Written By: Jeff Ballard Construction Manager & Metal Fabrication, Bercy, Haiti
My wife and I took our first full-time trip to Haiti in 2011. We wanted to bring hope and help create a better way of life for people that have struggled to move forward. This was either due to a lack of education or opportunity - or both - for training in a skilled trade. This first experience with a mission and living in Haiti was a wakeup call for us, and eye opener. We realized that not all missions are set up for building the future of Haiti but function more as a drop off center for donations. Was this a bad thing? Not totally. It kept people fed and clothed, but it also created a dependency on the mission and was not helping the individual or the families build a self-sustaining future.
After our first experience with a lot of insight and a little on-the-ground experience, we found ourselves called again to Haiti. The country of Haiti gets in your blood and the desire to serve never leaves you. With our second full-time mission we had a great experience and a call that we could see fruit bearing for God's Kingdom. It was a mission of hope for lost souls by sharing the good news of God's love and grace through film and interactions, but there was something missing for us.
I still had all the trade skills that God allowed me to learn through my many years in construction, but I couldn’t find a way to share them that could, in my mind, be a great benefit to the future generations of Haiti. As I stated above, this second full-time mission was and still is a great mission. But for us - as for many missionaries - life’s circumstances called us back to the States, and we left this mission with a sense of accomplishment and of planting seed. I felt an end to our service in Haiti had come.
I told my wife I felt we were finished in Haiti, and I did not see us ever going back. If you have heard the saying “never say never” believe it!
Now we are back in Haiti. People we had met and places we visited all led us back there—this time with Extollo International: a mission of building skill in the construction trades that is first and foremost sharing of the Gospel of Christ. We do this with students through morning devotions and a very up-to-date Trade School that is providing training for construction skills in Welding, Masonry, Concrete, Electrical, Plumbing and Automotive.
When you see the development of souls for Christ combined with the learning and application of substantial trade skills, you know you are in the right place at the right time for the Glory of God.
If you have ever said to yourself that you cannot do foreign missions or maybe had a bad experience on a mission trip, I would like for you to remember the saying “never say never.” For if you have had a salvation experience with Christ and really reflect on where you have been and what you have done through your life, you can see that God has been working with you to be blessed and be a blessing to others—whether it’s just a smile with an orphaned child or working with a shovel to dig a foundation for a family that does not have a roof over their head.
Whatever your contribution, large or small, it all has meaning and it all matters in the backdrop of eternity. I say all this to empathize with those struggling to find their call: serve God and be blessed with a cup that runs over beyond any expectations you may have. Life is short, but God's Kingdom is everlasting.