Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Internet, Coffee, Surgery, Etc.

Hi all!

We still have no internet access at our house. We believe that our equipment, which has been serving us faithfully for years and years and is borderline obsolete, has sustained water damage. Although we were able to reconnect several times after the connection first died, each time we did so the connection was lost again within 24 hours.

The service we've been using is gradually being phased out, anyway, so rather than continuing to try to repair this equipment, we are looking into other options. There is a local business which offers a wireless internet connection  in the city of Gracias. While we aren't located in the city, our home is on a hill which overlooks the city from a few miles away. Since we have line-of-sight to the city, it is possible that we may be able to connect to the internet using this service. The technician is due to visit our house this week, and then we should know what is possible.

We hope that this system will give us a faster connection as well as being less expensive than our current satellite internet. Please be praying that this situation will be resolved soon!

Meanwhile, life goes on, even without internet. Those ministries which are ongoing throughout the year continue - the feeding centers, pastor training school, the Bible book store, etc. A shipment of food is due in port any day now, and there will be travel and paperwork involved in getting the food from the port to us here in Gracias. In addition, the menfolk are putting most of their daily efforts into a major project: planting nine acres of coffee on a section of our property! This is the time of year when the plants have to be set into the ground, and this has been a huge job. We are hopeful that, in time, the profits from the coffee harvests will help pay for the cost of the ministry here. At the moment, we're investing  large amounts of time and money into this - we had to bulldoze a road down through the property, for access to the coffee fields, prepare the ground to receive the plants, purchase the plants and hire knowledgeable local men to oversee the planting and care of the young plants, purchase fertilizer and pesticides, etc. Please pray with us that God would bless and reward these efforts!

In family news, after more than a year of trying to arrange for it to happen, this week Boo is finally having her tonsils taken out! Because the removal of tonsils isn't done often anymore, and because Boo is in her late teens, this isn't considered as simple a surgery as you might expect. We wanted to have this done at the hospital on the north coast, where we know the American doctors and trust the level of care. Getting to the hospital, and finding the time when we could pull away from the ministry work to take Boo there and stay through her recuperation period was the difficulty.

Meanwhile, however, Boo suffered from nearly continual discomfort. We came up with a plan, but, as is common here, the plan was changed and revised multiple times . . . however this week it is really happening. Boo's tonsils are scheduled to be removed today!

On Monday afternoon, Boo left home and went to spend the night in Gracias with Russell and Iris (and Russellito). Very early Tuesday she caught the first bus to the city of Santa Rosa de Copan, where she had to transfer to a different bus to travel to the larger city of Sana Pedro Sula. Sending my small, delicate, blonde 18 year old daughter traveling alone, by bus, in Central America, to the city with the highest murder rate in the world, felt like quite an act of faith, I will admit. Boo felt up to the challenge, though, and she is extremely anxious to be rid of her tonsils!

From the huge bus terminal in Sana Pedro Sula she took a taxi to the airport, where she met up with a missionary who works at the hospital in Balfate. He was in the city picking up people at the airport, and he arranged this meeting so that Boo could travel the rest of the way to the hospital in a private vehicle. From the airport, the reminder of the trip would involve about five hours of driving.

Boo will stay at the hospital compound, in the home of missionary friends, during a week of recuperation. The doctors recommended this because there is a slight chance that she could have a serious complication involving post-operative bleeding during the first week after the surgery, and this would be dangerous for her to experience while traveling, or when she has returned to an area where a quick medical response would be unavailable.

Toward the end of the week, Rachel and her husband, Brandy, will travel to the north coast of Honduras from their home in the capital, so that they can accompany Boo on her return trip by bus. This was arranged because of concerns that Boo might not feel well enough after the surgery to travel alone.

To keep this (fairly) short, I've left out so much of the story - the fact that there is a visiting team of Ear, Nose, and Throat doctors at the missionary hospital this week, for instance. This is the type of doctor who would preform this type of surgery in the US, especially in instances where complications would be anticipated. We would have been happy to have the general surgeon at Balfate handle this operation, but because Boo was able to be there this week, she'll be under the care off specialists!

Rachel was planning to travel with Boo both ways on this trip, but Brandy had a scheduled vacation this month, and the exact dates of the vacation weren't tied down until the day the vacation started! This made Rachel's ability to plan her part of the trip particularly difficult! The timing of the visiting team of doctors and the timing of Brandy's vacation (when we finally got that info) didn't fit together well enough to allow Rachel to accompany Boo early this week, which is how it came about that Boo took on the first part of the journey alone.

Please pray with us that the operation will go smoothly, that Boo will be free from the sickness and discomfort that her tonsils were causing, that her recuperation will be complication-free, and that she (and Rachel and Brandy) will have safe travel back home again. Thanks so much!

And thank you SO MUCH for reading to the end of this long, pictureless post! On top of everything else, my laptop keyboard is acting up, and so it took me MUCH longer than usual to type in this post. Before lots of arduous editing, the paragraphs above looked like this:

Boo willl staaya aaat the hsopitall lcompound, in the home o missionary fffriends, dduring aa week kof recuperaation. The codtors recommene thi becauase there i aa sssight chnce tht he coud haaaave a aserious compliction invollving post-operative bleeding during the irt wee ter the surgery, n thi would be dddaanagerous sfor her to experience while travelilngn, or when shse ha returned to an area where a quick mediclala respsonse wouldd be unavaiallable.
I shared that so that you will be appropriately appreciative of my efforts! I'll post again, and let you know how Boo is doing, next time I have internet access! Thanks for praying!



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

I'm a Grandmother now!!!!!

Note: I wrote this earlier, but couldn't post it until now, because of my internet problems. 




What a full week we've had here!

Monday (Sept 8) was the day planned for the big surprise baby shower, for Russell's wife, Iris. Because I needed to purchase a shower gift and also a strawberry cake mix (my job was baking chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry cupcakes for the event) I drove down to the city of Gracias on Saturday.

Sometime during the night on Saturday I started running a fairly high fever. It got worse on Sunday, and was STILL so bad on Monday that I knew I wouldn't be able to attend the shower.

Part of the plan for the surprise involved getting Iris out of the way for a few hours late Monday afternoon, so an appointment for a checkup with her obstetrician had been scheduled for that time. However, late in the game, the appointment was cancelled, because the doctor had had to go out of the country for a brief time!

I was pretty out-of-it at that point, so I don't know all that transpired, but somehow it was arranged for Iris to see a different obstetrician at the same appointment time. Phew. BUT - at the checkup, the OB found indications that Iris was starting into the dreaded condition known as toxemia. This is extremely dangerous, but can be safely managed, with extensive nursing care. For Iris, only three weeks from her due date, the decision was made to deliver the baby immediately!

When Russell had a moment to speak privately with the doctor, he explained that there was a room full of 50 people at that very moment waiting to surprise Iris with a baby shower! The doctor agreed to give Iris some medications to help keep her condition under control, and said that Iris could attend the shower and they would deliver the baby FIRST thing in the morning - and of course, that Iris was to be as still and quiet as possible until then.



So, that's what happened! Before the sun was up the next morning, they were checking into the Clinica San Lucas in Gracias, which has a wonderful option for expectant mothers. Iris delivered the baby there and then had a private room with a private nurse, for two days. While it's more expensive than the public hospital, it's also cleaner and quieter, with a higher level of care.

The delivery was uneventful, and little Russell Lee Sowers, Jr, arrived on the scene right around 7am, weighing in at 7 pounds, 2 ounces - which is a nice weight for three weeks early!







Unfortunately, I was sick with a fever the day Russellito was born, and I had to wait an excruciating amount of time - an entire day - until I could go and visit him, wearing a mask, just in case.


I assure you that in the weeks since his birth, I've made up for this delay. This week I even got to change a poopy diaper! I am one lucky grandmother!!!!!

Monday, September 29, 2014

No blog posts for a bit . . .

Our internet is out, and I don't think we will have internet at the house again for a while . . . weeks, at a minimum, I'd say. It has already been off more than on for the past month.

So, things will be quieter than usual here for a bit. Hopefully I'll be back online soon!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Gifts for Gracias: See What We See

UPDATE:

The mailing deadline for sending donations to the Maryland

collection location has been changed! You now have until

the END of November to mail donations and gifts to 

Maryland,

and if you are delivering items in person, you have about 

three weeks after that!

This extension is because we haven't yet received 
enough 

to fill the container. Please help if you can!!!!!






When you live and work with the poor, as we have done for almost 14 years now, you stop seeing the poverty. You just see the people. We are always taken aback at the shock our guests from the US and other countries express, when they see levels of poverty which we now view as normal life.


There are aspects of poverty that can't really be shared in photos, like the diseases which kill or maim people who could easily have been helped if they had had access to fairly basic medical care and nutritious food, and the grief of a family when a loved one is lost so needlessly. There is a sadness of knowing that your family has no way to pull out of the cycle of poverty - no access to a better education, and no jobs which pay enough for more than basic survival. There is a hopelessness.





What I can try to do is to show you, in photos, what our guests see when they visit us.





Once you've seen these photos, I hope you will have a better understanding of the tremendous blessing it is to these families, to receive a warm blanket, a bottle of shampoo, a simple toy for their child, school supplies, shoes, and other luxuries, like toothbrushes and toothpaste.






This isn't a solution. We work on big-picture solutions every day - building schools and infrastructure, running feeding centers, holding medical clinics in remote areas, and helping people find the hope that knowing God provides - but once a year, we run this gift project as a way of saying, "We know how hard this is, and we want to help your life get one little bit better, today. Right now."






This is our 14th year collecting donations of gifts and used items (in good condition) to distribute in our part of Honduras. It is a simple thing we can do, to help.

Will you be a part of the Gifts for Gracias project this year?




Details follow, on how to put together and ship gift boxes for children and families. We also accept donations of gift items in bulk, which we use to put together additional gifts, and also donations of clothing and bedding in good, gift giving condition. (People in our area tend to be smaller than the average in the US, so small and medium sizes of clothing and shoes are most needed. Also, we do have cold weather part of the year, so clothing and bedding suitable for all seasons are utilized.)



This is what you need to know, to create and send a gift:

Children’s gifts may be created in shoe boxes, child-size backpacks, or large, plastic zip-lock bags; family boxes (items specifically for the adults, or for the use of the entire family) usually require a larger box. A great idea is to package family gifts in a duffle bag or large backpack - the pastors love this! All gifts should fit into one of the following categories, and should be labeled in this way:

Baby girl or Baby boy 
Preschool girl or Preschool boy 
5 - 7 yr old girl or 5 - 7 yr old boy
8 - 12 yr old girl or 8 - 12 yr old boy
Teen girl or Teen boy
Family Box

Suggested items for the children’s gift boxes:

-tooth brushes, toothpaste, and other toiletries
-*crayons, markers, stickers, colored pencils and *coloring books
-pads of paper, pencils, pens, *school supplies, *backpack
-combs, brushes, hair bows 
-soap, baby shampoo, baby bottles, rattles
- balls, small toys, socks
*soccer balls, *inexpensive watches, *baseball caps
*dolls, *stuffed animals, *sunglasses

Suggested items for the family gift boxes:

-soap, shampoo (make sure it is tightly closed), *hair gel, toiletries
-candles, small decorative items, sewing kit
-hair things, handkerchiefs, purses
-dish towels, small kitchen items, plastic storage containers
-small flashlight, small clock (non-electrical)
-lotion, aftershave, perfume
-pens, notepads, stationary, tape, small office supplies
-shoe polish (brown or black), dark socks, inexpensive wallet
*blanket, *towels
*belts (smaller adult sizes), *baseball caps, *backpacks

(* Indicates especially appreciated items)

IMPORTANT NOTE: Please only send food items separately packaged from the gift boxes!!! We have problems with pests and heat destroying the candy - and frequently other items in the same box are ruined. We will add candy to the boxes ourselves, just before distribution. You may send bags of candy, separately, to help us with this expense - just please package those items separately!

SHIPPING INFORMATION:

The mailing deadline for shipping to the 
Florida address is September 7th, 2014!!!

The mailing deadline for shipping to the 
Maryland address is October 7th, 2014  now extended until November 30, 2014!!!!!

Gifts may be sent to:

Gifts for Gracias
c/o Jim Cofer
7047 Blue Mountain Road
Thurmont, MD 21788

or


Gifts for Gracias
c/o Norma Irvin
7921 Broadmoor Pines Blvd.
Sarasota, FL 34243

Drop off deliveries can be arranged to these locations, until about 3 weeks AFTER the mailing deadlines. 
Contact Trish @ sowers4pastors.com if you'd prefer to deliver your donations in person!

If you would prefer to help by sending a monetary donation, the directions are on the "how to donate" page, linked at the top of this page . . . simply add "Sowers Ministry - Gifts for Gracias" in the box to specify how you would like your donation used. 


Thank you, so much, for your help with this project!!!

Friday, August 22, 2014

We interrupt this series of bridge construction photos for an important announcement!!!!!


We have been offered another matching funds opportunity!

Some of you have read recently, here or on our FB page, that because of rising shipping costs we can no longer feed children for a penny a meal. The cost to us, to feed each of the approximately 12,000 children in the feeding centers we supply, is now around 2 cents per meal. Still a bargain, to be sure, but not quite as "catchy" as "Penny-A-Meal Deal."

However, a generous donor has agreed to match all funds donated, dollar for dollar, toward the next container of food we ship down here . . . up to $3500! This means that, for a limited time, when you donate a penny, you will still be able to feed a meal to a malnourished child. When you donate a dollar, you will purchase 100 meals. $10? That pays for an astonishing one thousand meals.

A donation of a hundred dollars would feed more than a dozen children two meals a week for an entire year!

A single donation of  two hundred dollars - and you will be supplying the food for an entire feeding center in one of our rural villages for a year!

I could go on . . . but you can do the math.

And the feeding centers aren't all about food. The pastors who run these centers do so as an outreach to their communities. They present a Bible lesson when the children gather for a meal, but really, that's just the most basic way that God's love is shared with these children.

A beautiful example of this is the story of Karen, a young girl in our Tejeras feeding center. (I shared her story back in May. Click here to see that post.) Because of her involvement in the feeding center in her village, the pastor running the program knew of her family's difficulties, and a member of his church arranged no-cost housing for them, when they had none and could not afford to pay any rent. This is how the church is supposed to function, and we are so very, very blessed to be a small part of this bigger picture.









If you'd like to take part in this matching funds opportunity, here's how you can do that . . .


To Donate by Mail, send checks to:

The Foundation
PO BOX 560233
Orlando, Florida 32856-0233
- Make check payable to "The Foundation" -- Be sure to write "preferenced for Sowers Ministry (Feeding Centers)" on an enclosed paper -



To Donate Online:

Click on THIS LINK to donate online using credit card, or debit card. Make sure that you choose "Missionary Support" from the drop down menu, and type in "Sowers Ministry - Feeding Centers" in the box requesting "additional specifics on how to use the gift."


If additional instructions or information are needed for donating, please don't hesitate to call The Foundation for Missions, at 407-796-4939or send your questions by email to thuy@tfofsp.org

Monday, August 18, 2014

A bridge in a week . . . in photos! Part 2

This tree is in the way . . . it's gotta go . . .


Attempting to persuade the tree to fall in the right direction . . . 


 . . . unsuccessfully. Sigh. Things don't always go your way.
Just a setback, though, not a disaster!

Employing the labor of the first of two visiting mission teams, the ground is cleared on both sides of the river and the digging begins!

These impressive trenches will have concrete poured directly into them,
to create the footers upon which the bridge will be built.

Meanwhile, in the river, rocks are collected to be used as part of the bridge structure . . .

 . . . lots and lots of rocks!

A bridge in a week . . . in photos! Part 1

The challenge: crossing this river year during rainy season flooding
(photo taken during a season when the water level is relatively low)



Preparing the bridge site with a machete . . . 


Preparing the bridge site . . . more aggressively



Here come the bridge-building specialists . . . 


 . . . and the tools, equipment, and materials the specialists brought with them!


Random orphanage dog

A bridge built in a week!

Last month, we had the opportunity to be part of a very fun project! A missionary-run orphanage in another part of Honduras had a problem. They are located on a small farm, and a river runs through their land. Sometimes the river floods, and it becomes dangerous to cross . . . but the cows on the other side of the river still needed to be milked! Plus, in the future, they intend to expand their projects on the other side of the river, and they'd need year-around access for that.

They needed a bridge.

We build bridges.

It was a match made in heaven!



After months of planning and preparations, Allen and Russell loaded up tools, materials, our construction crew, and Boo (she went along to take pictures) into two Land Cruisers. They drove the 10 hour trip to Yoro, way up into the mountains along the north coast.

Boo took photos and kept a log, just quickly jotting down what progress was made each day. I'm going to share some of the photos, along with her log entries. Boo and Allen left on Friday, July 11th, and drove the first part of the trip, as far as the city of San Pedro Sula. They spent Saturday shopping in the city for some special clamps that were needed for the bridge, and drove the rest of the way to the orphanage on Sunday. The log begins upon their arrival.

Sunday - 
got to Jason's at 12:00pm
Shot the sight for the bridge
hung out with Jason's family
"Jason" refers to the missionary-in-charge at the orphanage, Jason Furrow. "Shooting the sight" means using a small, electronic tape measure to choose the best location for the bridge to cross the river.
Monday - 
found the best place for the bridge
cut down all the plants in our way
dug about one-and-a-half foundations
moved 7 pickup trucks of rocks from the river and 2 of gravel down from the gate
had the help of Scott's team, but just for today
"Scott" refers to another missionary, Scott Ledford, who brought a team he was hosting up to help with the bridge project for a day.
Tuesday -
poured the first foundation
finished digging the second
moved rocks and sand to the second, too
Jason's team came last night and started work today
"Jason's team" was a short term mission trip group from Georgia, who specifically came to be laborers on this bridge construction project.
Wednesday -
poured the second foundation
poured the first set of handrails
Thursday -
poured second set of handrails
started putting up cable
went fishing
Friday -
set up almost all of the cable
Saturday -
finished setting up the cable
put boards on the deck, until we ran out of boards

A small amount of work on the bridge could not be completed before our group came home. The lumber for the deck was being cut (with a chainsaw) as the construction was ongoing, and there wasn't enough lumber ready before our week was up, plus the installation of those boards could be completed by the workers at the orphanage. There were also some specialized clamps (for holding the cables) which we couldn't find in country, so a visiting team brought them down in their luggage later, and those were also installed after we left.

But still . . . if all of the materials had been ready, it WOULD have been a bridge in a week, which is pretty good, I think.




More pictures, from the week when the bridge construction was in progress, will follow soon!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thirty Years Ago Today!

Once upon a time . . . 














 . . . and so, they lived happily ever after!