Marla’s Minute: Let’s Hear it for the Boys

Marla’s Minute: Let’s Hear it for the Boys

Let’s hear it for the Boys…….

Remember last month’s Marla Minute when I said I was getting old? Well, this proves it. One of my many favorite songs during the 1980s (and many of you weren’t born yet!) was a song called “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”. Since Father’s Day falls in the middle of this month, we want to reflect on ACE’s admiration for the men and boys that help us at ACE.

In Jamaica, as in the states, we know that if it were not for the strength of men who come down to serve, all of us on the ground at ACE would have a much more challenging time in completing our many tasks that spring up. Just ask Allen; he is the tractor driver, who not only repairs the tractor, the bobcat, and the billy goat (as we call our large grass cutter) but drives them all when no one is around to help out. He sees firsthand the work that gets done when a strong team is serving. During one of our June weeks, we had 25 boys-to-men coming with our friend Tina’s team. These men, along with others throughout the month, have helped our men at ACE and on the farm finish the many hard and heavy things we don’t have the hands or feet to do. 

Before you ask, we are not forgetting our strong committed girls and women who are the experts at supervision and clean up after these guys complete the heavy lifting… and even do some heavy lifting themselves! It takes the unique talents of many to finish a project, and to all of our volunteers who give up their vacations and time at home to do the hard work here in St. Mary, we are grateful!

I know, it doesn’t fit our time in history to make these statements on the specific talents and strengths of men versus women. The world seems dead set on erasing our differences, but we are reminded that, to honor God, we are not to conform to the things of this world, “but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:2

Thank you, Allen and all the men that choose to make a difference, at ACE and at home. We hope you had a wonderful Father’s Day!

30 Years of Growth

30 Years of Growth

“30 years of growth and some things never change”. That’s the thought I had this past week as I mixed concrete at GLLF with my team of 27. You may be thinking that I was bemoaning the opportunity that lay ahead of me, but I really wasn’t. I actually love cooking in the Jamaican sun while mixing concrete, by hand, surrounded by my family and team. It sure beats sitting in an office staring at a computer all day!

This summer was my 30th year serving with ACE, so I was very nostalgic all week long. I met Marla as a high school student back in 1994. She took me and a small team up around Mandeville to a place called Bethel. We spent ten days serving the local community in the same ways that many of you have since.

Some things have never changed: the heart and commitment that Allen, Marla and ACE have for the local community, a heart for service and compassion, which always finds creative ways to invest in those that need help but may feel uncomfortable asking for it.

For those of you that have been there, you know exactly what I am talking about. Many Jamaicans have a quiet need shrouded in pride that takes a bit of patience and perseverance to get to heart of, and ACE has that patience and perseverance.  

In 30 years, many other things haven’t changed as well but one that stands out to me year after year – and keeps me coming back, if I’m honest – is my team and the commitment that I have made to them.  

Team leaders, you will get this. Lean in with me for a minute and be encouraged. Our teams may change in number and gender. Our teams may change in skills and gifts. But the gift of exposing a new member to the ministry never changes. The joy of seeing a member return to that special island never changes. The awe of watching The Lord move among your group never changes, and feeling the weight, the good weight, of leadership never changes.

I’m always astonished at this universal truth; we go to Jamaica to help “Change Lives and Transform Communities”, but it somehow always ends of being my life that’s changed and my little community that’s transformed. “30 years of growth and some things never change.”

The Harvest is Great

The Harvest is Great

Before 2008, my perception of Jamaica was based on the cruise ship port in Ocho Rios and commercials for the huge all-inclusive resorts. All of that paints a picture of a thriving culture where everyone is living the dream life. It was not until June of 2008 that I really experienced the true heart and culture of Jamaica and its people.

In the beginning of 2008, Brandon, my son, who was 14 at the time, expressed an interest in going on a mission trip through our church. The idea of a teenage boy wanting to go on a mission trip to a strange new place, serving others and getting closer to God — who would say no? So, we started looking at the options, keeping in mind that my wife hates flying. We decided to investigate the trip to Jamaica, as it was the shortest flight option. After the first meeting with the trip leader, Teresa, we chose to take that leap of faith and sign up.

Fast forward to June of 2008, when we went down to Jamaica. Little did we know, our perspective of Jamaica was about to be radically changed for the better. Working with ACE, we all experienced the true heart and culture of the Jamaican people, from the schools to the infirmary and their homes. Being able to show God’s love to the Jamaican people and the joy they had was amazing.

Fast forward to today. It has been 17 years since our first trip to Jamaica with ACE. The work we did on that first trip touched our hearts in a way that kept us wanting to return, which led Brandon and myself to continue to do these trips. Over the years, we have gone with various size teams down to just ourselves and meeting up with other teams. The relationships we have created over the years with other US teams and more importantly the Jamaicans, has been a true spiritual blessing.

The experience ACE can show someone in the first year is eye opening on how God can work, but the true benefit comes from going back over the years to see how HE continues to use ACE. The work a team does in a week may not seem like much, but each week another team builds on your work and before you know it there is a house for someone to live in or a classroom for the children. Each year you see how that cornerstone that you put in is now a structure that God created through you. These trips not only allow us to bless the Jamaicans but also the people that go on them. My greatest experiences on these trips have been seeing Brandon getting baptized in the pool and because of doing these trips he was able to meet his now wife, Danielle. If we had not listened to God and did not take that first trip, I would not have a God-loving daughter-in-law and 3 beautiful grand babies.

As I look back over the 17 years at all the changes, I see how God has worked through us, a little bit at a time. It may be hot and the work hard, but it is well worth it for the spiritual reward you receive. I can testify that God is at work during that week because the things I am able to do could not be done without His power in me. The vision that Marla has for ACE has been amazing to watch blossom over the years. It has amazed me how God gives ACE the visions, and supplies them with the staff, volunteers and finances to carry out those visions. I also give a shout out to Allen. He has to be a godly man to support his wife, 1200 miles apart most of the year, for so many years.

The verse that came to me back in 2008 when this all started was Matthew 9:37: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few”. I have held this verse close to heart as I want to be a part of the harvest.

Many Hands Make Light Work

Many Hands Make Light Work

Many hands make light work

This old saying portrays a picture of what ACE has experienced this spring on the ground. For the first time in years, we have been blessed with many incredible volunteer teams in a row! Ranging from families, high school students, college teams, and a great mix of young adults, they came to help us get caught up on our many outreach programs. They worked tirelessly around St. Mary at the schools, on our farm, and even preparing for some new businesses and items coming online later this year. We’d love to highlight some of the many projects they worked on.

For those of you have contributed to many aspects of the Peace House, the update is that it’s almost complete! Yes, you have heard this before, but it’s true; we just had no idea how much back and forth it takes to complete a building like this. The final touch this week was the addition of the front doors. Thanks to some friends and donors of ACE, our doors were purchased and ready for painting. Granted, we still need a door opener and glass on the side, but just looking at these doors makes all of us swell with pride.

While all that was going on the Peace House, some of our volunteers focused on the Campus right next door, where our interns and long-term volunteers stay. It has been challenged for years with popping floor tiles and cracking in the main hall and the dining room. We decided to commission a group to chop it up and remove the tile, and what we found underneath was a beautiful terrazzo floor. It’s been there since the early 90s when the house was built. Anyone know how to make it come alive again? It’s dull but has potential. Every time we get this kind of help, we are pleasantly surprised at what our teams uncover. Thank you for making the old new again.

In the last few busy months, it’s been fun to see how our Jamaican ACE staff pulled together in such a great way to work with them and each other. Ms. Foster, our Executive Director, has done an excellent job training, teaching, and coaching all of us to work as a team. Charity and Brian Zalk and family have continually increased their availability on the ground with the ACE crew. Things are going so smoothly that Allen and Marla sit back and smile, pleased at how everyone is beginning to own their own lane. Keep all of us in your prayers as everyone is learning how to operate as a team.

Teamwork makes the dream work, another old saying… and in this case, we are so grateful for such a successful and fun start to the year!

Marla’s Minute: Change is Good!!

Marla’s Minute: Change is Good!!

If you’ve ever been on a volunteer trip with Marla or her staff, you will hear almost every day, “Change is good!” The rain might come and the outdoor work may stop – no problem, because ACE always has a plan B… and C…and D…and so on.

ACE is a friend to change and that’s why we believe we have survived these challenging few years. Long before COVID, we had in our Trip Guide what we called The 5 Statements of ACE.

Let’s review and see if any of these foundation quotes have been used in the past few years of change… and how these also may have helped you in your everyday life!

  1. I’m here to serve and not to be served. This has been the real test… are we still serving God and each other versus having a pity party and wanting things to be back the way they were?
  2. You can’t make it tough enough for me to complain. Anyone complain recently or at all this year?
  3. I left all my expectations at home. Did you expect things to get back to normal sooner than it is? We sure did.
  4. It’s just the way I like it! No matter what is served up, are you ready to change your outlook to enjoy the experience?
    And finally, the one we love the most…
  5. Flexibility is the key to success! My favorite tree is the palm tree. I’ve watched it bend when a hurricane hit us, and it almost touched the ground as it took the battering of the wind and the rain. After the hurricane passed, it looked sort of like me on a bad hair day… perfectly fine and all there but looking a little worn.

With each month that passes, we find we are more and more flexible to the changes that come through our doors, onto our island and through the news. It’s such a strong reminder that God is still in charge. He loves us more than we love each other and, most of all, He reminds us through unexpected change that, through Him, “it is well with our souls.” I hope you come to the same conclusion during your seasons of change, always remembering that peace comes from within, not from what surrounds us.

Oh, one last change to point out, one that we love: Galina Breeze Hotel has a new look! We decided it was time to upgrade our image at the hotel with a new brand logo and new colors. When you come down, let us know what you think of the rebranding. It’s just the way we like it… and we hope you’ll like it, too!