Marla’s Minute: Climate Change Happens in St. Mary

Marla’s Minute: Climate Change Happens in St. Mary

It’s hot and dry… that about sums up the day-in, day-out conditions here on the island since March. But that’s not the climate change I’m referring to. I’m talking about the climate in which ACE is used to working and how we do outreach to our hundreds of students, and families in St. Mary.

It used to be, around this time, that students were getting ready for exams and the summer, with our first VBS starting the second week in July. And it used to be that all students were dressed in uniforms with oversize backpacks full of books standing on the road waiting on their taxi to take them to school. Then there were the ACE field trips for learning that a lot of you got to help us with, giving our students some real life education.

That’s all changed – but not a permanent change; just for a season. This past week, I asked two parents if I could take their boys with me to Kingston for a meeting. The parents said “yes” before I could finish my sentence, so off I went with Rashawn and Karl. Since I had a meeting at 11:00 am, I decided that today we would do things differently – dessert first and lunch later!

Away they went to get ice-cream at the Devon house, the premium ice cream shop in Jamaica. While my meeting went well, I kept thinking about that pistachio ice cream Devon House makes and thinking how lucky they were. We ended our day at Subway for a 6” sandwich each before heading over the mountains home to St. Mary.

I remember many years earlier when two of my older boys – now young men in University and one graduating “whenever “ this year – were near the same age as Rashon and Karl and how we used to do mini-field trips together.  Anthony and Tahj joined me for church this Sunday for the first time since March. My heart burst with pride to see how far they’ve come with the help of your sponsorships and a good community of people and prayers changing their day-to-day experiences. I pray for the same for Rashawn and Karl.

From a climate of uncertainty for the future to a climate of acceptance and assurance that there is a future – now that’s a real climate change. Thank you, Sponsors, for changing lives and transforming communities, one person at a time.

Arlene’s Adventure Home

Arlene’s Adventure Home

“The Lord has said, ‘I know the plans I have for you.’”  That was the verse that spoke to my heart when I returned to Jamaica on January 11 of this year, since I knew I was facing decisions for the future. However, once COVID-19 reared its ugly head, I found myself facing unexpected challenges. My planned departure date of April 9 never happened, and in the end, my usual 3-month stay turned into a 5-month stay. As the days progressed, it became clear why God had me in Jamaica for that extra time.

My new departure date was scheduled for June 7. As the first ACE person to leave the island, we thought you would be interested in what I encountered at the Montego Bay airport after Marla dropped me off at the airport.

When attempting to access the terminal, I was met at the door by a security guard, questioning my flight info, and was told that the terminal would not open until 9:30. Passengers were required to line up outside the terminal, with masks on at the requisite six feet apart. We had to present our passports to the guard and remove our mask so she could verify we matched our passport pictures. On the way in, we had to sanitize our hands.

The usual kiosks were not in operation, so I joined a slow line for checking in, where there are now Plexiglass shields between passengers and the agents. The agents were wearing masks, making it difficult to converse in a noisy terminal. When I got to the counter, I discovered my flight had been cancelled, with no prior notification from them! Nothing like driving two hours to find that out! The agent was able to get me on another flight going to New York, a two-hour drive from my original destination of Philadelphia.

Next was TSA, where they strictly monitored the distance between people approaching the security area. Once upstairs, I discovered that only half of the terminal was open and most of the stores were closed. In the gate area, there were “Do Not Sit Here” signs on every other seat, and getting onto the plane took longer due to the distancing requirements. For now, the middle seats on the planes are unoccupied, and I was able to enjoy being the only passenger in my row!

At JFK, I faced the thing that concerned me most: would I be faced with a 14-day quarantine? Needless to say, I was relieved when none of the people in front of me had been presented with this necessity for entry. My time with the Immigration officer was brief as she asked where I was coming from and how long I’d been there; there was no reaction from her when I said, “Five months!” Then she handed me my passport and I was on my way, looking forward to seeing my brother who had graciously driven to JFK to pick me up!

Here are the verses God gave me, prior to my departure, which kept my heart at peace concerning a possible quarantine: “The Lord Himself will go over before you. Do not fear… for it is the Lord your God who goes with you.” (Deuteronomy 31:3, 6)

Prayer Works!

Prayer Works!

As we watch the USA express their anger over injustice, Pastor Omar, our Pastor at Family Church on the Rock and always part of the ACE family, had some thoughts to share:


If there was ever a time we needed to pray, it is NOW!

Like many of you, I have had to process my anger and frustration in response to what happened to George Floyd in USA and many recent similar incidents in our own country. I have had to bring my heart to God and have Him minister to me. What happened is wrong and should never happen. If like me, you’re angry. I want to let you know, there’s nothing wrong with being angry. In fact, the Bible says, “Be angry…” but then it ends that sentence with, “…and sin not.”

God is ok with us being angry! Jesus expressed His anger when He cleared the temple of those who were using God’s House to profit instead of pray. So being mad is not bad. It’s what we do, what we write, what we say, and how we act when we are mad that makes it bad or a sin.

So when does my anger turn into sin? When I allow my anger to be expressed in ways that contradict God’s nature! Most of us are mad at the police when we need to be mad at the devil. Of course, we should hold the police and anyone else accountable who display injustice. However, Jesus said in John 8:44, “Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning.” Wow, murder started with the devil, not the police! The devil will use anybody he can! So, we need to get mad at the right source! We should fight for justice, equal rights, etc. but before you post, pray!

And, that’s what I want to encourage you to do this month – PRAY FIRST! Prayer shouldn’t be our last resort; it should be our first response. 

Pray first when you feel angry because of racism.

Pray first when you feel confined because of social distancing.

Pray first when you feel annoyed because of your boss.

Pray first when you feel frustrated by your spouse.

Pray first!

We are still going through a pandemic, and, add to that, our own personal challenges. Listen, God is still in control and He still calls us to use our faith to overcome. 1 John 5:4 in the Amplified says, “For everyone born of God is victorious and overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has conquered and overcome the world—our [continuing, persistent] faith [in Jesus the Son of God].”

Did you catch that? Our continuing, persistent faith.

So, don’t allow all that’s happening in the world to overcome you. Let us pray first, and then we will be victorious and overcome the world by our faith.

Pastor Omar

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.

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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