Before 2008, my perception of Jamaica was based on the cruise ship port in Ocho Rios and commercials for the huge all-inclusive resorts. All of that paints a picture of a thriving culture where everyone is living the dream life. It was not until June of 2008 that I really experienced the true heart and culture of Jamaica and its people.

In the beginning of 2008, Brandon, my son, who was 14 at the time, expressed an interest in going on a mission trip through our church. The idea of a teenage boy wanting to go on a mission trip to a strange new place, serving others and getting closer to God — who would say no? So, we started looking at the options, keeping in mind that my wife hates flying. We decided to investigate the trip to Jamaica, as it was the shortest flight option. After the first meeting with the trip leader, Teresa, we chose to take that leap of faith and sign up.

Fast forward to June of 2008, when we went down to Jamaica. Little did we know, our perspective of Jamaica was about to be radically changed for the better. Working with ACE, we all experienced the true heart and culture of the Jamaican people, from the schools to the infirmary and their homes. Being able to show God’s love to the Jamaican people and the joy they had was amazing.

Fast forward to today. It has been 17 years since our first trip to Jamaica with ACE. The work we did on that first trip touched our hearts in a way that kept us wanting to return, which led Brandon and myself to continue to do these trips. Over the years, we have gone with various size teams down to just ourselves and meeting up with other teams. The relationships we have created over the years with other US teams and more importantly the Jamaicans, has been a true spiritual blessing.

The experience ACE can show someone in the first year is eye opening on how God can work, but the true benefit comes from going back over the years to see how HE continues to use ACE. The work a team does in a week may not seem like much, but each week another team builds on your work and before you know it there is a house for someone to live in or a classroom for the children. Each year you see how that cornerstone that you put in is now a structure that God created through you. These trips not only allow us to bless the Jamaicans but also the people that go on them. My greatest experiences on these trips have been seeing Brandon getting baptized in the pool and because of doing these trips he was able to meet his now wife, Danielle. If we had not listened to God and did not take that first trip, I would not have a God-loving daughter-in-law and 3 beautiful grand babies.

As I look back over the 17 years at all the changes, I see how God has worked through us, a little bit at a time. It may be hot and the work hard, but it is well worth it for the spiritual reward you receive. I can testify that God is at work during that week because the things I am able to do could not be done without His power in me. The vision that Marla has for ACE has been amazing to watch blossom over the years. It has amazed me how God gives ACE the visions, and supplies them with the staff, volunteers and finances to carry out those visions. I also give a shout out to Allen. He has to be a godly man to support his wife, 1200 miles apart most of the year, for so many years.

The verse that came to me back in 2008 when this all started was Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few”. I have held this verse close to heart as I want to be a part of the harvest.