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.

ACE Goes Deep, Not Wide

ACE Goes Deep, Not Wide

Many of you have heard this before as it’s a mantra we continually repeat among our staff and with guests. This month, Sugar Hill got to do something rather amazing. They dismantled a house they were part of building many years ago to move it to another location.

One of our Child Sponsorship students, Marco, who has been in the ACE program since 2014, lived with his grandmother and grandfather since he was a toddler. Marco experienced an early loss as his grandmother, whom he loved dearly, passed away suddenly a month ago. While no one can bring back loved ones, we wanted to help ease their worries and help in some way. We found out that the grandfather was going to move to his daughter’s yard, requiring him to dismantle his home and move it to the new location.

Well, guess what? The same school that helped Marco’s grandparents put the house up was there to take it down gently and relocate it to a close-by area to be constructed again. This is one of many stories we love to tell showing the depth of commitment our volunteers and sponsors have in supporting the many families and children over the years. Deep, not wide, and that makes all the difference.

Celebrating a Remarkable Friend of ACE

Celebrating a Remarkable Friend of ACE

Last week, Allen, Althia, and I had the honor of traveling 1600+ miles from Jamaica to New Orleans, Louisiana, to be a part of a dear friend’s defining moment. Our personal friend and an ACE spiritual mother, Helen Delaney – or as we call her, Pastor Helen – invited us to be part of this grand celebration. Even though we were only there for less than 24 hours, it was a day for all of us to remember. Helen has been a staple at ACE for years, leading our many American and Jamaican ladies in a spiritual journey every February in Jamaica through our Men & Women’s Conference. But we knew there was more to her story.

Before ACE and Helen found each other, this remarkable lady had quite a different yet successful life. Growing up in the Civil Rights years, Helen was one of the brave women of color who believed in what the Bible teaches: that ALL people are created equal. Raised in a time when women lacked equal rights, it was also an era of segregation where Black people were required to drink from certain water fountains, sit in only certain areas and not allowed to attend certain schools. Helen got to see the brave in her race, finding courage to stand up and question why she was treated differently.

She embraced opportunities amid obstacles, even walking with Dr. King as he challenged the system in Mississippi. With an undergraduate degree of HBCU in Mathematics at Xavier University, she graduated as the first African American female nuclear engineer with a master’s degree from the University of Idaho. Among many of her accomplishments, Helen worked on the Peacekeeper Missile that is currently on display in the National Museum of the US Air Force in Dayton, Ohio.

In her own words, “I know what if feels like to be different- the first, the youngest, the only woman, and the only African American in various settings. But this resume has given me a platform like nothing I could have ever imagined…. Life is about mastering how to best respond to moments of significant decisions. And even if circumstances are forced on us, we can still choose how to respond to those circumstances… the responses have led me to a life free from victimhood to the life I was born to live – a rewarding life that is uniquely uncommon to most.”

Speeding forward, the Audia Companies heard Helen’s story through her daughter, Adia Delaney-Jackson, who works for one of the Audia companies.  As an engineer, educator, and minister, Helen’s story of perseverance while facing overwhelming obstacles inspired the Audia company to have a bronze bust sculpted and donate to Xavier University.

As Helen addressed the student body and invited guests, she used words we had come to expect and cherish from this remarkably humble woman: that it was only through God that she was able to succeed and be grateful.

ACE has been so fortunate to be a part of Pastor Helen’s and George’s life. We thank them for their generous ways of making time over the many years for all of us at ACE. Role models are not hard to find when you look at one’s history and life journey. Thank you for the invitation and for considering ACE an important part of your mentorship program.

Marla’s Minute: Generational Blessings

Marla’s Minute: Generational Blessings

Earlier this month, ACE hosted a choir group from Augusta. This was somewhat new to ACE as we are used to having volunteers coming to work, sweat and serve. What a special blessing to not only see the projects done with love, but to hear in song their servant hearts. 

During the week, one of the singers by the name of Carter came up to me one evening and asked if I remembered his big sister, Susanna, from 2010. Well, I have to say, remembering back some 13 years would be a big challenge for… well, let’s say anyone over 40, so I was honest and said no. Then he tweaked my memory with, “She was the high school student who, for her school project, took on the challenge of raising funds for the infirmary mattresses.” Immediately I knew who Susanna was!

My memory flashed back to the day when this high school senior said she wanted to make an impact through ACE helping our infirmary residents by replacing their 20-plus year-old warped mattresses. Of course, we said yes. Anyone who has served ACE pre-Covid at the infirmary understood why these particular mattresses needed to be retired and changed out for new ones. 

Susanna single handedly replaced at least a dozen mattresses, allowing ACE to take the old ones back to Galina Breeze to wash, bleach and sun them in our green space down to the pool. After all the cleaning, we gave them to children in our sponsorship program who were sleeping on the floor. 

I remember this time very well, and I looked at this handsome young man named Carter and smiled. Generational blessings. A sister that set an example for her brother to follow. Service before self.

I asked Carter if I could send Susanna a message; he smiled and said sure. As I wrote a small note to his sister – who now is married and just had a sweet baby – I thanked God that this young girl, now a mother, had such a great influence on her brother to come to ACE, and that I had the experience of witnessing that positive influence does make a difference in the family. Thank you, Carter, and thank you, Susanna.  

Marla’s Minute: iQuest’s Purpose

Marla’s Minute: iQuest’s Purpose

For 25 years, ACE has offered what we call iQuest. As most of you know, this is a leadership course for young adults who are being guided to serve here in Jamaica. They participate, lead and serve in many capacities before finding their place in the world of “making a difference”.

Sometimes, I wonder how past interns are doing. Many check in at least once a year to say hello and give me an update. I’ve come to love these “kids” – now grown adults, some married, some with children, some single and thriving. Allen and I just came back from witnessing an iQuest wedding in Delaware. Kayla, our intern from last summer, married her longtime sweetheart, Thomas, and they will be moving to the Virginia area to begin his service in the US Coast Guard. It’s heartwarming to see and hear from these young men and women, knowing ACE has been even a small part of life’s journey. 

Recently, I received a text from Hannah, one of many former interns who found purpose through ACE, and I asked if I could share her words with you, especially for those who may be considering learning to serve first and lead later:

[After other doors closed for me], I really felt like the Lord was asking me to live in the present and focus on serving my family, being refined by Him, investing in my workplace and those around me. I just started praying over next steps this past fall again and feel so much peace about applying to work in mobilization full-time. I just wanted to update you because being in Jamaica with ACE and your reference played a big role in [my joining up with Center for Mission Mobilization in Fayetteville, AK]. I had the opportunity to visit their team a few weeks ago and it really confirmed how I’ve felt the Lord leading me as I left feeling so encouraged by how the Lord is working in and through their team.

I think I will learn and grow in this role immensely (preparing me to go overseas in the future, Lord willing) and it will be so life-giving as I get to walk alongside college girls and churches in living as world Christians. Thank you so so much for writing me a reference and being an example to me. I am so grateful for you and ACE. I’m honored that y’all are excited with me. ACE has played a big role in my life and walk with the Lord. 

If you feel like sweating, serving, putting yourself last to grow spiritually in ways you cannot by any other means, then think about signing up for the iQuest 2024 season. This is by far a very challenging course, but as they say in the gym, “no pain, no gain”. We can’t wait to see where the Lord takes you!

~ Marla