Friday, May 19, 2017

Missions: The Long and the Short Term of It

It’s almost time for the team from Edgewater Alliance Church to head to Honduras. The team will be led by Pauli, an enthusiastic volunteer who will be staying on for three extra weeks, putting that enthusiasm to good use.


Short Term



In addition to their on-the-ground activities, the Edgewater team is also transporting shoes down to us, for distribution to kids in the sponsorship programs!


There will be eleven people in the Edgewater team. Five of those short-term missionaries will be working on a church construction project. As mentioned in a previous post, this construction project isn’t for Edgewater Alliance’s sister church. Instead, it’s for its sister church’s church plant. Hmm… I suppose that makes the church plant the offspring of Edgewater Alliance’s sister church. So, would that make it a niece to Edgewater Alliance Church? Oh, it doesn’t really matter. It’s still all in the family! The walls are already up, so the construction group will be putting on a church roof and pouring the concrete floor.


The other six team members will be doing VBS type programs with the local public schools in the area surrounding their sister church. They will also be handing out letters to the children who are sponsored by members of Edgewater Alliance. The entire group will be visiting another feeding center and learning about other ministry aspects.


Extended Stay


Congratulations on your recent
graduation, Pauli!!!!
When the rest of the team flies back to the States, Pauli’s adventures will be just beginning. Her second week in Honduras will be spent registering kindergarteners for the sponsorship program at Edgewater’s sister church. She will also be registering children for the sponsorship program of a Maryland church’s sister church. On top of that, she will be helping to finish up this year’s final Gifts for Gracias boxes.


Pauli’s third week in Honduras will find her at Pastors’ Training School, where she will be helping out in the kitchen. She will have the opportunity to lend a helping hand wherever one is needed. At the end of week three, Pauli and Allen will head to central Honduras for… drumroll, please… M.K. Retreat!


Yes, it’s almost time for M.K. Retreat, which Rachel has been hard at work planning. Since Pauli’s visit coincides with this much anticipated event, she will be part of the staff. At the conclusion of the retreat, Pauli will hightail it to the airport and make the journey back to Florida.


Missionary Internship


If all of this sounds like something that interests you, Russell wants me to assure you they are looking for more people who will commit to extended visits. Please contact the Sowers if you would like to serve beside them in Honduras for a month or longer. Or LONGER? Yep!


As the matter of fact, the Sowers are praying someone will step forward to make a two year commitment to be a sort of “assistant missionary”. This person needs to be an English speaker who can assist Russell. The family feels this may be of particular interest to a recent college graduate. Job details will include: helping to manage social media, taking care of administrative tasks, and visiting feeding centers. Due to some of the administrative duties, attention to detail when working with numbers is important. The job description would mean some time spent in office and some in the field.

The bilingual schools in Honduras do something similar by having teachers come down and teach for a year. They are paid a stipend to cover basic living expenses. That what the Sowers would like to do. As Russell said, “This is perfect for someone who is interested in missions, but isn’t ready to commit to being a full-fledged missionary - someone who wants to get their feet wet in missions work.”

- posted by Christi

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Shiny New Curriculum



What do you remember about the Sunday school classes of your childhood? I remember a lot of flannelgraph people in “Bible clothes,” singing “Deep and Wide” along with the hand motions, and coloring lots of pictures of things like Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Most importantly, I remember tons of Bible stories and biblical principles, which were taught by dedicated volunteers. Today, flannelgraphs are few and far between, but the lessons they taught are just as important as ever. That’s one of the reasons the Sowers and Kim Hall are so excited about the new Sunday School curriculum, which has been procured to teach the children in the Manna 4 Lempira and sister church feeding centers. When we last spoke, Russell was about to head off to a training seminar for the indigenous volunteers who will be serving as teachers.


Really? It’s Not a Word?

While shiny new curriculum with teachers’ manuals and student booklets may be something we take for granted in North American churches, such age appropriate materials are not the norm in Central America. Fortunately, a pastor’s wife from the “big city” Russell frequently references wrote just such a curriculum. The new material even works interdenominationally (which my computer is telling me is not a real word, but which should be). My call with Russell was a quick one because he was on his way out to the training seminar at a rented retreat center on Tuesday.


Retreat!


The curriculum’s creator was on her way to instruct the teachers on how to utilize the materials. Manna 4 Lempira and sponsorship groups with enough teachers to cover each age group were going up to attend the seminar. In order to use the new curriculum, groups must have at least eight teachers, which will mean at least two teachers for each of four age groups. The seminar was scheduled to last throughout the day on May 9th and half a day on May 10th, with participants spending the night at the retreat center.



Raising Leaders


What about the groups who don’t have enough teachers to participate? Russell says they are working to raise up leaders that can be assigned as Sunday school teachers. It’s possible some of those new leaders may come in the form of youth who are ready to assume more responsibility. If everything progresses as Russell anticipates, they will have another training seminar by the end of this year.


Ripple Effect


The curriculum is intended for every age group in the sponsorship program, from two-year-olds to sixteen-year-olds. Each group will work through about three booklets before moving up to the next level.


Russell reminded me that most of the Sunday school teachers have 3rd-6th grade educations and have never been exposed to materials like this. Previously, lessons were taught using nothing but the Bible and possibly a storybook. We talked about how this sort of fundamental information will benefit the teachers’ lives, as well as the children’s.


video



Thank you to Kim Hall for her tremendous investment in the lives of these children, as the director of Manna 4 Lempira. Thanks also to the people who have stepped up to help pay for the materials. None of us know what sort of ripple effect this sort of training will have throughout the lives of children, families, and communities of Western Honduras.

- posted by Christi

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Not the Amazing Headless Chicken Family

It’s time for a Sowers’ Schedule post, but this one has a twist. It has a theme! The theme is Delegating. Sometimes we read about the Sowers’ busy lives and wonder how in the world one family can accomplish so much. They are not running around the mountainsides of Western Honduras like chickens with their heads cut off - they know how and when to delegate!


Not the Only Oars in the Water


There are always a certain number of overlapping activities. There is always the Bible book store, but the primary responsibility for the daily operations falls on another missionary family who runs the store out of their house. Once in awhile, the Sowers purchase more materials for the store, but it’s not a daily thing. Of course, the feeding program continues in the background, with the pastors doing most of the actual work - preparing the meals, giving the Bible lessons, etc. The same goes for the coffee farm. Although Russell is actively involved with the coffee farm, he has a crackerjack team of men who do much of the work independently and check in with him as needed. Pastors’ Training School is going on, but Allen and Russell’s roles are more administrative. They don’t have to be there every day, with Melvin (Russell's brother-in-law) on site to handle things as they come up.


When it Rains, Pour the Fertilizer


The rains are starting and that means changes to the farm activities. The crew will start fertilizing this week. They will also begin a nursery of plants that will go into the ground at a later time.

So, what are Allen and Russell doing?


Open Wide




Allen and Russell were out with a dental team from Pittsburgh all last week. This group mainly did tooth extractions and fillings. Trish pointed out that when medical teams visit, they are limited by the tools and medicines they have available. Dentists are able to relieve tremendous pain simply by performing extractions and fillings.


Feeding the Sheep


Sunday School curriculum has been selected and purchased for pastors to use in the Manna 4 Lempira and sister church feeding centers that are ready to start this program.(Due to staffing issues and lack of classroom space, some of the feeding centers can't divide the kids by grade level.) The curriculum was created in Honduras and the woman who wrote it will be visiting the area on Tuesday and Wednesday. They are going to have a seminar for the teachers who will be teaching in four locations.


Preparing for a Team


The construction crew will be welding trusses and setting them in place for a church roof project. This is prep work for a team from Edgewater Alliance Church, which is arriving on May 20th. Although Edgewater Alliance has a sister church, this construction project is not for that church; rather, it’s for a church plant that grew out of the sister church. The team will split into two parts with two separate crews, while in Honduras. One team will work on a new church roof and floor. The other team will have VBS type programs in schools. Such programs fulfill requirements for religious training in Honduran public schools and are welcomed by school administrators.


Bridge Work Continues




Before the Edgewater team arrives, a crew will be trying to finish the concrete work for a bridge project. They also still have to do the cables and put on the wooden deck - but they probably won't be able to get back to that until July.


The Gifts that Keep Giving to Gracias


Do you remember when the Allen, Trish, and Russell thought they were finished with Gifts for Gracias for the year? Surprise! A large denomination came forward with a late list of fifty pastors’ names. What’s a missionary family to do? That’s right! They’ll be opening up the supplies, creating fifty boxes of gifts, and storing the remainder until next year.

- posted by Christi

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Many Seasons of Western Honduras

To everything there is a season, and this is Church Construction season in Western Honduras! As Allen explained it, this is the time of year when Sowers4Pastors receives a flood of about twenty-five requests from pastors seeking help in building a new church. In Honduras, these are referred to these requests as “solicitudes."


Why is this Church Construction season? Thank you for asking! One reason is that Coffee Harvest season recently ended. That means many people have a little extra cash right about now. Extra Cash season also happens to coincide with the dry season needed to build an adobe church and not have it turn into mush. (Allen might have worded that a little differently, but I’m almost positive that when he said, “begin to erode,” he really meant, “turn into mush”.)

Sowers4Pastors doesn’t provide the materials for the entire construction, but are in the roofing business. When dealing with exterior walls with the tendency to erode or become mush when wet, people get in a whale of hurry to put a roof on said walls.


Of the twenty-five “solicitudes” for new roofs, Sowers4Pastors approve about twelve per year. As always, they analyze each situation to ensure that this is the best use of available funds. The Sowers ask questions like:

  • Does this church body own the land on which they are seeking to build?
  • Have they outgrown other local meeting places or might they continue worshiping in another venue for a while longer?
  • Is this a healthy, vibrant church, which is seeking to grow the Kingdom?

Unfortunately, even when they have asked the tough questions, Sowers4Pastors is limited by their funding. If the work of building churches interests you and you wish to get involved, consider making a donation to the cause. If you ask me, it’s beginning to look like, “Support Growing Churches in Western Honduras” season around here!

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If you'd like to help, donations for church construction can be donated by specifying "Sowers Ministries - church construction," when using the instructions found at the "To Donate" button at this top of this page. For more information on how Sowers4Pastors helps with church construction, click this link.
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- posted by Christi

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The (Almost) Lost Art of Letter Writing

I've lived outside the U.S. for over 16 years now, so I try to be careful when I make comparisons between Honduras and the U.S., because I don't really know my home country all that well anymore. When it came to my perception that Honduran kids are way more enthusiastic about writing letters than people in the U.S. would expect them to be, I wasn't entirely sure that I was correct. I asked around, though, and mostly the responses I received were what I'd anticipated - that letter writing is mostly a "lost art" in the United States.

Letter writing is NOT a lost art in Honduras, however!

Kim Hall, the director of our sponsorship program, has been posting, on Facebook, some of the letters she's received from children in the program recently. These particular letters were from children who had not been matched up with sponsors at the time of posting - though now most of them have found sponsors, thanks to Kim's hard work in translating and sharing the letters!

The way the Manna 4 Lempira sponsorship program works, we register all of the children in a particular feeding center, and they all start to receive the material benefits of the program immediately - even before we have sponsors for them. Now, to a person who isn't into writing letters, this sounds like a great deal for the children - but here's the rub. These Honduran kids apparently LOVE to send and receive letters! The kids who don't have sponsors are writing and sending in letters anyway, and they feel very sad that they don't have anyone writing back to them!

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share a few of Kim's FB posts about these letters here on the blog. These particular children are now sponsored, but Kim Hall tells me that we have 111 children registered in the program who are currently waiting for sponsors! If you'd like to be a part of this exciting new program, check out this link, for all the info you need to know!

Kim writes:
It is a great joy to learn--through letters, photos, and visits--the personalities of the young people that God has entrusted to this ministry. They are all uniquely beautiful and engaging--truly precious in our Father's sight! 
Bubbly, 13 year old Riccy has a sweet and sassy smile. She is always wearing girly accessories! Her letters are chatty and she includes fun details about her life and her interests. The rose, the happy face, and the glittery pen she used to decorate her letter made me smile when I saw them! My favorite detail she shared is that soon she will be baptized! 
I look forward to seeing Riccy blossom as she connects with her first sponsor! Please consider starting a conversation with this sweet and expressive young girl who has been waiting to find a sponsor since October.

Remember - while Riccy has already been matched with a sponsor (who will, hopefully, become a friend and regular correspondent for Riccy), there are still more than 100 other children waiting to find sponsors to read their letters and respond to them! Let's revive the (almost) lost art of letter writing!!!!

 - posted by Trish

Friday, April 28, 2017

Little House on the Mission Field


When it’s time for new blog topics, Allen, Trish, and Russell generally get together and toss around ideas. By the time I talk to one of them on the phone, it’s simply a matter of writing down what an enthusiastic Sowers says. This week was different. Allen and Russell are off building a bridge and the duty of brainstorming for a blog topic fell on Trish and me. Now, we’re both pretty creative people, but suddenly there was a momentary brainstorming drought and we were left hearing crickets in our heads. Trish jokingly messaged me that we could write about the Honduran bug infestation and was probably surprised when I thought it sounded like a great idea! I’ve read enough stories about life on the mission field to know that things like bugs, snakes, and monkeys are hot topics. Since I haven’t heard Trish say a word about snakes or monkeys, I jumped on the bugs.

Party Time for Bugs

This is the year of the grasshopper in Western Honduras. More specifically, every third year grasshoppers arrive in numbers most North Americans will only read about in a missionary story. Cicadas also show up every few years and this year the grasshoppers and the cicadas synchronized their travel schedules. And beetles are also underfoot and flying nightly dive-bombing raids. Not to be left out, the flying termites are expected soon. As Trish said, “It’s like a party going on with the bugs. The scorpions are like the wallflowers of the party. They’re not coming out and dancing, but they’re the ones you don’t want to mess with.”

Grasshoppers
 

This is what the full-grown grasshoppers will look like.

These are not mambi-pambi grasshoppers. These suckers will grow to be about five inches in length. Having read the Little House on the Prairie series more times than you can shake a slate pencil at, I know that bugs tend to not be the farmer’s friend. I asked how the grasshoppers will affect the coffee fields. Fortunately, the grasshoppers seem to abstain from coffee. Trish has a few house plants that live outside and the grasshoppers don’t seem to care for plants with glossy leaves. Coffee plants have fairly glossy leaves. Trish’s accidental tomato plants, which just popped up from the compost heap, have not been as lucky, and she’s quite thankful their diet does not rely on her gardening abilities.

The current appearance of the grasshoppers.
They have not yet achieved their full size, and they
will also lose their stripes and become solid-colored.
When the grasshoppers first appeared a few months ago, they were teensy little things that could go by unnoticed. They are currently about two inches long and, since they like to hang out in crowds, they are noticeable. They are now starting to come into the house with regularity. Trish described the many times she’s sitting in the recliner, working on her laptop, and having a grasshopper peering at her up over the top of her screen. She said, “You know if it’s facing you and decides to jump, it’s landing on you. They’re not scary, but they have little hook things on their legs. It’s kind of creepy and it will be relentless until the end of summer. They’re kind of beautiful if you’re not horrified by them.”

Termites
Termites swarming near our roof line.
Soon, the grasshoppers will be joined by the flying termites that arrive each rainy season. Trish said there will be a termite competing for every cubic inch of space. She described them by saying, “They start off as delicate little bugs. They are flying ant size, but their bodies are more wormlike. They have delicate wings. Wingtip to wingtip, they’re probably less than an inch. After they have mated, the wings fall off. Then you have loose, black wings EVERYWHERE! They’re light and feathery and not easy to sweep up. Like glitter! Their little bodies become like worms and they’re everywhere, too--inside your sheets and clothes. You can’t cook because they’ll be in your food. The house has open rafters, which are quite high up. Every time there is a breeze, bug parts will waft down--gently, over the course of the entire year. They are able to spread out their annoyance level.”

Perspective

While she takes the buggy stuff in stride, toward the end of our conversation, Trish laughed and said, “God has put me on this earth to make other people more content with their lives.”

I think she may be onto something!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bridge at Crucitas!

video


The guys are busy building a bridge over the river at the village of Crucitas! This will be a vehicle bridge, which is why the very high towers are required at each end.

Russell took the video above, showing how the cement gets into the forms they've built, to create the concrete towers. Bucket by bucket, heavy loads of wet concrete are passed along the bucket line which goes from the cement mixer to the tower, and then on up to the top of the tower, where the concrete is emptied into the form and the bucket is tossed back to the ground to repeat the process.

 - posted by Trish
 - video by Russell