Marla’s Minute: Farming with the Family

Marla’s Minute: Farming with the Family

As a wanna-be farmer, I’m learning a lot about pastures this month. I’m learning that if you are raising cattle, which we hope to be doing soon for income, you have to have a specific type of grass, and that grass has to grow without trees in the way.

Remember all those guavas we reaped earlier in the year for guava jam and juice? Well, I never understood how we got all these trees everywhere on the property – probably over 150 trees! Then a senior experienced Jamaican farmer Mr. Robin showed up to help us get our pastures ready for cattle and shared some info about those trees.

Even though I’m a 4H-er, I must have missed this fact in the cattle raising class. Cattle love guavas just like I do, but when they eat all those sweet fruits, they leave the seeds everywhere on the farm in the form of cow pies…. and those cow pies produce random guava trees all over the pastures. There you have it – how much more organic can you get?

Now we are cutting out the guavas as they have finished bearing, and we are making room for the African Star Grass which is already there and beginning to grow. If you have some farm stories you’d like to share, please do so, as we will share them in a future newsletter in our Family on the Farm article.  We will keep sending you more info on our own farming experiences as we learn and grow with our Jamaican families.

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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.

Marla’s Minute: Farming with the Family

Marla’s Minute: Farming with the Family

As most of you are aware, ACE has stepped out and purchased the historic Llanrunmey farm located next to the Campus. It is a big step of faith, particularly now that the virus has nearly stopped Jamaica and the world. However, this is just another chance to see God at work when we can’t visibly see our enemy.

Thanks to you, our supporters, we’ve been able to keep our staff working at least two days a week. We always say at ACE, “Flexibility is the key to success” so, with enthusiasm, the ACE family is joining the Green Life Farm staff to work the farm. We will keep you posted regularly on what farming with the ACE family looks like and show you our progress.

As our friends and family read this, I personally can feel the smiles (all teeth smiles), laughing – who would have thought that Marla and Allen would be farming? All we can say is we’re glad we can add humor to your day as we all plough through this stay-at-home boredom! So, read on and learn a few things. We are picking up a few tips and trivia along with chiggers and ticks.

With the farm came five donkeys! Just this month, we’ve learned something about them: did you know that donkeys love small dark places to hang out? That’s right, they do not prefer the big beautiful barns that horses and cows enjoy. We are in process of making a barn out of the old farm manager’s house by taking a few doors off the entrances. This is where our unusual friends like to hang out. Some in the kitchen, some in the bathroom, and if the house had closets, I know they would all try to fit in there, too.

Secondly, donkeys all do their “business” in one spot together. I kept wondering if only one donkey was creating this enormous pile of donkey doo until one day, I caught them. Apparently, donkeys must debrief in the morning to discuss where they will do their “doo”. Now, that’s organization!

While we are learning, we are working hard at preserving what God has given us. We are mending fences, bushing out weeds, spraying wasps, and getting our horses (yes, we have five of them, too) cleaned, fed, and repaired, and we are figuring out how, when school starts again, to teach our students to care for these beautiful beasts.

As far as a plan for the farm, we are praying we can get cattle on the property as soon as possible. Jamaica specializes in Red Poles, Black Angus and Brahma cattle. The Jamaican government’s agricultural division RADA (Rural Agricultural Development Authority) is helping us with writing the proposal as there is a big push for Jamaica to get back into the cattle business. We would appreciate your prayers because if we can get started, we should have a good crop for sale when the hotels reopen.

Best wishes to all of you, or, as they say in the farm world, “Happy Trails!”

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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