Monday, July 17, 2017

The Short Term Missionary with the Extended Stay

It seems like ages ago since the most recent team from Edgewater Alliance Church was in Honduras. In reality, it hasn’t been that long at all. It’s simply that the Sowers can pack a whole lot of excitement into a short amount of time.  As I wrote in the May 19th blog post, “The team will be led by Pauli, an enthusiastic volunteer who will be staying on for three extra weeks, putting that enthusiasm to good use.” The team was in the middle of its visit when Allen had heart surgery and, for a while, I sort of forgot about enthusiastic Pauli and her extended stay. Fortunately, Trish reminded me and I was able to schedule a phone call with Pauli to hear about her month long mission trip. She described her month as, “filled, but good.”


When asked what she would say to people who may be on the fence about committing to a mission trip, Pauli said, “It is lifechanging! Just the impact the Sowers family makes in that area is amazing. It was great to see them in action--to see them helping people, not just in one area like the sponsorship program, but in a broad area.”


She and the original team of ten additional members visited four schools, which are part of Edgewater Alliance’s sister church sponsorship. 270 children are a part of their sponsorship area. While one part of the team worked on a construction project, Pauli’s half of the team visited four schools, spending a full day at each school. They taught Bible lessons, English classes, and handed out toothbrushes. The kids were most impressed by the stomp rockets a team member who is a NASA employee donated.


After the team left, Pauli spent the following two weeks staying with Russell and Iris. She helped register 270 children in the sponsorship program for a church in Maryland. She also helped out in the kitchen at Pastors’ Training School. She worked with two other women in the kitchen. They didn’t speak English and Pauli doesn’t speak Spanish, but they managed to communicate. The other women also got a good laugh at Pauli’s first attempts at cutting plantains!


She was able to go on a home visit to a little boy sponsored by someone at Edgewater Alliance. The boy’s mother died last year and he and his younger brother are being raised by their grandmother. The village visited has no electricity, but the house has a solar panel. The enterprising grandmother of the house earns money by collecting a fee from people to charge their cell phones.


Pauli prayed with the woman. She said she prayed for a couple of minutes and then the grandmother prayed for at least ten minutes. She said, “Of course, it was in Spanish and I didn’t understand it, but it was powerful!”



Later, Pauli and Russell went back to the village to register kindergarteners in the sponsorship program. The grandmother with the powerful prayer was there to register her younger grandson. Pauli quickly told Russell, “I want him.”


Pauli said, “The grandmother was so thankful for our help and what we’re doing for the community. It was great to be able to take people to see their sponsored kids. Most of my team members from the first week already had sponsored kids. They ended up sponsoring an additional nine kids.”


Pauli spent her last week serving as a counselor at MK Retreat. She had the opportunity to lead small group discussions and she helped out at the canteen. She joked that she was very well received because she was the lady who sold them junk food! At the end of each day, she slept in a room with some of the girls. Pauli had a little extra adventure when she found a bat in her bed. It seems a group of boys pranked the wrong room and the bat was placed in Pauli’s bed in error. Oops!

“I believe everyone should take a mission trip. I wish teenagers were required to go on a trip before graduating high school. It’s about being the hands and feet of Jesus. And, as far as the sponsorships go… For $15 a month, that’s nothing,” Pauli said thoughtfully.

- posted by Christi

Friday, July 14, 2017

Russell's Birthday Week Adventures

Russell really knows how to celebrate his birthday week! He started his actual birthday with a phone call to me. What a party animal!


Russell dropped off the Hall family and their team on Sunday. The three following days were the first ones in two months the Sowers haven’t had someone visiting Honduras. As much as they enjoy guests and visiting teams, they had a lot of catching up to do!


On Monday, Allen, Trish, and Russell all had the task of getting their drivers licenses renewed. Fun, fun, fun! I hear the Honduran version of the DMV is every bit as enjoyable as the U.S. version! Russell got to go back on Tuesday to get his motorcycle license. Did I mention what a party animal he is?


Following the fun time at the DMV on Monday, they picked up some coffee from the roaster and then drove an hour to drop a truck off at a mechanic. With so many visiting teams, they haven’t had a chance to do routine vehicle maintenance in a while.


This is Pastors’ Training School week. Melvin did the shopping and the other local missionaries are taking care of the school duties.


Meanwhile, the Sowers are finishing up the paperwork for the 2nd quarter of the year. Receipts and paperwork will be sent back to their mission foundation to satisfy IRS requirements.


Russell is also catching up on things around the farm. Of course, farm work goes on even when the Sowers are with a team, but there are some things Russell needs to supervise. He was able to sit down with Carlos to determine farming priorities for the next several weeks. They are getting ready to plant for next year at the end of July. That means they need to fertilize, apply pesticide, and do a fair amount of chopping and hoeing.


A team is arriving on Thursday for a week long vision trip. The visiting pastor has been encouraged by his mother-in-law to check out Sowers4Pastors’ ministry. His mother-in-law has been down a number of times as part of Manna 4 Lempira. The team will consist of the pastor, his wife, another couple, and the pastor’s enthusiastic mother-in-law. The team will be visiting Pastors’ Training School, seeing a church they may want to help and get involved with, and seeing some projects Sowers4Pastors has done in the past.


Now, if you’re thinking Russell’s birthday week filled with the DMV, IRS paperwork, farm work, and going over details for this blog post don’t sound all that festive, don’t worry. R.J. came to the rescue. When asked how he thought they should celebrate Russell’s birthday, R.J. decided they needed a piñata! So, Russell had plans to take R.J. to pick out a piñata. In case you’re wondering, R.J.’s love of piñatas isn’t even about the candy. He loves whacking them with sticks! Russell laughed and said, “The other kids will get the candy and take it inside and R.J. will keep hitting it for about fifteen minutes!” Feliz Cumpleaños, Russell!

- posted by Christi

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Two Perspectives on the Same Trip

It’s always fun to get two perspectives on the same events. Kim Hall was able to give me her unique take on her family’s three week adventure in Honduras and Russell was able to tell me how this affects the Sowers’ daily schedules.


Kim shared about having teams join them to give medical checkups, update information for children enrolled in the sponsorship program, and hand out shoes. Russell shared that this venture requires eleven team members, two Sowers, and numerous translators, photographers, and drivers. The first week with the team required five translators. When six additional people arrived from the States on Saturday, the number of required translators increased to ten. General workers from the Sowers’ crew are also needed to move stuff, fill out necessary forms, etc…


The Halls arrived with letters from sponsors and solar lamps to be handed out as gifts to the children in the Manna 4 Lempira program. Kim spoke about how they have a better idea of what gifts will be appreciated. Umbrellas are appreciated because they are used for both rain and sun. Hammocks are great gifts because people will sleep in them if there’s no room in their house. The group is also handing out shoes brought down by the Edgewater Alliance team.   


They are updating sponsorship forms with new pictures and preferences. As Russell said, “Maybe they've decided they want to be something else when they grow up. Maybe their favorite color has changed.”


Russell said the group is trying to visit around 100 kids out of the 1000 or so in the sponsorship program. As Kim noted, they will be taking many kids to swim at the hot water springs. That means taking about thirty different kids on each of three different days. The team will spend alternate days between house visits and swimming trips.


Several members of the teams sponsor large numbers of children. They are excited to spend time visiting “their” children. This trip is largely about building relationships with the children and demonstrating God’s love for them. That’s exciting stuff no matter whose point of view it’s from!

- posted by Christi

Monday, June 26, 2017

A Journey With Three Legs

Kim, at Hotel Guancascos, being
phone-interviewed by Christi
Kim Hall, of Manna 4 Lempira, is back in Honduras for her longest visit to date. This time she and her family are there for a whopping three weeks. Graciously, she agreed to take time to chat with me before heading out for another busy day full of showing love to the children in the sponsorship program. As you’re about to read, neither rain nor grasshoppers nor swarming bees nor weird toads stays the Hall family from its appointed routes!

First Leg

The first leg of the Hall’s trip centered around spending time with a family they first met through another child sponsorship program. Then they went to Gracias, where they spent days visiting the children they currently sponsor. With so many trips to Honduras under their belts, the family is feeling more confident in their ability to do some things on their own. Kim is also pleased her Spanish has improved.

This is the second time Kim has been in Honduras during a “grasshopper year” (the giant grasshoppers come every three years). Fortunately, most of the ones they’ve seen have been dead. She quipped, “We had to buy umbrellas for rain. They work against grasshoppers, too!”

Kim and family crossed
this bridge that Sowers4Pastors
did NOT build
Traveling with children always brings unique challenges. This time, one Hall offspring was swarmed by bees when he ventured off while visiting a pastor who is a beekeeper. Fortunately  he only received three stings, but it could have been much worse. Another Hall child picked up a random toad and had a reaction after rubbing her eyes. She suffered from blurry vision for about a half hour. Kim said the takeaway lessons were: “Don’t touch wild animals. Don’t go on a roof with bees.” Good advice!

Second Leg

A team arrived from the U.S. to join them after their initial week. This first team consists of four people whose main focus is doing medical checkups. The group is also re-registering the children in the sponsorship program--updating information and making videos of kids who are still waiting for sponsors. Kim said, “Most of them are boys who have been waiting about nine months for a sponsor. We’re working hard on that. I think they like making the videos.”  And Kim likes having the opportunity to talk to the children and call them by name. From the way she said it, I could sense the burden she feels to find a sponsor for each child. (This link takes you to our favorite of these videos.)

Kim got to deliver good news to one little boy who had been waiting nine months for a sponsor. She described his smile and the delight he felt over receiving a letter and photo from his sponsor. She said, “It’s cool to have the privilege to tell a kid in person he has a sponsor. The letter and photo make it real to them.”

Third Leg

A second team, consisting of six people, joined the first team on Saturday. The second group will be staying for one week. They will be doing home visits, school visits, and doing VBS activities. They will also be taking three different groups of sponsored children to a swimming pool in Gracias. Kim excitedly said, “Most of the kids have never been to a real pool. The place we’re taking them has a lake, animals, and a swimming pool. I only hope it warms up a little before then!”

Something tells me the kids won’t care if it’s cold!

- posted by Christi

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Manna 4 Lempira - VIDEOS

This summer we have three, back-to-back-to-back weeks of Manna 4 Lempira teams! And there's plenty of work to keep them all busy. Here are videos of the work the teams did while here . . . I will add more as they are created.




Working at the Tablon sponsorship center





Working at the Betania sponsorship center





Working at the Mercedes sponsorship center

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Enjoying the Views at MK Retreat

Note: Christi wrote this last week, while the camp was happening. I (Trish) waited until now to post it, so that I would have some pictures to share. Enjoy!


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Break out the sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and marshmallows! It’s MK Teen Retreat time! This morning, Allen called from a campground about 45 minutes from Tegucigalpa, with a view he says is reminiscent of the Smoky Mountains. That wasn’t the most important view to him, though. Allen said, “Everywhere you look, there are groups of missionary kids hanging out--spending time with each other--groups of kids just enjoying their time together.”



From our vantage point, it may seem like the time has flown since last year’s MK Teen Retreat. To the young people who have looked forward to it, the year has likely seemed much longer. As Allen stressed, “Their parents decided to make the sacrifice to become missionaries, but their kids sacrifice, too. They struggle with not fitting into either culture. Even when they are able to visit North America, they are no longer truly North Americans.”

Crafts!
Of course, they aren’t Hondurans, either, which is precisely why they need a special camp to spend time with other teens in their same position. Allen pointed out, “For 50 or 51 weeks a year, they are expected to help with their parents’ ministry. They need this time.”

In case this all seems like a “rerun” from previous years, Allen reminds us, “A lot of times what you do in ministry is a recap or repeat of what you’ve done before. It’s the same old thing, but still very important.”

At least two things are different about this year’s retreat: 1) This year there are more boys than girls, and 2) Rachel is more than six months pregnant--meaning other people have needed to step up to the plate. One of those people cannot be Russell, since he is home helping Kim Hall with Manna 4 Lempira activities.


Games!

This year’s retreat features a lot of new faces.  According to Allen, about half of the people at the retreat have only been on the mission field for two years or less. He said there has been a lot of changes to their missionary community, with a lot of new people moving to Honduras.

Worship!
If you remember the posts about last year’s retreat, many of the attendees were graduating and getting ready to attend college in the U.S. One of those people, Ella, traveled from the States to lead Praise and Worship at the retreat! Her three siblings are in attendance, and her mother is doing the cooking (which Allen says is top notch, with “lots of yummy stuff”).

Crafts are a big hit, as always, particularly with the girls. Some of this year’s crafts include using metal stamps on dog tags, wood burning pictures onto disks cut from tree branches, and string art.

Games are also popular. Teens who seldom see any game other than soccer are enjoying things like capture the flag and dodgeball.

Thirty-four teens and ten staff members are at the 2017 MK Retreat, which started on Sunday the 11th and will end on Friday the 16th. Many people traveled seven or eight hours to be a part of this event, with as many as eight people arriving in one car. Please remember to pray for their safe travels as they return home and begin the countdown to NEXT year’s MK Retreat!



- posted by Christi

Monday, June 12, 2017

Prayer Mail

Recently, Trish wrote a blog post entitled “The (Almost) Lost Art of Letter Writing”, in which she talked about the letters Kim Hall has been posting on the Manna 4 Lempira Facebook Page from children waiting to be matched with sponsors through the Manna program. It seems Honduran kids love to write and receive letters.

Earlier in the month, Kim posted the sweetest of letters from a girl named Lilian, who is currently awaiting a sponsor. (Fortunately, Kim wrote an English translation of the letter, since I barely passed Spanish II in college and my translation skills are sketchy at best.)

Here’s what Kim wrote:

One of the things I know I can never repay to my sponsored children is the time they spend in prayer for me. What a gift!
I am humbled by each letter we receive, filled with prayers that are repeated each night on behalf of our family. I am often comforted in hard times by the knowledge that someone precious to the heart of God is lifting me and my family up by name!
I came across this letter from Lilian, a child waiting for a sponsor through Manna 4 Lempira, and was touched by her earnest prayer for her future sponsor. Dear one, Lilian is already praying for you, even before she knows your name!
"In the first place I thank God for having chosen people like you of a good heart. For the support you have brought to each one of us we give much thanks, from the bottom of our hearts--eternally thankful.
I ask God to guard you wherever you go and each day give you more health. May he bless your lives and home. I give thanks for sending me those lovely gifts.
May God bless you and guide your steps each day. May He clear your doubts and fill you with courage from His Spirit, and overflow blessings in your home and in your life.
May God fill today with blessings--
Lilian "

Think hard. What was the last piece of handwritten snail mail you received? What was the last piece of handwritten, uplifting snail mail, expertly decorated with butterflies and flowers, in which the author asked God to richly bless you with health and courage? Lilian has now been sponsored, but there are more children waiting for sponsorship . . . waiting and praying for you, perhaps?


For $15 a month, you can provide a child with two nutritious meals per week, school shoes, a backpack filled with school supplies, and Bible lessons. It’s an opportunity to bless and be blessed by some sweet letter writer. Think of it as Prayer Mail! More information on the Manna 4 Lempira Sponsorship program, and how you can be a part of it, is available here! - posted by Christi