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.
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
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.
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!
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
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!
Allen and I just came from Dayton, Ohio, where we had the opportunity to share in the celebration of life of a wonderful woman with her family we consider to be our family and many friends.
I mention this because, you see, we only got to meet Chris Guy during her fight with cancer, to which she ultimately succumbed. Most of you, by the time you reach middle age, probably will witness the transition of friends and family that seemed to be taken too early in life.
While we were honored to get to spend the day after the celebration at the Guy home, with Steve Guy and his incredible family of eight children, their spouses, grandchildren and other relatives, I realized that it’s the relationships we’ve been given during our lifetime that really matter at the end of the day.
On the way home from our friends funeral, Allen and I watched a movie called Collateral Beauty with Will Smith. One of the lines in the movie was about a woman who never had any children of her own, but the words spoken to her from a coworker reminded me of a truth. “A person might not have come out of you, but many people have passed through you.” Wow, that sort of sounds like me and this ministry! I’ve been honored to have cultivated so many wonderful relationships over the years, and the number grows with each new team that comes down, but, sometimes, I forget the finer points of relationship-building.
This past month, as ACE volunteers experienced our first thrift sale of the year, many teenagers and adults saw Marla “blow a fuse”. It wasn’t dignified for me or anyone else watching. You see, I, too, get overwhelmed and tired and, well, just fleshy at some of the worst times. This was one of those times.
As I snapped out orders to these young excited adults, I realized too late how I had bruised their perception of me, this person God had put in charge of ACE. At the end of the day – and many people later – the entire day was a huge success for all of us. But not because of me.
That night, when I was invited to attend the group debrief, I sat and listened to what God was doing all week. And none of it was about me. Instead, it was about giving until it hurt, sharing until it felt comfortable, serving because no one else would do it. The impact went on and on. In fact, none of my bad behavior had tainted the acts that God had done during that day. His hand gently touched the hearts of each person in that meeting that week. Including mine.
I was reminded again that God doesn’t make mistakes, only His followers do. It’s not so much the mistakes you make in life but how quickly you recover from them that counts. That’s what I tell my interns and staff all the time, but I sometimes forget that myself. I was awed by the love this faithful group had expressed to me and by all that God is doing at ACE in Jamaica. It was that Grace card again. I felt very humbled and asked God to forgive me (again).
Thank you, God, for a great reminder that it’s not so much what comes out of us in way of production all the time but rather what flows through us daily – minute by minute – that reflects God’s kindness and mercy. Next time, I’ll be better because of You.