For years, we’ve been talking about building our own school. Then our plans changed, as God withheld the property we had hoped would open up for a school, at least for now. Believing God’s timing is far better than ours, we pulled back. ACE wanted to build a special needs school at one time but found that putting both schools together would not attract the local families, as there seems to be a stigma with joining a special needs school with a regular school.
Every day for the past five years, as we drive to the ACE Campus, we pass a school called Edge Hill . You might have seen it – the name is on a big Digicel sign. In checking online, we realized that the Digicel Foundation had in fact built this school for the 30+ students who were assessed as special needs. Remember when your parents and teachers would say to you, “Never assume, always ask?” Well, I must have forgotten that because I assumed Digicel was actively involved in the day-to-day needs of running the school. I was wrong.
After meeting the vice principal, Mrs. Lee when ACE donated the stove a few months ago, we learned that Digicel only built the building but doesn’t support the actual operation and costs involved to run the school. And that’s when ACE enthusiastically said, “We will!!!” We became partners this year with Edge Hill Special Needs School and feel honored to have access to the students and wonderful teachers.
Our first interaction with the students was last week, when our friends and partners at Castine Church conducted our first home economics and shop classes for the students. Eyes got wide and smiles began when we opened the chocolate chip cookie mix and the peanut butter cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies?!
While the cookies were being made, another class on table-setting was being conducted across the hall. Setting a table with forks and knives might come in handy if the Mayor were to stop by. The best part of was cutting the peanut butter sandwiches before eating them.
In another class room, the shop students all built sailboats. Using drills and an electric saw, our expert volunteers allowed the students to actually cut and drill into their wood for their boats. I’m not sure which had a greater impact, using the equipment or finishing their boats! It was a wonderful time. The school asked if we would be willing to sponsor some of their students as the need is great. Of course! We are honored to have so many volunteers on a waiting list to adopt/sponsor students so that should be an easy ask.
Next time you visit us in Jamaica, bring us some home economics stories and cooking items. Cookie sheets, pots, pans,, bowls, spoons – you name it, they need it. And if you are the shop kind of person, bring your old tools, new tools, levels, safety goggles, measuring tapes, and anything to build. They love it and, frankly, so do we!!
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.
Next time you come down to ACE, you’ll find a bit more color around our little part of Jamaica! To start with, we have had people from all over Mason Hall associated with the Clinic stopping us in town to say thank you for the “most beautiful” sign! Then, there is the incredible wall mural you all will enjoy when you meet outside on the Henry Morgan deck in the cool evenings. And we can’t forget to mention the mural by the Tuck Shop!
Who is the person responsible for all this glorious artwork? She’s Olivia, one of our many talented iQuest 2.0 interns, who has graciously spread her artistic skills all over the ACE place!
And it doesn’t end there! For those of you who don’t know, the Campus is officially ours! When you arrive, you will be met with a beautiful automatic gate with even more of Olivia’s fabulous designs wrapped around the columns to greet you. Thank you, Olivia, for brightening up so many corners of ACE with your talent, and thanks to all our iQuest interns for what they brought to ACE this summer! More about them next month!
We are proud to introduce our 2018 iQuest team! They arrived – excited and wide eyed – on May 23rd prepared for an incredible summer serving with ACE. When you arrive this summer, you will have the pleasure of meeting Anna, Ben, Carley, Olivia, Roger, and Ryan. Of course, you may already know Anthony, our Jamaican intern, who will be joining them in July once his school term is over. We ask for continued prayers for them as they immerse themselves in the Jamaican culture and support our Nationals this summer.
We will begin accepting applications in September for our Summer 2019 iQuest Program. Email Susan Eisenhauer at email@example.com for more information.
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!
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
Anyone ever get a yearbook at the end of their senior year of high school? You know the ones that have at least one picture of every senior in there doing something wonderful so you have to order the book for memory’s sake? Then, just a few weeks before graduation, you receive the book, and everyone you even slightly like, including teachers, is asked to sign your book.
When you go back to look at what people write, there seems to be this common theme penetrating the pages by your picture: “Gone, but not forgotten”, “I’ll never forget you” and “It was nice knowing you!”
That’s not exactly how ACE felt this month as we dropped our 2017 iQuest interns off at the airport. Instead, we took it to the next level. It was something along the lines of “ We already miss you and can’t forget you…and we want to see you back in Jamaica soon!!”
Yes, it’s true: this year’s iQuest Team had to be one of the best group of young adults we’ve had in a long time. In addition, they were joined by two high school students in our 4-S program who had been ACE Child Sponsorship students since fifth grade, and one of Pastor Watson’s young men. Our iQuest 2018 and 4-S program will begin taking applications starting September 1st. ACE would love to see some of you consider spending the summer with us. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on how to apply.
Thank you to all the leaders, teachers and trainers who flew down for a week of investment with our student/adults. At the end of the summer, it’s these programs that thrill our hearts and continually remind us of our slogan we’ve had for years: ACE is truly “changing lives and transforming communities”.
If ACE had a summer yearbook to sign, I think it would read more like: “Gone for a season, but back for a lifetime” Go ACE!!!
By: Katie Guy
One thing that I have learned through this season of life is that I don’t have sole control of my life. A lot has happened since the passing of my mom in April. There are the usual changes and losses; like one less birthday to celebrate, Mother’s Day having a different meaning and all the other firsts that come with the first year of grieving.
I arrived back to Jamaica several weeks after my mom’s passing and it was refreshing to be back and have work to look forward to. Pastor Kermit and I had some outreach to catch up on and I needed to prepare for the medical team that was coming in a matter of days! This team was a breath of fresh air. We were joyful working together and the spirit was really moving through each of us. They were exactly what I needed in this time of grief. God always knows what we need!
A couple weeks ago I was sharing with a volunteer that I feel like I’m finally catching my groove and getting to know people in the community and the officials in the government that I coordinate with. They know me I know them and we are working together towards something. I was just starting to get comfortable…
Not long after that I received the news that the travel rules for tourists has changed in Jamaica. When I first moved to Jamaica I had planned to travel as a tourist in 90 day increments. I would travel back to the states for a couple weeks; do some fundraising if needed, see family and friends and then get back to work for another 90 days. However that won’t work anymore. Now I’m only allowed to be in Jamaica for 180 days of the year as a tourist.
What now then? Well things are going to change for a season of my life. I’m going to have to apply with the government of Jamaica to find a way to stay for more than 180 days of the year. Once all the necessary paperwork is turned in I have to wait 4-6 weeks to hear the results.
This past Tuesday, I traveled to Kingston and submitted the necessary documents for my application. When I return to the states in September, I’m coming for you, yes you! I’ll be visiting churches and friends all over the country as I meet with those that have been wanting to put a medical trip together and with those that have been bringing teams for years. I will take this opportunity to pour into those that have given myself and the Jamaican people so much. Check your inbox because I’m looking forward to seeing you on your home turf.
As soon as I’m cleared to return to Jamaica I’m making my way there and continuing the good work. You know what they say… That’s just the way I like it!
Many of our regular readers know that Pastor Kermit Jones lost his bride of 58 years last November. It was a shock to all of us as Gloria’s departure was sudden. Since that time, Pastor had struggled with the sudden empty space in his life.
About the same time, Orlando – who has been one of the “outside” children with ACE for 13 years – was hitting a low in his life, looking for direction. If you recall, Orlando was the recipient of a loan for his first cow click here to see the story. While Orlando paid off his loan and now has seven cows, there was an emptiness in his life as he made choices in his lifestyle that seemed to be right choices but isolated him from the friendships that were going a different way.
ACE, seeing the need in both men’s lives, decided to branch out and hire Orlando four days a week to become Pastor Kermit’s driver and assistant. Speeding forward four months, Orlando is now the grandson Pastor Kermit never had and Pastor Kermit, the grandfather Orlando always wanted.
This Saturday, ACE was invited to attend a birthday party for Orlando given by Pastor Kermit. Orlando turned 21. What a party! There was dancing, singing, lots of food, and, of course, big story telling – all in the carport of the house where now Orlando and Pastor Kermit live. Yes, the two are inseparable. Orlando has his own bedroom and cooks for Pastor, while Pastor helps Orlando improve his reading and writing skills. Orlando is a great driver while Pastor Kermit is a great talker… and ACE is so happy to see God taking care of two of our favorite men.
Thank you, partners, for providing this type of investment into the lives of two great men who take care of each other. What goes around comes around, as they say in Jamaica. We will keep you updated as Katie and Pastor Kermit continue to build relationships through the health clinics.