About American-Caribbean Experience

A Jamaican Thanksgiving

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.


A note from Dawn Wheeler, Child Sponsorship Coordinator

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,



A Special Wellness Program comes to Jamaica

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.

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Big Up 30 returns Home!

If you were around to say hello to our Jamaicans who came to the U.S.A. last month, then you will know what a wonderful time we all had those 10 days. Allen drove us from Atlanta, Sugar Hill, Knoxville, Dayton, Cincinnati, Ringgold, and back to Atlanta in a white “church bus”. It was so much fun!! Getting to meet all of you in your environment in your regular clothes – we loved it!

Thank you for treating our Nationals with such hospitality. Believe me, they never wanted to come back. But, as we know, all good things must come to an end. We all arrived with our barrels packed to the top with things like food, cleaning supplies, and, yes, some clothes and DVDs. And everyone is happy and tired. The biggest gift weighed nothing and took up very little space. It was the gift of memories that you all provided of love and hospitality. Those memories will last forever!

Hey, let’s do it again at 50 years! We will make sure we will have a wheelchair-access church bus this time…


The Transitioning of a Foundational Block of ACE

Missions have a way of changing all of us – including me. Back in the beginning, my church at the time, North Avenue Presbyterian, served a major role in getting me on the field in Jamaica. This church understands the significance of recruiting people to take a mission trip and make a difference while serving others. While sending and serving is a big part of missions, it’s also a time of grooming and training that next generation of Believers who hear the call to “go”.

Veazey LeCraw was my assigned Elder at North Avenue, during those formative years of missions. Veazey loved Jesus and loved me. When ACE was getting its roots in Jamaica, it was Veazey who was quick to fly down and spend whatever time I needed to give me that boost of encouragement – and yes, he even took the time to teach me some vital construction techniques. Mixing “Mowta” is an important step if you want the building to stand, he would always say. I remember one time the entire team of teenagers from New York working with me and Veazey were giving him a hard time about how he substituted the word cement to “Mowta”. By the end of the week, everyone was talking Southern and passing the Mowta. Veazey was my friend, my mentor and, most of all, a godly man who transitioned last month into the arms of Jesus, one week short of turning 93.

Welcome home, Veazey, and know your life on earth had huge impact on all of us – including this Jamaican girl you fondly called “Mawla”.



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