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.

It’s About Time

It’s About Time

February was the calm before the storm. Our annual Men and Women’s Conference held at Galina Breeze Hotel was not only refreshing for the soul but a pleasant surprise for all who attended. Little did we know that this extraordinary team made up of 19 people from across the US would be our last group of volunteers for a while.

Our theme was “It’s About Time!” Who would have thought that within days, the Coronavirus would be a global topic. Pastor Helen’s teaching using Psalm 90:12 “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” was very timely. How fitting that is even now, as we all count our days of quarantine and look to the deeper meaning of how we should spend our time with God.

The men’s side of the conference was our biggest surprise gift of all! Led by the group from Trinity On The Hill from Augusta, GA, we had a record number of attendees – over 50 men each night, and many showed up early! Trinity has been sponsoring this conference for well over a decade, providing printed T-shirts and gift bags for all our attendees, and it has continued to grow – from six attendees year one to over 160 this year!

With music provided by professional musician Paul and a new visitor to ACE, singer Vivian, we were lifted up in songs of praise and worship! Thank you to all the volunteers who brought so many donations through your time and treasure. You truly make the lives of our staff so easy for this conference by your dedicated service. We’ll be looking for you to join us next year! Same time, same place!

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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!

Marla’s Minute: Working and Sweating

Marla’s Minute: Working and Sweating

Normally, those two verbs are not something anyone would be attracted to unless you were an athlete. But here in St. Mary, we have lots and lots of hard manual outdoor work to do that keeps us busy for as many hours as a day can hold.

For the past two weeks, all our ACE and Green Life Farm staff have pulled together to work hard at doing grunt work. We are learning every day that this fantastic piece of land is bearing fruit and food everywhere.  Last week, a small group of us headed out into the pastures and began picking guavas. Growing up in Miami as a child, I remember having guava trees in the yard. I hated them and would throw the fruit at my friends because they smelled and would squish easily.

Not now – I have a new appreciation for this fruit. It’s high in vitamin C and can be juiced and frozen for months and months… and, most of all, it can be made into jelly. If you have ever visited us at Galina Breeze, you know what guava jelly tastes like, and it’s good! We have close to 400 trees all over, and what we can’t pick quick enough, we go back and pick up the ones that have dropped to the ground and give to the pigs (did I mention we have a few?) as a treat! Pigs love fruit, especially guavas.  The things you learn when you become a fruit picker! Last week, we filled up four freezers full of guava and began juicing them with ginger. We were able to give each employee their own bottle of guava juice to take home. As this newsletter is being sent, we are already scheduled to head out again for another 300 pounds of guava.

The farm is full of limes, ackee, citrus, and guavas. God is good as we are able to share all this with our staff and their families. And we can do all of this six feet apart…(smile). Social distancing is taking on a different role than just standing in line. It’s easy to stay apart when you are working and sweating as much as we do — body odor can be a great deterrent.

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ACE has something to say

ACE has something to say

​None of us ever thought we’d be where we are today with such a global event affecting us all.  When the virus finally came to Jamaica, there was a panic of everyone looking at each other as if the entire country was a carrier of this strange disease. There is so much information to decipher for communities where day-to-day living is hard enough. Jamaica currently has 21 cases with one death (as of March 24th). Like most of you in your states, we are doing whatever our Prime Minister asks us to do and that’s “stay put”. Those that have jobs can go but use caution.

As the medical experts work night and day to find a way to stop this awful disease, the Church (not the one made of brick and mortar) is compelled to rise up and come together. We may be social-distancing, but we have never been more connected with a shared goal to care and pray for each other and for the state of our world. Some of us had to go to Ocho Rios to the pharmacy this past week. What a great impression and experience it was. Every store was open and security-equipped with hand sanitizer on a counter at the front door as we walked in. All had a big smile and greeted each customer as they entered. Tape was put on the floor in the checkout lines saying, “Please stay one meter apart for cashier”… and everyone was doing it! People can be helpful and neighborly, coming together for the common good.

Our staff and families are pulling together, but it’s difficult. The hotel is closed, as well as the jerk centers and just about everything ACE is involved in on a daily basis. Funds are hard to come by and, frankly, we have all sacrificed like you have at home, being paid for just a few days a week, if any. That is the most painful part of being in a ministry like ACE. It’s not just a job for us; it’s a way to impact people already hopeless and give them purpose through work. This will be our last week to employ the 41 Nationals who serve with ACE on the ground. The ACE team in the US has volunteered to cut back to just a few hours a week.

We at ACE will continue to pray for each of you, our partners, that this time of togetherness will be one of rest, relationship, and relying on our God who is forever good. We can look at the crazy, faithless side and wonder how will we make it through OR we can ask God to increase our faith, put fear in a box and throw it into the ocean. This newsletter will highlight some of what our ACE staff has been doing during all of this, especially with our March, April and May teams having to cancel. We hope what we are doing in Jamaica will encourage each of you – our life line in the states – to continue to do good in your corner of the world until we can once again serve together in Jamaica.

We as a ministry appreciate your prayers and your donations, even when giving hurts. You are all amazing and we leave you with a powerful verse found in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.” (NEJV)

Stay the course; we will get through this together and be better because of it.

From all of us at ACE – Thank you for being so generous in our time of need.