Thursday, September 21, 2017

Where in the World Are Allen and Trish Sowers?

Whenever Allen and Trish are traveling, it’s like trying to keep up with Waldo and Carmen Sandiego at the same time. Even when they share an itinerary, the rule of thumb is: Itineraries are subject to change! During our most recent phone call, Allen filled me in on some of the changes.

The duo has been driving for 8-9 hours a day in their rental truck filled with backpacks. It’s hard to make good time in a rental truck, so they essentially add an hour or two onto the projected drivetime. They left Topeka Kansas Wednesday morning and were near Pittsburgh Pennsylvania by sunset on Thursday!

Collecting and loading donations from friends in Indianapolis,
early Thursday morning

Allen recently talked with someone at a church in Ohio that wants him to visit their church. There was a slot that would work without altering the Sowers’ previous schedule, but that would have put them at the church on a weekday. When visiting a crowd at a church, it’s usually best to do it when the crowd is present, so . . . changes were made.

This Sunday, when the Ohio church wants Allen to visit, the Sowers were scheduled to be in Frederick Maryland. Allen and Trish were supposed to be at an event in Maryland the day before, to unload the backpacks and other donations from this trip, and load them into a shipping container which will be used for storage. Since Frederick is not actually in Ohio, that won’t work! Even Waldo and Carmen Sandiego cannot be in multiple places at the same time!

Jim and Denise Cofer are coming to the rescue. The Cofers have agreed to drive from their home in Maryland to meet up with the Sowers in Pittsburgh. There, they will swap vehicles. Allen and Trish will drive the Cofers’ car to Ohio. Jim Cofer, who has been added to the rental truck agreement, will drive the truck back to Maryland to be unloaded on schedule. Jim and Denise have a daughter who attends college in Pittsburgh, and this will give them an opportunity to pay her a quick visit.

Back in Maryland, the Cofers will oversee the packing event. If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise (excuse me - sometimes the Southern just has to get out!), the storage trailer, which is supposed to arrive on Friday, will be ready for this event. Then all of the filled backpacks and other goodies will be loaded into the trailer.

Even though Allen and Trish are sorry to miss the packing event, the timing for having the Sowers in Ohio is ideal. The church was already planning to highlight Sowers4Pastors on that Sunday. Who better to highlight it than Allen and Trish?

In Other News

On September 17, Allen and Trish were at a church in Kansas. While there, a woman who heard Allen's presentation about the ministry felt prompted to donate her motorcycle to Sowers4Pastors. That alone is great news. But, as it happens, the donated motorcycle is a custom built 2009 Kawasaki Vulcan 900. Now, most of those words mean less than nothing to me, but Allen explained the motorcycle is worth a fair amount of money.



A man in Kansas is working on selling the motorcycle on the ministry’s behalf. The proceeds will be used to purchase multiple motorcycles for multiple pastors in Honduras. In fact, if the price is right, it’s highly possible that the donated motorcycle will bring in enough money to purchase six motorcycles in Honduras!

Stay tuned for the next installment of “Where in the World Are Allen and Trish Sowers?”. - posted by Christi

Monday, September 18, 2017

There's a plan . . . and then there's REALITY

This link is where you can read the plan for our trip . . . and below you can read how our trip has actually played out, so far. :)

Wednesday morning I was up at 3am, finishing a few things around the house and finalizing my packing, before our 5am departure. The 3-hour drive to the airport was uneventful.

At the check-in desk, however, I was informed that my flight's departure was going to be delayed an hour. I knew immediately that this meant I would miss my connecting flight to Colorado Springs, since my o
riginal schedule for the change of planes in Atlanta was already precariously short - cutting that an hour shorter would make it impossible for me to catch my next flight!

So, for about half an hour the gal at the desk worked to find me alternative flights. My two best options turned out to be flying into Colorado Springs the next day (with an overnight in Salt Lake City), or flying to Denver that evening, instead.


Denver was an option because
 Allen was flying to Denver on Wednesday, as well. The original plan was for him to arrive in Denver, rent a car, and drive to Colorado Springs to pick me up at the airport there. Then we would have had the time we needed to visit with friends in Colorado Springs, return the rental car, pick up the rental truck, do a bit of necessary shopping, and possibly even rest a bit before the next leg of our trip . . .

So, it's kind of amazing how much that one-hour delay in Honduras changed the rest of our
plans!!!
*     *     *     *     *     *     *
We changed my tickets for the flight to Denver. This gave me several additional hours in Atlanta, and meant that Allen would have to cool his heels for six hours in the Denver airport, waiting for me to catch up with him!

Because the regulations require passengers to check in at the San Pedro Sula airport three hours before departure, for international flights, the delay meant that I had four hours to wait. I settled in with my computer and a cold cut sub sandwich I bought in the duty-free area, and worked a bit during this time.

Eventually we boarded our flight (15 elderly people in wheelchairs? I have no idea what that was all about) and flew to Atlanta. Everything was fine until I got to the customs area, and the customs officer asked me, "Are you carrying any meat or cheese?"

Sigh. I only ate half of that sub sandwich back in the airport in San Pedro Sula. I'd put the rest into my bag, to eat later . . .  but I'd never finished it, and there it was, still in my bag.



I admitted to the sandwich, thinking it would be taken from me and thrown into the trash. But no. I was sent to stand off to the side and told to wait. My passport was enclosed in a special ziplock bag and handed off to my "escort." Happily, my escort was a sweet and helpful lady who took me to collect my luggage and then on to the area where "food and agriculture" problems are handled. She passed me along to the people there, who laughed at me when I explained my predicament.

Fortunately, international cold cut smuggling is not a punishable offense, and I was sent on my way, sans sandwich.

At this point, we need to take a moment to be thankful for that extended layover in Atlanta, which gave me sufficient time to tour the airport with my escort and still make my next flight!

*     *     *     *     *     *     *

In the Atlanta airport, I purchased another cold cut sub (from Subway, this time), for my dinner. I made sure to finish this one, though, LOL.

The flight from Atlanta to Denver was uneventful, and soon I was at the baggage claim area at the Denver airport, with all of my luggage and no sign of Allen.

My Honduran cell phone doesn't work in the U.S., so I'd left that back in Honduras, and I had no way to contact anyone by phone. I hauled my laptop out of my bag and sent a Facebook message to Denise Cover, who, fortunately, I knew to be a bit of a night owl. It was about 10:15 in Denver at this point, so after midnight in Maryland!

Denise called Allen for me, and told him where I was. Finally reunited, we were able to move along to the next step - driving to a hotel and going to BED! I was exhausted when we were finally able to rest at around 12:30am . . . 21 1/2 hours after my day began!

                                                  *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Thursday morning we headed out to do some of the shopping, as there were things I would need as we traveled, which made more sense to purchase on this end than to transport. Then we made the drive to Colorado Springs, and picked up the truck we were renting. Allen had told me that he neede dme to drive the truck the short distance between Home Depot (where we picked it up) and the car rental return. I was more-or-less okay with this, until I saw the truck. It was HUGE!

There wasn't really any option, though, so I climbed aboard. The truck has an automatic transmission and gazillions of gears. As you start driving and increase speed, it is continually revving and shifting and revving and shifting - while the driver does nothing but push the gas pedal. It was pretty unsettling to me (as I'm now used to driving a manual transmission), as it sounded to me like there was something wrong with the engine - but we just kept driving along . . . very slowly, LOL.


This photo is a recreation - I did NOT look that happy while driving the truck. 
After going a pretty good part of the distance, Allen pulled off to the side of the highway, and I pulled in behind him. He came back to tell me why he'd stopped - the GPS was staying that we had arrived at our destination, but there were only empty fields on both sides of the road! Allen called the rental car place and sorted things out so that we could finish out trip.

I was SO RELIEVED to be able to turn the driving of the truck over to Allen, once we'd returned the rental car! I may drive the truck again at some point during this trip - on straight, flat stretches of highway - if needed, but if that isn't ever required of me I will NOT be disappointed! LOL

*     *     *     *     *     *     *


We drove the truck to my friend Lorri's house, where a dinner event was scheduled, which was sort-of in my honor. I got there barely in time - I was the second guest to arrive, LOL.



Allen had a chance to say "hi" and bring in my suitcases, then he was driving off in the truck again. He had to go and pick up the filled backpacks which were the real reason for our visit to Colorado Springs.

A few hours later he was back, and joined us for the rest of the fun evening. While I had a wonderful time, I found myself starting to nod off a bit earlier than I would have liked! After saying "goodbye" to everyone, Allen and I went straight to bed, exhausted again! (We aren't all that young anymore, LOL.)


*     *     *     *     *     *     *


Friday morning we were up first thing, as we knew we had a long day of driving ahead of us. We didn't leave right off, because we did want to spend some time with our hosts, which we hadn't had much time to do before this, and also because I'd been off the internet for a couple of days and there were some messages and emails which required our attention. 

We were on the road by 9 or so. While the road was mostly flat and straight, the day was windy, and Allen had to work pretty hard to keep the large truck (which was mostly empty at this point, and so was fairly light) from being blown around! It was a long hard day of driving, and once again we pretty much fell into bed upon arrival at our hotel.

Thank heaven Saturday was a day with nothing on the schedule until dinner time - and that was just a friendly gathering, not a ministry event!


I may have spent a loooooong time soaking in the bathtub on Saturday, and Allen visited the hotel hot tub, too. We're making the most of this opportunity to rest and recuperate before the next stretch of work, meetings and driving!

Thanks for reading my very long account of our travels thus far! 


 - posted by Trish

Grand North American Backpack Collection Tour of 2017

Allen and Trish are on the move and will be for the next ten days. Talking to Allen reminded me of listening to a meteorologist tracking Santa Claus’s path on Christmas Eve.


On the day we spoke, Allen was on the east coast, but was about to fly to Colorado. Trish was about to board a plane for Denver, Colorado, herself. The plan is for them to meet up and start the first leg of their journey in a rental car. The car will later be traded in for a rental truck to accommodate their precious cargo.
Denver Airport
The first stop will be to meet up with some of Trish’s (and my!) longtime online friends. You see, we first “met” in an online homeschooling forum. It’s not as weird as it sounds. I consider Trish to be a very dear friend and we’ve never set eyes on each other in person. Allen and Trish will even be staying in the home of one of these lovely, hospitable women.

After that, they will rent the aforementioned truck and begin picking up filled backpacks. On September 14, they will picking up more than 500 backpacks. Seventy of those are for sponsored kids and the rest will go to children who are not yet sponsored. They’ll toss those into the truck and head to Kansas!


Personalized backpacks, labeled for specific sponsored children

The first of the backpacks, loaded onto the truck in Colorado Springs.
Thanks Autumn and Monica, for heading this up!

In Derby, Kansas, they’ll be picking up 160 backpacks. They will be speaking at the Well Worship Center, in Derby, on Sunday the 17th. They will be also be meeting some supporters in Holton, Kansas, while they’re in that neck of the woods.

Backpacks filled by The Well Worship Center, Derby Kansas
From there, they are going to the Columbus, Ohio area. They are scheduled to pick up 200+ backpacks. Half of those are for sponsored kids, and the other half are for unsponsored children.


In the Pittsburgh area, they will be meeting sponsors who have packed some 200 backpacks. Then they’ll head east of Pittsburgh and enjoy some time with Annette Merlino. Miss Annette is the amazing dentist who makes an annual trek to Honduras with dental students to operate dental clinics.


Then, Allen and Trish will be heading back to Maryland, where they will have a big unloading party with the boxes of backpacks. They will label which church packed the backpacks. Keeping them separate allows them to give comparable bags to each child at a location. A bunch of people from Fredericktowne Baptist Church and Potomac Believers Fellowship will help pack the bounty of backpacks on Saturday the 23rd. Allen spoke there a few days prior to our conversation.

And that will complete the Grand North American Backpack Collection Tour of 2017 !
***Note from Trish - as might have been expected, the reality of this trip, so far, has not been exactly like the plan. The "Reality" version of the trip can be read in the next post, LOL*** - posted by Christi

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Importance of Writing Back

As we mentioned in a previous post, the children of the mountains of Western Honduras have been busy writing letters. Specifically, the children enrolled in any one of the Sowers4Pastors feeding centers have been busily writing letters to their sponsors. And that brings us to today’s topic: The Importance of Writing Back!




A lot of sponsors, while happily fulfilling their financial promises, may not realize the opportunity for relationship building provided by a sponsorship. These kids love to write AND receive letters. They aren’t sending form letters! They are sending letters and drawings that give a little glimpse into their unique personalities.  


Sometimes people read what’s going on with the Sowers and ask, “Has Sowers4Pastors changed its focus? Are you still about empowering pastors?” The answer to that is: Sowers4Pastors is abso-tively posi-lutely about empowering pastors! Even the sponsorship program letter writing campaign is ultimately about empowering pastors.


Writing and receiving mail can be fun, but it doesn’t tend to be life changing. The relationship a sponsor has with a child is cross cultural. There’s only so much that relationship is going to grow. Most sponsors will never actually meet their sponsored children. But the pastors…


The pastors and Sunday school teachers are THERE. They know the children at their feeding centers. They know their families, their struggles, and their joys. By writing a letter to your sponsored child, you have the opportunity to encourage that child to stay in school and be involved in church (where they can continue to grow a relationship with their pastor, and, ultimately, with Jesus). Think of writing a letter as relationship building--once removed!




Even if you never meet your child… Even if your relationship with the child never goes beyond a few friendly letters… You still have the opportunity to help build some incredibly important relationships! And that is well worth the cost of a stamp!


- posted by Christi

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

As it so happens . . .

“Sometimes it seems like we’re the ones making things happen down here… and sometimes it is QUITE OBVIOUS that we are NOT!” That may be my all-time favorite quotes from Trish. Today’s post will deal with the quite obvious--as it so happens!


A team from Lighthouse church visited during the second week of August. The team included a young woman named Stephanie, who happens to have profound hearing loss. For a while now, Stephanie has wanted to get involved in deaf ministries--specifically, international deaf ministries. However, there aren’t many opportunities available.

When the Lighthouse team visited a school about an hour and twenty minutes from Gracias, a team member found Stephanie and introduced her to twin brothers, who happen to be deaf. Unlike Stephanie, who was educated at a school for the deaf, the brothers had never learned to communicate. At that point, their “education” consisted of going to school and sitting in a classroom while teachers taught the other students. The boys felt ignored and, well, stupid. Stephanie asked if the boys were available for sponsorship and Russell informed her they were. Later, Stephanie sponsored one of the boys and her mother sponsored the other. Stephanie also asked Russell what services or ministries might be available to help the twins.




As it so happens, a missionary family in Gracias recently had to leave Honduras for medical reasons. They found another, new missionary family to fill in for them--living in their house and caring for their newly placed foster children. The first missionary family hopes to be able to return, but, in the meantime, the new missionaries moved in with their very big family. As it so happens, that big family includes a 5 or 6-yr-old deaf boy who was recently adopted from China. And, as it so happens, the new missionary family has a sign language teacher named Ellie who agreed to move to Honduras for a year or so, to teach the deaf son and the rest of the family to sign.


As important as that task is, Ellie wants to do more than work with one family. Russell was able to get Stephanie and Ellie together one evening for a meeting of the minds. (As it so happened!)


As it so happens, four members of a deaf ministry named, “Signs for Hope,” were visiting the missionary family Ellie is teaching. Russell was able to take the team from Georgia and Ellie to visit the school attended by the deaf brothers. The group worked with the twins, their mother, the teachers, and the hearing students to teach them some sign language!


Of course, this is far from the end of the story. Russell will be taking Ellie to the school on an ongoing basis to work with the students and teachers! Russell is more than willing to go as often as once a week. This, of course, comes right on the heels of Rachel's loom being sold to a ministry that works with handicapped children, including deaf children. And all of that, my friends, didn't just happen. It was beautifully and divinely orchestrated!





- posted by Christi

Monday, September 11, 2017

Here's What's Happening in Their Neck of the Woods

Some Ministry Highlights


Russell recently got to spend time with a visiting team that wants to get involved in some building projects. The interesting part of this story is the team wasn’t actually visiting the Sowers. Instead, they had gone to Honduras to work with another missionary who is not currently in the country. Russell also took the team to see Pastors’ Training School.


Half a container of rice for feeding centers arrived on September 5. Unfortunately, when the shipment was delivered, the truck couldn’t get all the way to the Sowers’ property. That meant the menfolk got to spend time hauling 400 boxes of rice in their vehicles. It took six trips, but the rice made it!


It’s time to look ahead to projects for 2018. Russell is already presenting budgets to a local mayor’s office about a bridge project for the upcoming year.


Housing Developments


Russell and Iris’s new house is coming along nicely. The men are putting on a final coat of stucco and finishing walls. Iris’s father is coming out to finish doors and windows and put a coat of varnish on the woodwork. The men not working on the house are continuing to dig holes and plant coffee.


Wait a Minute, Mr. Postman!



If you follow Sowers4Pastors on Facebook, you already know a big letter writing project is underway. The kids involved with the feeding centers are writing to their sponsors. This is a huge undertaking! Russell has been doing the administrative duty to be sure every single child writes a letter. If a kid happened to miss the day of the letter writing, Russell is going back to give that child an opportunity to send off a personal piece of mail.


Child’s Play


September 10th is the Day of the Child in Honduras. Much candy and many pinatas are being purchased for the occasion. As Russell said, “A vast amount of parties will be going on at different churches.” The celebration will continue because schools will be celebrating next week since the holiday falls on a weekend this year. Sowers4Pastors held events at the Manna 4 Lempira sponsorship locations.


R.J. just turned three! How is that possible? At any rate, he isn’t a baby anymore, as is evidenced by his request for a Spiderman party with pizza and cupcakes. That meant Russell was purchasing a Spiderman pinata and placing an order for pizza at the nearest Pizza Hut. No, they don’t deliver! On the day of the party, Russell drove an hour and fifteen minutes, each way to the Pizza Hut, to make R.J.’s birthday wish come true.






It’s Just What Women Do


Trish is hard at work cleaning and preparing her house to be away for two and a half months in the U.S. Why? Hey, it’s just what women do! Cleaning to be gone is sort of like cleaning before a housekeeper comes. Don’t try to explain it! - posted by Christi

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Tale of Rachel's Loom

No one weaves a story better than my friend, Trish, but she had some crazy idea  she would rather hold a new grandbaby than write a blogpost. So, here’s my attempt to do The Tale of Rachel’s Loom justice:


Rachel has always had some Martha Stewart/Pinterest-y tendencies. When she was a teenager, she developed an interest in weaving fabrics. Allen and Trish did what supportive parents of a textile-loving teen do. They got a full-size loom. Now, full-size looms take up a considerable amount of space, but that was okay. Rachel was truly talented and Trish scored some lovely textiles out of the deal. (More info on Rachel's weaving hobby can be found here.) The problem was that when Rachel married Brandy, they moved into a one room apartment. One room apartments and full-size looms do not mix unless you’re willing to do without furniture. Rachel and Brandy wanted furniture, so the loom stayed with Allen and Trish.
A sample of Rachel's weaving


Eventually, Rachel and Brandy moved to a larger space, but they decided they would rather have a nursery for Nathan than a loom. It was beginning to look like Allen and Trish would always have a full-size loom. Hey, it could serve as a conversation piece, but they weren’t willing to put up a placard and tell people it was “primitive art”. Go figure.


With options depleted, Rachel posted a notice to a Facebook page for missionaries in Honduras. LOOM FOR SALE! One family’s behemoth of a loom is another man’s treasure and a buyer was found.


The Sowers didn’t know the people getting the loom, but Russell and Trish hauled the weaving apparatus to the address they were given. (Okay, Russell probably did most of the hauling, but Trish was there, too.) He stopped the truck at a building with ministry signs. They were at the right place.


Rachel's loom, arriving at its new home.


The right place turned out to be a vocational school, which teaches deaf children, as well as those with other types of handicaps. Not only do these children receive an education, they are also trained to have a vocation. They train them to weave! Russell and Trish were escorted into a room containing about 15-20, mostly handmade, looms. Some of the looms had pedals, allowing the operator to set patterns. Some did not have pedals. They were all put to good use. With the piece of machinery formerly known as “Rachel’s loom,” the children will be able to learn to weave more intricate patterns. The children are also taught to sew, and they use the woven fabric to create many beautiful items to sell.




Sadly, there were no children on site that day, because this was the day of the eclipse, and all of the schools were closed that day. But even without seeing the children, it was clear that they are learning to do beautiful work here!




When Rachel listed the loom, she set the price at far less than it is worth . . . but the joy of knowing the loom is in the right place is priceless! (The joy of having the extra room isn’t too bad, either!) - posted by Christi

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Chat with Nana

Since Allen left for the U.S. on August 16, I chatted with Trish, this week. I was thrilled she fit me in because, let’s face it, I’m not nearly as adorable as the new grandbaby she’s cuddling.


It’s sort of tradition for Allen to make a trip to the states every year at around this time. That’s because, in the past, most of the visiting teams have come during the summer. By the end of August, people aren’t typically going on short-term mission trips. Allen generally returns to Honduras sometime around Thanksgiving. With Russell assuming so many of the ministry responsibilities, the timing for Allen's trip isn’t quite as crucial as it once was, but hey, it’s still a good time for Allen to travel.


As mentioned earlier, Trish is busy being Nana to Rachel’s new baby, Nathan. She’s excited to have the opportunity to help Rachel and get her fix of smelling that new baby smell. Brandy was called away to work before sweet Nathan even came home from the hospital. This week, he was given permission to go home just long enough to help Rachel maneuver through the process of checkups for herself and the baby at the hospital. It’s a military hospital, so that means lots of waiting, plus Rachel anticipated that there would be paperwork issues, since the baby's birth wasn't registered yet. Happily, the work Brandy had been called to do (investigating a recent airplane crash) was completed the day he came home, so he didn't have to leave again after that!


Trish said, “Rachel is doing well. She’s an amazing homemaker and Nathan's arrival hasn’t changed that.”


The proud Nana also said, “Nathan doesn’t like to cry! When he wants something, he fusses a bit. As soon as you pick him up, he stops fussing. Rachel knows not all babies are so easy!”


Meanwhile, Russell is holding down the fort at home. He’s still busy with Pastors’ Training School, the coffee farm, feeding centers, and the sponsorship program. Of course, he’s also busy with Trish and Allen’s other adorable grandchildren!


FYI, it’s almost time to pull back the curtains on a new ministry website. In between baby snuggles, Trish is spending time entering LOTS of information, so that the site will be ready to be used. Stay tuned - you’re going to love it!

On September 16th, Trish will be flying from Honduras to Colorado. Allen will fly from Maryland to Colorado on the same day. Then the two, wild and crazy, missionary grandparents will begin the great drive from west to east, collecting backpacks! - posted by Christi