Friday, April 13, 2018

Meet a Manna4Lempira Pastor!

Allen and Trish are in the States, and Kim Hall was in Honduras. While it wasn't exactly a “Freaky Friday” scenario, it did make for a bit of a “Wacky Wednesday” as I got to schedule my weekly blog-related phone call with Kim instead of a Sowers. This week, Kim got to be the one to come up with the topics for blog posts. She did a bang up job. This particular post begins with Kim’s musing that the Sowerses have a great talent for surrounding themselves with successful people--particularly when it comes to the Honduran pastors involved in the sponsorship programs. Kim talked about the intentionality involved in the selection of pastors and sites for sponsorship programs and feeding centers. One of those intentional selections is Pastor Omar at the church in El Tablon.

Kim said, “The first thing you notice about Pastor Omar is how much the kids love him. With many pastors, kids are afraid to approach them.” She talked about how the kids flock to Pastor Omar and how he plays with the children and takes pictures of the kids and visiting teams.

But Pastor Omar understands that not every child is well-behaved! Gasp! It’s true. Even sponsored children don’t walk around with glowing halos over their heads. The fact a child is sponsored doesn’t automatically turn him or her into a poster child for good manners.

Sometimes children in the sponsorship program fail to attend school. On rare occasions, a child may even be asked to leave school because of poor behavior. Kim and Pastor Omar recently had to decide how to handle those situations, as school attendance is a requirement for sponsored children. That is not where the story ends, however.

Last week, Kim and Pastor Omar were passing out Bibles to the children in El Tablon. They decided to go ahead and give Bibles to two children who were no longer in the program. Kim’s heart was warmed to hear Pastor Omar say, “Yes, because even though they are not in the program, they still need Jesus!”

Kim pointed out that it is reaffirming to see that the sponsorship program is fueling the church, rather than the other way around. Some of the children have also been acting up in Sunday school. A few of the teachers wanted to send the disruptive children out of Sunday school. Pastor Omar couldn’t go along with that. Quoting Mark 2:17, he said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…”

Pastor Omar has a heart for the children. He knows them. He has known many of them from the day they were born. He is aware of their family situations and unique circumstances.

Reflecting upon that, Kim said, “It’s awesome to know Pastor Omar and the other pastors are doing all they can to support the children. When we choose to start a program, we are intentional about the location. It’s about multiplying the Kingdom. It’s not all about backpacks! Those are a way to show the love of Jesus. We can help reinforce what the pastor is teaching. We get to be the hands and feet. And the pastors can tell the children, "God hears your prayers. He can help you.’”

Kim continued by talking about one of the locations that has not yet received Bibles. The pastor and teachers have already helped the children commit twenty-six verses to memory! Kim was correct when she said, “They are doing their work.”

 - posted by Christi

Monday, April 9, 2018

Why Tears Aren't Enough

Allen shared a story about a gentleman who visited Honduras for a vision trip, several years ago. The man wanted to see if he could get involved with feeding centers. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll call the man “John”.

As Allen and John were driving along, John regaled Allen with a story about his first visit to Honduras, in 1998. It was shortly after Hurricane Mitch swept through--killing more than 10,000 people in Honduras and destroying vast amounts of property. Individuals and groups were traveling internationally to help, and John's group came to Honduras for a week, to lend a hand. He helped with construction projects during the day and attended prayer meetings at local churches during the evenings.

As the Story Goes…

On Wednesday evening, John was at a prayer meeting when he noticed a six or seven-year-old girl. She was poorly dressed, obviously malnourished, and singing her heart out. This wasn’t just a precocious girl with a flair for music. Little Maria was crying out to God through song. Touched by the scene, John leaned over to the missionary he was working with and asked what her story was. Maria was standing beside her mother and two younger siblings. The missionary told John that Maria’s family owed a small piece of land and had some animals. During the hurricane, Maria’s father went out to get the animals to safety. In the process, he was swept away in a swollen stream and killed. The missionary said the family was truly suffering.

John wanted to know if the missionary was helping the family. The missionary said they were feeding them, but only twice a week. John was distraught - why wasn't the missionary DOING something more to help them? The mother and children couldn’t possibly survive on two meals per week! The missionary said the family was working very hard to get by. He also said there were thousands of other families in similar situations. His organization was overwhelmed by the needs. They had made an across-the-board decision to provide two meals a week to as many people as possible. The intention was to keep them from starving until a better solution could be found. Upon hearing that, John started crying.

John continued crying. He cried and prayed through the night. He was so distraught, he was unable to work with his team the following day. He continued to cry and pray through the following night. All told, John wept and prayed for approximately 36 hours.

The end.

And Then What Happened?

John finished speaking and Allen wanted to know what happened next. Surely, there was some impactful, inspirational end to the story. But there wasn’t. John went back to the U.S. at the end of his week. Allen wanted to know if John kept in touch with the missionary, to learn how the family fared, or provided financial assistance for Maria’s family. No. John said he got back to the States and one thing led to another. His business suffered a financial downturn. He was busy. Etc…

Did John eventually talk to the missionary? Did he ever find out what became of the family? No, John never contacted the missionary. He didn’t know what happened to Maria and her family.

John shared the story with Allen, fifteen years after his emotional 36 hours of prayer and crying, as an example of how much this child's plight had touched his heart - and yet he never actually reached out to help her!

The Moral of This Story

Crying out to the Lord is a beautiful thing, but if God has moved your heart on a matter, please don’t cry and then go on about your life without doing what you can do. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ--not just his tear ducts!

James 2: 14 - 17 
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Specifically, What Can You Do NOW?

We offer multiple ways that you can reach out and help people in Honduras, through our ministry - and we work hard to use every dollar as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can.

1) Through our Manna 4 Lempira program, you can sponsor a child for $15/month, ensuring that one child will receive the nutrition they need to grow and learn, the supplies they need to attend school, and a relationship with a local pastor and church community - plus you get the opportunity to correspond with that child several times each year! To get started, click this link!

2) Through our Backpack Project, you can purchase school supplies and fill one or many backpacks, for us to ship to Honduras. Each backpack represents an opportunity for a child to attend school - and for MANY of the children in our area, their families simply cannot send them to school at all, without this assistance! This year, we are collecting backpacks in the fall, during a cross country drive which will start in Seattle Washington in September, cross Interstate 70 to Maryland, then follow Interstate 95 south to Florida, and will also incorporate locations in Mississippi. If you - or your church or other group - want to pack backpacks for us, we will work with you to get them collected! It's fun and easy - we send you a list of the items required to fill each backpack. Contact Trish at trish @ sowers4pastors dot com to get started - we NEED your help to get those kids to school!

3) Through a donation to our general fund, you can help us feed the thousands of children who are attending our feeding centers but are not currently part of the sponsorship program. At this time, we feed over 10,000 children in western Honduras, and about 2500 of those are registered for sponsorship. If you want to help, but don't want the commitment of a direct sponsorship, a general donation to our feeding program may be the way to go. Donation instructions can be found at this link!

Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers, your tears, and your ACTIONS, on behalf of the people of Western Honduras!

 - posted by Christi and Trish

Monday, April 2, 2018

Making it Count

Allen, Trish, and Russell often hear the question, “How can we pray for you?” That’s good, because they will happily take all the prayers they can get! So, Trish posts stories to Facebook, on this blog, and in email to let all of you praying people know about their most pressing needs and concerns -- and about things like scorpions and vehicle difficulties and worse! At the same time Trish is posting these tales from the mission field, the Sowerses are praying their own prayers. They’re praying that the hearts of their friends and supporters will be touched and that people will be encouraged to send visiting teams to work with them - in spite of the difficulties they might encounter on their visits.

As Trish said, “Because of the kind of work that we do, and the size of it, we can’t do this ministry without help. Often, the people who get most excited about partnering with our ministry are those who have come down to see for themselves.”

People frequently comment on the sacrifices the family is making. Trish stressed, “We make sacrifices because this is what God told us to do. But, a lot of times, things other people consider sacrifices, we consider inconveniences.” She then explained that everyone makes sacrifices.

“Sometimes people make sacrifices to get a particular job. Maybe someone’s dream job is in a big city, but that person can’t afford to live in the city. The person might take the job anyway and decide to commute and sit in traffic every day, feeling that this sacrifice is worth the goal of having that job,” Trish said, continuing the thought.

There was laughter as Trish discussed that some of the things others see as huge sacrifices on the part of her family, aren’t so big to them. Now, asking them to sit in traffic five days a week would be a sacrifice! But, for Allen and Trish, monitoring water and electrical usage is an inconvenience.

Trish did acknowledge that some sacrifices are bigger. As a prime example, she said, “Our kids. When our kids became adults, those who wanted to attend college had to move back to the U.S. They each spent about a year getting acclimated to a new culture. They had to get driver's licenses and cars. They had to find their own way--get jobs and save money. We certainly didn’t have the funds to help with this, or to send them through college. That was a sacrifice. It's hard for our kids. And it's hard for us because we put them in that position.

“Over the  years, we’ve had people infer that we shouldn’t work so hard at our ministry. Some people think we’re trying to earn salvation, or deserve God’s favor. That isn’t the case. We just don’t want to make the sacrifices our family members are making, for no good reason. We want to make it count!”

As an example of making it count, we discussed the Mercedes sponsorship center, which now consists of five separate feeding locations. About ten years ago, it was one church, with between 30-40 kids in attendance. There were no sponsorships at that point, but Sowers4Pastors helped the local pastor feed the kids and provide them with Bible lessons, through the feeding center program. A couple of years ago, Mercedes became a sponsorship center. That church now has 360 children in their center - and many of their families have joined the church! The church doubled in size, then it doubled again, under the leadership of Pastor Germán.

Christians in Honduras use a term to describe the current situation in their country - "white fields" - which refers to John 4:35, talking about crops that turned white when it was time to harvest them. The churches in Honduras know this is a time when they can and should be reaping a great harvest. Trish concluded, “We’re honored to work where that’s the case. It’s a blessing to us. We’re just trying to do the best we can, with what we have, to help the pastors reap that harvest. The things that hold us back are money and time.”

If you’ve ever considered visiting Honduras with a short-term mission team, or providing more financial assistance, this is a good time to reflect on John 4:35: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

 - posted by Christi

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Giblet Post

It’s time for a giblets post! What’s a giblets post, you ask? Oh, it’s a little of this and a little of that, stirred into something you’ll hopefully find more appealing than whatever is in that weird bag you pull out of your holiday turkey.

Semana Santa

It’s Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in Honduras. Generally speaking, the Honduran Holy Week is more of a Central American Spring Break than anything of a religious nature. Schools are out and the people are celebrating in both wholesome and more risque ways. For families, Semana Santa can mean a week to relax and take the kids swimming. For others, it can mean a time of indulgent and reckless behavior. For Trish and Allen, it means staying off the roads as much as possible because of the likelihood of encountering a drunk driver. Businesses close and it’s not a week to plan on accomplishing a lot of errands.

Ben is home for Semana Santa and he brought a friend from school with him. This friend is someone who doesn’t normally get to leave school over holidays. Tender-hearted Ben got permission for the friend to stay with him for the week. The young man enjoyed the first hot shower of his life! He is also enjoying seeing the countryside, as he hasn’t had many opportunities to travel far from his home.

The Road Most Traveled

We previously talked about the work being done with a bulldozer on the roads through the coffee farm. While they had the equipment, the Sowers also reworked three miles of public road that leads to the Sowers’s driveway. They maintain that road themselves, which extends the life of their vehicles, and serves as a ministry to the community. Having that road in good shape cuts the driving time of local people traveling from Catulaca to Arcilaca in half.

Just because this is too dinky to merit its own header, this is a good place to mention that Russell and the crew are going to start planting the little bags of new coffee plants after Easter.

Eat Your Hearts Out! (Or Not!)

Because of a clerical error, the state of Maryland mistakenly believes Allen and Trish may have lived in that state in 2010. That would mean they owe taxes for 2010, even though they haven’t lived there since 2000. Of course, my favorite missionaries were living in Honduras in 2010, but they are having less than a grand ol’ time trying to prove a negative to a government entity. In Honduras, when they get a new residency card or driver’s license, they have to turn in the old one. To make things more interesting, the state of Maryland has no statute of limitations for such matters.

Long-Time Supporters, First-Time Visitors

Early in the week, a couple of long-time Sowers4Pastors supporters came for their first visit. It was a time to see the ministry up close and personal. At the time of this week’s phone call about bloggy stuff, Russell was driving the couple back to the airport.

As long as he’s out, Russell will be picking up Bibles and other materials for the bookstore and Pastors’ Training School. He’ll also be picking up a motorcycle that will be used by the guys who drive around, overseeing the daily operations of the Manna Program.

Not a First-Time Visitor

Kim Hall is coming down for her spring break, next week. She plans to visit the different sponsorship centers and encourage the kids in their letter writing to their sponsors.

One Thing Leads to Another

Having finished handing out backpacks and shoes, attention now turns to the Gifts for Gracias Project. The first step - sorting - is well underway. Soon, they will be able to assemble the gifts and pass them out to pastors. When that is finished, construction on Russell and Iris’s home can resume. If Russell and the crew had some time when they weren’t doing anything but working on the house, they could finish the whole thing in a month. Since that’s not going to happen, Russell anticipates being able to move into the house no earlier than December of this year.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Their Bags are Packed

Everybody sing! “All their bags are packed. They’re ready to go. They’re standing there beside the door… ‘Cause they’re leavin’ on a jet plane!”

Yes, Allen and Trish are flying to the States next week to spread the word about Sowers4Pastors - and to hopefully find some people who would like to help feed children and make it possible for them to go to school! They are excited about the meetings which have already been scheduled, and the ones which are yet to be scheduled. This trip, they are in the unique position of having many available dates to meet with people. They will be Stateside for about a month and a half. Currently, there are about a dozen dates with scheduled meetings. They are eager to see what God’s final itinerary for this trip will look like!

Some people mistakenly assume Allen and Trish only pay a visit to places where they can speak before an entire church congregation - and also mistakenly think the goal of this trip is to get churches to financially support them. While they are always thrilled to speak at a church, they are equally excited to speak before a small group in a private home. In fact, they pointed out there are many advantages to speaking in a more intimate setting. They said it is often easier to do a better job of communicating what Sowers4Pastors is about in a smaller group, where people feel more free to ask questions. Plus - the specific goal of this short trip is to find individuals and groups who would be willing to fill backpacks with school supplies, between now and the trip Allen and Trish will make this fall, so that they can pick up the completed backpacks, ship them to Honduras, and help more kids have the opportunity to go to school in the upcoming school year!

Allen and Trish want to thank everyone who has scheduled a meeting, and those who have expressed interest. They also wish to thank everyone who sponsors a child, helps fund the feeding centers, or works to fill backpacks. So, THANK YOU!

If you know them at all, you know that “down time” isn’t really Allen and Trish’s thing! This trip isn't a vacation for them - while they are in the U.S., they want to make the most of the opportunity. They want to get as much work done as possible and make connections with as many people as possible.

Remember - the purpose of this trip is
to get individuals and groups in the U.S. to pack backpacks full of school supplies,
so that kids in the rural mountain villages of Honduras can go to SCHOOL!

April 5th is the date they will fly in to Maryland. They still have space for more meetings in Maryland at the beginning (or end) of their trip.  They are also scheduled to speak in Seattle and Mississippi. Oh, and they’ll be driving through the panhandle of Florida. If you believe in the work Sowers4Pastors is doing (And why would you be reading this if you didn’t?), and you live in one of these areas, this is your chance to help spread the word!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, March 26, 2018

This Confetti is Everywhere!

Sound the bells! Toss the confetti! Start blowing those things you blow at New Year’s Eve parties! What are those things called? Oh, yeah. Party blowers. Sowers4Pastors has recently helped its 200th pastor receive a motorcycle and this calls for a celebration (or at least a blog post)!

Whenever discussing this topic, Allen is adamant that one point is stressed. Sowers4Pastors helps to provide Honduran pastors with motorcycles to use in ministry. They do not simply toss a pastor a key and say, “Here ya go!” This is not at all like the Showcase Showdown on “The Price is Right”! It’s more like telling a kid, “Well, if you want a new bike, we’ll help you buy it, but you’re going to have to pay for a big chunk of it yourself!” (That’s a little parenting trick to raising kids that don’t act like they’re entitled to something. And it also pretty much assures the kid is not going to leave the bike laying in the middle of the driveway, where it will be hit when you’re backing out of the garage!) It’s called “sweat equity”.

Sowers4Pastors pays $1000 toward the purchase of each motorcycle. A pastor’s share is about $600-$700. That’s a serious financial commitment in a country where you’re fortunate if your family income is $1000 a year! Allen said, “It helps us decide if this is really important to the pastor. If we were giving them away, every pastor would want one. They would all want to be my best buddy to try to get me to commit to giving them one. By doing this, I don’t have to worry about a pastor’s motives.”

Pastor filling out motorcycle paperwork

As we’ve mentioned before, a personal investment also demonstrates that a pastor  will have the resources and capacity to maintain a motorcycle. They need to be able to pay for gas, oil, tires, etc…

Each pastor to receive one of these motorcycles must also have the recommendation of their denominational supervisor. They must be hard workers in good standing with their denomination.

A motorcycle can change more than you might realize. Allen said, “A lot of times we help a pastor purchase a motorcycle and he’s planting one church. With the motorcycle, he has the time to begin planting a second church. After working in the fields all day, many of these pastors were walking five miles one-way to visit a church. With a motorcycle, they are able to go visit church plants more often.” It helps pastors maintain better oversight of the church plants. They can be there to truly mentor the more inexperienced pastors and make sure the Gospel is being preached.

Now, won’t someone grab a vacuum? This confetti is all over the floor!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, March 23, 2018

Built to Last

Each Wednesday morning the Sowerses and I have a phone call to discuss bloggy type stuff. I’m never sure which Sowers will be on the other end of the line. Will it be Allen, Russell, or Trish? (For the record, I’d be perfectly happy to talk to RJ, but, much to my dismay, that hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed that it happens soon.) This was a Trish week. A Trish week is generally a sign that Allen and Russell are up to their eyeballs in something and don’t have time to talk. This Trish week, Allen and Russell are up to their eyeballs in concrete.

Allen and Russell are working with a team from Georgia to pour a massive concrete retaining wall in Mercedes. Trish explained, “Generally, when we say, ‘Mercedes,’ we’re talking about a group of five smaller sponsorship centers. There is one huge church called, ‘Mercedes’. That church was too far for many of the sponsored Mercedes children to walk for regular feedings. Five feeding locations were set up so the kids don’t have to go so far. In this instance, the specific place where they are working is San Juan Mercedes.”

San Juan Mercedes was set up as a meeting place for Bible study, as well as a feeding center for kids in the sponsorship program. That Bible study grew to the point that they are ready to start a full-fledged church in that location. Quite a while ago, someone donated land for a church site. The land has one very notable characteristic: it slopes. And not a gentle little hill kind of slope. It’s the sort of big ol’ steep slope that didn’t make it a prime location to build a church.

After much deliberation, it was proposed that they dig out from the road, flatten an area, and pour pillars, to allow a church to be built at road level. The idea is for the church to be sitting on the pillars and for the space beneath the building to be used for Sunday School classrooms and bathrooms.

However, because of how the property sits, there would be a very real danger of erosion or landslides. Not wanting to see a church slide down the slope, Allen proposed an additional course of action. They needed a retaining wall! A little, mamby-pamby retaining wall would not do. They needed a humongous, heavy-duty retaining wall using vast amounts of concrete. The problem was the cost. Even little, mamby-pamby retaining walls don’t come cheap. Humongous, heavy-duty retaining walls using vast amounts of concrete require a lot of money to build - and the small community of San Juan Mercedes didn't have that much money - so they were continuing to meet for worship in a home that was much too small to fit their growing congregation.

Meanwhile, Kim Hall, who translates many of the letters written by the children in our sponsorship program, noticed that many of the children from San Juan Mercedes were asking their sponsors to pray that the church building project would get going soon.

Next, the First Baptist Church of Kingsland Georgia entered the picture.

The church in Georgia wanted to help. They raised funds and sent down a team to lend some muscle to the project. The team is not alone in their desire to complete the retaining wall. The local pastor was asked if he could find five volunteers to help with the effort. On the first day, ten volunteers showed up to lend a hand. On the busiest day - when they were actually pouring the concrete - forty volunteers from the community came to help! The people of San Juan Mercedes are very excited to see their new church being built on (and beside!) the rock!

 - posted by Christi