Not only do the sponsored students get field trips with ACE each year, but we take the entire grade with us — and this season was no different. Students in primary schools study local community and government just like in the states. Remember when you were young and went on a field trip to the capitol or maybe the police station? Our little ones get the same experience. With ACE providing the means and schedule, our students enjoyed the day in Port Maria, learning all about their local community.
We visited the police station where students received a talk from the sergeant about safety and laws, then the mayor gave the students his undivided attention to answer questions. Another group was addressing letters to themselves and mailing them from the post office. The funny part about this field trip is that our own ACE staff seemed to enjoy it as much or more than the students. We even learned that our grown adults had never addressed and stamped and mailed a letter at their own post office. A real change in times, right? What a great experience for everyone!
After lunch with patties, the students received the finale at the fire station, where they got to climb into the firetruck and hold a hose spraying water. Is it any wonder all our third graders decided they wanted to be part of local government? Jobs like fireman, policeman, and postal attendant were all at the top of their lists, but no one wanted to be mayor! Perhaps it was the big desk he sat behind that looked very large or scary. Either way, we are grateful for our local servants in Port Maria for making the two days of field trips very educational and fun.
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Reading Annetta’s article about her sponsored child brought a big smile to my face. Her feelings and attitude are very natural for all of us who commit to long-term investments in our lives. Sometimes, we feel like it really is a good thing but not that big of a deal until we refresh ourselves by going back to basics, reminding us of why we got involved in the first place.
You see, many people, myself included, forget the impact of long-term investment because, well, it’s not that exciting on a day-to-day basis. Our culture seems to insist that if we are not getting an immediate benefit from what we do, then we should move on to something more “entertaining”. As I watched Anthony smile with great delight as he sampled his long awaited honey, I was reminded that good things come to those who wait.
Anthony also received his report card – he was number one in his class by a large margin! It didn’t come quick or overnight. It came by setting his mind to achieving a long-term goal. That’s the goal set before all of us: to focus on what is to come and not as much on the here and now. As we move into spring and everything comes alive again, focus on what is alive in you and how you can spread that to others just waking up from the sleepy winter. God has a plan and goal for you to achieve fulfillment and purpose.
Let ACE help you find that purpose. Come on down and jump in! We are grateful for you.RETURN TO NEWSLETTER
I remember decades ago, watching a famous actress’ late-night commercial repeating, “For the cost of one cup of coffee a day, you can help a child in need.” It all sounded nice, and I was glad there were people participating in these programs. It was a distant good deed, something felt in one’s checkbook but not, I didn’t think, deep in their hearts. After all, we are here and they are there; while we know our money can help, it’s not like there could be a true connection.
I was wrong.
I came down to Jamaica in February of 2017 with my first ACE team. During that week, we were visiting a school where one of our team members had a sponsored child. I watched as ACE’s Jamaican Child Sponsorship Coordinator brought a young boy over to him, and they sat together outside a classroom, away from the crowd. My teammate gave his sponsored child a small gift and they conversed quietly with each other. I tried not to stare at this private moment, but I was intrigued.
Knowing I was bringing my family in June of 2017 to serve, I wanted them to experience something like what I had witnessed. I checked with our Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator, Dawn, and she matched me up with a five-year-old girl named Denecia. I studied her picture and bio, trying to figure her out from that information. Her favorite color was brown (seemed pretty down to earth), she loved to run and she had the most distinctive, beautiful eyes.
During our June trip, while we were doing concrete work at the very school where our child was, we were tapped on the shoulder and told, “It’s time to go meet Denecia.” The whole family was introduced to this tiny, shy girl, and we huddled around her, all smiles. Denecia was so quiet, almost scared of this strange American family drenched in sweat and concrete, but she let me read her a story. I asked her if her favorite color was still brown. It was. She sat on my lap and took a picture with us, but I wasn’t sure she even understood. I’m not sure I did.
I sent her a letter and a photo from that day and, later that year, a birthday gift, and in return, she sent me a short thank-you note. That was about it.
Eight months later, in February 2018, I was back in Jamaica. This time, there were no projects at any of the schools, so those on the team who had sponsored children all went together to visit the schools or homes of their children. When we arrived at Denecia’s school, I looked through the dozens of kids surrounding the bus, hoping to recognize her, afraid I wouldn’t. When we finally saw each other, she was still reserved and overwhelmed, at age six, but she sat with me for a short time, mostly looking down, more interested in her juice bag. We talked – well, I talked, she whispered – about whether she still liked to run and still liked the color brown. She nodded and, while she was very reserved, sat close to me and hugged me gently when I left. I wondered if she had truly remembered me, if I made a difference at all. I felt a little awkward.
Pictures of that meeting were sent to her, as well, as a reminder of our visit together, along with pictures of my family and my dog. Later, I sent her a small birthday gift when she turned seven. She sent me a thank-you note and a Christmas ornament she’d made. Her writing was improving.
This past February, when I was back in Jamaica, I was prepared to see Denecia, but I was a little disappointed. I was going to miss out on a fun day at another school where the rest of the team was doing PE, because that was the only time to go see the sponsored children. It would probably be another quick meeting, awkward and uneventful. Maybe I had bitten off more than I could chew, trying to forge a relationship with someone I could only see every so often and who probably didn’t even care. I wasn’t good at relating to kids, especially those who hardly knew me. After this visit, I thought maybe it would be better if someone else sponsored her, someone who was more invested than I was, with more to offer than just a monthly donation and a stuffy conversation.
When I got out of the bus at her school, I saw her walking down the hill, her eyes sparkling, with a smile on her face from ear to ear. I’d never seen that smile; it was genuine. She quickly made her way to me and gave me a big hug. I hugged her back, and, as we sat down in the grass, I started with that old standby question, “So what’s your favorite color now?” After establishing that it was now yellow, I asked her again about her love of races and how fast she was getting.
That was when she finally, quietly, said a full sentence to me: “If you want, in March, you can come and watch me; we will have a race here…” Her voice trailed off, but she didn’t have her head down this time. She looked up at me with those gorgeous eyes full of hope, right into mine, and we made a connection. She knew I was in it with her. We had sent letters. We had photos together. We had history. She had a future and was inviting me in.
It was worth more than the cost of a cup of coffee, and she didn’t need stickers or hair ribbons. She needed to know someone was thinking of her, supporting her, praying for her, loving her. It didn’t happen overnight. It took time, bit by bit, as she got older and wiser… as I got older and wiser. I was overcome with peace, knowing that this was more than a monthly transaction in my bank account. It was a relationship. She asked about my family, and we talked about her school, my dog, she sang her favorite song and so much more. When I left, she hugged me tighter than she ever had, and she ran back up the hill with her head high, still beaming.
Having the chance to see my child face to face, even when it was a struggle to converse or I didn’t think it mattered, has been a wonderful experience. I love that ACE combines this program with their mission trips, so that you can serve the community and still leave behind a piece of your heart with someone who knows your name. Relationships are built, child to sponsor, with letters and prayers and the knowledge that a visit is only a flight away, if that’s possible. It’s certainly not required, but what a nice opportunity! I wasn’t able to come back in March, but I can’t wait to hear how she did in her race, and I know she can’t wait to tell me, even if it’s just in letters. No matter how little you think you are doing, every action makes a difference – and, oh, the lives you will touch by simply reaching out and becoming a child’s sponsor. I’m invested, heart and soul.
For more information on our sponsorship program, please contact Dawn Wheeler, ACE Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator, at email@example.com.RETURN TO NEWSLETTER
Royal Ambassadors of Mason Hall was formed by a high school graduate in the United States. Trent, in lieu of a gift for graduating from 12th grade, wanted to send ACE some treasure to impact the boys without fathers that he got to know and spend time with at Mason Hall. Today, because of his love for others, we are on our second year of the RAMH Boys Club, where every Thursday, we have over a dozen boys from 3rd grade to 6th attending our leadership program after school. Our ACE men – Richard, D’Vaun, and Nicalos – all take an active role in meeting, teaching, studying, playing and most of all serving as role models for these young boys seeking attention anyway they can get it.
This is just one example of how God, through ACE, has touched the hearts of volunteers over the years. Trent could have been done with his week of service, but he didn’t stop when his plane landed. The idea was planted and he followed through, which gave ACE employees an opportunity to make a bigger impact on the community, which in turn may inspire these boys to create a better world for themselves and their families. The cycle is ever-growing. One life changed becomes many lives changed.
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!