Monday, February 8, 2016

Bridge-in-a-Week, January 2016 - Here's how it got done!

The prep work, done before the week the team was here actually building the bridge, is explained in the previous post: Have you ever built a bridge in one week? Would you like to?

Now, here is the day-by-day play-by-play, of the week of construction.

Saturday


On Saturday, January 23rd, Allen, Russell, and Clay were waiting in the airport in San Pedro Sula, a 3 - 4 hour drive from Gracias, to pick up the incoming team. As the team was through customs and loading into our vehicles at around 3:30, the rest of the day involved just finishing the trip to Gracias.

Sunday


This huge hole, under the landing, is an important
structural element. When filled with cement,
the immense weight will keep the whole bridge
from collapsing into the river from the tension
of the cables. 

With the huge hole, in the photo above, filled with
concrete and stones, these short wall forms were
added, and the weldments were set in place, ready
for the addition of more concrete.
Sunday morning it was chilly! The work started early, as members of our work crew, who live near our home, came to the house to help Allen load the hand tools and last minute items into the vehicle. Allen brought thermoses of coffee from home, and picked up the team from their hotel in Gracias. The group bought baleadas to eat for breakfast during the hour long drive out to the bridge site.

A finished landing, awaiting side walls. The
weldments protrude from the side, and the pieces of
rebar sticking up into the air will connect the
side walls to the landing.
At the site of the bridge-to-be, on the side of the river nearer to Platanares, about 30 - 35 volunteers from the villages were ready to work! With combined effort, the group completed the digging of a hole which, once concrete was poured into it, would become one footer and the landing for that side of the bridge. The concrete mixer was started up, and batches of concrete were mixed, hauled to the hole in buckets, and poured in. Unfortunately, after only two batches of concrete were completed, the mixer broke! While some of the group worked on trying to fix the mixer, the Honduran volunteers just settled in to mixing concrete by hand - something they are very used to doing. The work was slower, but it got done!

By the end of the day the footers and floor of the landing of the bridge on the Platanares side had been poured, with the appropriate weldments embedded in the concrete.


Monday


Volunteers mixed LOTS of concrete down by the
river, and carried it up to the landing sites in
five gallon bucketloads. 
On the second work day, Russell (with his broken foot) worked on the other side of the river (the Santa Rosita side), leading a mixed crew of gringos, volunteers, and some of our regular construction guys, basically repeating the work which had been done on the other side of the river the previous day. Meanwhile, on the Platanares side of the river, Allen led a crew in putting up concrete forms to create the side rails of the bridge landing. This part also incorporates weldments. At the end of Monday, one side of the river had a complete landing, with side rails, while the other side had a landing without side rails.

Tuesday

Side rails, showing the weldments where
the side cables will be attached

On Tuesday, the railings (with their embedded weldments) were poured on the Santa Rosita side of the river. While that was happening, on the other side of the river the spools of cable were being unrolled, and as each cable  left its spool, it was walked down a cliff, over the river,  and up the other (less steep) side. Then the end of the cable which left the spool last, was connected to the weldments on the Platanares side of the river - where the landing and railings had been completed already. The bridge required a total of 10 cables - 4 under the deck and three cables on each side of the bridge.

Wednesday


Everyone took the day off of working on the bridge on Wednesday. Allen took the gringos out to see a feeding center, and they also visited our coffee farm. Mostly, it was a day of recuperation. Meanwhile, Russell drove Clay and Cynthia and our friend Ben Dearing (who helped with the bridge construction during his visit) to the airport in San Pedro Sula, to catch departing flights. Steve Spanos, the team leader, went along for the ride. They hit some bad traffic, so the trip took much longer than normal. Steve and Russell got back to Gracias around midnight.

Thursday


Cables, lying on the ground from one side of the
river to the other, waiting to be connected
Steve Spanos, bravely leading his team
Back to work on the bridge, first thing! Since Tuesday, the cables had been laying across the river. On Thursday, the work of attaching the cables to the weldments on the other bridge landing took place. Each of the ten cables had to be pulled up into place, and then a winch was used to tighten them up, until there was about 2 feet of sag in each cable. Once the wooden beams and deck, which weigh over 10,000 pounds, are added to the bridge, the total sag should be around 5 1/2 feet.

With all ten cables attached and tightened, the workers began the task of adding the crossways beams, and then nailing on the planks which make up the deck of the bridge.





Friday


In this photo you can see the beams,
going across the bridge from side to
side, the deck planks, on top of the
beams, and the suspenders, which are
short vertical pieces of cable attaching
the side cables to the cables below the
deck of the bridge.
On Friday the work continued on the deck, and the workers also added the suspenders, which are vertical cables attaching the side cables to the bridge deck.













Saturday


The final day of work - also the day when the team would begin their return trip - saw the completion of the bridge deck and the suspenders. The final process in the construction was balancing the bridge, so that the deck is level from side to side. This bridge needed a small adjustment, so they loosened the fasteners on one of the cables, allowed it to sag just a bit more, and then re-tightened the connection, so that the bridge deck wouldn't slant to one side.


The finished bridge!
Every day during this week, our intrepid US team ate ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, since the site was too remote to purchase food locally.

At the end of every work day, all of the tools had to be secured. This required carrying them to locations on each side of the river. On the Platanares side, the tools were carried 400'  up a very steep slope to the truck, loaded into the truck, driven about a mile, then unloaded again into a secure building. On the Santa Rosita side the hillside isn't quite as steep, and the tools were carried about a half a mile (without the use of a vehicle), to be locked up for use the next day.

US team standing on finished bridge
We are so grateful to the visiting team members and Edgewater Alliance Church, for all of their contributions to this great project! Also, thank you to Eric Linden and Michelle Spanos, for posting photos of the construction on FB, where I could pilfer them for use in this blog post.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Have you ever built a bridge in one week? Would you like to?

Allen and Russell build bridges: big ones, little ones, some for vehicles, some only for pedestrians, some with solid concrete decks and others suspended by wire cables. Occasionally, they do a project where a team comes down to help, and an entire bridge is built in just one week! We've done this twice now, have another bridge-in-a-week on the schedule in a few months (in Haiti!) and we'd love to do more!

Before our bridge was built, people crossed using this log
Here's the scoop on the bridge that was built during the final week of January, 2016.
Bridge between the villages of Platanares and Santa Rosita,
built January of 2016

Although we call it a "Bridge-in-a-week," we
actually started this project over a year ago. We knew there were some churches interested in sending teams to build bridges, so we did some research to find locations which fit the specifications: first, we were looking for a situation where there was a real need for a pedestrian bridge; second, it was important that the local villages could and would send in sufficient volunteers to work alongside the visiting gringos; and third, the local government had to be willing to contribute part of the cost for the purchase of materials (the rest of the money needed would be raised by the team).

About six months ago, the bridge location for this particular team's project had been determined, between the villages of Santa Rosita and Platanares. Russell traveled out to the site to measure the exact distance that the bridge would need to span, and to choose the spots where the two ends of the bridge would be built. Then the men calculated the quantities of materials needed.

Russell met with the government leaders of the two nearby villages and explained what items they needed to have collected, by volunteers in their villages, to have on site when the gringo team arrived. This included quantities of sand, gravel, stones slightly larger than soccer balls, and rough hewn lumber. All of these can be collected locally, for no cost when the labor is done by volunteers. Russell also instructed them as to where the holes for the footers of the bridge anchors were to be dug, so that this part of the work would be completed in advance of the arrival of the team.

A few weeks before the team was scheduled to arrive, Allen, Russell and their work crew collected the pieces of rebar and metal pipe needed to make the weldments. Weldments, for this project, are welded together metal pieces, which are partly encased in concrete and partly exposed. The bridge cables, which hold up the bridge, are securely attached to the exposed parts of the weldments.

Making weldments: First, the blacksmith work of heating and hammering
the rebar to bend around the metal pipe

Making weldments: Second, attaching the rebar to the pipe by welding   

This photo is from the actual construction week, showing the weldments
in place and ready to have the concrete poured around them

We gathered up the weldments, the cable, the concrete forms, the cement mixer, and all the other equipment and supplies, and ran a heavy load out to the bridge site a week before the construction was to begin. We had another team scheduled immediately prior to the bridge team, so the menfolk needed to have everything in place a week ahead of time.


 Read about how the actual week of construction went, HERE! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Exciting New Thing #2: Sustainability 4 Pastors

Many of you know that we have been working to add an aspect of sustainability to our ministry, by growing coffee on the land that we own outside of Gracias. Now, we are taking this concept to an exciting new level: this project is in the very earliest stages - we will be assisting certain carefully selected, rural pastors in starting miniature coffee farms on land which they (or their church) own!

The ability to plant and harvest a cash crop will raise these pastors and their families beyond the subsistence level of farming. This will allow them to use their profit to purchase a greater variety of food than they could grow for themselves, which increases their chance for a well balanced diet, thus staving off malnutrition and giving them increased energy, stamina, time, and funds for their primary work of evangelism and church planting! The additional income would also allow these pastors to regularly purchase such luxury items as toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, newer clothing, etc.

Here's how it will work:

First, this opportunity will only be made available to pastors who have been carefully screened, to ensure that they have ownership of the necessary land, and that they also have the knowledge, understanding and motivation to follow through with the work required for success in this endeavor.

Harvesting coffee
Once a pastor is chosen for the program, we will provide him with everything he needs to plant and care for half an acre of coffee plants, including: 1000 young coffee plants (ready to transplant), specialty equipment (like a backpack sprayer), and all the fertilizer, fungicide and pesticide needed for the first three years. The pastor will need to contribute all of the labor to plant the fields, plus we are not providing the common farming tools (like hoes and machetes) which he would already own.

The first few years of coffee farming there is little to no harvest, so there is no income, only expenses invested into the fields of young plants. Once we have helped the pastor through these first three years, his annual coffee harvest can be expected to pay for the expenses of the following year of farming, plus giving him a profit of as much as $1500.

Many of the rural pastors currently have the opportunity to make about $500 - $1000 per year, working as laborers for other coffee farmers. Growing coffee on their own land would not keep them from this work, but would empower them to harvest their own coffee for themselves, allowing them to more than double their annual income!

Harvesters sitting with coffee fields in the background


Each plant, if cared for appropriately, will produce an annual harvest of coffee beans for up to thirty years. As long as the pastors continue to use a portion of the proceeds from each harvest to care for their plants, and to replace those plants which aren't thriving each year, they basically are set to grow and harvest coffee in perpetuity! We're very excited about this project, which will allow the pastors to make a better income for their family while continuing to live in the area where they currently minister through pastoring, evangelism, and church planting!

The cost to us, to set up a pastor to grow coffee on his own land, is $500 over the course of three years. At this moment, we have two candidates chosen for the project, and we are looking for a few more - up to about five, to start with.

This is a brand new, experimental ministry project. If you're interested in being a part of this, we'd love to have your help!

You can donate using the "To Donate" button at the top of this page. Just always remember (whether donating online or by mail) to specify that the donation is for the Sowers Ministry . . . and if you'd like to donate to a specific project (such as this one - Sustainability 4 Pastors), notate that information, as well. If you fail to follow these instructions, the bookkeeper will NOT KNOW to put the money into our account.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Bridge-in-a-Week!


More info coming soon!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Exciting New Thing #1: Manna 4 Lempira Child Sponsorship Program

Today I am ridiculously excited to be officially announcing a program which has been running for several months now, mostly under-the-radar. With the amazing volunteer help of the hard-working team of Jonathan and Kim Hall, we have begun a sponsorship program for individual children in our feeding center ministry!

BUT - before I go into any more details - my crazy husband wants me to give you this information in a blurb, right up front: You can feed 61 children for only $15 per month!!!!! (If it was possible to add flashing lights, I'm sure he'd have had me put those in, too. We now return to your regularly scheduled blog post.)

As the program started up, we offered sponsorships for children in only one of our feeding center locations, but because Kim and Jonathan have already recruited enough sponsors for almost all of the children in the Mercedes village center, we are in the process of starting the program in a second location, as well!

The name of the sponsorship program is Manna 4 Lempira, and you can visit the Manna 4 Lempira Facebook page, for more information, and to see the photos, names and details of children available for sponsorship!


These are the specific details:
  • Each sponsored child receives two nutrition-packed meals each week. 
  • The children will receive de-worming medicine twice each year.
  • Once each year, just before the start of the Honduran school year, each sponsored child receives a pair of shoes and a school uniform, so that they can attend the public school.
  • At that same time, each child also receives a school backpack, filled with the school supplies required by the public schools. 
  • The children and the sponsors will have the opportunity, with the help of translators, to correspond with one another, and the sponsors will occasionally have the opportunity to send special gifts to their sponsored children. 
  • Their participation in the program will bring these children into relationships with the pastor and members of the congregation of a local church. They will receive regular Bible lessons, and a tie-in with caring Christians in their community. This kind of local support can be vital for families living in poverty!

Here is where the numbers get really interesting, though: The cost for all of these benefits is only $15 per month. We can do all of this so inexpensively because everyone involved is a volunteer, serving these children for the sake of Christ. There are no salaries, and minimal overhead costs.

As they say on TV . . . "But wait! There's more!"

Because of our volunteer staff and extremely low overhead, we are able to stretch that $15 donation sooooo far, that in addition to paying for all of these benefits for your sponsored child, your monthly donation will also pay to feed as many as 60* other children in our feeding centers which do not currently have sponsorship programs.

Is it time for you to sponsor a needy child? If you feel the importance of making every dollar count, the way we do, then perhaps Manna 4 Lempira is the child sponsorship program for you! To get started, visit the Manna 4 Lempira Facebook page. It is completely public; you do not have to have a Facebook account to access the page. Kim has posted this set of instructions, to help you get started!

-   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -   -

*Note: Be advised that the exact number of additional children fed will fluctuate, as our costs for food and shipping change over time.

Addendum: If you're interested in how this project came into existence, Kim Hall wrote a great post on that subject, here.

Finally, if you've read all the way to the bottom of this blog post . . . my crazy husband also told me to put this here at the end: He has promised me that, if I get ten comments on this blog post (here on the blog, not on FB), he will wash the dishes for a week AND take me out to dinner! Please help make this happen . . . please?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Ministry Overview

It's time for new things, and new ways of doing things! Allen and I have been running this ministry since 2001, but new, younger workers have ideas, too, and things are NOT stagnant here! 

The following series of posts will fill you in on some exciting new aspects of our ministry - which are also opportunities for people to get involved, if they wish to do so.

Before I start in on the new things, however, I'm going to post an updated version of the ministry overview, which can also be found in a tab at the top of this page, right under the header, where you can easily find it if you wish to see it again, or share it. 



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Allen and Trish Sowers have been working in Honduras since 2001. They now work in partnership with their son, Russell, and his wife Iris. Together, they have successfully established ministry relationships with over a thousand indigenous pastors and their churches. In a typical year, these Honduran pastors see over 15,000 professions of faith and plant 60 plus new churches! Through dynamic partnerships with churches, organizations, and individuals, this ministry enables the Honduran pastors to minister to their congregations in a wide range of areas. Funds, food, vitamins, motorcycles, school supplies, clothing, computers, construction materials, etc. - when someone has a resource that they are willing to donate or sell at a greatly reduced price, we provide the transportation, logistics and oversight to put it into the hands of those who will utilize it in the service of God and their community.

Overview of our ministries:
Feeding and Nutrition Programs: In partnership with “Kids Against Hunger” and others, we distribute food, vitamins and worm medicine through 120 church-run feeding centers, orphanages, victims of natural disasters, and other programs, providing about 1.2 million meals per year. With matching funds, this all happens for about a penny a meal!

Pastor Training School: We’ve conducted 50 pastor training programs involving hundreds of pastors and support several training programs in local churches. 

Bible Book Store: These materials are purchased wholesale and sold at cost. Even at cost, a simple study Bible can equate to an entire week’s wages for a pastor. To date, we have supplied approximately 40,000 Bibles and study materials, including about 8000 study Bibles.

Church Construction: We partner with rural mountain churches in their church construction by supplying the materials to install the roof (congregation supplies the land, labor, and other construction materials). In this way, over 120 churches have been built. A typical roof for a church of 250 members costs approximately $1,000.

Gifts for Gracias: Christmas gifts, school supplies, and gently used clothing are distributed to pastors and their families, to orphans and special needs families.

Sustainable Ministry: We have started a coffee farm in order to help fund our ministries. We are praying that in a few years 50% of our ministry cost will be funded by the profits. An acre of coffee (2000 plants) costs $2500 to plant and take to production. It is expected to produce $45,500 dollars of income over the next 30 years.

Teams: We organize and host servant- focused teams from the U.S. and Canada with the desire to share the love of Jesus Christ, these include medical, dental, construction, and evangelism groups.

Motorcycles for Supervisors and Pastors: Many of our pastors walk 40 to 60 miles a week to visit multiple churches. In partnership with the Christian Motorcyclists Association and others, 166 motorcycles have been distributed to indigenous missionaries and pastors.

Mules and Horses for Pastors: Some pastors cannot afford to maintain a motorcycle or live in areas where the “roads” are impassible even for motorcycles! We have helped over 70 pastors purchase a horse or a mule.

Bridge Projects: In Honduras, tens of thousands of people lose the ability to travel outside of their immediate area (to hospitals, markets, etc.), because of seasonal flooding. In cooperation with businesses in the U.S., we import re-purposed cable for the construction of bridges in rural areas. We partner with local governments and humanitarian groups to build safe bridges which connect otherwise unreachable areas to needed services. To date, we have 15 completed bridges, and half a dozen are in the planning stage, including 2 “bridge in a week projects”, (a group has offered to fly Russell and Allen to Haiti to show them how to build a cable bridge).

Other projects include: Missionary kids camp, schools, houses, clean water, and other municipal projects.


Please consider partnering with the Sowers ministry in making an eternal difference:
  • $1.25: To plant a coffee tree (sustainable ministry)
  • $2.00: Feeds a child a nutritious supplemental meal 2x per week for a year
  • $4.00: De-worm 100 children for a year
  • $7.00: Supplies a Sunday school teacher with materials for two years
  • $16.00: Sponsors a church based feeding center with 80 children for 1 month
  • $20.00: Provides a pastor with a study Bible
  • $125.00: Plants & maintains 100 coffee plants, providing work for the local people plus generating $2275 in profit (funds for the ministry) over the next 30 years
  • $180.00: Buys food, vitamins, worm medicine & study materials for a feeding center for 1 year
  • $250.00: Purchases a horse for a remote indigenous missionary
  • $300.00: Provides an indigenous missionary 50% of his annual support
  • $1000.00: Puts a roof on a new church
  • $1000.00 Provides a motorcycle to a pastor
  • $1200.00: Helps build a home for a poor family
We invite you to learn more by visiting us at Sowers4Pastors.com or Sowers4Pastors.blogspot.com
Or on Facebook at Sowers4Pastors
Our email address is allen@sower4pastors.com

Donations can be made online using this link, or by mailing a check payable to:
The Foundation for Missions
PO Box 560233
Orlando, FL 32856-0233



 Be sure to write "preferenced for Sowers Ministry" on an enclosed paper, or on the donation website

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Truck Number One - it's here and we're using it!

I have great news - we have purchased the first of the new-to-us trucks which we've needed! We thank God for the faithful supporters He has given us, and we thank YOU for helping us continue to do the work we are called to do here in Honduras!

As you know, we still badly need one more vehicle, and I will be continuing to bring that need before you all, but right now, it's time to CELEBRATE!

Of course, you need to see some pictures of the truck! Now, if I were taking the photos, I would position the truck so that there was a magnificent view of the mountains in the distance, with the truck in the foreground . . . but, I actually asked my son, Ben (who just turned 14, by the way) to take the truck photos for me. Apparently, teenage boys aren't overly interested in the scenery, when the real topic is a TRUCK! LOL

So, here is a boy's-eye-view of our new-to-us pickup!