Marla’s Minute: How The Pieces Fall Together

Marla’s Minute: How The Pieces Fall Together

ACE always has a great impact story every month. Personally, however, I often wrestle about how much to share. So many things happen on the ground that change our lives and my perspective daily that I struggle to give the details of how ACE made a particular person or family’s life better, safer, healthier.  It’s important that we protect the privacy of our families and individuals and not exploit them for the sake of the story. Every day is filled with specifics but we try to talk in generalities. I preface with this because I’m going to keep names out of this story in order to protect this family, but I still want you to see how, even in adversity, God shows up.

A mother with her two sons, one of whom has special needs, called our office in a hopeless state. This mother had taken care of a senior for many, many years when his own grown children did not. It was understood by everyone in the community that, when he passed, she and her boys would have a place to live as payment for her years of committed care for him.

After the older gentleman passed, the family decided that they wanted the space and caused a lot of strife in order to force her and her boys to leave. One day while she was out seeking work, they burned down the house. As a result, she and her two sons built what we would call a shell of a home to live in, with a dirt floor and no utilities or furniture to speak of.  Because the special-needs teenager was sponsored by a neat couple in the States, the mother felt her only avenue for help would be to call ACE.

Fast forward… a home that ACE built (thanks to another supporter) for Indian, our GLLF farm hand, was currently empty, clean, and ready for move-in. We had moved Indian to an apartment at the front of the farm for security duty. ACE created a job for this mother cleaning up at Buccaneers three days a week so that her sons can come to work with her and so her youngest, who is five, has access to internet for school at the ACE office.

Isn’t it amazing how the pieces fall together when God is involved? I often tell our friends who feel bad about not being able to physically be here to not sell themselves short. God loves the orphans and widows, and He certainly loves a cheerful giver. Thank you, cheerful givers, for changing the lives of these three individuals. One act of kindness (for Indian) ended up providing a life-saving opportunity for a family in need, a mother whose own act of kindness in life becomes repaid even when it seems hopeless. When you can get boots on the ground, you will meet our new family and, perhaps, she can tell you the story herself with all the details. As they say, God is good ALL the time.

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More Than A Vacation

More Than A Vacation

When ACE first came to St. Mary, we called it a Vacation with a Purpose. This was pre-Galina Breeze Hotel; we were staying in an older hotel across from the main road with a view of the beach and some garbage. We knew that when most people take a vacation from work, they want to sit and relax, but this was going to be different. It was a break from the everyday but with meaning… and a lot of work.

Speeding forward several decades, ACE has retooled. Due to the challenging times we live in, thanks to COVID, where organizations are not sending larger groups, we are taking this opportunity to step back and refocus on what individual volunteers can bring to the table. We are living out our saying of “Flexibility is the key to success” motto these days. Instead of us telling you what to do, you can tell us what fits best with your talents, skills and interests. We’ve created a new Impact Menu list for you to choose what projects and experiences suit you.

We still offer the opportunity for groups to come down together, but we know that there are many individuals who want to come and join up with other adventurous people to work together, serve the community and make a difference. We have several weeks set aside each month through March (with more to come the rest of the year) for you to choose what works for you.

Want to come on your own? Do you have a friend you think would be interested… or even your family or small group of friends? Check it out by clicking the button below. Consider it.  We can still change lives and transform communities – one volunteer at a time!

HAPPY NEW YEAR?

HAPPY NEW YEAR?

Is it really a Happy New Year or, rather, a new year with the hope of happiness? That’s what our staff was talking about yesterday as we enjoyed the last chapter in our book club, before flipping over the old year of 2020 to the new year of 2021.

As the discussion lingered, the topic of COVID, closed schools, churches and birthday parties switched to happy events, new friendships, and ACE having impact where we never imagined.

We’ve decided to highlight what the year 2020 looked like for ACE in Jamaica and as they say, one picture says a thousand words.

Thank you for investing in God’s little program in St. Mary and making a huge impact in the lives of so many. Buckle up for 2021…it’s all good. 

CLICK IMAGE BELOW TO VIEW GALLERY

A Heart-Warming Story of Impact in St. Mary

A Heart-Warming Story of Impact in St. Mary

We think ten years from now, when “the year 2020” in inserted into a conversation, all of us will instantly go back to this time when we had to make some tough choices in our lives.

For us at ACE, we are not exempt from the challenges of the past eleven months, when we seem to wake up with a new obstacle every morning. COVID-19 changed a lot of things in our regular routine, not only giving masks, social distancing, clean hands, clean everything a whole new meaning, but, most of all, elevating the importance of our daily choice to live in fear or faith.

As you know, ACE chose Faith, and we will every time. We wish we could say it’s because we are big spiritual giants, but we would be lying. It’s because we have nothing but faith to put out there.

In March, when nearly all our teams of volunteers began to cancel and flights stopped, we knew we were facing an unforeseen challenge. We had some self-sustaining parts of ACE that we had been developing for some time but not enough to keep our full staff employed. I used to say that people who suffer from poverty in any country seem to have the strongest faith in God providing for their needs. Well, we sure got to test that theory this year… and it’s correct. As a faith-based not-for-profit, we had little else to go on.

We never gave up and we know you, our partners with ACE, never gave up on us. God has pulled us through this and continues to walk with us. While we still pray every day for help to keep our Nationals working, God has heard us and has greatly met our needs. For this we are grateful. Very grateful. Exceedingly grateful. What we are called to do in Jamaica – “Changing Lives and Transforming Communities” – is a mission that not even COVID could stop, not with God in control.

Never stop doing good, never stop tending to the garden where you are planted, for in due season, you will reap. God sees our good works and, when we least expect it, He reminds us of that our efforts do yield good fruit. The ACE family in Jamaica and the home offices in Ohio and Atlanta want to encourage you by sharing an email we received last month from a long-time volunteer and supporter:

“I work part time at Universal Studios Florida as a vacation planner. Universal Studios has 28 partner hotels that have Universal desks in the hotel lobby where we help to plan the guests’ time in the parks. After the guests check in, they come visit us and we help them with ticket options, meal plans, shuttles, advice and info on the parks. We sell all the Universal products and help them navigate their vacations.

I was at work on yesterday and a lady came to my desk for some theme park advice. She had small children and wondered what was best for them to do while in Orlando. I recognized her Jamaican accent and asked her where she was from. She told me St Mary’s Parish. I told her I had been there. She asked me where. I told her I have been on a mission trip with ACE. She asked me if we stayed at Galina Breeze. I told her we sure did.

She got tears in her eyes and told me that a few years ago ACE built a garden box in her niece’s home. She told me her niece went to Water Valley Primary School and that ACE was instrumental in helping her niece’s family out.  She shared with me that the work ACE is doing in St. Mary’s Parish is amazing and is making a huge impact in the community. She said ACE made a big difference in the community and the life of her niece.  

I know this year has been challenging, but hang in there. The work you are doing is good work, it is God’s work. God is in charge and HE has a plan for all this mess. You keep doing the good work that you are doing and He will be with you and bless the work of your hands.”

You never know when that ordinary day can turn into a huge impact ten years down the road. We don’t remember this particular lady from Water Valley, but we do know she remembers ACE as being a part of answered prayer for her niece in due time, and that includes all of you, our volunteers, supporters, friends and prayer warriors that keep ACE going.

Let this time, this year of challenges, be one for remembering the goodness of God. We are truly so grateful for all we have at ACE – for our families, for our future, for you.

Merry Christmas, friends! All is well in the world when you know Christ, the Peace that passes ALL understanding.

Love,

Marla, Allen and the ACE Staff

Marla’s Minute: New Sounds on the Farm

Marla’s Minute: New Sounds on the Farm

Everyone who knows me knows I am anything but a farmer or cattle girl. In a staff meeting the other day, I confessed to everyone that all I know about farming and cattle is how to dress for it. Everyone laughed as if to say, “We already know that!!”

We have a saying (among many) here at ACE: fake it till you make it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of gaining knowledge by attaching myself to professionals who know far more than I do when it comes to our micro-business specifics. By dressing the part, however, I believe I’m just that much closer to becoming part of the team of farmers and cattlemen who know what they are doing on the farm at Llanrumney.

This week, a herd of Black Poles were moved from a farm closing down to Llanrunmey for security and pasturing. I learned a lot. Three things particularly stood out as I watched these magnificent animals being loaded onto a truck to our farm.

  1. They are big and I am not.
  2. They could kill a person with little effort if not handled gently
  3. They live a simple life. Eat, sleep, produce

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Okay, so here’s what I felt God telling me about these beautiful animals:

  1. God is God and I am not. My ways, my thoughts are just so much lower than God’s ways and thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9 )
  2. My actions and words can destroy relationships, and relationships are the most important part of my life. (Proverbs 18:21)
  3. When I wake up and when I go to sleep at night, I can have peace that I did all I could do that day to make a difference. Simple living (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

Funny… me, enjoying the sounds of the farm in this time of turmoil all over the world. God says, “Just relax, I’ve got this.” I would love to hear your “Moo” story. There is always something to be learned in every adventure!

Happy Thanksgiving

Grateful for you

Marla

Marla’s Minute: ACE and AVC

Marla’s Minute: ACE and AVC

Since all the craziness continues in the Education Department in Jamaica over who learns online vs. who goes to school, ACE found a common problem happening among our sponsored students…well, among several common problems.

Most of our students were unable to learn via tablets because they didn’t have one. Then there was the issue of students being given instructions to use their parent’s phone for lessons using data. The problem was there were two to three students in different grades all wanting to use mommy’s phone at the same time, as well as mommy! So, that wasn’t working either. We know these facts because ACE has many parents of sponsored students employed with us who told us, and we heard from other parents in the sponsorship program. No internet, no tablets, no phones and, if a parent works, no supervision. Sound familiar?

We hope it’s better in the U.S. than here because our Ministry of Education is having to correct or modify its policies weekly. And, frankly, I would not want to be in their shoes. They are trying to keep adjusting even while the Ministry of Health is making constant changes to the health codes. It really is craziness.

Then ACE had an idea. What if we create a place where at least 30 of our students who had no way of connecting to an online class could do so on a daily basis in a safe environment with adult supervision to help with connections and facility needs?

Introducing ACE Visual Classroom or AVC! AVC will be held at the ACE office at Llanrumney and at the hotel. Beginning November 1st, ACE staff plans to implement a Visual Classroom upstairs in the Henry Morgan room for 15 students, one ACE person, and a volunteer parent. The second AVC will be in the ACE Headquarters office on our Llanrumney property for another 15 students.

The question came up earlier, why just 15 per classroom and not more? In accordance with the Ministry of Education guidelines, ACE is not a school and therefore can only provide enough space per location for 15. If we chose to have more than 15 per location, we would fall under the guidelines of a school and, well, let’s face it, we are not a school. Each location has bathroom facilities, full internet and tables for spacing. We are seeking the advice of principals, former teachers and Board Members on how to do this in the best way possible.

There was just one thing missing from this idea. We didn’t have computers or tablets for our student to join on the internet for their classes. Have you ever heard the expression, “The lights are on, but no one is home”? That’s us. Everything was in place — even the students that will be walking to AVC – but nothing to use.

Then it happened – again. We prayed that God would provide what the students needed to attend online classes and, thanks to a very generous family, ACE has 10 tablets on their way down to Jamaica. These are not cheap tablets, either; they will handle everything the school needs our students to do. Thank you, friends, for making a huge difference in the lives of these young Jamaicans and their families.

Stay tuned for pictures and updates next month.  In the meantime, remember all the PB&J you brought down? ACE is providing lunch for each child who cannot bring a lunch with juice. We’ve got enough PB&J to last us to the end of the year hopefully. Thank God for His ideas on how to create change. When we ask our volunteers to remember some key sayings, it’s because we had to learn them first…. it’s just the way we like it!

Blessings and Very Grateful

Marla

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