About American-Caribbean Experience

“Is that a house or a chicken coop?” Making a Difference, One Family at a Time

Many of you will remember when ACE first began the outreach program of sponsoring children in St. Mary. These were children who simply could not attend school because of many economic challenges ranging from no uniform to wear, shoes with holes, persistent hunger and sleeping only on the floor or on a mattress shared by many.

Then something great happened: one by one, child by child, family by family, you – our stateside volunteers – stepped up and said, “We can help!” And help you did. Our “Sponsor a Child” program started with only four students. A decade later, ACE is now changing an entire community with over 230 students attending school full-time and is growing stronger every day, thanks to you, our wonderful supporters, who believe in living simply so others can simply live.

This month, we are highlighting just a few of the impact areas that your continuous investment into ACE has made in our communities, starting with the basics: homes…

“Is that a house or a chicken coop?”

…was what one of the ACE guests asked me when we were walking up to a child’s home. Of course, he was sincere, as I had not pointed out exactly where we were going. “Well,” I said, “it’s going to be a chicken coop as soon as ACE builds them their new home.” Everyone following behind me fell silent as we walked within earshot of the family coming towards us.

With awkwardness, the family greeted us, and – eager to help – began carrying whatever they could to help set up the water coolers and haul the shovels and tools needed to start. One by one, day by day, volunteer by volunteer, a house began to emerge. And the family kept working. Every day when we arrived, mom and dad were the first ones we saw getting ready for our arrival, and when we had to leave, they were the last to say goodbye while putting tools away for the next day.

Many people ask how do we decide who gets a home? It’s easy. The sponsor of the children lets us know that they would like to help with certain projects outside of the normal monthly fee to send their child to school. We get the news from our stateside office, send our construction team out, led by Bullah, and we price out the material, minus the labor. Then we wait…

Generally within a week, we will hear back as to what a sponsor can supply in the way of funds. Many times, ACE contributes through the help of others who want to be a part of the change.  And then we start. Our volunteer teams arrive and work begins.  This is what happened in January and this month, when teams came down to generously offer their talents of labor and skill.

Already in 2018, we can say thank you for making a huge difference in five families’ lives!

 

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We Finished with a Bang!

We can dance, we can play, we can sing…. so the storyline goes! With a very successful Christmas party and art camp, ACE finished the year with a bang in Jamaica.

Last year, if you remember, Sondra from First Christian Church from Stillwater brought her team of young adults to Jamaica and launched the first ART camp for students on school break. It went so well that we had to do it again. This time, however, we had another longtime friend of ACE add her team to the mix – Tina and her students from Rebel Ministries. From Art Camp to the Christmas party, we were absolutely in awe as both leaders and teams came together to give our sponsored and non-sponsored students a great week of fun.

Speaking of the Christmas party, ACE tried something this year that wasn’t exactly a spiritual part of ACE – Santa Claus! Here is where middle-class American thinking met Jamaican traditions. When our sponsored students walked in and saw this brown-skinned man with a white beard in a red suit sitting by their presents, hesitation grabbed them. They stood and stared, wondering who this person was and what was he doing at their party.

While the experience went well, we quickly learned that Christmas without Santa will do just fine next year. Let’s keep the reason for the season and not add to the story. It was another learning moment for ACE and our volunteers, and, ultimately, a good time was had by all! Thank you, Child Sponsors, for sending your love. Perhaps you can come down sometime and enjoy the moments you create for your students and us with your support!

 

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Katie’s Korner

The infirmary has always been one of my favorite ways that ACE is able to minister to the forgotten. We are there as a staff every week and are able to build relationships with the residents. Many of them aren’t able to communicate clearly, but we find our ways. One of the residents that I have gotten close with is Cassandra. She is one of the bedridden residents that can’t really speak clearly and doesn’t seem to have mentally developed completely. Nevertheless, I always share a smile with her and help her with the soup and water that we serve each week. She has started to call me Mummy, and I’m learning different ways that I can communicate with and understand her.

Over New Year’s, we had a team here to put on a music, dance and art camp for the local students while they were on holiday from school. The infirmary residents always seem to liven up when music comes to the infirmary, so we didn’t miss a chance to bring some guitars and drums while we were serving at the infirmary. When the musicians arrived to the women’s ward, I was helping one of our volunteers serve Cassandra. As we were listening to them sing for another resident, Cassandra began to say Hallelujah. I smiled and asked the guys if they knew Hallelujah? They did, and so did Cassandra. She wasn’t so familiar with the verse, but once we got to the chorus she was singing along… Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

I was moved to tears and had to walk away for a minute. Looking back at the lyrics now, I’m struck by this line: “I’ve seen joy and I’ve seen pain. On my knees, I call your name. Here’s my broken hallelujah.” Truer words cannot be said for Cassandra and for the rest of the residents at the infirmary. These are people who have seen terrible pain and they continue to experience it, and yet there they are bringing joy to myself and hundreds of others.

I will never forget hearing Cassandra singing the chorus for us that day. Needless to say, she still calls me Mummy… and sometimes she calls me Hallelujah.

 

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ACE is 30!

It’s true! American Caribbean Experience is thirty years old this year! For some of us, that’s a scary thought – when the ministry grows up, the founder grows older. Regardless of the aging process, life is very good for all of the hard workers God has used to get us to this point. We hope that the passing years have produced wisdom in understanding God’s heart so we can continue to meet the needs of the Jamaican community He has assigned us to serve.

We’ve said this many times before, but turning thirty reminds all of us that ACE only works well in meeting the spiritual, physical and mental needs of the many when volunteers are committed to long-term investment. As a ministry called to help in a developing country like Jamaica, we are very aware how God has used our U.S. and Canadian volunteers to assist us in work where we need the help most – working alongside our National families. Your time and support have sustained us for decades, and we thank you!

It’s going to be a fantastic year! ACE is celebrating with a big event in the U.S. (more to come)! We will see the beginning of some long-awaited programs that have been announced in the past and are now coming into play. We have new faces, new talent, and the same great attitude our staff and friends have had for these thirty years, so celebrate with us! When a wonderful ACE memory comes to mind, share it with us on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. We would love to hear from you!

Thirty years doesn’t sound that old – we think we are good for another thirty!  And we hope you’ll stay along for the ride!

Feeling younger everyday –

Marla and Allen

 

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Marla’s Minute: What Do You See in the Mirror?

This month, ACE was the sponsor of a very special conference at Galina Breeze Hotel. Thanks to an organization in the U.S., led by Dr. Clark Miller, “The Man in the Mirror” came to Jamaica to encourage those who attended to seize their true purpose in being a man after God’s heart.

The topics included being the leader in the family, the hero in youth’s lives, and the lover every wife needs. Allen attended and came out better than he was before, and that’s hard to beat! Galina Breeze Hotel hosted a wonderful lunch and break for the men. Thank you, Dr. Miller and Dr. Guy (our own Board Chairman), for hosting this wonderful day for men.

The men keep asking, “What about a ‘Woman in the Mirror’ conference?”  Well, you can’t perfect perfection!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas is coming………….

We all know what this time of year looks like for most of the U.S., but in Jamaica, it’s pretty much the same day in and out. Until the Child Sponsorship parents started thinking about the day in December. A few years ago, ACE began asking the sponsors of our 200+ students to consider sending ACE a monetary gift for their child so we could purchase something small in remembrance of the holiday and throw a festive Christmas party for the sponsored children.  We are so happy to continue that tradition.

Yesterday, Amber went shopping and came back with what looked like a sleigh full of goodies. It’s amazing how far your donations go to provide wonderful gifts for the children. Some of you may be saying, “Well, I could have bought my child a gift and sent it versus sending in funds.” That is correct, but our past seems to define our present decisions in this area. Let’s face it – Americans think bigger is better rather than simple is sensational. We were receiving cameras, bikes, full clothing outfits, and stuffed animals the size of a car (not really, but close), but this way provides each child with a simple expression of kindness and a moment to know that they are all loved and cared for by you, their sponsors.

As we prepare for that big holiday, we certainly don’t want to forget to be thankful for all of you. Thanksgiving is such a great time for reflection. We attached a card we sent out to a few of you. You may wonder what that yellow stuff is on the front of the card – it’s not popcorn! Those are Scotch Bonnet peppers from our farm with boots of our farm employees, boots that a great family donated to our staff earlier this year.   With that, we say Happy Thanksgiving! We are all so grateful for each of you and what you continually do for all of us Stateside and on the ground in Jamaica.

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Blessings from all of us!

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Marla’s Minute: Countries Apart… Same Reality

Today, both worlds came together in my car. The world of middle class and poverty class. You ask, “Your car?” Yes, let me explain…

During the summer, we had our interns shave faces and cut hair for the men and women residents at the Infirmary. It was great, but it was time for more grooming at the Infirmary with our October team of adult volunteers. With shears and razors in hand, away we went. Residents loved it, we loved it and the one-on-one time seemed to be better medicine than anything else.

Then the word came from my family in the States that my biological father had been put in a memory care facility close to where we have our townhouse in Atlanta. Since I haven’t had a close relationship with my father for decades, thoughts ran through my head on the ride up. What am I getting myself into? Is this going to be long term? Will he still be the same person I remembered as a young adult? Even though I had seen him briefly between the years, if anyone has ever read the book the Mango Tree Gospel, you will understand what I’m talking about.

As Allen and I pulled up to the nursing home and walked in to sign the book, too many things seemed very familiar. As we were directed to my father’s room, we were very much aware of the odor, the moans, the wheelchairs everywhere, and the blank empty look on so many of these once active adults, all looking into space.

There was my father, who I remembered as a strong, tall, outspoken man, sitting in a wheelchair. He was not sure at first who I was. He smelled and had not bathed in a few days. I quickly started washing down his legs that were dirty and talking to him the way I would any of my infirmary friends. He smiled and began to come alive.

We decided to get him a shave and a haircut. With it being Sunday, all the barbershops were closed. The only place open was good ol’ Supercuts. Away we went.  He felt pretty good about the whole event. And so did we.

As we dropped him off at the center and got back into the car, I realized that death is certain and, for the most part, we have no way to determine how we go. It just doesn’t matter if it’s poverty in Jamaica or middle class in America, the outcome is all the same. It’s that last breath that we take going into eternity that will matter.

Make a difference now whether it’s at the infirmary in Port Maria or the nursing home where you live. Get out there and make that time between living and falling away a happy moment for those needing your smile and touch. Even though all of time had lapsed between then and now, just like the infirmary, Daddy was glad someone came to see him. Thank you all for caring for our “least of these” in Jamaica.  It truly makes us all smile.

ACE Healthcare Happenings

Changing lives

Transforming communities

ACE Healthcare is one of the four strategic areas that support the ACE Mission.  We partner with the Ministry of Health and local community heath care workers to provide primary care to St. Mary.  Katie Guy serves as the boots-on-the-ground Healthcare Coordinator, and she helps support the medical and dental teams before, during and after their trips.

As with all of ACE’s efforts, we strive to look at the whole person.  Of the seven teams that have served in St. Mary this past year, we have had over 2,000 patient visits.  Our patients have received medical, dental, chiropractic and optical services.  Providing medicines to treat acute and chronic conditions is a unique blessing our teams provide.  So far in 2017, over 6,000 prescriptions have been filled.  Focusing on prevention, over 1000 fluoridation treatments were performed in the schools this year.

We focus on the healing power of the Holy Spirit and make prayer a priority as we serve.  As a result, many decisions for Christ have been made; Katie, Sister Marie and Pastor Jones have made follow up visits to new believers and disciple them as they find a church home. 2017 saw the first patients to be seen in our own Green Life Wellness Center.  Generous help from volunteers have transformed the once barren office building to a warm inviting place.  The center now houses our pharmacy in a climate-controlled room as well as a large waiting are, five exam rooms and a dental/surgical area.   Recently, we have acquired used equipment in Jamaica, as well as items from sources in the US.

As we look forward to 2018, we continue to network and develop teams from all over the US.  We are always looking for willing servants from all aspects of the healing arts.  Dentists are an emergency need for us right now. We have medical equipment in the US that needs to be shipped to Jamaica, and we are praying for the most efficient way to ship and clear customs in Jamaica.  We are currently searching for a physician to be a continuous presence at the Green Life Wellness Center.  Please continue to pray for all these needs to be met.

On behalf of the ACE Board of Directors, I would like to thank all the volunteers and the ACE staff that support the Healthcare ministry.   Your loving service expresses Christ’s love to others and opens the door to discipleship.

Blessings

Steve Guy MD

Board of Directors

Medical Director

Dancin’ till the stars come out….

This month is all about our golden friends, the infirmary residents, as we had one of our fall medical teams return to serve with ACE in our St. Mary clinics.

Before the official work began, the ACE volunteers were able to enjoy a big Jamaican Holiday called Heroes’ Day (compare this to our U.S. Presidents Day). In honor of Heroes’ Day, ACE decided to take some of the infirmary residents to lunch and a celebration of the day with sightseeing, great lunch on nice table cloths and fine china. Minto and Jamaica music brought out the dancers in the residents as well as the Americans. What a great time! The stars really came out for the moment.

Not sure about you, but we felt there were many heroes that day. Thank you, infirmary residents and ACE healthcare team – let the music play!

Marla’s Minute: “The Goal is Soul”

School is now in session in Jamaica. Our tailors who set up their machines in the open air and on street corners have finally gotten a breather.  ACE students look bright and cheery as they walk to school with their new book bags in their school uniforms.

With 223 students sponsored by our generous donors, it’s very easy to smile these days knowing that we are making a difference in the lives of these young ones and their families. They may not all get to the educational levels we strive for here in America, but we will however meet the goals of instilling hope and the fact that someone loves them and cares about their family and needs. People in our area know how to manage with very little. They make a go of things with what they have. This coming year, ACE will be focusing on extending that hope to a deeper level per household. The ground team has completed extensive visits to each child’s home to update our files and familiarize ourselves with the situations at home. It’s been exhilarating.

I was reading an article recently by Andy Bannister about what does it mean to be human. As we move forward into our pruning winter months with ACE, Andy lists five things the Bible tells us about this topic.

  1. The Bible tells us that human beings are designed primary for relationships.
  2. Human beings have incredible value and dignity
  3. The dignity God bestowed on us extends to choice. There are real, meaningful choices to be made and the choices we make have consequences.
  4. The Bible tells us that there is such a thing as love, and that love is ultimately defined by the character of the God who created us.
  5. The Bible tells us that there is a big story. And that big story is ultimately a love story, a story of how the Creator God reaches toward each one of us, with our hang-ups and our fears.

Our goal for our friends and loved ones we serve in Jamaica is important in all these areas: as Bono of U2 put it, “the goal is soul”.

If you want to get more involved with our ACE vision, please call us, write us, email us, text us. We have a place for you to serve and make a difference in the lives of our friends in St. Mary.