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!

It’s Got to be Covid!

It’s Got to be Covid!

All our dearest friends of ACE seem to be falling deeper in love as they exchange nuptials in the middle of this unusual summer. First, it was our Chairman of the Board Dr. Steve Guy and his wife Carol last month. Now it’s our Child Sponsorship Coordinator, D’Vaun Gooden and his new wife Saskia Walker! Earlier this month, we got to see an ACE employee and former ACE employee tie the knot! 

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The Goodens had a beautiful wedding to remember… even with masks on, social distancing in the pews, and no air conditioning! While the masks were a little warm, this didn’t seem to have any effect at all on the bride and groom. Dressed in a purple velveteen jacket with purple velvet shoes, the groom was stunning, we thought… until the bride entered the church. Saskia, former ACE administrator and now a basic school teacher at Mason Hall, was literally the diamond in the room. With a white glittering gown covered in a translucent veil and Saskia’s huge smile, she was a sight that we think made D’Vaun catch his breath.

The happy couple wanted a wedding with their own special touches and with lots of laughter, dancing, and fun. Family was involved and, of course, the best man was our own Galina Breeze Operations Manager, O’Brian Miller.

Congratulations, D’Vaun and Saskia! We are happy that ACE had a small part in this lifetime event. After all, it all started here!

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)

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.

ACE has something to say

ACE has something to say

​None of us ever thought we’d be where we are today with such a global event affecting us all.  When the virus finally came to Jamaica, there was a panic of everyone looking at each other as if the entire country was a carrier of this strange disease. There is so much information to decipher for communities where day-to-day living is hard enough. Jamaica currently has 21 cases with one death (as of March 24th). Like most of you in your states, we are doing whatever our Prime Minister asks us to do and that’s “stay put”. Those that have jobs can go but use caution.

As the medical experts work night and day to find a way to stop this awful disease, the Church (not the one made of brick and mortar) is compelled to rise up and come together. We may be social-distancing, but we have never been more connected with a shared goal to care and pray for each other and for the state of our world. Some of us had to go to Ocho Rios to the pharmacy this past week. What a great impression and experience it was. Every store was open and security-equipped with hand sanitizer on a counter at the front door as we walked in. All had a big smile and greeted each customer as they entered. Tape was put on the floor in the checkout lines saying, “Please stay one meter apart for cashier”… and everyone was doing it! People can be helpful and neighborly, coming together for the common good.

Our staff and families are pulling together, but it’s difficult. The hotel is closed, as well as the jerk centers and just about everything ACE is involved in on a daily basis. Funds are hard to come by and, frankly, we have all sacrificed like you have at home, being paid for just a few days a week, if any. That is the most painful part of being in a ministry like ACE. It’s not just a job for us; it’s a way to impact people already hopeless and give them purpose through work. This will be our last week to employ the 41 Nationals who serve with ACE on the ground. The ACE team in the US has volunteered to cut back to just a few hours a week.

We at ACE will continue to pray for each of you, our partners, that this time of togetherness will be one of rest, relationship, and relying on our God who is forever good. We can look at the crazy, faithless side and wonder how will we make it through OR we can ask God to increase our faith, put fear in a box and throw it into the ocean. This newsletter will highlight some of what our ACE staff has been doing during all of this, especially with our March, April and May teams having to cancel. We hope what we are doing in Jamaica will encourage each of you – our life line in the states – to continue to do good in your corner of the world until we can once again serve together in Jamaica.

We as a ministry appreciate your prayers and your donations, even when giving hurts. You are all amazing and we leave you with a powerful verse found in the New Testament in 2 Corinthians 4:8-9. “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, struck down, but not destroyed.” (NEJV)

Stay the course; we will get through this together and be better because of it.

From all of us at ACE – Thank you for being so generous in our time of need.