Friday, February 16, 2018

Life Community Church Team - VIDEO!

Life Community Church, in Hilliard Ohio, has a sister church sponsorship program in the community of Arenales Lempira. This past week, they sent a team of six people down to visit their sponsorship center and help with the annual distribution of school shoes and backpacks full of school supplies. 

They will also be able to report back to their church, and especially to those who sponsor children in Arenales, with a first-hand account of what life is like in that community, and how their partnership with Sowers4Pastors - and with the pastor of the local church - is helping this community and sharing the love of God with them! 

 - posted by Trish

Monday, February 12, 2018

One Down, Two to Go

If this were a television show, this is the part where a person with a wonderful speaking voice would say, “Previously, on the Sowers4Pastors blog…” That’s TV talk for, “Hey, let me refresh your memory, or just fill you in if you happened to miss an episode.” Well, this isn’t a television show, but previously on the Sowers4Pastors blog, we talked about the logistics of hosting three back-to-back teams. Now that you’re all caught up, we can move on to this week’s episode, er, post. It’s entitled One Down, Two To Go.

Team One, from Christ Church of Orlando, otherwise known as the Bridge-in-a-Week team, came down and did their thing (which you may have deduced involved building a bridge in a week). Russell and Allen thought this would be a good opportunity to explain the 4-way partnership that makes such a project possible.

The first partner is a church in the States. Not only does a church send a team to Honduras, they also raise a portion of the funding for the project. A participating church needs to be committed to providing finances, as well as labor. That commitment to finances helps purchase a significant amount of the necessary supplies. Then team members donate a week’s time and a lot of muscle toward building a bridge.

Partner number two is the local government, which helps determine where the bridge is most needed. Local government also helps pay for some of the building materials.

The local community serves as partner number three. As the people who will benefit from the completed bridge, the local community supplies most of the unskilled labor. Their tasks include removing rocks from the river, being involved with the team as the concrete is poured, and going up the mountain to get wood for the bridge deck.

Naturally, the fourth partner is Sowers4Pastors. They choose an appropriate bridge design for that location, calculate the construction budget, host the visiting team, transport them to and from the airport, get the supplies, coordinate the whole project, make sure there are enough volunteers, provide the skilled labor, and supervise the construction.

No one person pays for such a project. It relies on both North Americans and Hondurans. The Honduran government and a North American church join forces.

Team One arrived on a Saturday and the bridge was completed by Friday. Here’s what their week looked like:

Sunday--They showed up bright and early to dig holes. At that point, nothing had been done other than the prep work of gathering supplies, and the welding of internal, structural parts. They started pouring concrete on Sunday.

Monday--The second hole was completed on Monday and more concrete was poured.

Tuesday--This concluded the pouring of the concrete, as the handrails were put in place.

Wednesday--They started to string cables by walking the cable down through the river and tying them down on each side. The cables were tightened and made the correct length, so the deck of the bridge would be level.

Thursday & Friday--They built the deck of the bridge.

By Friday afternoon, they headed back to San Pedro Sula to spend the night before flying out on Saturday. Russell pointed out that by getting teams to San Pedro Sula the night prior to departure, they’ve never had a team miss a flight.

Now, if this were a television show, a voice would say, “Next week on the Sowers4Pastors blog…” But, like me, you’ll just have to tune in next week!

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Losing at Monopoly, Winning at Ministry

What’s your strategy for playing Monopoly? Are you a purchaser of railroads? A hoarder of cash? A builder of houses? Generally speaking, my personal strategy is to just start giving my properties away so I can end the game and move on to other things that interest me more. After discussing the Sowers’ housing situation, I’m thinking that might be Allen and Trish’s strategy, too!

When Allen and Trish moved to their current property in 2009, they had big plans. At the time, they anticipated hosting visiting teams on the property. They had plans for building a team house with a couple of bunkrooms and big, communal bathrooms. Back when they lived on the island, there were no hotels, and they were accustomed to feeding and housing teams themselves. But Gracias happens to have some great, inexpensive hotel options, so that wasn't necessary. Still, a shell was built, and, while the bathroom was never put in, the four oldest Sowers offspring used that space as bedrooms, until they each grew up and moved out.

There were, of course, plans to build a family home. But money was available to build a warehouse, and not a house, so the warehouse was built and the family moved in, alongside the boxes and stored items. Sometimes ⅔ of the warehouse was used as personal space, and other times the boxes took up most of the space, until those donations were distributed.

As time passed, the ministry always took precedence over improved housing. Kids grew up, moved away, went to college, married, settled in the States, etc. Construction of a residence had been started, and was partly finished, but it had been designed for a family, not a pair of almost empty nesters.

A couple of years ago, Allen, Trish, and Ben were the only ones living on the property - still living in the warehouse. From a security perspective, that wasn’t good. Russell and Iris decided to remodel the team house and live in it. More people on the property was much better for security. It was also more convenient for Russell, as so much of his work was done in the warehouse or on the farm.

When Ben went to boarding school, Allen and Trish realized it didn’t make much sense for Russell’s family to live in a 900 sq ft space while they (Allen and Trish) completed an 1800 sq ft house. They made the decision that the big home would be Russell and Iris’s and that they would move into the small house. This also made sense because, with Ben away at boarding school, they made the decision to travel 3-6 months a year - and it seemed silly to have the bigger house sit empty so much of the time.

It’s now time for Allen and Trish to start paring down their personal possessions for the move to a much smaller home. This is the longest they’ve lived in any one house since they’ve been married. And, living in a warehouse meant they didn’t have to worry having space to store things . . . or about the size of their book collection!

When they moved from the island to Gracias, they took the contents of an actual lending library with them. That was not a problem in the warehouse because the bookshelves also served as walls. A few years ago, Trish donated many boxes of books to a local bilingual school. She recently sorted out and donated twenty-two more boxes of books to a different bilingual school. The joy on those kids’ faces, as they enjoy their new books, helps to compensate for the task of downsizing!

Construction on Russell and Iris’ new house has come to a temporary halt because it is currently storing the contents of two shipping containers. As soon as the backpack distribution and Gifts for Gracias are completed, the crew will get back to construction. Russell is hopeful they will all be in their new homes sometime in the fall!

And this explains why it is doubtful Allen or Trish have ever won a game of Monopoly, though you might say they’re winning at ministry.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, February 5, 2018

Dancing as Fast as They Can

During the 1920s and 30s, marathon dances were all the rage. Couples crowded onto a dance floor and danced (or at least remained upright and moving) in an effort to be the last ones standing. Hearing Russell detail Sowers4Pastors’ upcoming three weeks sort of reminded me of that. Instead of back-to-back dances, there will be back-to-back teams. 

There will be three back-to-back teams, as a matter of fact. As soon as Russell and Allen drop off one team at the airport, they will pick up the next team, and the metaphorical music will start all over again. Hosting three teams in such close succession means there will be no time to prepare for an incoming team between team visits, so this past week was all about getting their ducks in a row.

The first team is a bridge-in-a-week team, so last week, Russell and the crew welded the steel that holds cables to the concrete. Russell used some other words, too, but they sounded something like, “Blah, blah, blah, metal, blah, blah, blah, concrete, blah, blah, blah, reinforce, blah, stabilize,  blah, blah.” That is not a reflection of Russell’s ability to communicate, but is a reflection of my ability to tune out anything remotely technical. 

This project is being done in conjunction with the local community and the mayor’s office. The mayor’s office is helping to provide concrete, gravel, trucks, etc… Russell has been hard at work making sure all of the supplies are prepared. As he said, “We can’t keep running to the hardware store. It’s a bridge-in-a-week. We can’t afford delays.” 

The guys were also measuring footers so the team could start digging and pouring concrete as soon as they arrived. (Blah, blah…) Community members will assist by getting rocks out of the river and serving as unskilled labor. 

On Saturday, the bridge-in-a-week team will fly out and Team #2 will arrive from Ohio. They will be distributing backpacks and shoes for their sister church. As it turns out, the shoes have been such a hit that Sowers4Pastors needs to replenish their supply. Six hundred more pairs of shoes have been ordered, which the Ohio team will bring down in their luggage!

Team #2 will have the opportunity to hang out with the pastor of their sister church and look at his church plants. They will be able to better understand the church’s vision and how they can best help make his vision a reality.

Team #2 will fly out the next Saturday. Russell and Dillon will spend the night in San Pedro and Team #3 will fly in on Sunday from Maryland. Team #3 will also be distributing backpacks and shoes at their sister church. Because they partner with the largest sister church, the team will be visiting six schools in five days. Russell estimates they will distribute backpacks and find shoes to fit around sixty kids per day. They will fly out the following Saturday. 

The new pedestrian bridge will cross this river, shown here during dry season.
It gets much larger, and more dangerous to cross, during rainy season

Besides the preparation needed for the arrival of the teams, the village nearest to the Sowers' home asked for some help. They were in desperate need of a new roof for the kindergarten. Because of the leaky roof, kids couldn't go to school when it rained. Russell says it’s an extremely wet dry season this year, which is good for coffee, but not for kindergarteners! They made sure that the new roof was completed last week, since the Honduran school year starts soon!

Kelsea and Dillon arrived at a good time. Kelsea has been able to help out with things like organizing, posting to the blog, and paperwork. Dillon has been doing a lot of heavy lifting while loading and unloading backpacks. In a moment of sounding much older than his 28 years, Russell said, “We’re fortunate to have two, energetic young adults in their 20s to help out right now.”

- posted by Christi

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

The View from Kelsea

Friday morning, I piled into a van with eleven other people, a mixture of both Hondurans and North Americans, to revisit the Mercedes child sponsorship center. We had been there a few days prior to distribute backpacks and shoes to the children in the program, but we needed to return in order to collect letters from the children for their sponsors back in the States, as well as make sure the children who were absent at our last visit, received their backpacks and shoes.

When we arrived at the center, the children began to arrive as well. While a few began a game of soccer in the middle of the church floor, the others lined the walls of the building, standing quietly. A couple members of our group jumped right into the scene while the rest (myself included) stood off to the side to take it all in. As I stood there, I felt the weight of the language barrier. I so badly wanted to jump into their games, to talk to the children, to get to know them, to laugh with them, and to show them how loved they are. However, with my limited ability to speak and understand Spanish, I felt incapable.

As I watched, I saw an 8 year-old girl, sitting on the steps by herself. I walked over and sat next to her. I began to ask her how she was, her name, whether she had siblings there, whether she was excited to start school, etc.  She answered each question with a smile on her face and it wasn’t long before a boy of about the same age joined us. I began talking to him as well. One thing led to another and before long I was sitting in a circle of fifteen children playing catch, laughing with them learning their names.  As I looked around me, similar interactions were happening all throughout the church. I was struck by the way laughter, smiles, and a couple of Spanish words combined with the desire to connect, could build such a strong bridge between the lingual and cultural divide we were experiencing.

During our remaining time at the center, we played other games with the children, served them ice cream, took pictures with them, and exchanged lots of hugs! When it was time to leave, we said our goodbyes and piled back into the van.  I left Mercedes with a full heart, having made some new little friends, and reflecting on the importance of stepping outside of our perceived capabilities to simply show love to those we encounter.

 - posted by Kelsea

Monday, January 29, 2018

The Intern Has Landed

She’s there! She’s there! Kelsea, the young woman who will intern with Sowers4Pastors for a full year is there. (And, not to brag, but I got to talk to her.) When we spoke by phone, Kelsea had arrived in Honduras a whopping four days before. Naturally, she has spent that time sitting back and observing. Hahahaha. I’m kidding. This is Sowers4Pastors we’re talking about. Naturally, Kelsea hit the ground running and helping to distribute backpacks and shoes.

Kelsea, who hails from Washington State, was on two earlier short-term mission trips to Honduras, through Living Water. You might recall Dillon, the extended stay intern, also worked with Living Water. That is not a coincidence. Kelsea and Dillon met on her first trip to Honduras. It was Dillon and a friend of his who shared this exciting mission opportunity with Kelsea.

With four days in, Kelsea gave me her impressions thus far. So far, so great! She is enjoying learning about the different aspects of the Sowers4Pastors ministries. She has spent a lot of time with Allen and Russell, learning how the ministry impacts the communities of Western Honduras. She is excited to learn the various aspects of how to operate a ministry. She also said she loves how flexible it is. If by “flexible” she means how willing they are to do whatever is needed at any particular time, then she is in for a real treat!

When asked how she is able to spend a year in Honduras, Kelsea told me a bit about her background and dreams for the future. She graduated with an associates degree a few years back. She has been alternating between earning money in the U.S. doing childcare and office work and doing missions work abroad. This time, she only had two and a half months to fundraise for her year in Central America.

When her year in Honduras comes to a close, she would love to go home to work and raise money to do more work in Central or South America. She’s not exactly sure where that will be, but is open to any doors God may open. This is something she would love to do for the rest of her life. This has been the desire of her heart for the past four years or so. She has a desire to be self-sustaining, while churches and individuals support her ministry. That sounds more than a little familiar!

Kelsea studied Spanish for years. She said she knows enough to communicate with people, but she realizes how rusty she is. Fortunately, she is thrilled by how quickly her ability to understand native Spanish speakers is improving. Her brain is absorbing new vocabulary words and she’s dusting off some long forgotten verb tenses. Psst… Kelsea, if you ever need to know how to say, “The boy is under the airplane,” just let me know. I’m available for private Spanish lessons via Skype.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Another Day, Another . . .

You know the old saying, “Another day, another gajillion backpacks to distribute and kids to fit with shoes!” What? You don’t know that old saying? Well, stick around, because it’s the sort of thing that comes up periodically on this blog. When I spoke to Russell this week, he was traveling to a Manna 4 Lempira center with Allen, the Hall family, Dillon, and Sowers4Pastors' newest intern, Kelsea.

Russell gave me a quick rundown of what his “social calendar” looks like this week. Really, the fun began last Friday when Russell and Dillon drove to San Pedro to pick up Kim Hall and family, who
arrived on Saturday. It was a gloriously uneventful trip because they encountered no road-blocking protests. (Russell would like to remind you that the international news has the job of showing the worst side of things. The dramatic protests you are seeing are not reflective of what is actually going on throughout most of the country at this time.)

Sunday: They visited the Tablon center, where they distributed 130 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Monday: They headed to the Mercedes center, where they distributed a whopping 335 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Tuesday: Tuesday found them at the Betania center, where they distributed 190 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Wednesday: Wednesday brings us up to the day of our phone call. The group plans to visit the two daughter churches of the Tablon main church. That will mean visiting two completely separate locations. Russell anticipates distributing another 160 backpacks and pairs of shoes.

Thursday: On Thursday they will visit the new center opened in the fall, Quelacasque. This center has the distinction of being part sister church sponsored and part Manna 4 Lempira sponsored. One of the Manna 4 Lempira sponsors got her church in Kansas in on the fun and they are now a sister church. They will distribute backpacks and shoes to approximately 160 kids.

Friday and Saturday: As the week draws to a close, the group will revisit Mercedes and Betania, in order to see any children who were not there for the previous visits.

Saturday: On Saturday afternoon, Russell, Dillon, and Kelsea will drive the Hall family back to San Pedro to make their return flight on Sunday.

Children heading home with backpacks

Sunday is inauguration day in Honduras! Please be in prayer for Russell, Kelsea, Dillon’s safe travels on their drive home. Russell is feeling confident, as there are currently very few roadblocks happening.

 - posted by Christi