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…
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”.
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.
Marla & Allen
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.
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!
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
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 email@example.com. We will be accepting applications starting September 1st.
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
Yes, it’s that time of year again – Vacation Bible School! Each week in July, teams come down to Jamaica to help ACE facilitate VBS in the four communities we serve. Most of the time, the VBS location is the local public school where our Child Sponsorship Students attend. We find that by holding this one-week-a-year Spiritual Outreach program in a public environment verses a church, we attract more children and can refrain from being “branded” in a community as being “those church people”.
Many times, people who live close to ACE-partner schools have been hurt in some way or know of a family member who has been hurt by someone who has attended church, leaving a negative connotation of religion and a bad taste for any Biblical programs. ACE has been successful in reaching these families through this annual program. By not being affiliated with a church yet teaching Biblical principles, ACE has had a great response to the VBS programs we operate, thanks to our ACE partners in the States. Thank you, July VBS teams, for making this our 30th year of outreach!
It was an incredible blessing that many of our ACE family were able to celebrate with Amber as she got married this month! We are so excited for Amber, Brinson, Cameron and Sammie beginning this next season of their lives. We’d like to share this letter that Amber left with us on her last day. We just can’t say it any better…..”bye for now”.
Excerpts from Amber’s Letter:
In 2007, I took my first mission trip to ACE and never expected to journey with a ministry for over a decade. The thrill of ministry in a foreign country, experiencing the growing pains as the impact of a non-profit expanded, the humanness found within ministry, an appreciation for the Word of God, and the joy of seeing people come into a deeper relationship with Christ. It has been an honor to have been a part of the ACE family and a part in serving the incredible community in St. Mary.
Although it has been two and a half years since I left the island, I can assure you that I think and pray for my island family daily. God, in His infinite wisdom, transitioned me which was a hard season, but He always gives abundantly more than we could have asked or hoped for. My love and passion for an island and ministry have turned towards one incredible man and his two beautiful children. My vision and calling ebb and flows and shifts to accomplish the Lord’s purpose. I am grateful that ACE was included in that purpose.
I find it perplexing the impact that a ministry and a culture can have on a person. My heart will always contain salty air, vibrant colors, and beat green, gold, and black. My ears will never forget the incredible stories and jokes told by a staff that became a family. My eyes will never forget what heaven on Earth looks like from seeing people serving sacrificially and allowed their hearts to be open to the vulnerability of loving others. My hands will never forget each little hand it held. My feet will never forget the rugged roads and home visit journeys that left my heart hurting and desiring to give more.
I have discovered that I always desired to give more. More of myself, more of my time, more of my heart. Yet in the giving, I found I became filled. My life has more intention, my finances more eternal value, my time used more wisely. God has used ACE to help me discover who I am and what I am made of. It has been a hard decision to let go fully of ACE by resigning my position with the Stateside staff. Yet, I am excited for the adventures that the Lord has ahead of me.
Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to have served with your ministry. I realize that this is only a “see you later”, or as my grandfather always says, “bye for now”. However, I just wanted to express my gratitude and share the impact that ACE has had on my life.