Allen and I did something we have never done before last month. We took a cruise over the Christmas and New Year Holiday. It had been three years since we took some time off to relax and that we did. Everyone seems to have bucket lists, and we checked things off on ours! This was the highlight of our tour was cruising through the Panama Canal, even though we visited many South and Central American countries. While the food, the company, and the sights were amazing, one thing stood out to us everywhere – poverty. There were so many people trying to survive, working hard, making a way in countries throughout Central and South America.
In the midst of all the touring, Allen and I looked at each other one day and said how grateful we were to have all that God has given us. That alone encourages us to give back – and give back is what we aim to do in 2019, even more than last year. Our staff wants to challenge each of you to consider doing the same thing, to up your giving both financially and physically. If you give to a church or somewhere that is making a difference, give a little more. If you have an opportunity to help a neighbor, a child, a single mother, a widower… jump right in and do it.
We’d love to hear your story of how you were the hands and feet of Christ, and, with permission, we’d even feature your story in a future “Marla’s Minutes” for all to be encouraged. As the Nike commercial says, just do it! And watch what God will do. Happy New Year!
Much love and gratitude,
Marla n Allen
PS – this was our New Year Eve picture on the ship. We will post it everywhere for a long time as we hardly look this nice every day. Blessings!
Royal Ambassadors of Mason Hall was formed by a high school graduate in the United States. Trent, in lieu of a gift for graduating from 12th grade, wanted to send ACE some treasure to impact the boys without fathers that he got to know and spend time with at Mason Hall. Today, because of his love for others, we are on our second year of the RAMH Boys Club, where every Thursday, we have over a dozen boys from 3rd grade to 6th attending our leadership program after school. Our ACE men – Richard, D’Vaun, and Nicalos – all take an active role in meeting, teaching, studying, playing and most of all serving as role models for these young boys seeking attention anyway they can get it.
This is just one example of how God, through ACE, has touched the hearts of volunteers over the years. Trent could have been done with his week of service, but he didn’t stop when his plane landed. The idea was planted and he followed through, which gave ACE employees an opportunity to make a bigger impact on the community, which in turn may inspire these boys to create a better world for themselves and their families. The cycle is ever-growing. One life changed becomes many lives changed.
For years, we’ve been talking about building our own school. Then our plans changed, as God withheld the property we had hoped would open up for a school, at least for now. Believing God’s timing is far better than ours, we pulled back. ACE wanted to build a special needs school at one time but found that putting both schools together would not attract the local families, as there seems to be a stigma with joining a special needs school with a regular school.
Every day for the past five years, as we drive to the ACE Campus, we pass a school called Edge Hill . You might have seen it – the name is on a big Digicel sign. In checking online, we realized that the Digicel Foundation had in fact built this school for the 30+ students who were assessed as special needs. Remember when your parents and teachers would say to you, “Never assume, always ask?” Well, I must have forgotten that because I assumed Digicel was actively involved in the day-to-day needs of running the school. I was wrong.
After meeting the vice principal, Mrs. Lee when ACE donated the stove a few months ago, we learned that Digicel only built the building but doesn’t support the actual operation and costs involved to run the school. And that’s when ACE enthusiastically said, “We will!!!” We became partners this year with Edge Hill Special Needs School and feel honored to have access to the students and wonderful teachers.
Our first interaction with the students was last week, when our friends and partners at Castine Church conducted our first home economics and shop classes for the students. Eyes got wide and smiles began when we opened the chocolate chip cookie mix and the peanut butter cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies?!
While the cookies were being made, another class on table-setting was being conducted across the hall. Setting a table with forks and knives might come in handy if the Mayor were to stop by. The best part of was cutting the peanut butter sandwiches before eating them.
In another class room, the shop students all built sailboats. Using drills and an electric saw, our expert volunteers allowed the students to actually cut and drill into their wood for their boats. I’m not sure which had a greater impact, using the equipment or finishing their boats! It was a wonderful time. The school asked if we would be willing to sponsor some of their students as the need is great. Of course! We are honored to have so many volunteers on a waiting list to adopt/sponsor students so that should be an easy ask.
Next time you visit us in Jamaica, bring us some home economics stories and cooking items. Cookie sheets, pots, pans,, bowls, spoons – you name it, they need it. And if you are the shop kind of person, bring your old tools, new tools, levels, safety goggles, measuring tapes, and anything to build. They love it and, frankly, so do we!!
Last week, ACE was asked to attend an award ceremony in Kingston hosted by the Local Government for the Poor. ACE received the award for all of St. Mary for our consistent commitment and service to the people of St. Mary Infirmary.
This was such a surprise, since we don’t think of it as serving the underserved but rather spending time with those we love. ACE is at the infirmary three or more days a week, 52 weeks a year, with or without volunteers. Through your generosity, ACE has given to date 4,967 adult diapers and 200 bed chux to the infirmary to ensure the residents’ needs are taken care of.
This year alone, ACE brought 5,460 meals of patties, hot soup, and specialty items. We have taken 25 – 40 residents at a time on 32 mind stimulation and physical therapy field trips, including Galina Breeze pool parties, afternoons at the beach, craft activities and dance classes in the park. We shave, we cut hair, we clean, we help the staff, we spend time with the residents… we simply love them. They are family to us.
We are grateful to receive an acknowledgement from the government, but we already know in our hearts that this is where we need to be, and we thank the infirmary residents for rewarding us every day.
We are also proud to report that through ACE, 8,229 dental/medical/chiropractic patients have been seen and treated. This includes patients from the government clinics in rural St. Mary as well as our own Wellness Center located in the Llanrumney commercial building. There are now lots of healthy people walking around with pulled teeth, clear lungs, lower blood pressure, and overall wellness.
From the beginning three decades ago, ACE has been heavily involved in the educational process of our sponsored and unsponsored children. Currently, ACE sponsors 250 students in St. Mary. Their needs are great: food, taxi, clothing, tutoring, medical/dental needs, counseling, safe places to live. All this takes lots of people and resources. Without your support of love and funding, we would be at school without a pencil.
In 2018, through your financial support, ACE has employed three Nationals dedicated to our schools, children, families, and learning. These men are college-educated and come with a knowledge base and love for early child development. Saskia, our Administrator, has gone through extensive training the past three years and is overseeing the day-to-day activities of all children and their parents. ACE hosted five birthday parties in 2018 for our 250 sponsored students. In addition, we have employed two mothers of children in our sponsorship and built six homes this year, offering a true safe haven to families in need.
This year, ACE held 24 CFMs (Community Family Meetings) for the parents or guardians offering speakers from the community that teach/speak on topics like positive discipline, nutrition, hygiene, and spiritual needs in a child, just for a start. Speakers are leaders in our Parish and take great joy in delivery these topics to parents of the children.
ACE held summer school for the 26 Second-Story students who made it to the second level of public education offered in Jamaica. Our US educators and local staff held a one-week critical thinking program where students solved a mystery of who stole Ms. Shirley’s cook book. Students actually showed up early to attend the class… WOW!
While we still don’t have our own school or our children’s village, it’s never left our mind. We wait on the land to come available so we will ensure it’s permanent. Let’s see what God will do in 2019.
Did I mention ACE is sponsoring the high school boys volleyball team at Oracabessa High school? In fact, on behalf of ACE, D’Vaun – one of our Child Sponsorship employees for ACE – accepted the award last week for supporting and sowing into our community of Galina and Oracabessa. Let’s hope they win the National Title this year – that means scholarships for University and abroad for some of the boys!
Did you know that every person who desires prayer with ACE in our clinics gets a phone call the next week and a personal visit from our staff – 100% of the time? Many didn’t know this until a former patient came into the wellness center a few months ago and said, “Thank you for the visit. When I’ve been to other clinics, no one has ever come back to see me.” Our ACE staff is continuing these outreaches as most of the families have no church or have been rejected from the traditional church due to lack of income, clothing, or just the ability to get there.
That’s why, in 2019, ACE will be building our own community “Peace House” – a place just like the New Testament home churches had back in the early AD times.
As you may remember from previous newsletters, this place will be a gathering spot where the local community brings food and cooks with our ACE National staff, while engaging in social activities. Everyone will eat a big meal together and hear a story told by another National about the Book of the Beginning and how God loves them so much, He sent His Son. And guess what? We expect to have so many coming that we may have to offer two services a week! The subculture in St. Mary is alive with a desire to be loved and begging to be a part of something wonderful!
2018 gave us so many blessings and opportunities for spiritual discipleship. Join us in 2019 as we multiply them ten-fold and begin the PEACE HOUSE.
We’ve got a great update for you regarding Mr. Byrd and Ashley’s sight challenges.
ACE took Mr. Byrd and Ashley to a private specialist in Kingston to find out what we could do to help them see better. Mr. Byrd was diagnosed with glaucoma. With him being in his 80’s, most of his sight cannot be restored; however, he is being given drops each day to help him at least maintain what sight he has.
He is so grateful – and did I mention, on the trip back from Kingston, we stopped in his home town so he could say hello to everyone? We think that did more healing than the drops! ACE will continue to supply him with the expensive drops available only through private pharmacies.
Ashley received her special glasses. This little girl is a super star! While her vision is a “born” challenge, the glasses are compensating for the loss of sight. Ashley is so surprised to see leaves on trees!! Imagine, all your life, just seeing big blobs of things and not details. And life really is in the details.
Thank you, friends, for stepping up to this challenge of helping those that cannot help themselves.
Most Americans never think about the fact that Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in Jamaica. In fact, it’s only been the past few years that the local restaurants advertise a special meal to tourists for this day. ACE was fortunate enough to participate in what we would call a real Thanksgiving event just days before we sit down to a marvelous dinner with family and friends.
Mr. Irons is a relatively new resident who has some unknown sickness. Since ACE visits and feeds our infirmary residents three times a week, we see new men and women arriving quite often. As we got to know Mr. Irons a little better, we began to talk about simple topics like his family, where he is from, what he used to do, etc.
As the conversation went on, the question came, “Do you have any children?” Almost immediately, tears began to stream down his face as he began to cry. We sat and waited. The answer was soft, but we could still understand him… “Yes, I have four boys, one 16 and the others are triplets, they are 10.”
He paused. “And I long to see them.”
Speeding forward and with a little detective work, we located the family. They live in the Highgate area with their mother. With the mother’s permission, we picked up the boys and brought them to the infirmary to see their father, who undoubtedly looked much different to them. He was overcome with the joy of seeing his sons. The time was short as children are really not supposed to be at the infirmary, but the visit was good.
As we dropped the boys off at the taxi stand and gave them some taxi and food money, my mind still needed to sort out what had just happened. Did we do the right thing? Was it worse to not see each other in the condition their father was in, or was it what was needed to remind them that their father loves them and misses them? We’re not sure, but the last words the oldest son said to us as he got out of the bus were, “Thank you. I will come back next Friday.” And for that, we are thankful…
Thanksgiving comes in many different size packages. Find the joy where you least expect it.
Dear ACE Family;
I am writing to let you know that, for a period of time, I will be stepping away from my position as ACE Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator. This is necessary due to some health issues that I am currently dealing with. If you think of me, I would appreciate your prayers. The Lord has already answered many prayers regarding my situation and we know that He will continue to move. He is in control!
During the time that I am away, please know that you will be in good hands. Many of you may know ACE’s wonderful previous intern Beth (Barnett) Pitts. Beth has graciously agreed to step in and handle the Child Sponsorship program while I am off. THANK YOU, Beth! We appreciate you very much!
At this time, I do not know the exact date of when I will be returning, but I looked forward to reconnecting with you when I do.
God bless you all!
In Christ Love,
Most of you know about the wellness side of ACE. It’s one of the four impact areas of ACE where we focus on physical wellness in our communities. This month was extra special as we had some old friends of ACE return with Buckie the Tooth Giraffe. They performed fluoride treatments in our primary schools and our newest partner, Edge Hill, our special needs school. What a great time! Dr. Frank, a former Chairman of ACE, returned with his brother Dr. Bill and their dental team to work non-stop at our Wellness Center using the new equipment a friend donated earlier this year. “The new dental chairs and units are fantastic!” was the general comment by all. The week ended with over 400 students being treated with fluoride and over 190 community friends served in the chairs.
While the dentists were busy filling and extracting teeth, the medical side of our wellness initiative was taking on other challenges, both inside and outside our wellness center. Dr. David and Dr. Alice from Trinity On The Hill and their team saw and treated over 100 community friends daily. With water supply being low in the areas where the doctors were working, it took a lot of extra effort to make it work. It makes us feel great when we have such continued support, especially when we see our numbers for extended care in the districts actually go down as a result of continued care.
Thank you to Trinity, Dr. David, Dr. Frank and all the workers and providers that gave their time away from home to help us in Jamaica this fall.