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.

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.