As our 2021 iQuest intern Maddie finishes up her remarkable summer, we wish her well and will miss her smile! She has definitely been a blessing to our staff and volunteers, and her hard work on VBS, the coconut walk, and many other projects was outstanding! At the last minute, due to threats of tropical storms and more earthquake concerns in the Caribbean, her debrief in Negril was canceled, but she will hopefully come back soon to Jamaica to wrap up her iQuest experience with a special outing.
So many young men and women have graced the ACE iQuest program through the years… and some, even before the official iQuest program was fully developed! Each intern brought unique talents to ACE, leaving their handprints on our ministry and throughout the St. Mary community. We are grateful for every intern we’ve had and wondered, “What are they doing now?” A few – Laura, Courtney, Emily, Ann, Joe, Amber, Danielle, Josh, Adam, Beth, Chelsea, Shelby, Crystal, Mallory, Austin, Hannah, Audrey, Anna and Gentry – gave us some updates, memories and words of wisdom for Maddie as she journeys home!
What year did you intern?
LAURA LADD: 1989
COURTNEY AND EMILY SIMMONS: 2002
ANN CALLAHAM: 2006
JOE PAUL: 2008
AMBER WENDLING SMITH: 2008
DANIELLE KNIGHT: 2009
JOSH CHRISTENSEN: 2009
ADAM GERBER: 2011
BETH BARNETT PITTS: 2013
CHELSEA MERRIS PETERSON: 2014
SHELBY MOBERG YEICH: 2014
CRYSTAL FORESTER HAYMORE: 2015
MALLORY PRICE: 2017
AUSTIN BURNS: 2017
HANNAH LISCIANDRO: 2017
AUDREY POTTSCHMIDT: 2017
ANNA CAPPS: 2018
GENTRY BUSSMAN: 2019
Any special memory of that time you would like to share?
MALLORY: I have SO many wonderful memories of iQuest, but I think my favorite is earning my nickname for the summer – “The Barber” – by giving haircuts at the infirmary!
AUSTIN: There are so many memories that I could share. One was getting my rock at the end of the summer. I still have it.
LAURA: It was an amazing experience serving the people of Jamaica and working with Marla. It gave me a heart for missions and service. It was eye-opening to see a side of the world that most think is all glamorous (Jamaica = paradise) that is real and desperately in need of Jesus.
JOE: I enjoyed my time in Jamaica and loved the building projects and the kindness of the local community. It was always fun work next to local builders and provide help with building structures to support the community.
ANN: The time I spent tutoring in the schools was part of what started me down the path to going overseas as a teacher.
JOSH: The camaraderie developed with my fellow interns was special.
AUDREY: One of my all-time favorite memories was being baptized by Pastor Kermit in the Galina Breeze pool. Orlando was baptized on that day, too. Afterwards it poured down rain for about ten minutes as the next team arrived. Then, after the rain clouds parted, there were two gorgeous rainbows over the Blue Mountains in the distance. Unforgettable.
ADAM: I was challenged in ways I needed to be challenged and was presented with the opportunity to look at this life from a deeper perspective. I tried to approach my time with a servant attitude, and I developed quite the appreciation for all the behind-the-scenes effort it takes to make ACE run smoothly. I really enjoyed building relationships and helping people while adjusting to a new culture. The most special memory was being asked to stick around a little longer (and ACE provided me resources to do so) after my internship. That gave me an opportunity to pour back into an organization and a community that welcomed me.
COURTNEY AND EMILY: Our experience was a little different from the more recent interns and it was prior to ACE acquiring Galina Breeze. We lived in the “penthouse” at Casa Maria Hotel during the summer of 2002. When teams were down, we assisted Marla in leading the teams, and when teams were not there we worked with a church in the community. It was quite the experience!
ANNA: I have many special memories from my summer in Jamaica but a few of them are: spending the afternoon and night at Pastor Kermit’s home, infirmary field trips, and the down-time at night spent with my fellow interns and everyone in our house including Tahj, Tia, Anthony, and Katie (for part of the summer!). I learned so much about myself that summer and had to step out of my comfort zone quite often which was tough sometimes but has benefited me overall. God is so good and I’m thankful for my time spent in Jamaica! I included a picture of me sleeping because a joke all summer was that I was always sleeping in the van or falling asleep at random times :).
CHELSEA: That summer was hands-down one of my favorites ever in my life. Apart from getting baptized, the kids and the infirmary residents are what stick out the most to me. That summer, I met the sweetest little 3-year-old (at the time), Daejanay, to whom I grew so attached. When I got home, I quickly signed up to sponsor her, and she is still my sponsored child today. On the opposite spectrum, the infirmary residents also found a special place in my heart, specifically Winston. My favorite day was taking the residents to the beach and seeing so much joy, excitement, and peace when they were in the water. In each and every resident, there is so much history and life behind their eyes, and I gained so much love and respect for the elders in our community that year.
HANNAH: In having to choose just one memory to share, I’ll have to go with the first day I led a team. Throughout the day, I wasn’t feeling good physically. However, the Lord was so faithful in delivering me through that day and providing the courage to lead. We were pouring the foundation of a house and, as we got near the end of the sand used to mix the concrete, we thought we would run out soon. Somehow, though, we kept drawing buckets of sand from what looked like nothing and it reminded me of Jesus feeding the 5,000, where Jesus used what they had and multiplied it to provide for the crowd. That day, He provided for strength for me and sand for the team to get the job done for the family we were serving. I also will always be grateful to have served alongside that team. I learned so much from them and was so encouraged by their unity as we worked together in each task.
CRYSTAL: One memory I have of that summer happened when Lillie and I were on our way to pick up the infirmary residents. We had planned to take them to the beach that day, and as we turned in to Port Maria we saw fire trucks! Something was on fire on the road we would need to take to get to the beach. We called Mrs. Marla in a panic, and she calmly said, “Let’s bring them here to swim in the pool!” That is the story of how Infirmary Beach Day became Infirmary Pool Day!
SHELBY: Some of the best times during that summer were the nightly Bible studies in Marla’s living room, eating peanut M&Ms and diving deeper into the Word more than I ever had.
AMBER: Goodness, I have too many to pick from. I loved opening myself up for God to stretch me. He moved in profound ways. The most precious moment I had was at Pastor Kermit and Sister Gloria’s house at the end of the summer. They made us dinner and presented us with certificates. It was such a sweet memory.
GENTRY: Everything about this internship was amazing! It was tough, a challenge, but through it all I learned so much. It was truly remarkable being able to see how God is working in Jamaica and how He is using ACE to transform lives into a masterpiece of His work. A special memory that I will always remember was with Mr. Eurbert at the infirmary. He is blind, so by mid-summer he would hear my voice and say, “Gentry, Gentry, come here!” It was truly amazing to see how fast he picked up my voice and knew when I was there. It was hard leaving on the last day because he said, “Gentry, I will miss talking to you. When will you be back to visit?” This truly broke my heart because that whole summer I got so close to so many people at the infirmary. The infirmary is one of my favorite places to go to see everyone and to simply be the light because that is what we are called to do.
BETH: Oh, the memories. Amidst all the drama and what sometimes felt like a failed summer (one intern got sent home less than a month into it and there were a few other mishaps), we had a blast. Adam and Amber took us to the blue hole before it was a tourist attraction, and it was so cool to see Jamaica beauty in the wild. For the first time in my life, I learned to slow down and see what was in front of me.
What are you doing now?
JOSH: I live in Portland, Oregon with my wife Emily and our daughter Halle. I teach math and coach cross country and track & field at a local high school and Emily manages our family’s berry farm.
AUDREY: I am a Senior Brand Manager for Procter & Gamble (the company that makes brands like Tide, Charmin, Vicks, etc.). I’m living in Cincinnati and engaged to marry my best friend this spring (who, by the way, I became friends with on a trip to ACE back in 2016)!
DANIELLE: I am now in full time ministry with InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in Northern California.
CHELSEA: I am now married to Forrest and living back in my hometown (Cumming, GA) with a dog and a cat. I just started working as the Social Media Manager for Luminate Marketing – a marketing agency that services nonprofits and churches! I am so excited to be able to combine my passion for people and serving the Lord with my expertise in marketing and copywriting.
AMBER: I am loving on my 7-month-old all day and raising my two bonus kids!
LAURA: I’m a mom, pastor’s wife, active in missions when possible and an architect.
HANNAH: I graduated from Texas A&M as a biochemistry major and am now working for a biotech company called Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies. I have pursued cross-cultural ministry and training as in the future I hope to go overseas to an unreached nation, a place where those there don’t have access to the gospel, to share the Lord’s truth as I long for the day when a people from every people stand before Him in worship.
BETH: I am married with an 8-month-old. I work as an office manager.
ADAM: A lot has changed in the 10 years since interning. I have gotten married (Semra), have had the joy and blessing of welcoming two children into the world (Mina – 2 years) (Micah – 6mos), bought a house (Haymarket, VA), and started a business (Propel Construction).
AUSTIN: I am a Leadership Resident at Christ Chapel Bible Church, studying at Dallas Theological Seminary.
ANNA: I am currently in graduate school getting my doctorate of physical therapy in North Carolina and I will graduate in 2023.
COURTNEY AND EMILY: Courtney is the Dean of Students and Athletic Director at a private Christian school and Emily is a preschool teacher. We have three daughters.
Gentry: I am currently in nursing school at The University of Alabama in Huntsville and wanting to specialize in oncology. After graduation, I plan on attending grad school to become a nurse practitioner.
MALLORY: Since iQuest in 2017, I’ve gotten to travel and serve in 11 different countries all around the world and am now finally settled in Louisville, KY, teaching preschool while also earning my degree to be an elementary educator!
JOE: I am married and have a beautiful little girl. We live on a small farm. My wife and I own a bakery on our farm providing to local businesses and families. I am a private practice therapist specializing in the treatment of PTSD.
ANN: I have a 10-month-old girl who is my world, and I work as a hospital social worker.
CRYSTAL: Now I live with my husband and 5-month-old son, in North Carolina where my husband is pursuing a Master’s Degree in International Church Planting. I am a sign language interpreter for an elementary school student. We are loving this time of watching our baby grow and learn. He is such a joy to our family!
SHELBY: Since then, I came back to ACE in July 2016, where I got engaged down by the ocean. In December 2016, I graduated from college with a BA in Family Studies. My husband Matt and I got married in June 2017 and took our honeymoon in Ocho Rios, but, of course, we took one day to go spend the night at Galina Breeze to visit! In August of 2017 I started at Asbury Theological Seminary and will be graduating in December 2021 with a MA in Mental Health Counseling. I am currently an intern in a residential treatment facility for teens in foster care with mental and behavioral disorders. We have a precious 1 year old little boy named Bryles and a 3-year-old dog named Cash.
How has ACE impacted your life?
AUDREY: I could write an entire novel about this. ACE was a huge part of my spiritual journey. I re-committed my life to Christ and was water-baptized during my internship summer. Now God is a part of my everyday life and my reason for being. Every morning, I can’t wait to sit in my dedicated prayer corner and hang out with God before I head off to work. I’m obsessed with the local church we attend here in Cincinnati and all the life giving people in it. My faith is the #1 driver of my life and has already brought me so much joy. I would have none of that if it wasn’t for the way ACE opened my eyes and heart to experience God in such a unique and special way.
AMBER: ACE was an avenue that God used to help free me from my anxiety, stretch me to do things that were out of my comfort zone, and experience a love for people that I would have never experienced before. I have also gained a wealth of knowledge through serving in Jamaica that I use daily. Last year, my kids and I even built raised garden boxes. Spiritually, I was able to gain a love for scripture through studying the word in our Bible studies. I find myself addressing big questions that my kids are asking by pointing them to the Word of God. My heart holds a very special place for ACE, Jamaica. I am very grateful for the experience and forever friendships gained.
COURTNEY AND EMILY: ACE has dramatically impacted both of our lives. Our first trip down was when we were in high school and we have been coming down ever since. It is absolutely amazing to see what ACE has become and how God is continually providing for them financially and impacting the community through them. Every time we spend time with our friends in Jamaica, it is a reminder of how truly blessed we are and how some of the simplest actions can have such a huge impact.
HANNAH: ACE has impacted my life hugely. The people I have met while in Jamaica have had last a lasting impact on me. Upon returning, I have had the desire to want to be in a culture entirely different than the one I grew up in, sharing the Lord’s truth to those who don’t have access to the Word or know anyone who knows Him. The Lord showed me His faithfulness in how He worked in Jamaica that summer, through restoration there and within me.
AUSTIN: The Holy Spirit used my ACE iQuest experience to deepen my love and desire for God.
CHELSEA: From the bonds I made with the other interns and staff to the connections I made with the people we served, my life has forever been changed because of ACE. I still bring up that summer any chance I get. I have never been more challenged or pushed deeper in my faith than I was that summer. In fact, it was through the internship that I truly developed a faith of my own, apart from my parents’ and how I was raised. I was baptized in fourth grade with my family, but that summer I made the decision to get baptized on my own, in my own faith, and Amber baptized me in the Galina Breeze pool.
LAURA: ACE gave me a love for missions; Marla has been a constant encourager for me.
JOE: Jamaican gave me a sense of confidence that I needed in my youth. I still smile when I think about the individuals that I met. I believe that the island came into my life at a perfect time and am very grateful.
MALLORY: ACE impacted my life as my first real experience of the love of Christ in action. It wasn’t enough for Marla to see need in the world and pray for God to send the right person along the way to be His hands and feet. Instead, she said yes to *being* the one to go and serve, calling up and mentoring so many faithful believers along the way, including myself. The Lord uses ACE to change real lives every day. ACE changed my life as the first of many steps for me in living a life of adventure and total surrender to the Lord.
BETH: ACE has helped me to learn to trust God in a way I never had before. ACE pushes you to experience the world (even your hometown) for yourself and not what others tell you. ACE has helped me see God is in control even when I don’t realize it. ACE has also given me some of my best friends even if I don’t see or talk to them much. Jamaica is my second home and sometimes feels like my first.
SHELBY: My experience at ACE changed my view of “mission” work. Mission work isn’t about going and doing things for people who can’t do it. It’s about coming alongside them (whatever that might look like) and partnering together to help.
JOSH: I went back four more times after 2009 and built some great friendships with other interns and ACE staff.
ANN: ACE was my first international experience, and the majority of my time and ministry after that first trip to Jamaica has been spent focused on international missions in one way or another. My time there was the foundation for how God has used me and shaped my life.
DANIELLE: The summer in Jamaica helped me understand what it means to be displaced and opened my eyes to different cultural and racial things happening in America.
CRYSTAL: ACE played such a huge role in who I am. I could not even begin to number the ways that my time with ACE made me a better person. I grew so much during the time I spent in Jamaica, and I can only pray that I was a fraction of the blessing to ACE as ACE was to me.
GENTRY: ACE has truly impacted my life in so many areas. ACE has molded me into who I am today and has grown my relationship with the Lord tremendously. ACE has also opened my eyes up to be the Godly example everywhere that I go and to make a difference in the lives around me. Our goal here on this Earth is to live the life that God has called us to live and to hear Him say one day, “Well done, my good and faithful one.” Momma Marla and Allen have personally impacted my life with how much they have poured into me just from the summer that I was there and the relationship that I have built with them both. They are truly a second family to me.
ADAM: ACE has left an everlasting impression on my life. In serving the local community, the community served me equally. I left Jamaica a better person with more knowledge and direction than when I entered. I would be remiss if I did not mention specifically how very special Marla is to me and the impact she has had on my life. I have many fond memories and an appreciation for her and the time she has spent with me in many aspects. One of our most valuable assets is our time, and Marla’s and Allen’s selflessness to sacrifice their time is inspirational… and impressive. Even when they are on “break”, they continue to cultivate meaningful relationships – there are still churches to speak at, dinners and weddings to attend, emails and phone calls. They have poured their time into the valued friends and families who have been a part of their journey with ACE. They truly live this; they truly have given themselves to the development of God’s vision for ACE. When He calls, they answer. I will always consider ACE part of my family.
We asked our interns to provide words of encouragement for Maddie as she heads back home to the US, and they had a lot to say! Much of their advice was personal, so we shared it with Maddie directly, but there were a few thoughts we thought were applicable to all of us in our journey through life:
You may not understand things now, but know that God has a plan for you.
Look for ways to help others wherever you are.
Embrace things that make you feel uncomfortable and rely on God till you get comfortable.
Hold onto good memories and let the hard memories become learning experiences.
Never lose your desire to serve and love people.
Trust in God, trust in His timing, because His timing is always perfect.
Thank you to those who responded and to all who have come down to serve with iQuest. Your impact is still being felt to this day, and we consider you all part of our ACE family. We look forward to meeting the next new members of our iQuest community!