Marla’s Minute: The Widow, Flour & Oil

Marla’s Minute: The Widow, Flour & Oil

The other day I was reading a story in 1 Kings, Chapter 17, about the widow who, when the prophet Elijah asked her for a drink and a piece of bread during a severe drought and famine, her reply was “I don’t have any bread – only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I’m gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it- and die.” The story goes on to say that Elijah asked her to take what she had for herself and make a small cake of bread for him to eat and then make something for herself and her son. Elijah then added this one sentence that changed the widow and her son’s situation instantly… “For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: the jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord gives rain” on the land.

The widow went away and did as Elijah had told her. Sure enough, there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. The jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.

This past month, God sent us, figuratively speaking, a jar of flour and a jug of oil in the form of fifteen volunteers to supply us with encouragement, help, and unconditional love. In the midst of the “famine” of visitors we have been experiencing (thanks to Covid and the lining of fear in the mix), God sent us exactly what we needed, as ACE knows He always will.

On February 20th, these fifteen American friends (and new friends!) arrived into Galina Breeze Hotel with much excitement, big smiles, and lots of needed supplies for us and our many neighbors who were living on that last drop of oil and flour. They came to serve and not be served. And serve, they did! 

I often think about the widow story; to put it in real time, what if we believed ACE won’t make it through this famine and we were all going to die from Covid? Do we ignore God’s promises that He alone controls our future and is waiting for us to step out in faith and trust Him? It’s a challenge to overcome the fear of travel, the fear of stepping out and yet every time we “do it afraid”, as ACE says, we see a miracle happen right in front of us! The sheer joy of being part of that miracle God is working through us is exhilarating.  

That week, the last week of February, was normally our annual Men and Women’s Conference, where Jamaicans come to us for praise and fellowship. While it didn’t happen the way it has for decades and we upheld all the Covid rules it was exactly the way God set it up to happen this year. Take a few minutes to watch this incredible video made by our ACE friends when they returned to the U.S.

We hope this will encourage you to see all that needs to be done – and that CAN be done – and to get on a plane and get here! That oil and flour goes a long way, as one team builds on another and God always provides what we need when we need it. If you hear that call to come down, perhaps you are part of that miracle!

Thank you, friends and families, for the love!
Marla

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Marla’s Minute — Holy Cow!

Marla’s Minute — Holy Cow!

Whenever Allen and I travel to KY to see my parents, we usually go to a place my dad loves to go for breakfast. We don’t have these restaurants in GA anymore, but Bob Evans is our place and their slogan used to be “Down on the Farm.” To me, that phrase meant eating fried food and delicious pancakes. Now that I’m on a farm every day, that phrase means a lot of work!

ACE/GLLF is not trying to create another Bob Evans in Jamaica, but we are definitely learning a lot about what it means to be down on the farm, with pigs, horses, all the chores and that good tired feeling of accomplishment at the end of the day.

Most recently, we are excited to see how our own cattle will start another micro-business for Green Life Llanrumney Farms. Thanks to some wonderful donors, GLLF is now the proud owners of 26 heifers (that’s baby female calves). These calves will grow up to produce calves and beef for the buyers who want grass-fed natural beef meat. That’s one side of the story. The other side is, after our calves calf, we will offer employees and sponsored families the opportunity to purchase a cow. This will begin the legacy for their children to not only own their own herd on the GLLF but to learn about how to be sustainable and make a living as a farmer.

This concept is very important to ACE as our focus is always to be self- sustainable and to teach this to our National friends and families. Want to be part of the investment? Let us know.

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A Tale of Two Sisters

A Tale of Two Sisters

We’ve been blessed to have Emily and her sister, Mary, as leaders and contributors to ACE for many decades. Both have led multiple teams – Emily through school mission groups and Mary leading medical trips – and both recently came down to serve with ACE together. Emily had some thoughts on her time with us in January:

If you have ever spent any time on an ACE trip, you’ve most likely helped with some type of construction work, painting, or mixing concrete. Or you’ve been part of a bucket brigade hauling rocks, loved on infirmary residents and helped with P.E. for students at a school. Or maybe you’re from the medical profession and have been a part of clinics and dental care.

But did you ever think that being a part of a cattle drive while on a trip would be added to that list?

My sister, Mary, and I had that very opportunity to be a part of ACE’s first cattle drive. Forty head of cattle had to be moved from one pasture to another, which seems like a pretty straightforward task… except that the other pasture was over a half mile away and involved crossing the road, running through the open field at Llanrumney, down a trail through the bush and then through a series of gates. After a couple hours of running, yelling, waving our arms and sweating, the job was completed. While this was an exhilarating and somewhat hilarious experience, it was an event that really highlighted the new face of ACE.

Since Covid has had its grip on the world, you may think that the work of ACE has been slowed down like everything else – that is definitely not the case. When God opened the door for ACE to purchase the 800+ acre Llanrumney property about a year and a half ago, it seemed like a huge step to purchase this piece of land, but now, looking back, we see how God had his hand in it the whole time. Here, God has provided countless natural resources for the ministry to use and market, some yet to be discovered. It has opened the door to employ more single mothers, create a safe haven for families to spend quality time together and to have a larger impact in the local farming community.

And most importantly, it is opening doors for Marla and the staff to share the love of Christ to these individuals with whom they come in contact.

It has also allowed the ACE staff to grow stronger together as a family. To stand back and watch them work extremely hard together while laughing and joking with each other was such a joy. While waiting for the cows to decide to move in the right direction, I went down the list with some of the ladies of all the things they know how to do, from cleaning, cooking, construction, tutoring, planting, harvesting; the list goes on – and now includes cattle driving. Even though the mission teams are few, the work of ACE continues through its amazing staff who have developed new skills and such compassion for their community.

You may be thinking, does ACE need me anymore? Yes! They absolutely do, more than ever. All of this work is just in its beginning stages and there is so much to be done. I encourage you to get a small group of friends or family together and plan a trip down. Yes, there are a few more inconveniences that you have to experience to travel, but, in the end, it’s so worth it.

And if you’re not able to travel, there are other ways to be involved. Any financial contribution to help move the ministry in this direction would be of great benefit. Finally, you can be involved through prayer. Oswald Chambers writes, “Prayer does not fit us for the greater work, prayer is the greater work.” Pray for the ministry as it moves forward, for the staff, for finances and thank God for opening the doors that He has and the provisions He has given… even for the provision of cows to eat the lush grass that is on the land, God, in His foreknowledge, so graciously provided.

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A Moment of Divine Clarity

A Moment of Divine Clarity

Our vision of “changing lives and transforming communities” is applicable to more than just the St. Mary community. Sometimes, the lives changed are those of the volunteers themselves. A long-time supporter of ACE (former intern and volunteer), Barret Bender, shares his story of how a seemingly simple interaction would someday become a moment of divine clarity.

I’ve been a Christian as long as I can remember. I claim that I accepted Jesus into my heart in 4th grade at a Christian basketball camp at my local YMCA (the same YMCA I would later obsess over the circumference of my biceps), but truthfully I cannot remember making that decision. And I was always a little uninspired by my story – or really the absence of a story – of not having a real “come to Jesus” moment. Until mine happened. 

I was 17 and on my first mission trip in St. Mary, Jamaica. The organization we were working with had a really special relationship with the town’s infirmary, which was kind of like a hospital, except the people never get to go home. In fact, that is actually what delineates the two – a hospital is a place designed to diagnose and treat the sick, injured or dying, while an infirmary is a place where the sick, injured or dying are cared for. And to ensure there was no confusion, there was a sign in front of the building that read “St. Mary Infirmary: Home for the Poor and Destitute”.

We were there that day to take the residents on a field trip to the beach. For some, this would be their first time leaving the infirmary in a long time; for others, this would be their first time getting out of bed in a long time. 

The game plan was simple – each of us was to pair up with a resident and help them enjoy the beach however they wished to do so. 

When we got to the beach, I was paired with a man named Dino (pronunciation: d EE – n oh), who I quickly learned was deaf. He was younger than most of the residents – probably in his forties – and one of the few who was capable of and interested in getting in the ocean. And so into the ocean we went!

It was one of those gently sloping shores where it feels like you walk miles before the water gets to your waist. Following Dino’s cue, we set out for deeper waters. As we were wading, I couldn’t help but wonder if I was really needed. Unlike many of the other residents, who needed significant help just to sit up in the sand, Dino didn’t really need a partner – and aside from a smile here and there, I couldn’t even communicate with him.

When the water got a little above our waists, Dino started to slow down, and I could see his focus shift from his footing to the vastness of the ocean in front of us. And we just stood there in a kind of mutual appreciation.  

Then, before I could register what was happening, Dino threw his arm around my shoulders and kicked his legs up, as if he had stepped on something scary and never wanted to touch the ocean floor again. Instinctively, with one of his arms still around my shoulders, I extended my arms below his torso to help keep him afloat. And to my surprise, his face gave away that that was exactly what he was going for – he wanted me to hold him so that he could just float. And so there I was, standing in the Caribbean Sea, holding a 40-something year old Jamaican man.

I don’t know how much time passed, but the feeling that I wasn’t needed was quickly replaced by a deeper and stronger feeling that not only was I needed here this day, but that I was needed for all my days. I felt like I was experiencing in a new way, maybe even for the first time, what it was like to be the hands and feet of Christ, and that there was a calling on my life to do this kind of work – to help people like Dino stay afloat. 

When I got home from the trip, I couldn’t wait to tell people about my experience with Dino. For the first time in my life, I felt like there was a story related to my faith that was worth sharing. And so I did. I told my family. I told my friends. I told my youth group. I even told an atheist professor of mine, who was either so moved or so confused that he actually came to Jamaica with me the next summer to experience what I described for himself (which is a story for another time).

As time went on, though, my experience with Dino faded a bit in my memory. When I would think of it, I’d have mixed emotions. I’d think fondly of my time in Jamaica, but then I’d wonder if I was living out the calling on my life that I discovered through my experience with Dino. I’d struggle to think of any recent examples where I was being the hands and feet of Christ, and I was having a hard time reconciling what that was supposed to look like throughout different seasons of life. 

And then one morning, almost nine years after that first trip to Jamaica, I was drinking coffee at my kitchen table before work when out of nowhere a thought crossed my mind that I don’t think was my own (that’s one of the ways Christians believe God speaks). And the thought was this: that I had gotten the story of Dino all wrong. I was not the hands and feet of Christ to Dino that day – I was Dino. I was and still am poor and destitute, with no way of swimming, of even holding my head above water, without Jesus.

And right there at my kitchen table, over 1,500 miles from the shores of Jamaica, I realized I’d just had a real “come to Jesus” moment.

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A Word from our Board of Directors Chairman, Dr. Guy…

A Word from our Board of Directors Chairman, Dr. Guy…

Sitting on a recent flight to Jamaica reading the “American Way” magazine, I came across an article entitled “Refueling Your Emotional Tank”. I reflected on how little time I had spent over the last eight months in recharging my emotional batteries. Covid has robbed us of many activities that usually help to do just that; many of us have not been attending regular worship services, bible studies, family visits, volunteering or even working out.

 Being back at Galina Breeze this month reminded me of how thankful I am to be part of ACE. The energy that still persists at ACE warms my heart! The hotel is looking great, getting new solar panels to help us reduce our cost of electricity and be off the grid. The ACE campus is housing volunteers spending one to four weeks working on the farm and with Cloud 9 Chocolate. The ACE house is buzzing with students who are out of school working in virtual classrooms. Child sponsorship is still running full time to help feed students and their families as well as attend to other needs.

 Cloud 9 Chocolate is busy upping production for the upcoming holiday season. Bruce (our expert chocolatier) has been experimenting with new flavors, like incorporating sorrel flower into the chocolates. We are also getting ready for chocolate tours from the cruise industry when they return to the island. The jerk center on our Green Life Llanrumney property has been a big success with increasing business, providing the best jerk on the North Coast! Our newest tenant in the center is Knutsford Express. Two buses a day stop to pick up and deliver packages and people to Montego Bay and Kingston – that will be bringing even more business to that area.

 I had the chance to meet Robin, our cattleman with well over 50 years’ experience. Our pastures are ready, and we will be bringing 60 head of cattle to graze and get ready for market. The wellness center is ready and waiting for our medical and dental teams to ramp up soon. We are working with health officials to prepare a team for February.  We were proud to show off our facilities recently to the Smile With Heart foundation, a non-profit that partners with volunteer professionals to provide dental care to children in need.

Well, after spending the last five days traveling and engaging with the ACE staff in Jamaica, I am recharged, refueled and my heart overflows. Covid can’t minimize the impact of ACE. When you are getting weary or feel burned out, when your emotional tank reads E, say a prayer for ACE, sign up to sponsor a child or make a donation.  We are still changing lives and transforming communities. We encourage your continued prayer support and we are thankful for your time and treasure.

 May God bless and continue to encourage you as you serve,

Steve Guy