About American-Caribbean Experience

Marla’s Minute: The Old Men’s Club

I know that we are not supposed to have favorites when it comes to family members, but really and truly, I think that is just a myth someone made up. We all have certain people we just like or love a little more. And I guess I’m no exception.

I enjoy going to the infirmary alone on Saturday evenings with a big pot of coffee, condensed milk, chocolate, and a dozen cups. It’s this time of the week and day when I can see God at His best in me. I’m a member of what I call the “Old Men’s Club”. Granted I’m a little old, but being a woman, I suppose it’s good enough for me to stay in the club. After all, I have the coffee. Most of the time, we all hang out on the back veranda of the men’s ward and talk about life, the good, the bad, and the best times. Today was no different except for the fact that my favorite person in our little coffee club has throat cancer.

Ever since July, I’ve seen him losing weight. He complains about the food (which, who doesn’t) and, really, I kind of ignored him. Then, two weeks ago, he didn’t seem himself and asked if I could get him to a dentist to look at his tooth. Being the Doctor Wannabe that I am, I got my flashlight and had him open his mouth for me to check. No tooth. In fact, nothing. He insisted it was his tooth. I called our local dentist and asked if he would stop in and see my friend. He did and returned with a message I wasn’t prepared to hear. While he’s only giving an educated guess, he’s seen it before and suspects it’s cancer.

I know that sooner or later, we all will die, and I also know that this body is just an encasement of our Spirit, but when I told my friend what it might be, his answer was something I didn’t anticipate. He looked up into my eyes and said, “It’s okay. I know, I’m ready, and will you be back next Saturday with more coffee?” It took everything I had to answer him without a tear. I read him Romans 8, verse 1: “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” He liked it and asked if I would read the last part of that chapter, verses 38 and 39: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I kissed his head and did the normal, “See you later, alligator,” and left. What a guy. No wonder he is my favorite at the infirmary. He has no fear, no fret – just loved me and my cup of coffee. Thank you, Lord, for these moments. It’s really what life is all about with You.

Happy Fall,

Marla & Allen


Before and After

Next time you go to the dentist, take note of the pictures that surround you in the waiting room. Last time I went, I got to watch a rotation of people with crooked, chipped, and missing teeth smile into a camera with the bottom header saying  “Before”. Then the next clip showed a picture of the same mouth with straight, white, clean teeth all lined up to present a “game show” smile, with the heading below stating “After”.

While ACE doesn’t claim to be a reconstructive ministry, we have found ourselves doing quite a bit of “Before and After” shots this past summer. So many of our families in St. Mary who are in our programs from Child Sponsorship to Green Life Farms and Galina Breeze Hotel were living in the “before” shot.

That’s until our friends, sponsors, and donors decided to invest their treasure into other people’s lives here in Jamaica. By making a monetary donation to families who were living in the “before” house, lives were incredibly changed into their “after” home… and this was not for just one or two, but many. You see, ACE believes not only in Education, Wellness, and Spiritual Discipleship, but ACE also believes that all humans deserve a place to be safe and clean. The simple things middle-class Americans enjoy every day but don’t think about – a roof, a bed, a lock on the door, food, running water – we call them basic needs, but they are not always for everyone. Here’s a highlight of what happened to change lives and help transform our communities.

While ACE is just touching the tip of the iceberg in Jamaica, believe us, it’s making a huge difference for almost a hundred people who may not live in the house but who see the goodness of God being poured out on their friends and neighbors who struggle to survive. Who knows, with your help and prayers, we may be able to get another community settled in, safe and sound and dry for the night. Thank you, supporters.



What do these two Jamaicans have in common?

What do these two Jamaicans have in common?

Well, yes, they are Jamaican-born, and, yes, they live in St. Mary, but the greatest fact they have in common is a desire to see clearly.

That’s right, Rasta (as they call him) checked himself into the St. Mary Infirmary a year ago. Due to an accident while he was a caretaker for Castleton Gardens nearby, he could not see anymore. Rasta loved landscaping, and when the man he had worked for died some years ago, Rasta still felt it was his duty to keep things looking nice at the property. Unfortunately, one day while working, something “jute” his eye causing him to lose his vision. The lady who lived there took care of him, but when she passed, Rasta decided to come to the infirmary until he could recover – and he is still there.

The little girl’s name is Ashley Gray.  She is in our Child Sponsorship program. This little sweetie just wants to learn. School is her place to be, but she has a hard time getting around or seeing the chalkboard, even in the front row. Everyone had their own idea of what is wrong, but until Saskia and D’Vaun brought it up in a staff meeting, it was all speculation. Saskia (our ACE administrator who adopted a little girl of her own two years ago) mentioned that we should consider taking this child to a specialist in Kingston for a total eye examination to determine the next step.

So, Marla received the okay from Ashley’s family as well as the permission of the Infirmary Management – we finally got the whole story from Rasta as to where he was from and who to contact – and soon, we will be setting up a day-trip to Kingston for both of our friends. We don’t know what the news will be once they are examined by an eye specialist, but we have to try to help. Here’s where you come in: would you like to help us help restore sight to the Rasta and to Ashley.

Once we find out the diagnosis, we will then make a decision to proceed with the best course of action. If you feel called to help us finance these two friends, please contact our office via email or phone (Monday through Friday) to let us know. Sometimes, it’s just stepping up to assist that makes a difference of a lifetime to those who struggle for hope.

What did the Blind man say in John 9:25?  The man who had been blind said to them, “I do not know if He is a sinner or not. One thing I know. I was blind, but now I can see.”  

Think about it, pray about……. and ACT.


We are on U.S. Soil and coming your way!

That’s right – the Jamaicans have arrived!  Did you know that 95% of ACE employees are Jamaican Nationals? That is why we believe the success of ACE is a reality: we train, equip, and give ownership in leadership to those we serve.

To celebrate ACE’s 30th anniversary and the achievements of our wonderful staff, we decided to send the Jamaican Nationals from our ACE family to visit our partners in America.  And what a celebration it will be!  Allen and Marla are enjoying being part of the enthusiasm as we all prepare to head north on September 18th.

Some of our staff have never traveled on a plane before, some have not been to the states since they were children, and Pastor Kermit Jones will be making his first trip without his Gloria.  A lot of memories will be made. If you are not sure where we will be during our Big Up 30 week, please go to our website at acexperience.org/bigup-30 or track us live on Facebook, as we will be streaming some of the trip.

In this world of conflict and confusion, it’s refreshing to know that if there are two things constant, they are God and ACE. (ACE sometimes…) Please join us in celebrating our anniversary!  Let’s make it another 30 years!



Marla’s Minute: Second Story Summer School (A Big First)

When Amanda, one of our newest board members, rolled on the ACE board this year to serve, the first thing she and her husband, Digger, requested to do was to provide Summer School for our Second Story students in the Child Sponsorship Program.

I have never seen our students so excited as I did this summer, as I watched our eager teenagers coming early each day to attend class. You see, Amanda, Digger and their team of teachers have a unique way of teaching topics that make anyone want to learn. And learning is exactly what these students did. Amanda put an entire mystery together for the students to figure out how to find the thief who stole Ms. Shirley’s cookbook.

Even Mr. Moncrieffe had fun! Every day as I passed him leaving in the parking lot, he just shook his head with a big smile and said, “Wow! What a great day. I’m learning so much about making subjects fun for students.  We hope this is just the beginning.”

Thank you to Amanda and her team and to all for investing in this wonderful 30-year-old ministry called ACE — where the learning never stops and we always find the fun!

Always grateful for you,

Marla and Allen


Edge Hill gets a new Stove….

Special needs schools are rare in Jamaica. However, in St. Mary, there is a special needs school near the ACE campus. It’s called Edge Hill, and ACE has had a student in our Child Sponsorship Program attending school there for two years. Just the other day, we learned that the school was in need of a gas stove for training students to cook. Without a second thought, ACE jumped at the opportunity to give back to this school that is making a difference in St. Mary to those less fortunate. We bought a beautiful gas stove with a full oven. As the ACE staff was taking it off the truck and unpacking it, we saw the smile of the Vice Principal, Mrs. Charmaine Palmer Lee as she helped point to the location of install.

Thank you all for your treasure. This is one of the many reasons why we do what we do. It makes a difference.


iQuest 2.0

The interns this year were fantastic! Of course, I say that every year as God chooses these young adults to spend 75 days with ACE in Jamaica. This year was no different. We had a returning intern, Tahj, who worked as our Inventory Coordinator and Trainer for this year’s team. Anthony, our 16-year-old sponsored student and beehive honey expert wannabe, joined our iQuest team as a 4S student. (Second Story Summer Series).

Many things were different this summer versus past summers. These interns leave having established a new series — the next generation — for iQuest: iQuest 2.0. Our Jamaicans led the teams for most of the summer, while the American students supported the leader. Volunteers were great in trusting the process and our Jamaican staff from “hello” at the airport to “we will miss you” at the departure. Certainly, ACE has come of age…. and it’s all good.

If you or someone you know is interested in interning with ACE next summer, please contact Susan in our stateside office at susan@acexperience.org.  We will be accepting applications starting September 1st.



From Bean to Bar

By now you should know that ACE is always looking for ways to get people working in Jamaica, especially in sustainable jobs. Jamaica has many natural treasures that are grown and produced on this island. It just so happens that St. Mary, our parish, produces some of the best chocolate in the world — that’s right, in the world!

Our cocoa trees produce a bean known as Creola, a very dark and well sought-out bean for making chocolate. ACE, through the help of friends, has decided to test our taste buds by producing our own chocolate bars. We are still playing around with a name for the bar. Right now, however, we are going to class in the states to learn the art of taking a cocoa bean to a chocolate bar called “Cloud 9”.  Atlanta happens to be the city that offers world-renowned training classes on making chocolate, so we sent Allen and Bruce (a volunteer and chocolatier) for the week.

While this is a challenging start-up, we’ve stepped out in faith and bought the equipment ACE needs to teach, train, and develop a great Jamaican chocolate bar. Some of you — our supporters — have partnered with us in this venture by investing your treasure. Thank you! We are still seeking funding to get the equipment shipped and cleared and the room set up for production. We hope to hire a mother of one of our sponsored students. Remember, we go deep. If a mother or father can work, the entire family is affected. Would you help us accomplish this start up? Think about it. Pray about it.

Did we mention it’s a “sweet deal”?


Marla’s Minute: Tahj’s Story

ACE has been sponsoring students for almost eight years now. We started with a few kids in the neighborhood that really needed help with food, clothing, books, taxi and shoes. Speeding forward, we now have close to 250 elementary and kindergarten students coming out of our communities of Hampstead, Galina, Water Valley, Mason Hall, and Heywood Hall.

The one-year commitment we originally made has quickly turned into a lifetime of learning and relationships between Jamaican families and their American sponsors. Even Allen and I have developed a special relationship with the families of our sponsored children, especially one in particular. Tahjebe, son of ACE’s own Lorna from Green Life Farms, is now on his way to the Caribbean Maritime University, a prestigious college in Kingston that has a 100% placement rate. Watching Tahj grow from a skinny little boy in Primary school to a skinny college man (smile) is a great marker to how this program prepares our students for future academic success.

This is Tahj’s last summer with ACE as he is preparing to enter the University and live on campus next month. Lorna, Tahj, and I were sitting around the kitchen table a few nights ago, reminiscing about Tahj as a child and how proud we are to be part of his life. Of course, his mother started crying and then Tahj got embarrassed – a typical mother/son relationship. She has always had big dreams for him, and now he is ready to find them for himself. Tahj wants to be a Ship Captain, which seems very achievable to me.

For those of you who sponsor students with ACE, we’d love to know the stories behind your child and how your stories have impacted your lives. Allen and I, while we don’t have children of our own, truly feel like we have a whole bunch of kids around us growing up fast. We are all making a difference in young lives, some here at home and some right next door.

What’s your story?? We would love to know!

~ Blessings, Marla & Allen


With the iQuest Team comes Talent

Next time you come down to ACE, you’ll find a bit more color around our little part of Jamaica! To start with, we have had people from all over Mason Hall associated with the Clinic stopping us in town to say thank you for the “most beautiful” sign! Then, there is the incredible wall mural you all will enjoy when you meet outside on the Henry Morgan deck in the cool evenings. And we can’t forget to mention the mural by the Tuck Shop!

Who is the person responsible for all this glorious artwork? She’s Olivia, one of our many talented iQuest 2.0 interns, who has graciously spread her artistic skills all over the ACE place!

Olivia with Henry Morgan room mural
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And it doesn’t end there! For those of you who don’t know, the Campus is officially ours!  When you arrive, you will be met with a beautiful automatic gate with even more of Olivia’s fabulous designs wrapped around the columns to greet you. Thank you, Olivia, for brightening up so many corners of ACE with your talent, and thanks to all our iQuest interns for what they brought to ACE this summer!  More about them next month!