Monday, July 25, 2016

Connecting the Dots - interviews with members of a visiting team

Allen, Trish, and Russell are always happy to have a short-term missions team visiting from the states. And, I must confess, when I get to speak to some of the team members on the phone, I share their excitement. Okay, so that’s only happened once - but it was exciting. I recently had the opportunity to speak to three of the six visiting team members of Life Community Church in Columbus, Ohio.


Pastors receiving gifts of soccer balls, for use in ministry, from the LCC team



The team from LCC arrived in Western Honduras on July 15th  for a week of working with the Pastors' Training Program. As Allen said, “It’s a time to connect the dots. They’re already aware of the ministry, but it’s amazing to see how much knowledge the visiting team has, versus the Honduran pastors. There are so many things they can share. Then they get to take their experiences home to share with their church members.”


Pastor Rick Tawney, Cell Group Pastor at LCC


Who better to ask about Pastors’ Training School than a visiting pastor? Pastor Rick has been on staff at Life Community Church for seven years. This was his first trip to Honduras and he found it to be a far cry from his own pastoral training. You see, Pastor Rick, like many pastors in the U.S., has a Masters Degree of Divinity. He also has Masters in Christian Counseling.


Pastor Rick teaching at the school
Far from feeling superior to the indigenous pastors he met and taught, he felt humbled by their intense desire to learn. In fact, that drive to learn is what most impressed Pastor Rick. After a long afternoon of teaching, he said, “I’ve been impressed with their commitment to the ministry down here. That’s a tough way to pastor - that’s for sure!”


Pastor Rick’s lessons to the students in the Pastors’ Training School included How to Do a Cell Model Church, Leadership Development, and Priests in the Old and New Testaments. He had just finished giving a lesson when I spoke to him. I’m not complaining, mind you, but the lesson did go long, requiring the call to be pushed back a bit. That’s due (at least in part) to the language barrier, necessitating for everything he said to be translated into Spanish and any questions to be translated into English.


Even with the language barrier, Pastor Rick said the team felt they “got connected to the pastors.” He said it was “a fun week--a good week for the team.” He was thankful for the experience and is taking home a desire for their home church to “get a partnership going with a sister church--start bringing down teams of teens and adults.” He expressed a desire to do ongoing work with the pastors, and for future teams to help operate Vacation Bible Schools. “When you bring people here, they get excited.” And that excitement leads to an ongoing commitment of support.


This trip was right up Pastor Rick’s alley. He said, “I’ve always said I’d love to train pastors in another culture--to give them training they can’t get.” He hadn’t done it prior to this because of the language barrier, but it is a passion of his. He continued by stating, “The education I have is great. When you take what you have learned and give it to pastors who have almost nothing, it makes you feel useful.”


What is Pastor Rick taking home from his experience with Pastors’ Training School? For starters, he’s taking home a tremendous appreciation for the fact that he can work as a pastor and get paid a living wage. Even though he isn’t wealthy by U.S. standards, he is able to support his family. Being in Honduras made him even more aware that isn’t the case for many pastors.


Doug Truax, Nationwide is On Their Side


Doug Truax, teaching
This was Doug’s second trip to Honduras, as he was there last year on a scouting trip for Life Community Church. A Nationwide Insurance employee in his daily life, he was able to spend a week showing the students at the Pastors’ Training School that he’s on their side, too.


Doug told me the reason LCC partnered with Sowers4Pastors is how well the Sowers work to empower the pastors. “Everything they do is to empower the pastors. We felt, as a church, we would be able to get involved with that,” Doug said. The team members from LCC worked to create their own curriculum, which they presented to the students in the Pastors’ Training School.  


When speaking about the pastors at Pastors’ Training School, Doug said, “It’s clear they have a passion for Christ and for their communities. None of us speak Spanish, but it’s still clear by the way they pray and worship. We deliver a session, but it’s through the questions they ask afterward that you can tell the passion they have for their ministries and people. They want to serve their people.”


Doug continued, “The pastors here need support. They are effective in what they do, but they need support educationally, financially, and with various resources to help them.  A lot of the pastors have the desire to reach villages further up the road, but they don’t have the resources. Their hearts are there, but they need help.”


“What confirmed, to us, why we got involved was how right it feels, and how effective it is to empower local native pastors/missionaries to support their work. As we leave, even if they just took one nugget with them, it was worthwhile. Ministry is hard. it’s hard to hear their stories about not having formal Bible training. They are trying to protect their sheep from false doctrine, which means they need to know true doctrine. I pray they will continue to grow,” Doug said.


Rachel Bidwell, Nurse Practitioner with a Newfound Talent of Cutting Plantains


This was Rachel’s first mission trip. She went for experience and exposure, and because she wanted to see the work the Sowers are doing, firsthand. While the men were teaching, the two women team members from LCC were busy cooking. That was an interesting experience because the LCC women don’t speak Spanish and the Honduran women they were assisting don’t speak English. Still, they managed to communicate mostly through makeshift sign language. Rachel also said, “We’ve learned a little Spanish. They’ve learned a little English.”


Team members Susan and Rachel prepare plantains
for the pastors' meals

When asked what she will tell people at home, Rachel responded,  “I'll tell them how many ministries the Sowers have, how earnest they are--how much they care for the people. How much they care even though it takes a lot out of them.” Rachel was glad to see the ministries up close and personal. She was also very impressed by how homey Trish has managed to make the warehouse-like building they currently call home. Ah, Warehouse Sweet Warehouse!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Feeding Center Flashback Episode

If this blog were a television show, this would be what is known as a flashback episode. If this were a television show from my childhood, a slightly more attractive than average family would be sitting in their living room flipping through a scrapbook. We’re going to try to accomplish the same feel by having you reread a blogpost Trish published on March 19th of this year about a point of crisis in the feeding center program. You really should go back and read it for yourself, but I’ll give a brief recap.


Kids in Honduras are going hungry. (Insert some sad music because that is bad, bad, bad!)


The Sowers can ship and import meals for hungry children for 2 measly cents per meal. (That is crazy cheap, so we should insert gasps from the audience.)


Back in March, a pastor, representing himself and 14 other pastors, showed up at Russell’s house hoping to get food for the hungry children at 15 churches. Even though the Sowers didn’t really have the resources to take on an additional 15 churches, they stepped out in faith and trusted God to provide. God did provide! And God provided by using people like you! This link takes you to the list of previously sponsored pastors. (Aw. That’s nice. Insert “Hallelujah Chorus” sung by some really spectacular Gospel choir.)


Now, we can put aside the virtual scrapbook and focus on the present day situation. It is like déjà vu all over again, except this time we’re talking about taking on 13 additional feeding centers! Those with less faith might say, “Hey, we can’t feed the world!” The Sowers say, “We may not be able to feed the world, but God can provide the food we need to feed those who ask us!” And that is how they came up with the following list of pastors who have registered to feed children in their local communities of Western Honduras.


Please look over the list and pray about helping to sponsor the children at these feeding centers - the cost shown is the amount to feed those children for an entire YEAR! You stepped up to the plate before and Sowers4Pastors has full faith that people will feel led to step up to this current plate. Even if you can’t help financially at this time, you can pray for the ministry and share this post with others.

 - Alicia Margarita, in La Canada San Rafael, feeding 45 children - $90
 - Adelso Lopez, in Santa Teresa, feeding 193 kids (1x week) - $193
 - Berta Clara Guevara, in Gracias Lempira, feeding 250 kids -
$500
 - Digno Aguilar, in Retumbadora San Juan, feeding 28 kids - $56
 - Danny Hernandez  Bautista, in San Rafael, feeding 72 kids - $144
 - Edmundo Perdomo, in La Iguala, feeding 55 kids - $110
 - Felipe Vasquez Miranda, in Montanita, feeding 52 kids (1x week) - $52

 - Felipe Diaz Perez, in Olominas La Iguala, feeding 28 kids - $56

 - Gladis Yolanda Ramirez, in Florida, Copan, feeding 58 kids - $116
 - Israel Galvez, in La Playona, feeding121 kids (1x per week) - $121
 - Juan Angel Benitez, in Rodeo Pinal, feeding 49 kids - $98
 - Jose Juvenal Erazo, in Berea, feeding 63 kids - $126
 - Miguel Chicas, in San Juan, feeding 17 kids (1x week) - $17






For information on how to donate to the Sowers4Pastors Feeding Program, click on that jazzy blue line. If you want to pay to sponsor one particular pastor's feeding center, from the list above, add that info into the donation form - and let Trish know that you've done that, so she can turn that name red on the list! (Cue the closing credits and theme song because this concludes our flashback episode.)

- posted by Christi

Monday, July 18, 2016

Brother, Can You Spare Some Time?

Do you ever feel like you have information overload? Unless you’re living off the grid and happen to be reading this because a visitor with wifi dropped in to see you at your isolated cabin in the woods, you probably do.


We all have a lot of things vying for our time and attention. We live in an age of 24-hour newsfeeds, which may be great if you’re an insomniac with a desire for information and an obsession with the upcoming elections and the Kardashians. For the rest of us, it can be overwhelming. But, here’s the deal: Sowers4Pastors would like just a smidgen of your time each week.



Choir, I Feel a Sermon Coming On!  


I understand that the very fact you are reading this (You are reading this aren’t you? Hello? Is this thing on?) means I am preaching to the choir. But there are some things that need to be said. You can spread the word to those backsliders who didn’t make it to this blogpost!


Allen and Trish are super nice people. They’re so nice they’re probably never going to tell you what they need most from you. As a non-Sowers who has no delusions of niceness, I feel I can tell you THEY NEED YOUR PRAYERS! And they need you to sacrifice about ten minutes each week to read this handy-dandy blog and check the Sowers4pastors’ Facebook page so you will know how best to pray for them. That’s it.


They want you to know this isn’t about trying to raise support (although this not-so-nice non-Sowers will tell you your support would be more than welcome). This is strictly about finding out what is going on with their ministry. Without knowing what’s going on, how can you pray effectively?


We’re In Touch, So You Be In Touch


See how confusing it is when Trish selects
a photo that doesn't match the text? LOL
Do you remember back to the days when we didn’t have 24-hour news channels? At my house, that meant we could tune into about five television channels and got the bulk of our news from one of the three major networks. I was a weird child with a thirst for knowledge and, by the time I was a 4th grader, my favorite TV shows were “60 Minutes” and “20/20”. Each week, I’d tune in to “20/20” and hear Hugh Downs say, “We’re in touch, so you be in touch.” Ah, Hugh, that was good advice!


When it comes to missions, some people are called to go, and the rest of us are called to support those who are called to go--spiritually and financially. Trish, Allen, and Russell are putting forth a lot of effort to keep you informed.  Even when a post has been written by a not-so-nice non-Sowers, Trish spends hours finding the right photos to accompany the text. And Allen and Russell take time out of their busy schedules to chat with me on the phone. They sacrifice their time because it’s important to them to keep information out there for you.


If you haven’t already done so, you can sign up to follow the Sowers4Pastors blog, as well as their Facebook page. You can also request an email notification whenever a new item has been posted on the blog - just submit your email address in the box at the top of the right column.That way, you will be notified whenever there is a new post. Don’t miss out on opportunities to support this worthwhile ministry.


And remember… We’re in touch, so you be in touch!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Education to help build a future . . . backpacks and school supplies to help ensure an education!

Backpack Project


When Sowers4Pastors goes shopping, it looks a little different than when you or I go shopping. It’s not that I don’t love a good bargain and buying in bulk. Ask anyone at my local Costco about my purchase history and they can tell you how much I love my five pound blocks of cream cheese and jars of organic salsa. But even I have never purchased 4500 backpacks! Allen and Trish recently did just that.


Don’t worry. They are not going to be on an episode of “Hoarders”. The Sowers are gearing up for a backpack project that would give Dora the Explorer something to sing about! Their goal is to get a total of about 5000 backpacks into the hands of children who go to the feeding centers. Of course, empty backpacks aren’t going to have much impact. That’s where you come in.


Filling Needs, One Backpack at a Time


You have an opportunity to fill a backpack with school supplies for a child in Western Honduras. If you’re thinking some basic items like crayons, pencils, pens, erasers, and notebooks won’t have much impact on a child’s life, think again. This is exactly the kind of practical support these kids need.


Allen would like you to contemplate what people need to get ahead in life. In addition to a relationship with God, people benefit from having their basic needs met. The feeding centers are already operating to provide nutritious food and some basic medical care. Surely, one of the next needs is that of an education. But how can a child receive an education without simple things like paper and pencils?


This project started out as a way for U.S. churches involved in the Sister Church Program, and individuals involved with Manna 4 Lempira to connect with the children they are sponsoring. It’s a way for them to provide meaningful support to the Honduran kids they sponsor. Then Allen thought, “Why should those folks have all the fun?”


Who Can Fill a Backpack?


  • Are you involved in the Sister Church Program? If so, you can fill a backpack! The sister churches are already hard at work filling backpacks.


  • Are you not involved in the Sister Church Program, but you do sponsor a child through Manna 4 Lempira? If so, you can fill a backpack! There are backpacks available for people who are sponsoring a child and would love to help their sponsored child (and others!) to school with necessary supplies.


  • Are you not involved in the Sister Church Program, and you don’t sponsor a child? If so, you can fill a backpack! There are backpacks available for people who aren’t ready to make a yearlong commitment to the sponsor a child, but would love to help send a child or children to school with necessary supplies.


  • Do you have a pulse? If so, you can fill a backpack! Yes, there are backpacks available for people with pulses who would love to help send a child or children to school with necessary supplies.


  • Would your entire church, Sunday school class, or children’s department like to participate in a project where you know exactly where your items are going? If so, you can all fill backpacks! Maybe you already fill shoeboxes in the fall. That’s great! You can fill backpacks in the summer! If your church is interested, send Allen an email and he will happily supply the backpacks. He says he can get a hundred or more backpacks in your hands within two weeks time! Currently, churches in Columbus, Oh, Edgewater, FL, Walkersville, MD, Jacksonville, FL, and Atlanta, GA are having drives to fill backpacks.


Fill as many as you can while the back-to-school sales have items marked down to ridiculously low prices. Really. When crayons are going for $0.25 a box, can you really afford not to buy a bunch? Plus, since not every child has a sponsor, filling additional backpacks will allow EVERY child at the feeding centers to receive school supplies. Last year, the Sowers purchased enough supplies to fill the deficit because they refuse for there to be a scenario in which only some children receive a gift while others look on longingly.


If you would like to participate, but would rather have someone else do the shopping, that’s fine, too. You can earmark donations and Allen will do some bargain hunting on his next visit to the states. Sowers4Pastors will also be providing a pair of leather school shoes for each child, but they will do the shopping for that, due to the need to order specific sizes. They are able to buy shoes for $13 a pair. Any donations will be most welcome.


Who Can Not Fill a Backpack?


  • N/A


How to Get Them From Here to There


Allen will be making a trip to the U.S. and will be in Florida, Atlanta, GA, Maryland, Columbus, OH, and the Pittsburgh, PA area. He will happily pick up completed backpacks or school supplies, which have been sorted into Ziplock bags and are ready to be transferred to the backpacks.


If your group is worried about how to get the supplies to their final destination, send Allen an email (allen @ sowers4pastors.com). He will figure out a way to get them from you!

- posted by Christi

Monday, July 11, 2016

There Were Never Such Devoted Sister Churches

“Sisters, sisters, there were never such devoted sisters…” Irving Berlin may have written those words for “White Christmas,” but they’re even more fitting for Sowers 4 Pastors’ Sister Church Sponsorship Program than they were for Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen. In case you’re not familiar with the program, let’s go over the basics.


The Basics


The Sister Church Sponsorship Program goes hand in hand with the Manna 4 Lempira Child Sponsorship Program. You already know how Manna 4 Lempira allows individuals to sponsor a child for $15 a month. The Sister Church program is just like that, with individuals sponsoring specific children - except on steroids!


The Basics on Steroids


The program came about when someone at a church in the U.S. said something like, “Hey! I’m sponsoring children. Why don’t we ALL (in our church) sponsor children who go to the same church feeding center in Western Honduras? Then the people of our church could feed ALL the children at a particular feeding center!” The idea was thrown to Allen, who had the good sense to say, “YES! FEED ALL THE CHILDREN!!! You will be like sister churches without the sibling rivalry! And no one will be screaming, ‘Daaaad, she’s looking at me! Make her stop looking at me!’”  (Note: Okay, so those may not have been their exact words, but work with me here. I’m pretty sure it conveys the general idea.)


Sisterly Love in Guacutao

This week, Russell and a team went to the village of Guacutao to help out at a Honduran sister church. (Just fyi: Allen refers to Guacutao as "The Dark Side of the Moon." I'm not sure if that's because it's hard to get there, or if he has trouble with the name.) The work they did was very similar to the work the team with Manna 4 Lempira did last week, only this time all of the children being registered will be sponsored by their U.S. sister church; Edgewater Alliance Church, in Edgewater, Florida.

Family Reunion Minus the Jello Salad


In January, a sister church from the states is planning to send a team to Honduras. It will be like a big ol’ sister church family reunion, minus the Jello salad! Well, actually, it will really be more like a VBS, since that’s what the team is going to do for their sponsored church. Can you imagine how much fun it will be for all concerned?


That’s part of the beauty of the Sister Church Sponsorship Program. When a church from the U.S. is able to send a team to visit their sister church, the team is able to further develop a relationship by working on a project, such as VBS, putting a new roof on a church, or, as you’ve seen in the past, even building a bridge!


You Don’t Have to Be a Sister Church to Pack a Backpack!


Going out on a limb, I’m going to guess I’m not the only person whose heart goes pitter-pat at the sight of Back to School Sales. My kids are grown and we rarely have need of crayons in the house, but when I see boxes of crayons on sale for a quarter, I want to load up my shopping cart with a bounty of colorful, pointy-tipped, boxes of paraffin wax art implements! Similar feelings sweep over me at the sight of discounted pens, pencils, composition books, and those glorious pink erasers!


Sadly, in talking to Allen, I learned Hondurans do not know the joy of giant sale displays heaped with school supplies. Not only that, I also learned school supplies in Honduras often cost as much as five times the amount charged by places like Target and Walmart. Say what? Considering how small the typical Honduran family’s annual income is, purchasing necessary school supplies is an unfortunate burden. It doesn’t have to be that way, though.


You don’t have to be a part of the Sister Church Sponsorship Program in order to fill a backpack (Or 2! Or 20!) with school supplies for a child in Western Honduras. You don’t even have to sponsor a child. ANYONE with a love of crayons can fill a backpack. Actually, you don’t even have to love crayons. (Though, why wouldn’t you?) ANYONE can fill a backpack! Absolutely ANYONE! Your backpack will be given to a child through one of Sowers4Pastors’ feeding centers.


Many people think of sending gifts to children in other countries as strictly something to do at Christmas, but that’s not the case. Think of how many more backpacks we can fill if we hit those Back to School Sales! There are children in Honduras who are unable to attend school because their families cannot afford to purchase the required supplies - and we can make it possible for these kids to get an education! That’s a lot of mileage from some pencils, pens, paper, and crayons! More information on how YOU can take part in the backpack project will be coming in the next post. Watch for it!

- posted by Christi

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Volunteers Head for the Hills

Kim and Jonathan Hall, and family
(this photo was NOT taken in Honduras)
Visiting teams to Western Honduras are always met with enthusiasm from the Sowers family. When a visiting team contains Kim Hall, who spearheads the Manna 4 Lempira program, and her husband, Jonathan, the enthusiasm is kicked up a notch.
Last week Kim and Jonathan, along with their children, and a group of other child sponsors headed for the hills. Well, they headed for the mountains of Western Honduras!


Manna 4 Lempira Refresher Course


With the Manna 4 Lempira program, individuals can sponsor children through one of the feeding centers supported by Sowers 4 Pastors. One sponsorship is only $15 a month, and it provides two nutritious meals per week, bi-annual deworming medicine, a pair of school shoes and a backpack filled with necessary school supplies at the start of each school year, and correspondence between the children and their sponsors.

Because Sowers 4 Pastors and Manna 4 Lempira operate on the up and up, they want you to know the $15 will not ALL go to provide for your sponsored child. The EXTRA money goes to feed as many as SIXTY other children each month! How is that possible? It is possible because of the Halls’ tireless volunteer efforts, and the Sowers’ almost miraculous ability to stretch a penny like it’s a worn out piece of elastic.


Home Visit, Sweet Home Visit





Team Hall was able to do “home visits” to a lot of the sponsored kids. In order to do that, they also got to schlep for hours in the mountains of Lempira, boldly going where no vehicle has gone before (at least not easily). Of course, the Halls are no strangers to Honduras and its scenic foot tours, and this group of sponsors would have crossed any obstacle for an opportunity to spend time with the children.








What’s Up, Doc?

The medical station - physician's assistant with patient in front,
computerized record keeping happening to the right, translator to
the left, and doctor seeing another patient beyond the desk


The group brought along a doctor, who provided check-ups and medical supplies to the kids at the Mercedes and Betania centers. Kids from surrounding smaller satellite feeding centers came in, as well. For children who might otherwise never get to see a doctor, such checkups are invaluable! (See the previous line about the bi-annual deworming medicine. After you finish saying, “Eeew,” you might want to think about how you can support this ministry!)





























Roll Call


 

 This bunch of motivated volunteers registered additional children at the Mercedes and Betania centers. All of the children (both newly registered and previously sponsored) were weighed, measured for height and for shoe size, given a brief medical exam and a bag of goodies, photographed, and fed. Children who received personal gifts from their sponsors were photographed with the gifts, so the sponsors know their gifts made it to their child. These hard workers also cleaned up the rolls by removing children who have either moved or aged out of the program.


 



Looking to the Future


Even though the two Manna 4 Lempira programs (Mercedes and Betania) are growing by leaps and bounds, Kim and Jonathan are NOT about to rest on their volunteer laurels. They are working on opening a 3rd Manna 4 Lempira location! The El Tablon program is still in the planning phase, but the group was able to visit the area to take some photos and make some plans. Kim has also added another volunteer in the US, Amanda Lane, to help with all of the paperwork involved.


If you haven’t already, please consider becoming a Manna 4 Lempira sponsor. For $15 a month, you will be able to touch dozens of lives. And you won’t even have to hike through the mountains for hours in order to do it! Just click here, to get started!

- posted by Christi