Written by: Jeff Ballard
*Jeff and his wife Teressa have served with Extollo since 2019 and are heading back to haiti this month after a year in the States due to COVID.
It has now been a year since my wife and I left Haiti and the Extollo Campus due to the COVID-19 virus, but with a return date of the 25th of March - only a little more than a week away - I would like to take a few minutes to reflect and share.
During the past year we have lived in our camper van with travel restrictions, supply shortages, and a roller coaster of do’s and don’ts. But through it all, we and the Extollo family have been able to push forward with our vision of providing top notch training programs and facilities for the people of Haiti.
By fabricating, buying, packing and shipping supplies in three containers to our campus in Bercy, Haiti, we will now have a full automotive repair shop, metal fabrication shop, and the equipment to put into effect the tilt-up house and fence production process with many other trades in the works.
But I would not be honest if I did not say there are times while living here in the US that it is easy to get discouraged about going back to Haiti. While here in the US, we have enjoyed constant electrical power without a generator running, hot water until you cannot stand any more, being able to jump in the car and drive down the road without issues, having fuel on almost every corner, an abundance of food stores and so many other things most of us take for granted here in the US. And of course to add to the discouragement there is always the voices of people who ask, “Why go down there? You know it’s not very safe. And what if you get sick?” Or, “People have been helping Haiti for years, aren’t they able to take care of themselves?” And of course the original, “We have so many people here in the US that could use help, why not use your time here?”
These are fair questions and the only real answer is, “Only until you go to Haiti and meet the people, see the amazing culture and get a feel of their deep desire to learn, to work and be self-sufficient, to provide for their families, will you be able to understand “why” we go to Haiti.”
Teressa and I have witnessed the “provide everything effect” in a few missions. This way of aid seems to never have an end and only a few lives are impacted long-term. Or, more than likely, these actions create the effect of total dependency on that mission.
We have also worked with the Jesus Film Project and witnessed a hunger for the Gospel of Christ in some of the most remote villages in the mountains of Haiti with lives being changed and disciples being made.
I bring the previous missions up to emphasize why we are with Extollo International today.
Extollo is a nonprofit training center providing education and job skills in a variety of construction trades that will have an impact on the people of today and for generations to come - “teach a man to fish.” Extollo also provides spiritual devotions before the beginning of each class that teach the life skills of hope, respect, dignity, the love of all people, and much more. This time allows the students to reflect, ask, answer questions that they may have, and to become more involved with fellow students. This is the best of both worlds - spiritual and job skills training. This is what we, as a husband and wife, believe in and this is what Extollo provides.
You may ask of me, of all the things Extollo International is providing, what do I feel is the most important? And you would think, if you know me, that I would say the welding trade since that is my profession and what I love to teach. But my answer is and will always be this simple four letter word, HOPE.
Through their training programs, Extollo provides hope for a future, hope for an individual, hope for a family, hope for a community and last but not least, hope for a country.
There are many more things I could share but I will close with this. Many years ago an older man I worked with told me, as he was showing me how to layout metal transitions, “Never take your knowledge to the grave with you; leave it behind with someone who can use it and carry it on to the next generation.”
My question to the readers of this blog is, what job trades and life skills do you have that you would like to pass on?
I would like you to check out Extollo’s website and see what’s going on, plan a trip to Haiti to share your skills, and leave with the assurance of knowing you have given more than just your talents, you have given the most important thing you can. HOPE.