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


click to see photos

Marla’s Minute: Keeping it Going

Marla’s Minute: Keeping it Going

For months, we at ACE have been upbeat about writing our monthly newsletters, letting you see how God is “retooling” our ministry for the times at hand and how our Jamaican employees are adapting to new job descriptions to keep working and contributing to the welfare of others as well as their families. It’s been good, and all of us at ACE have been grateful to see the willingness to learn new ways of making income and surviving the COVID year.

For starters, some of our hotel employees have volunteered to move to the Green Life Llanrumney Farms location just on the other side of Port Maria to do whatever is needed. Where we once had employees working housekeeping, they are now taking orders at Buccaneers or raking the yard or trimming the trees. Nationals who were once driving are now helping with the farm animals, clearing the “bush” and installing fencing. It’s humbling to see us as a family doing whatever it takes to survive these times.

Allen and I have read other non-profit newsletters that say without you, they will have to shut down. We strive to not focus on the negative, to never panic in the face of adversity. We try to write these monthly letters from a position of Faith vs Fear. We continue to trust God and we know He is very clear when He speaks through His Word. He cannot dwell in both realms of fear and faith. We must choose one, and We Choose Faith Always.

We are, however, reaching a breaking point. While we are keeping our head in the clouds of faith and will not concede in fear, it’s true we don’t know what will happen to ACE. For the first time in 33 years, we are asking you, our supporters, to prayerfully consider making a donation to ACE not for extras or normal supplies but to literally keep our employees employed and fed. As we enter this 4th quarter of the year, they are very hungry and concerned over what is next. Your financial treasure at this time is greatly appreciated and will keep families together, working, growing and seeing the actions of God in their lives, through your generosity. Will you stand with us as we finish out the year in Faith?

Allen and I have no doubt that this setback, too, is only a season. So much good has come out of this year, as our previous newsletters have mentioned. We are looking forward to 2020 being over, but for the right reasons… to see all we’ve learned and appreciate the journey. King David in the Psalms, whenever he was down and feeling defeated, always looked back on the goodness of God. We, too, at ACE continually look back and see the goodness of God at every turn, and soon we will see how God saves the day.

We are grateful for all our supporters and pray for you and your families. Thank you for considering a donation to help us make it to the end of the year. We have faith in God’s plan and in the people with whom He surrounds us. We at ACE choose Faith, how about you?

Blessings for the Fall Season


(click to scroll through image gallery)

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!

(click to scroll through image gallery)

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.

(click to scroll through image gallery)

A Family Reunion

A Family Reunion

Guess who came back to Jamaica to attend the ACE Men and Women’s Conference? You guessed it – Amber, or, as her Jamaican students called her, Miss Amba! If you have served with ACE in the past ten years, you’ve met this good looking blonde whom everyone asked if she was single. Well, it so happened that Amber married a prince (Prince Brinson) with two young children, and they are living happily ever after in Atlanta. We are thrilled that part of Amber’s heart is still with ACE, so much so that she returned to teach her former students, who are now teens, at our conference.

As you may know, Amber’s aunt, Dawn, also became a member of our ACE staff back in 2014 when she took over the role of Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator. Dawn’s job has been to work with D’Vaun and other members of our ACE staff on the needs of children and families in our program. Like Amber, she had not been back down to Jamaica for many years, due to health reasons. Having Dawn able to reconnect with staff and the beauty of Jamaica and to finally connect with “her” children was an answered prayer!

Thanks, Dawn and Amber, for choosing your ACE family reunion in Jamaica and serving at our conference… because it really was “about time” that you returned.

(click to scroll through image gallery)

April Firsts!

April Firsts!

ACE did a number of firsts this Easter season!

FIRST – Through Facebook, we live streamed a Sunrise Service down by the sea at Galina Breeze Hotel. You can still view it online! 

FIRST – Sunrise Service for the Jamaicans! No one except Arlene even knew what a Sunrise Service was!

FIRST – We’ve certainly never used a paper plate and duct tape as an intro to an ACE program, but it worked!

FIRST – We’ve never felt so instantly connected to all our friends, family, and supporters of ACE across the states and Canada at the same time!

FIRST – And maybe the beginning of an Easter tradition! We were so grateful to have been able to gather in prayer and song on Jamaican soil in a place of peace among the turmoil. The sun rose as we celebrated the Risen Son!

With our 2020 calendar still so uncertain (all spring teams have cancelled and we expect the same for early summer), we ask that you consider a donation to help ACE with our everyday needs. Trip revenue is how we pay our Nationals, and without that, we are struggling. Many staff members have had hours cut but have been volunteering their time helping on the farm and doing many other projects our teams usually do. We also have a container of donations, farming equipment and supplies we need to get which requires adequate funds.

We feel, even amid this quarantine, God’s Easter promise of renewal and rebirth in our ministry. We know that all of you are a part of this journey, and we thank you for your spiritual and financial support!