Confessions of a First-Timer

By Alan Voges

"The following testimony is typical of hundreds of men I have personally known and shared their "first-timer" mission experience. Most layman making their first mission trip to a developing nation experience an assault on their senses. My book, Still Sharpening, is a narration of many men with similar "first-timer" experiences who have moved on to a deeper walk with God –– doing, going, and giving, all that He asks." Warren Hardig
Confessions of a First-Timer - First time visitors to Haiti are usually overwhelmed by a sense of utter hopelessness.
First time visitors to Haiti are usually overwhelmed by a sense of utter hopelessness.

The van ride from Port-au-Prince airport to Villa Ormiso was an eye opener to say the least. As I was taking it all in and back on my heels, so to speak, I believe the devil seized the opportunity to bombard me with thoughts counter to the reason I was there.

He hit me with words like hopeless and pointless and questions like "How can I or a team of 100 or 1000 for that matter make a difference in all this mess?" He also tempted me to place blame for these conditions on somebody. Was it government, evil people from long ago forcing others into slavery, or was it the people themselves?

With all that I wondered if there was anything that could take hold of these people to turn things around for them. And, even with that last thought, I was not remembering the reason I was there.

After resting out the weekend at the comfortable Villa, Monday morning came. After a devotional and breakfast we set out. The drive to the work area, only provided more visual stimulus for the same negative thoughts I mentioned before.

"This was my first Haiti trip. It was my first mission trip. I was not sure what to expect or what would be expected of me. I went ready to be used however God would use me. My name is Alan Voges and this is an honest account of my experience.

In the days leading up to the Haiti trip, I recalled vacationing in Mexico and "boldly" venturing away from my comfortable accommodations into what I believed had to be the depths of conditions in third world countries. Simply put, I had not seen anything compared to what I was about to see in Haiti."

Alan Voges

Arriving at the work area we were met by a handful of Haitian workers who struck me as humble and happy. We all smiled, shook hands and said, "Bonjour." As we would begin each morning, we sang a hymn lead by the Haitian team leader, and then a member of the American team shared his testimony.

Now before I go blaming more stuff on the devil, I need to confess that I've always been an easy mark for him when it comes to seeing the negative before the positive. So it should come as no surprise that my initial thoughts after the first morning's experience were, "Hmm, seems like a long way to travel to witness to so few. And we will be, for the most part, working separate tasks from them. And we don't speak the same language. And they seem to already have a love for Jesus. Where is the opportunity or the need to witness? Oh well, this should be easy, I am in my element when it comes to construction."

In spite of my pessimistic assessment, I was still very open and ready to do what was asked of me. I had genuine feelings of goodwill toward the Haitian workers, and I would communicate with a "bonjour," a smile, or a wave at every encounter.

We all worked hard and happily on the tasks at hand, building a roof and hanging doors on a house and a restroom. As we completed one house, the Americans bonded as a team and in particular I think the four of us men rooming together formed friendships that I hope continue to develop.

As we relaxed in our room at days end about midweek, I shared some of my thoughts with Philip, one of my roommates. This was Philip's third trip so I was interested in his perspective. I point blank asked him how we could possibly be making that big of a difference. To that he very non-judgmentally responded, "it's not necessarily our right to see any difference made. A small seed planted for God could yield a multitude of fruit that we may never see. Our job is simply to do as God calls us to do, continue to pray over our obedient acts, and let God worry about the yield."

As he talked I nodded my head and in agreement. None of what Philip said was foreign to me. I simply needed to be reminded.

I may never know how anyone in Haiti will be blessed by my small effort or the testimony I shared, but I believe that it is God's will that every good work done in His name, no matter how small, should perpetually bless His people generation after generation. And I am blessed now with that understanding.

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