With this year being ACE’s big 30th birthday, we decided to have you share in some very special “firsts” throughout this season. We’ve aptly given this year the name “BIG UP 30”. BIG UP is a term Jamaicans use to show respect to someone or something and admiration for accomplishment. Just ACE being in Jamaica for 30 years – touching the lives of so many in so many ways– is nothing short of a miracle. The numerous individuals who have committed to three decades of serving with us have literally changed lives and transformed our communities in and around St. Mary.
Two BIG things are happening this year! First, all team leaders this summer will be our Jamaicans who work for ACE – not just work but own the vision we started three decades ago. Second, ACE is making arrangements to bring our ACE Nationals to the U.S. this September to say “thank you” and to see where you live and serve in your communities. While we wish we could fly our staff all over the country, we probably will be able to get them to Atlanta and then drive via bus to finish in Dayton, Ohio, where our main office is located. More details will follow as we will be asking you – our friends – to consider hosting individuals and giving us a platform at your church to see everyone!
Yes, it’s an exciting time for ACE turning 30. The next generation is stepping up and we ask that you pray for us, as we begin the transition of changing the guard in Jamaica. This is what every ministry dreams of seeing happen. And it’s happening at ACE – BIG UP 30!!!
Marla and Allen
This month, we are so proud to say that because of all of you, Lorna’s new home is being built by, frankly, all of us! With the help of the cement mixer, Bullah, Akeel, Yomo, Lorna, and a host of her family and friends all worked hard on getting the footings poured in between rain showers. Lorna is all smiles and continually thanks God for this gift through you.
There are other homes being constructed due to the financial investment from sponsors and friends. We all cannot wait to see you this summer. Bring your smiles, your muscles and, most of all, your love for all that God is doing through these wonderful Nationals!
Just when you think you know how summer is going to flow, something changes and a new season blows in for Katie. This is what happened a few weeks ago when Katie was returning from a brief visit to the States.
Katie starts a new season in the U.S. She is still helping ACE stateside in communicating and training our Wellness Volunteers. Here is a word from Katie…..
This past April, I had my usual time home in the states for a couple weeks before the very busy season of summer begins in Jamaica. It was great! I got to spend time with old friends, family, and my boyfriend in the time that I was in Ohio. I boarded the plane, sad to say goodbye, but ready to be back home in Jamaica. I missed my cat, Macy, and all of the ACE and Galina Breeze staff and was looking forward to being back!
Unfortunately when I got to immigration, I immediately hit a wall. There was no line and I met an inquisitive immigration officer. She noticed that I spend a lot of time in Jamaica and had a lot of questions for me. I answered the best I could and she told me I had to talk to her supervisor. I knew at that moment that it wasn’t good. I prayed to God for peace, favor, and wisdom to handle the situation the best I could. I talked more with the supervisor and she informed me that she was sending me back to the states. It was an emotional and exhausting day. I kept playing through the conversations in my head to try and figure out what I could have done differently. Finally, I was able to say that I couldn’t have done anything different on that day. God was with me and will continue to be with me as I try to pick up the pieces and see what is next.
While I’ve been stuck stateside the last couple weeks, the ACE staff in Jamaica have been hard at work, not only with the regular day-to-day ministry, but assisting me in getting papers, meeting with lawyers, and prepping for a medical/dental team. I’ve always considered the ACE staff to be another family to me, but actions of support and kindness have been innumerable and really shown how much we can care for each other, no matter how far apart we are.
I’ve been looking at the options for getting back to Jamaica and seeking the fastest possible solution. We’ve been meeting with politicians and reaching out to people in the Ministry of Health in an effort to find a way to speed up the process of applying for a work permit. We haven’t had any luck in speeding things up, so I’ll have to wait four to six weeks to hear if I can get it. While I wait for things to be sorted out in Jamaica, I’ll be working part-time for ACE stateside and part-time other odd jobs. I can now share my experience of working on the ground in Jamaica with the stateside staff. I’ll be living and working in Columbus until I get word of the results of my work permit inquiry.
This is a very challenging time for me as I try to understand where God is in all of this. I know that God is with me and I’m learning to go with the flow and do whatever I can to assist ACE stateside. Some of you may recall that I was applying for a work permit last year. I applied through ACTS church, and though the permit was taking a long time, I wasn’t having any trouble traveling. Eventually, the permit was pulled, but I moved on, praying through everything and trusting God through it all. Now, ACE has received the accreditation required to apply for foreign help and I’m applying through them.
Please pray for me as I seek God in this uncertain period, that I can understand my role and what God has for me stateside. I already see God moving through this as the newer staff to ACE are able to shine and learn new roles within ACE in my absence. Mr. Moncrieffe and Saskia will be leading the upcoming medical and dental team and the rest of the staff will be prepping for the beginning of the summer. This will give the staff a chance to build confidence and see what they are really capable of. Those of you that are going down for a mission trip this summer, make sure to give everyone a nice big hug from me, until I see them again.
The end of 2017 became a record breaker in Jamaica for rainfall. We had more rain in two months than the total amount of three hurricanes, our weather channel said. Most of us were feeling it with the mildew smell on our clothes, but never did we experience what Lorna, our ACE Coordinator, experienced one morning. She lost half her yard and garden to a land slide. Imagine waking up and seeing your yard and garden ten feet lower than when you left it the day before!
Because of the rain, the entire hill Lorna lives on has begun to move. The chicken coop was left untouched but only by inches. Needless to say, Lorna has to leave her family property in search for a safe area to live. God takes care of his kids in such practical ways sometimes: a lot where she used to rent many years ago from a nice lady was returned to her for a lifetime lease. She’s got a great lot for a home, her chickens and her farm but we need your help.
Would you consider helping ACE build her a home? ACE has determined we can build her a home for $6000US. This is four rooms. It doesn’t include an inside bathroom, but we will work on that as we move forward. Right now, she just needs help moving. The land she is on continues to shift and we’ve offered to have Lorna and her son and daughter live at the Campus until we can get her home built. Many of you have grown to love our ACE family. We love them, too, and want them safe and secure.
If God moves you to invest your treasure or time or talent, then contact our office and let us know. We’d like to see Lorna in her new home by June at the latest. Think about it. Pray about it. Please.
All of Ian Fleming’s James Bond books were created right here in Jamaica (only one was written in Barbados), and there are many nods to Mr. Fleming around this area. In fact, this month’s mind stimulation trip with our Infirmary residents was at James Bond Beach. This is a small quaint beach near Galina Breeze Hotel at which the creator of 007 used to be seen with his beautiful women enjoying the clear waters and warm sun.
We brought our own beautiful women and 007 men! That’s right, Cokesbury UMC and our friends picked up these residents we call family and spent an incredible day dancing, eating fish and chicken, and laughing in the small waves by the shore. I think Mr. Walker, our resident with MS, enjoyed it the most — he won the sunglasses! Are you nervous about spending time with our Infirmary Seniors? Don’t be – just come down and you’ll see how these field trips connect us to the simpler moments in life, where we all just want to have a great time with friends!
This year marked our 8th Men and Women’s Conference in Jamaica. Thanks to so many dedicated friends and partners, ACE has kept the vision of joining the community and friends together for three exciting nights at the Galina Breeze Hotel. This year the theme was “Stand Up and Stand Out.” Standing firm in what you believe, staying true to your convictions and values – that’s what makes great leaders and content individuals. We learned from the three nights of presentations and discussions how Daniel stayed true to his faith and was ultimately rewarded by others and by God. We all can stand up in our own lives for big and small issues, just doing the right thing when others choose not to, and, in time, the rewards will come.
Thank you Pastor Helen, the Trinity on the Hill team, our own Stateside ACE staff, Teresa the Organizer whom we all love, and, most of all, the many volunteers who gave their time to make this event fantastic as we laughed, prayed, learned and socialized with our friends from Jamaica. Hey, let’s do it again next year — mark your calendars for February 23-27, 2019! We would love to see you!
Check out the slideshow below by scrolling through the images:
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!
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!
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.
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