Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The final days of the bridge project, part 1

The big inauguration ceremony for the new bridge in Las Flores was held this past Friday. With an important deadline, last week was a busy time. Here are some highlights . . .

 The wall panels, used to create the form (or mold) for the last concrete pour, had to be stripped off. This wall is a retaining wall alongside the ramp up to the bridge, on one side of the river. The panels are attached to one another by wedges, which must be pounded out with a hammer . . . all while the worker is hanging on to the panel he's removing!

Released panels were carried to the truck which brought all of our tools, supplies, and extra materials back to our house.

While the wall panels were being stripped, another group of guys worked on smoothing the finish on the short walls on either side of the deck . . . the part that people will see close up, as they cross the bridge. High spots were ground off, and a thin coating of concrete was smeared over everything. The municipal government wanted to paint these walls, so this finish work had to be completed early enough in the week to have the walls ready for the painter.

Back at the retaining wall, with the panels removed, the straps which held the wedges in place were being broken off the wall. 

To be continued . . . 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

MK Camp! We're pretty excited here at my house!

My children - and my husband, for that matter - all grew up as Missionary Kids (MKs). Spending your childhood in a foreign country, as the child of missionaries, changes you forever.

Rachel, my married adult daughter, lives in the capital of Honduras. Growing up, she attended the annual camp for MKs in Honduras, and now she has taken on the task of organizing and running the camp for 2014! (Just to be clear, this isn't a paid job. There were no plans in the works for a camp this year, and she didn't want to see the kids miss out, so she decided to take it on herself.) I'm very proud of her desire to be of service in this manner. 

In spreading the word about the camp, and the need for such a camp, Rachel wrote the following:

MKs don’t really fit in anywhere, especially the MKs who have lived overseas for many years. The US isn't their home anymore, but neither is Honduras. The friends that they have, or had, in the States can't understand them; it's like they live on different planets. The only person who can truly understand an MK is another MK.  
This camp gives the MKs of Honduras an opportunity to be themselves, to play with and talk to kids just like them. That’s one of the reasons why this camp is so important. 
Here's another reason: MKs are special people. They love adventures, their eyes have been opened to the world’s problems, they have seen their parents’ sacrifices, and most of them become very strong Christians who work to enlarge the kingdom of God. One of the things we try to do at this camp every year is to nourish and teach these MKs, to encourage them to grow in their faith. 
In the US, kids have so many opportunities for group activities: youth groups, VBS, Awanas, sports, Sunday School, etc., but most of the MKs in Honduras have none of these opportunities. Their parents might run a Sunday School, or hold a VBS here in Honduras, but a lot of the time the MKs have to help run it (helping with the crafts, games, or skits). This isn't a bad thing because it teaches them leadership, service, etc., but they just don't get many chances to be just kids in a group of kids.  
One of the adult volunteers who works at the Honduras MK camp every year told me that we have to give back to the MKs, who, like their parents, sacrifice daily for the cause of Christ. He sees this camp as a way we can show the MKs of Honduras how much we appreciate them.

I'm sharing this here on my blog, because you have an opportunity to be a part of making this camp happen!

In order to keep the fee for attending the camp low - within the budgets of missionary families - we are accepting donations to cover some of the costs of holding the camp. And here's some exciting news: a donor has agreed to help with the fundraising, by offering a matching funds grant, up to $3000! So, anything you donate will count for double! 

Just so you know how the financial side of the camp is set up, all of the staff - cooks, counselors, guest speaker/teacher, games leaders, camp director, etc. - are volunteers. Most of these positions are being filled by missionaries and older MKs. These volunteers will not have to pay their own food and lodging costs. 

Rachel is setting up the camp to accommodate 80 campers. As of today, four months before the camp is scheduled to take place, 27 campers, 8 counselors, and 10 adult staff have signed up.

The instructions, for how to donate toward the MK Camp, appear below. Thank you SO MUCH for helping us make this camp a reality for the Missionary Kids of Honduras!

Oh, one more thing . . . if you'd like more info on this camp, or you'd like to see photos and videos from previous camps, Rachel and Boo have put together an MK Camp Facebook page. Enjoy! I especially recommend the 2012 camp video - it's full of fun!

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 - MK CAMP" on an enclosed paper -

To Donate Online:

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

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

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

And so it begins . . .

 . . . another generation! Russell and Iris just announced last night that they are expecting!

This will be the first grandchild for Allen and I, and the first great-grandchild in either of our families! We're all super delighted!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Part 2 - The Date

The following Saturday, after a morning spent digging a pit, building a large fire, and preparing the meat for cooking, Allen picked up Trish in his red Chevy Luv pickup and they headed out into the farmland surrounding the campus. Borrowing a tractor and wagon from a farmer Allen knew, they drove to the barn and filled the wagon with bales of straw (Allen, of course, had to explain the difference between hay and straw to the curious but ignorant suburbanite). 

Trish was impressed with Allen's arrangements and connections - she certainly didn't know people who would loan her wagons and tractors! She didn't actually know anyone off-campus at all. Allen liked that Trish perched on the fender above the back tire of the tractor and rode along with him across the fields. Later, the two enjoyed chatting and working side-by-side shucking the corn, preparing the potatoes to be baked, and getting things set up for the evening.

The dinner, held in a rustic Rotary Club building, had a picnic atmosphere, and was casual and fun, though Trish created an awkward moment by asking, out of an abundance of curiosity and such a complete lack of knowledge that she didn't know not to ask, why the beef they were eating was said to come from a "steer." How was a steer different from a cow or a bull? The answer . . . that a steer is a castrated bull . . . was not a conversation these young men wanted to have with a bunch of girls.

Following the meal, the guys had some games planned. You will clearly recognize this first game as having come from a guy's imagination. Each couple competed against the other couples. The guy would take an end of a piece of licorice in his mouth, and his date would take the other end in her mouth. The winner of the race would be the first couple to entirely eat their licorice. No use of hands was allowed. Obviously, this would involve some very close lip to lip activity. Sheesh - guys and the games they come up with! 

Did I mention this was a Christian college?

Now, Allen and Trish still didn't know one another very well. One thing that Trish had yet to learn was how very competitive Allen could be. He would play this game to win.

The starter yelled, "GO!" and Trish and Allen started chewing. Allen, in his competitive zeal, went a little too far too fast . . . and accidentally chomped down on Trish's lower lip! Rather badly. There was blood. Lots of blood.

They headed into the restroom for tissues to staunch the bleeding. It required many tissues. Eventually they were able to rejoin the group . . . just in time for the second round of the game! Because they'd achieved the fastest time in their heat, they had qualified for the second round, which involved . . . Twinkies.

They did NOT win the second round. To this day, Allen insists that Trish went backwards when the starter yelled, "GO!" 

The rest of the evening was thankfully uneventful. After the games came the hayride (which was really a strawride, of course). Since Allen drove the tractor, Trish sat up there with him again. He really appreciated that, though Trish wasn't trying to send a message by it - after all, who wants to be the only single in a wagon full of couples? 

Allen was responsible for some of the cleanup afterwards, which Trish helped with. Then, after a long, full day, they drove back to campus, and their first date came to an end.

Both Allen and Trish were busy the following day. Allen was competing in a 100 mile bike race, while Trish was traveling to present a concert with the handbell choir. Monday, though, he called her, and they ended up going for a walk around "the loop" - the road which made a big circle around the campus. Walking and talking became a regular evening event.

Trish had a fat lip for a week. Over and over again, when her friends would question her about what had caused the injury, she'd have to start out by asking if they knew a guy named Allen Sowers . . . which they rarely did, since she and Allen ran in such separate circles . . . and then she would explain what had happened.

It was a Christian college . . . did I mention that? Trish had to marry Allen now. Her reputation was pretty much shot.

Just kidding! In reality, Allen and Trish continued going for evening walks together, and talking. Lots of talking. They became best friends. 

Allen managed to continue to surprise her, planning the most interesting and unusual dates. Visiting a local auction. Spending the evening hanging out with people he'd befriended who lived on farms around the college. Sitting in the truck watching electrical storms over the lake.

Eventually, Allen told Trish, "You know I'm planning to marry you, don't you?"

And, of course, she already knew that.

If you were to ask Allen, today, what most attracted him to Trish, he would tell you that she had such a great attitude, and handled problems and unexpected difficulties with grace and humor.

And Trish would tell you that she recognized, very early on, that life with Allen would never, ever be boring!

Friday, February 14, 2014

An Unlikely Romance - Part 1

Long, long ago, on a continent not so very far away, a bookish, classical musician of a girl and a rough-and-tumble, rock-and-roll loving guy met and fell in love. They were obviously NOT destined to live happily ever after!

This August, however, Allen and I will celebrate (well, commemorate, anyway . . . we tend to underachieve when it comes to celebrations) our 30th wedding anniversary. For your reading pleasure, on Valentine's Day weekend, here's the story of how it all began . . . 

The daughter of a lawyer and a nurse, raised in the affluent Maryland suburbs, Trish excelled in her studies without much effort, and loved to read, write stories, and watch old movies - especially cheesy musicals. She enjoyed participating in public speaking contests and the county youth orchestra. In other words, she was something of a nerd. Quiet, introverted, sedentary, and frankly privileged, she never held a real job until she'd graduated from college. She majored in Fine Arts, with an emphasis in Harp Performance - possibly not the most practical degree the university offered.

Allen, on the other hand, grew up in southeast Asia, the son of missionaries. He was not at all a natural student, but his hard work (which would be central to his personality all of his life) earned him the grades he needed to continue his education as he desired. His defining characteristics would be a gift for problem solving, great physical strength and endurance, and an amazing grasp of the common sense aspects of a wide variety of subjects. A natural entrepreneur, he earned the money to purchase his first car before he was old enough to drive. In his scarce and precious free time, he enjoyed bike racing, weight lifting, listening to cranked up rock music, and pulling annoying pranks on campus security with his crazy friends.

These two both opted to attend a conservative Christian university in Indiana. Although the school was relatively small, their completely different interests kept them apart until their junior year. The school had two dorms which were almost identical - Olson Hall, for girls and Wengatz, for guys. Allen lived in 3rd West Wengatz, and Trish in 3rd West Olson. On occasion, the matching wings would have joint activities. 

Wengatz Hall in the foreground, Olson Hall in the distance

In October of 1982, the two wings held a "Secret Sister" event. Each member of the Olson wing would draw the name of a person from the Wengatz wing, and then for a week each girl would secretly send that guy encouraging notes and small gifts, like candy bars, for instance. 

Trish drew Allen's name. Because she knew nothing about him, Trish asked her roommate if she knew him. The roommate replied that he was a red head, that he was really into biking, and that Trish wouldn't want to go out with him. With this enlightenment, Trish proceeded through the week, with the notes and gifts.

Meanwhile, Allen was thinking ahead to the upcoming weekend. A major event was in the works. Each year, 3rd West Wengatz held a pit roast. On the schedule for the following Saturday was the roasting of a steer in the pit, and Allen's date for the event had canceled. As a PA for the wing (most colleges called these RAs - basically he was in a leadership position for the guys in his wing) he would be heavily involved in running this event, and he certainly didn't want to attend without a date. He also made it a point, after any secret sister event, to do something nice for the girl, like take her out for ice cream. Allen decided that, if his secret sister wasn't someone he already didn't like, he'd invite her to the steer roast with him. Practical Allen - he could kill two birds with one stone! 

The Secret Sister week concluded with the girls from 3rd West Olson and the guys from 3rd West Wengatz meeting at the dining commons for dinner. At that time, each guy would find out who his secret sister had been. Trish dressed casually but carefully for the gathering, in nicely fitting jeans and a pretty sweater. Allen wore . . . wait for it . . . a pair of olive green mechanic's overalls which had previously belonged to his grandmother, and flip flops. In October. 

The dinner together was enjoyable. Fortunately for Allen, Trish wasn't one to judge a person on their outward appearance, and she found him to be pleasant company. She was intrigued by his international experiences, which seemed much more exciting than her life in the suburbs. Allen found Trish cute and sweet, plus she had done a nice job as his secret sister. He didn't already not like her, so as they finished dinner, he asked her out to the pit roast. Because his job required him to set things up for the event, he asked if she'd like to help with that as well, and Trish agreed.

Part 2 to follow soon!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

A funny update to the recent prayer request

We're still without cell phone service around here. The village of La Campa, about 6 or 7 miles south of us, does have cell service. The city of Gracias, about 5 miles north of us, does not.

The other day, Russell dropped off workers at the big bridge project in Las Flores (which does have cell phone service) and then he came out here to pick up some tools and things. He was inside of our 20' metal shipping container, looking for tools, when his phone rang! It was a big surprise, as we haven't been able to send or receive any calls from our home since last week.

Russell answered the call, and as he was explaining something to one of the workers in Las Flores, he started to walk out of the container . . . and as he stepped outside, he lost the signal. He discovered that, if he stayed about 4 - 5 feet inside the container, he could send and receive calls, but outside . . . no signal at all!

The container happens to sit so that the door end faces pretty much directly south - toward the city of La Campa. We figure that the container is blocking the Gracias cell towers (which will NOT allow us to call) and focusing the phone toward the La Campa cell towers. Weird, huh?

So, last night, when Allen realized that he had left his very important phone and address book at the bridge project yesterday, and he needed to make a call about retrieving it . . . he headed out to the shipping container to place the call.

This all got me to thinking about how much my life seems to resemble poorly written fiction. LOL