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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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 email@example.com 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!!!