In 2019, Brian and I were vacationing in Jamaica, and we experienced God undoubtedly and distinctively calling us to uproot our life and come serve Him there. As a family, we came as a package deal, so that included our kids – at the time, nine-year-old twins and a four-year-old. It took a lot of prayer from the whole family to give that “yes” to God, but there were moments after giving it to Him that I still had my doubts. After 15 years of life in Knoxville, we had built such an amazing support system, surrounded by family and friends. I had comfort and security. How could we give that up?
It was then the Lord gave me dreams and visions, things I had never previously experienced. There were many and they were very clear. And I fought them. In one of my failed attempts to negotiate with God, I looked up any and every organization that might be doing the things God was calling us to do in Jamaica. I found several doing wonderful things, but only one matched in every way – ACE. To cover my bases, I made a small donation to all of the organizations, hoping God would let me off the hook and count that as my contribution to Jamaica and let us stay in Knoxville. But God didn’t stop.
When I looked up ACE, I was intrigued and I purchased The Mango Tree Gospel. Reading about Marla’s life and her radical faith, trust and obedience, God confirmed our crazy faith story, and I became aware that He was just getting started with me. Marla’s journey resonated so much that I bought multiple copies of The Mango Tree Gospel to hand out to people close to me. I read the entire book out loud to our children explaining what God was calling us towards. It was SO encouraging to see someone else who had experienced God in similar ways and had enough courage to follow through!
Soon after, Brian was talking to a friend about us moving to Jamaica, and this longtime friend actually started to tell Brian about ACE and Marla! He then said that Brian had worked on one of ACE’s first websites, while contracting for this friend early in our marriage. He even had their contact information and offered it to Brian. At this point, we decided to reach out to Marla and Allen, even if just to encourage them that their story and ministry mattered and that their obedience gave us courage to follow through with our own calling from God. In the fall of 2019, we met Marla and Allen for the first time in north Georgia at a Cracker Barrel.
In obedience, we moved forward with our “yes”, with open minds and hearts and with few expectations. We sold our home and belongings and moved our family to Jamaica in September 2020 in the midst of a global pandemic. Several months after moving, God in His wisdom and Marla in her kindness, allowed us the opportunity to shadow her in trying to learn, absorb, and observe ACE more closely, to see up close all the areas and inner workings of the ministry.
We’ve been blessed to spend time getting to know the amazing ACE staff. Let me tell you, they work tirelessly with or without volunteer teams down. It has been a joy to see all three of our children get to help serve alongside so many enthusiastic staff and volunteers, truly getting to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Everyone has become so near and dear to our entire family, and we are honored to share in friendship with Marla and Allen and all of the ACE family.
We’ve continued to learn, grow, and give God our daily “yes”, and we’ve been astounded as we’ve watched Him faithfully work in and through us and our kids over the past several years. Aiden and Kaitlyn are now 14 and in 8th grade, and they homeschool with a paid teacher. Logan turns eight this month and is in 2nd grade in a Jamaican school. We purchased our home in Ocho Rios almost exactly a year after moving here. We are registered as software business owners in Jamaica and Brian is exploring technology possibilities here while advising many programmers all over the island.
God has a way of using ACE to change hearts in the best way, if we’ll allow Him, giving us so many blessings from one simple “yes”. Most of all, we are humbled and excited to partner with Marla and Allen and join them in carrying out God’s story in Jamaica.