hours cut but have been volunteering their time helping on the farm and doing many other projects our teams usually do. We also have a container of donations, farming equipment and supplies we need to get which requires adequate funds.

We feel, even amid this quarantine, God’s Easter promise of renewal and rebirth in our ministry. We know that all of you are a part of this journey, and we thank you for your spiritual and financial support!

Arlene’s April Update

Many of you know that this is my last three-month stay here in Jamaica. However, this is not the end of my work with ACE. I will return periodically for shorter periods of time, 2 weeks to a month, as needed. I was planning to return in early July for Anthony’s high school graduation, but we’re not even sure this is going to happen since our students will still be in school in July. However, I will be returning the end of August to help with the distribution of backpacks, uniforms, shoes, and books to our sponsored children. I will also be working remotely on certain aspects of our Child Sponsorship program assisting our staff with work that needs to be completed. As hard as this will be for all of us, it’s the next step in helping our staff assume complete responsibility for our sponsorship program and other aspects of our ministry.

All this had been decided, and then COVID-19 reared its ugly head. As it stands now, I will not return home April 9th since all Southwest flights have been cancelled until at least May 22. I have not rebooked since this date could change, again! As of now, like many of you in the states, I’m confined to the house and our ACE property. Fortunately, our new office is on our property and I can walk to work, so I have been busy working there. Also no one can come into our house if they have used a route taxi. I am very thankful that Marla and Althia are taking all of this seriously and are doing all they can possibly do to keep us healthy. As it stands right now, I believe that I am safer here than in the states. The Jamaican government has also been very proactive, which has helped to keep the number of people with the virus at a minimum. The latest directive is that no one can be out and about from 8:00 pm-6:00 am.

In addition, I am now homeschooling Anthony. The Ministry of Education just began offering classes on the TV, so we have been watching 1-2 lessons each day. It’s basically just instruction and sometimes given so rapidly it’s hard to take notes. Although recently, an English Language teacher’s slow, laborious presentation came very close to lulling the two of us to sleep! Fortunately his teachers have sent some study guides for the national test he will take in July, so we are working through those together. I have spent a lot of time on Google to find correct answers for some of the questions! Anthony has continued to mature beautifully and has become a diligent, hard worker in both his studies and work for ACE. He is saving his money for a second visa to travel to the USA.

We are hoping that in the fall his next trip will be a week in New Jersey with me and then a week in Atlanta with Marla and Allen. I also love that he is very concerned about my health and that he really appreciates all I am doing to help him. When I finally get to travel home, the hardest thing for me will be leaving Anthony. He has a very special place in my heart.

As some of you may know, my middle name is Esther, chosen by my parents because they wanted me to have a biblical name and because it also has a family connection. So Esther’s story in the Bible has always been one of my favorites. This following verse has taken new meaning for me in light of my extended stay here in Jamaica and all the challenges we are now facing here with the ACE ministry:

“…And who knows but that you have come to (Jamaica) for such a time as this.” Esther 4:14

Thank you again for all your prayers for our ministry and for your messages of encouragement. You will never know how much all this has meant to me. God has been faithful and will continue to remain faithful!

Our Children In St. Mary

Our Children In St. Mary

With this “stay close to home” policy, how can we know if our children and their families are doing okay or have needs?   After discussions with the Child Sponsorship team on how we can continue our impact and support from us and from you, their sponsors, we have a plan.

Beginning this week, we are calling all parents and guardians of children in our Sponsorship program to see how they are doing, where they are staying and how many are in the house – just a small survey in regards to health and welfare. With the cancellation of our teams, we decided that instead of holding a thrift sale this month (we normally hold three a year – March, July, and November), ACE would put an individual suitcase together for each child and other relatives living in the house. Next week, D’Vaun and Laneka will drive to the house and deliver the suitcase (in the yard, of course) and then sit outside to visit, encourage and, most of all, pray for the family.  We will be delivering lots of soap, toiletries, and women’s personal products.

See how valuable your donations have become to those in need? We know you will be back soon, so please keep saving those toiletries, soaps, shampoos and ladies’ pads. Thank you, also, for so many books you’ve given us over the years. We are taking two age-appropriate books per child and reading them from the yard while visiting, then leaving them with the family along with some simple activities to enjoy while they are home.