Marla’s Minute: A Home Run For Lashauna

Marla’s Minute: A Home Run For Lashauna

Last week, ACE had our annual Men’s & Women’s Conference in St Mary. However, unlike the past 16 years of holding the conference at Galina Breeze Hotel, we moved the conference to an outside event space, Buccaneers Jerk & Juice Centre.

When some very insightful men from Trinity on the Hill started the Men’s & Women’s Conference back in 2007, only a few people attended. Fast forward to last year, we had over 150 people attend our short 3-night event filled with worship music, a great message, and our desire to spread God’s Word to everyone.

As seasons change, so does ACE. We realized that we wanted to not only reach our friends and neighbors around the hotel, but also reach the many homes and families that surrounded Green Life Farm where Buccaneers Jerk & Juice is held. By making the move, ACE created an open-air venue just like our weekend movie night on the lawn that Buccaneers holds every Saturday and Sunday evening.

The same loyal team of adults from Trinity on the Hill in the States showed up ready to serve no matter what. Game chairs were set up, we all wore our favorite sports shirts, made popcorn, and just enjoyed each other’s company. Jeff Chandler and Annaleise Stennet led the music while everyone else joined along.

This year’s theme was all about setting a baseline, meaning everyone has a baseline they follow throughout life. Pastor Omar from Church on the Rock challenged everyone spiritually by connecting the fact that every sports game has rules and guidelines players must follow to win with the fact that people who want to know what God’s Truth is must follow a set of guidelines in order to start their spiritual journey with Christ.

One of our favorite testimonies from the conference surrounds one of ACE’s sponsor students, Lashauna. For 21 years now, Lashauna has been unable to go anywhere but her bed, house, and hospital. Although she was born perfectly healthy, Lashauna endured a medical mistake as an infant that left her crippled. 

Lashauna’s sponsors recently purchased her a brand new wheelchair that reclines and ensures she is strapped in safely. Friends of ACE were able to go to Lashauna’s home and help get her ready to attend the conference in her new wheelchair. And what can we say? She loved it! 

What’s more, her wheelchair has proven to be a huge blessing in several areas of her life. Now, Lashauna’s mother, Latoya, can take her to work a few days a week and also let her more easily be a part of what ACE is doing around the community.

Now that’s a home run!

 

Answering The Holy Spirit’s Call

Answering The Holy Spirit’s Call

In 2009, my wife and I took our first trip to Jamaica to serve with ACE. I recall our uncertainty on the long roller coaster ride from Montego Bay to Galina Breeze, survived only by the assistance of Dramamine. The main highway looks a lot better now than it did back then! We didn’t know what to expect or if we were even qualified to be there. We sat down by ourselves at a table in the corner – exhausted and questioning our sanity. A wide-eyed, recently married couple in our mid-twenties, we must have looked quite pitiful at our table surrounded by empty chairs.

A lady we did not know joined us. She sat down, introduced herself and we found ourselves having dinner with the founder of ACE. Through the course of our meal, we heard her origin story of how she found herself in Jamaica to begin with and how ACE had come to be. For some reason that I still don’t understand, at the end of our conversation I told her, “Well, we are in!”

Anyone who has served with ACE knows that there is a presence of the Holy Spirit there that is both palpable and beyond comprehension. Even though I didn’t entirely understand what I was saying in that moment, the Holy Spirit was pulling us in and making it clear that we were a part of this now. It took one meal and less than an hour.

Fast-forward to 2024 and we had the privilege of serving with ACE on a combined medical and dental team from February 3-10. The team consisted of doctors, nurses, dentists, hygienists, and servants from multiple states and even New Zealand.

Aches and pains, high blood pressure, diabetes, and dental abscesses were the primary diagnoses for the week and a multitude of patients were served with both medical but also spiritual care. In turn, the team was cared for with gratitude and the occasional gift of fruit from our patients. I always leave for home after a week in Jamaica feeling as though I had received much more than I could give.

However, the theme for the week was that of Hope, both present and future. I saw ACE staff that had grown and become leaders. I saw multiple generations of families serving together, including a dentist and her daughter, a physician and his family, a nurse with her son and a pastor from a church looking to establish a relationship with ACE for the first time.

I thought of Psalm 127: “Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain.” ACE family, your labor has not been in vain. The Lord has built this house! He brought up the founding generation of ACE, and he is bringing up the next generation to carry the mission forward. If you find yourself alone at the dinner table surrounded by empty chairs and wondering where you fit in, this is your invitation. God wants you in as well!

Josh & Jess Klepinger

Marla’s Minute: What a Summer!

Marla’s Minute: What a Summer!

We want to give a big thank you to all the wonderful volunteers and sponsors whose generosity and time made this summer a great success.

ACE is in full swing for fall and, after three years of prayers, concerns, and faith walks, we as a staff feel that God has restored all the lost time we experienced during the “Covid” years.

This summer, ACE has invested in many Jamaicans’ lives through our VBS series, entitled Twists and Turns. The theme teaches us all that we can go with the flow and not be filled with anxiety or anger when God has our backs. Our building projects and home repairs for our elderly through our ACE Mobile Infirmary made a lot of senior residents very happy. Many hands made the work light for our ACE staff on the ground, from thrift sale preparation to feeding and loving on the animals (my favorite). 

Dr. Baribeau and his team of volunteers finished up the season with dental and medical exams for all our sponsored students needing attention. What a great send off! Now we are gearing up for Book Bag Distribution Day as school begins first full week in September.

Thank you all for supporting us and bringing us back to “above even” as they say in the ACE world. We are making a great impact in St. Mary because of your investment into the lives that are changing communities.

Always grateful

Marla and Allen

A Word From D’Vaun: Nicoya’s Story

A Word From D’Vaun: Nicoya’s Story

In our years of changing lives and transforming communities, God always places the people who He wants us to touch within our reach. We never aspire to do more than God has equipped us to do, thus our mantra of “Deep not Wide”.

Over the years, we have made connections with children like Alvana, Tahj, Anthony, Justin (I could keep going). These are always kids who would require us to put in practice God’s command in Psalms 68:5. Our only requirement is to plant the seed of opportunity and God will increase these children (now adults) the way He intends.

Meet Nicoya. God placed her in our path a few years ago under circumstances that weren’t typical for ACE. Under normal circumstances, the children sponsored by ACE are initiated at the infant or primary grade level, and then, based on how well they performed on their GSAT (grade six achievement test) for high school placement, ACE would continue to invest in their education at a higher level. Normally, regular Primary sponsorship is based on need, while Second Story sponsorship (or high school level) is based on need plus effort on the part of the child. We met Nicoya in 10th grade which is basically the end of a typical child’s sponsorship tenure.

For a now eighteen-year-old, Nicoya has had experiences that would make some thirty-six-year-olds crumble to their core. Without overlooking her right to privacy and maintaining her confidence, I can summarize her experiences as having lived a life deficient of stability, unconditional love, and the innocence of being a child. Having to endure trauma after trauma, who could blame her if she succumbed to the expectation of a life in abysmal dishevelment?

But thank God, though she went through the fire, He was still there. Though she went through the flood, she was not swept away (Isaiah 43:2). God still provided sunbeams of hope, and one of those rays landed her in the reach of ACE through sponsorship.

Over the summer, we’ve gotten to be a part of the better side of Nicoya’s story; she’s been our unofficial intern. She has been able to see, through the teams that come and serve, a lot more of God’s love and purpose in her life. There were persons who unknowingly reminded her that she was specially created by God and, though she may be on the Potter’s wheel, He’s making her into a beautiful vessel of purpose. At this point in her journey, she’s completed her high school exams, and we are trying to assist her with what comes next: college, 6th form (12th and 13th grade) or coming on full-time as an ACE staff member.

Our God does all things well and we know that His plans are a million times better than our plans, so, as we love on Nicoya and try to epitomize God’s love for her, we ask you to keep her in your prayers. If the Lord speaks to your heart to do more, we welcome you to send your ideas or support through Amber, our Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator (amber@acexperience.org). We know that Nikoya’s future will be radiant – God is not through with her yet!!

She’s an 80 Lady!

She’s an 80 Lady!

When ACE says we have long-term volunteers, we are not joking! Many of you have met Arlene from New Jersey, but did you know this friend of ACE just turned 80?! And she is still going strong, the most young-at-heart go-getter we know. 

We met Arlene when she came with her church team from Bethel Baptist about 13 years ago. She arrived on the island ready to do “whatever,” as she says. Since then, she’s returned nearly every year since, with teams and on her own, staying for months at a time in every season.

Arlene has been one of the most loyal volunteers on the ground, especially helping in our Educational Impact area. For years, she has taken all the student pictures for school, organized the book bag distribution with our staff, and systematically kept all this incredible information in our database for quick reference. Note that all of us hate the admin part, but Arlene loves it – sounds like a teacher? Well, she used to be, and, in our eyes, still is a teacher to all of us.

Thank you, Arlene, for never really retiring and always working hard, being a great influence for those of us heading to 80 but not quite there yet. You are truly serving with a purpose.