Monday, July 27, 2015

Some Straight Talk About Money

"We're missionaries, so we're always asking for money."
That's pretty much a true statement - but I wonder if people realize why that is the case. Today, I thought I'd lay it out for you. Feel free to ask questions on this topic, in the comments, if you have them.


Everything we do costs money. Import a container of food - that requires thousands of dollars. Hold a pastor training conference (which involves renting a venue, and housing and feeding the impoverished pastors who cannot pay for this) - that also costs thousands of dollars. How about helping pastors acquire motorcycles and horses? Of course that has to be paid for! Help a congregation construct a building, when their group becomes too large to meet in any of the houses in their village? The hardware and construction supply stores expect us to pay for those materials! Drive to a feeding center to take pictures for the blog? That definitely costs a good bit in fuel, but on the roads in these mountains every trip we take incurs at least some level of damage or major wear-and-tear on our vehicles, and this adds up to a significant, regular expense in our budget! 


We also have to live here, while we do work which earns us no income, and that requires money, too. Allen and I have made it our goal to earn our own keep, rather than using donated funds for this purpose - which means that every year, while he's in the US doing fundraising, Allen also takes a few paying jobs. The cost for us to live in Honduras is much lower than the cost of living in the US, so in a few weeks Allen can earn enough for us to pay our own way. This year, he's refurbishing docks in Florida. In past years he has refinished kitchens, built decks, and done other types of construction work.


We are fairly unique in this, though. The majority of missionaries have to raise the funds to feed and house themselves and their families (and buy clothing and educate their children and purchase medical care, etc ). The other missionaries in our team all have to raise these funds - that's Russell and Iris, and also Clay and Cynthia. (Rachel's situation is also a bit unusual, because her husband has a non-missionary, paying job. As it is a Honduran military job, and his salary is barely enough to cover their most basic needs, she has to raise a part of their living expenses, in order to work as a missionary. Otherwise, she would have to take a regular paying job, to help earn enough for them to live.) All of these young people have one thing in common, though - they aren't raising thousands and thousands of dollars MORE than what they need just to live here.



What this means is that Allen and I are still the primary fundraisers for the ministry work of this group of missionaries. Every year, when Allen visits the US, he speaks to everyone who will listen about the work we are doing, and he bluntly asks people to help us by giving money. When I write about our ministries on the blog, I have to do my part of the fund-raising, by reminding people that we can't continue these ministries without donations, and by giving the info on how to donate. 


We're here. We know the area, we know the people, we know the needs . . . in some cases, we already have programs in place to help resolve at least some of those needs. But money is required, to implement any of those programs. Realistically - we need large amounts of money, to continue the programs which we are currently running.

And yet, times are tight. Prices for everything are continually on the rise (in the US and here), and many people are earning the same amount, or less, than they did a few years ago. When people in the US are squeezed financially, they have no choice but to limit their discretionary spending - and giving to missionaries can sometimes be one of the things they regretfully have to discontinue. Missionaries around the world are having to make painful decisions about whether or not they will be able to continue working abroad. It's a difficult time.

However, difficult times often spawn creative solutions. Allen and I have implemented a number of money-saving systems - so that we no longer have to pay certain monthly expenses, like rent and electricity. Currently, we are in the process of using the land we own debt-free to produce an income, by planting coffee  . . . with the hope and expectation that, in just a few years, the profit from that effort will be money which will fund some part of the future ministry work, on an ongoing basis.

Coffee beans on one of the plants we started just last year.
This is sooner than expected, and a sign that the plants are thriving!

Even before the economic situation tightened, Allen and I have always made it a personal goal to use donated funds as efficiently and carefully as possible. This has made it possible for us to continue to minister in a large way, even during financially difficult times.


If you have been involved in this ministry, financially - we heartily thank you for that! If you'd like to get involved, the information below tells how to donate in the US or in Canada:


In the United States
To Donate by Mail, send checks to:

The Foundation for Missions
PO Box 560233
Orlando, Florida 32856-0233

- Make check payable to "The Foundation" -
- Be sure to write "preferenced for Sowers Ministry" 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" 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 407-730-3364 



In Canada


To Donate by Mail, send checks to:

David Griggs
Foundation for Missions
17-7000 Mcleod Rd. #164 
Niagara Falls, ON L2G 7K3

 
For more Information call: Tel/fax: 289-723-2623

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Looking to the Future


Over the years, it has become gradually harder for me to write blog posts about our work. Our general ministry model has been to identify major needs in the community – both spiritual and physical needs – and look for solutions. Sometimes the solution takes a short time to implement, like building a bridge. For larger problems, we have set programs into place to assist the local Honduran people in alleviating the situation. Some examples of this include the training of pastors, who are then equipped to spread the gospel into the unreached mountain villages, and also the feeding center ministry, which gives the local pastors the resources to battle the ongoing problem of insufficient nutritious food in these same villages. Once a long-term program is in place, then the day-to-day work of administrating the program must be carried out.


Much of this administrative work, while essential and absolutely on-task with our stated goals, is not especially interesting or, as we missionaries like to say – it doesn’t make good newsletter/blog fodder. At the same time, we absolutely believe that encouraging the Honduran people themselves to be the feet-on-the-ground in most of the ministry work is absolutely the right way to do things, and we have no intention of changing that just so that we can write more interesting letters and blog posts!





However, a few things are changing around here just now, and I’m pleased to have something new and exciting to write about!




This ministry work started, back in 2001, when Allen and obeyed God’s call to travel to Honduras and work for Him here. Our kids were dragged along, mostly enthusiastically. As the children grew, and the work developed, they each took on aspects of the ministry work as their skills allowed . . . and as they worked, their skills developed, and their contributions expanded to include additional aspects of the work.



A few years back, this was a thriving, family-run ministry, with everyone doing their part, until the unthinkable happened – the children started growing into independent adults and moving away from home! First Kirstin, then Rachel and Christopher moved out of the house and away from the Gracias area (and Boo is leaving next month), and they are no longer able to be physically involved in the work here – though they support us prayerfully and financially, and Rachel has started working in ministry in a different part of Honduras. Russell, though married and no longer living in our household, is still local and has continued to work alongside of us in ministry.



At the beginning of the new school year in September, our immediate household will only contain Allen and I, and Ben. Ben is now attending a nearby Christian bilingual school, instead of homeschooling, so life is significantly different at our house now, compared to the years when this place was filled with the energy of six children, learning, growing, and working in ministry with us!



I might have been writing to you about a downsizing or even an ending here – but apparently God has other plans for this ministry, and has brought us new ministry partners, Clay and Cynthia Powell. I don’t know what God has for us, long-term; I don’t know where God will lead Russell and Clay and their families . . . but for now, this moment, instead of seeing a descent toward an ending, I’m seeing a fresh start – an opportunity for growth and almost certainly changes, as new eyes and hearts follow God’s paths for them and for the future of this ministry!





Russell and Clay (and their wives) have a whole set of varied skills which they can bring to this ministry. They are both totally bilingual, both married to Godly Honduran women, and are both settled into family life (Cynthia and Clay are expecting their first baby in about a month). Russell has the advantage of knowing Honduran culture, from having grown up here, plus the skills in construction and administration which he learned from Allen. He also knows the pastors here, and is quite knowledgeable about their churches their villages, plus he’s familiar with the geography. Clay has degrees in theology and missions, and brings knowledge about agricultural ministry to the mix. Cynthia is Honduran, and is fluent in English. She’s great at writing in both languages, which will be extremely helpful! 




Just so there’s no confusion – Allen and I aren’t going anywhere. There is still plenty of work for us to do in the ministry here, and we’re excited to see what God has planned for us next!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Just some photos . . .

I needed to post some photos online, in order to use them in a mailing that Russell is sending out. This is my online place, and these are the photos. If you'd like to be added to Russell's mailing list, please send me your name and email address, in a comment. I won't post the comment, I'll just add you to the list. 







Thursday, July 16, 2015

We love an "uneventful" trip. This one wasn't.

Hurricane Wilma - a category 5 storm which almost hit the island of Guanaja, off the north coast of Honduras, in 2005. The red circle indicates the location of Guanaja.
I was there!


I just realized that we are about to complete ten years of living and working in Gracias Lempira, Honduras! This got me thinking back to when we moved from the island to the mainland.

It was . . . eventful . . . 

In late 2005, we were in the process of moving our household and ministry from the island of Guanaja, off the north coast of Honduras, to the city of Gracias, deep in the mountains of western Honduras. Allen had traveled to the mainland of Honduras to manage the arrival of a container of donations (our first time shipping an entire container) which was due to arrive shortly. He had to rent a house in Gracias to have a place for the unloading!

Meanwhile, I stayed on the island and packed up all of our household goods, which would be moved by boat. We lived, at that time, on the third story of a wood-framed building, located right on the beach.

During what was to have been our last week on the island, Hurricane Wilma formed, and headed straight toward us. This article states that Hurricane Wilma was the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin!!! I did not know that until just now, LOL.)

The kids and I evacuated to a low concrete motel, which was still under construction at that time, located a few blocks from our home. We were seriously concerned that our house would be blown down, so I didn't feel safe staying there with the children, and without Allen.

The power went out early on as the weather ramped up, so we had no communications, and we were only able to get reports on the progress of the storm by asking the people around us who had special marine radios.

The eye of the storm was headed directly toward our island - which had been hit about ten years before by Hurricane Mitch, another category 5 storm - and the sense of panic was pervasive! At the last minute, the storm made a sudden turn to the north, and the major force of the storm missed the island and hit the Yucatan Peninsula instead.

The photo above shows the storm, and the red circle indicates our location during the storm. As you might imagine, it was a pretty scary time!

The strong sideways winds of the approaching storm pushed the rain between the boards of the wood siding of our house, so lots of things in the house got wet. Once the storm had passed, I had to dry everything out before finishing the packing. I had plenty of time, though, because all of the cargo boats were behind schedule, since they'd had to stay off the sea while the storm was affecting our weather, and our trip to the mainland, on a cargo boat, was delayed for a week.

Allen came back to the island after the storm passed, thinking we would still travel on schedule that weekend and he would handle the loading of our boxes and furniture onto the boat. When he found out about the delay in our departure, he really couldn't hang around on the island for the week (because of the container issues he needed to deal with - and we didn't have phones on the island, so he couldn't do much work from there) . . . anyway, we decided that he would return and continue the work on the mainland, and I would dry out the stuff that had gotten wet and finish packing, then I would oversee the loading of the boat (I had Russell with me, who was about 17 at the time, and another young man (a family friend and intern) who was about 19, so we figured we could handle it.

The departure day came, our goods were loaded without incident, and the only major decision left to be made was whether we would travel on the cargo boat with our stuff, or if we would travel by plane, and meet the boat over on the coast.

It was a beautiful, clear day. I asked friends who had traveled on the cargo ship at other times, about the trip, and they encouraged me to take the boat. They said it was a lovely trip, and so enjoyable! The boat travels through the night . . . and the stars . . . the cool breezes . . . it all sounded enchanting! Since it was also the logistically easier option (Allen wouldn't have to drive to the airport to pick us up, because we would arrive at the dock along with our things), that's the way we decided to go.

We left our village, Savannah Bight, on the Lady Carminda, at around 3 in the afternoon. The boat docked for a number of hours at the main city on the island, before departing around dusk. During those hours, the weather changed . . .

We ended up crossing the sea during Tropical Storm/Hurricane Beta. I'm not sure where it was in its formation, at the date and time we crossed - I knew nothing about it as I was planning the trip! We were, mostly likely, in very little actual danger, but by the end of that horrendous crossing (which normally took about 6 hours, but took us more than 11 hours, because of the rough seas), death looked like a happy release from our suffering.


I have never in my life seen so many people vomit. At no time in my life have I been more grateful to have no sense of smell.

But we made it to the coast intact. Allen picked us up and drove us to the home of our friends Bill and Jessica, who were living in La Ceiba at the time. Some of us crashed in their beds for a few hours of sleep, while Allen and the older kids went back to the dock to unload our furniture and boxes from the ship and load them into a big truck.

When that was completed we all piled into a van, along with our two large dogs, and headed up to Gracias - a drive of about 6 to 8 hours.

I recounted some parts of this story (some bits that were not included here) earlier on this blog, at a time when we were moving between houses within the city of Gracias. Here's a link to that post, "The Last Time I Moved Without My Husband," if you're interested in more of the story - like the part where the islanders had closed their airport, as a protest, by hauling wrecked boats onto the landing strip, when we needed to fly in. LOL

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Now let's talk about Boo


I know many of my friends have sent their children off on short term mission trips - some of you have even sent them here to us - but this week, for the first time, we've sent one of our own children off for a short term trip! Boo is interested in possibly pursuing a career in medical missions, so as a sort of mission trip/internship, she's working for two weeks in a missionary medical clinic farther out in the mountains. She traveled alone, a few hours by bus, and is staying with a family of Mennonite missionaries. 

Boo has lived in Honduras since she was 4 years old (she's now 18), so there isn't much about this trip that takes her outside of her regular comfort zone . . .in fact, when she returns to the US to live in the fall, I expect that will be a much harder for her! Still, this is a time when she's learning and experiencing what it would be like to live and work in a different type of ministry, and she's thinking and making plans for the future.

Most people, in preparation for a mission trip, write support letters, and, in addition to raising the money for their trip costs, they also collect a group of prayer supporters. The cost for Boo's trip was pretty negligible, but it would be great to have some extra people praying for her! She'll be away until next weekend, around the 30th of May.

Thanks for praying for Boo (her real name is Bethany, just so you know), as she starts stepping out into adulthood during this trip and over the next few months and years.

The photos below show Boo in some of the many roles she has played in our ministry work:


Boo as medical assistant


Boo as photographer


Boo as dental assistant

Boo creating gifts for pastors and their families

Boo assisting with teams - however she's needed

Boo as . . . as . . . as an adventurous example for visiting teams :-)

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Have dental tools, Will travel



In the rural villages of Honduras, many people have little or no knowledge of how to maintain their teeth. Even with this knowledge, so often families do not have the financial means to purchase tooth brushes and tooth paste. Elementary school children with mouths full of broken, rotten teeth are extremely common here.

Free dental clinics, held in rural villages, can be a huge blessing. Cavities are filled before the tooth is destroyed. Teeth that are rotten beyond saving, and are causing pain and the risk of serious infection, can be extracted. Professional cleanings can be done. Tooth brushes and tooth paste are distributed, and information on maintaining better oral health is disseminated.


This week, we hosted a team of dentists, along with dental students from Pitt University in Pennsylvania. Dr. Annette Merlino leads a dental team like this every year. Here are a few photos from the past week:




                              



                                  

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Let's talk about Russell

The shock absorber on my Land Cruiser is broken. Can you fix it before I have to drive to town this afternoon?

I don't understand this note from Ben's school. Would you translate it for me?

What's the Spanish word for "air compressor?"

Is there a place in town where I can buy shoelaces?

Why is the bank closed today? Do you know why there were serenades at dawn this morning?

What's the name of the pastor running the feeding center in El Derumbo? Do we need to purchase more Bibles for the store? What's it going to cost to drive to the airport and back? We need to write an announcement about the Pastor Training Conference, to be read on the radio next week. Oh no - another flat tire. . .

Time for the puppies to get a round of shots. The water pipes on the roof are leaking. The refrigerator is making a funny noise. Someone needs to run a load of trash to the dump. There's a snake in the shower!

The solver of so many of our problems, and the answerer of our questions is named Russell! And this isn't even a new thing - it has been amazingly handy to have Russell around, for such a long time now!

I recall when we lived on Guanaja, and missionary friends of ours had experienced a break-in. To improve security at their home, they wanted to nail some boards up, in a decorative pattern, over an area that had previously only had a screen. This job required the workman to squeeze into a very small space in a gable over their front door. Russell was approximately 11 years old at the time, and already quite proficient with a hammer. Because of his success with this repair project, we took to calling him "The Compact Carpenter."

He's no longer able to fit into such small spaces, but his other abilities - including his total fluency in Spanish and his deep cultural understanding of life in Honduras - have made him invaluable to us. In fact, we find ourselves gradually transitioning toward a future in which Russell will be leading the ministry here, and we'll be helping him!

Thanks Russell, for all you do!!!!!!

And because she is totally part of the team, you should really know that Russell's wife, Iris, handles the day-to-day running of the Bible bookstore, and the regular distribution of food for the feeding centers. Thanks Iris, for all you do, too!!!!!


If you'd be interested in supporting Russell and Iris, in their missionary work, here is the info you need:

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 Russell Sowers" 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 "Russell Sowers" 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 407-730-3364.