Sunday, August 28, 2016

Coffee Farm - a Virtual Visit!

There are different ways to minister to people, and some ways cost more, in terms of actual money, than others. You don't feed thousands of children on a regular basis without spending some money! Same with building churches, schools, bridges, water projects, etc. Even running a pastor training school requires that we be able to pay for the facility, the food, the school materials, etc.

Our faithful donors are essential partners in the work we do . . . and in order for donors to know about the work, we have to keep communicating with them. I help with this through Facebook posts, emails, and the blog, whileAllen makes phone calls and face-to-face visits.

Russell has not been as involved in raising the money needed to run the ministry from donors. He didn't grow up in the US, and doesn't have many contacts there. With his young family, he also can't be traveling to the US for months at a time, the way Allen does.

BUT - just look at what Russell has done, and continues to do, to help fund the ministry work! The coffee farm goal - to create a sustainability aspect for funding the ministry - is becoming a reality, and this is happening because of Russell's vision and his planning, his studying and a lot of steady, grueling WORK!

video


There's something going on everyday on the coffee farm - preparing new ground, growing seedlings, planting, fighting bugs and fungi, fertilizing, weeding, and on and on - and Russell is the one making it happen day after day! He doesn't shirk the work of the ministry, either. Instead, he has raised up several young men who now work as our trusted supervisors on the farm, allowing Russell to manage both farming and ministry.

At this point, we are still in the investing stage . . . but in just a few years the coffee farm should be bringing in funds to help support and grow the ministry.

Here are some short videos showing how things are coming along on the coffee farm. You will see that our coffee trees are overwhelmingly fruitful!

video


We thank God for granting us success in this venture!

- posted by Trish

Friday, August 26, 2016

The Gifts for Gracias information you've been asking for --- IS HERE!

“But that’s how it has ALWAYS been done,” said no Sowers ever! Nope. If there’s one thing you can say about the Sowers crew, it’s that they’re adaptable. They know that sometimes you have to change how something has always been done. Currently, that means there are some changes in the Gifts for Gracias program.


I sort of feel this post needs a timeline to show how things have evolved. Instead, I’ll simply try to hit the main changes with bullet points.


  • In the beginning, Gifts for Gracias consisted of people assembling shoeboxes filled with gifts. Those boxes were shipped to Honduras, where Sowers4Pastors made certain they got into the appropriate recipients. Most were used as gifts for pastors and their families, and extras went to orphans and needy families.
  • Then more and more people started sending bulk items in addition to shoebox gifts. That made a lot of sense because it allowed people to take full advantage of any great deals they ran across. Sowers4Pastors took all the various bulk items, assembled gifts on site, and made certain that all of the gifts got into the hands of appropriate recipients.




This year, in addition to Gifts for Gracias, the Sowers have also initiated the Backpack Project.



  • Some people are filling (and personalizing) backpacks with school supplies for the children they sponsor in the Manna 4 Lempira program. Those backpacks will be shipped to Honduras, where Sowers4Pastors will make certain they get into the hands of the correct children.
  • Allen was able to make an amazing purchase of great backpacks at a low price, and the Sowers have a few individuals in the US purchasing school supplies for them, at back-to-school sale prices, so that all of the Manna 4 Lempira children - whether or not they have been sponsored - will receive backpacks and supplies.

  • Churches in several states have received backpacks from Allen, and individuals in these
  • locations are taking it upon themselves to fill these backpacks with school supplies. These will be collected, transported to Honduras, and distributed through the Gifts for Gracias project.
  • This year, Sowers4Pastors is helping a local, missionary-run boarding school (which educates at-risk children from all over Honduras, preparing them to be a force of change in Honduras), by providing backpacks and school supplies for their 600 students - a big undertaking!


Here’s the deal: With both of those projects - Gifts for Gracias and the Backpack Project - going on simultaneously, it makes sense to consolidate them into one super-duper colossal project. By consolidating, every child at every sponsorship center, all of the students at the boarding school, and all of the school-aged children of the pastors receiving a Gifts for Gracias box should be able to receive a backpack filled with much needed school supplies!


But, again, the Sowers are adaptable. If creating shoebox gifts is your passion, then absolutely fill those shoeboxes with reckless abandon! If you want to fill backpacks with school supplies - that's great too! If you feel led to send bulk donations, send them! If you have new or gently used clothing that you want to go to good use, send those! It will all be welcomed with open arms and grateful hearts - and it will all be used to bless individuals in western Honduras! Here is a list of suggested items, to use in filling backpacks: 8 spiral notebooks 10 pencils
pens (2 red, 2 blue, 6 black) ruler scissors glue or glue stick 2 lg pink erasers pencil sharpener 2 boxes of 24 crayons OR 2 packs of 12 colored pencils for older kids 4 toothbrushes 1 lg tooth paste 1 bar soap with washcloth 3 pr socks optional items: soccer ball matchbox cars Barbie, baby doll, or stuffed animal Baseball cap Comb Hair accessories for girls



Donations (including items for the backpack project) can be mailed to: Gifts for Gracias c/o Jim Cofer
7047 Blue Mountain Road
Thurmont, MD 21788

or to Gifts for Gracias c/o Terry Shores
1557 Lewis Lane
New Smyrna Beach, FL 32168 Donations can also be dropped off in person at the following churches (call ahead for details on when donations can be dropped off in these locations): Fredericktowne Baptist Church Walkersville, MD
301-845-8700

Life Community Church
Hilliard, OH
614-527-9661


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Let's Hear it for the Boys!

Here’s a true confession for you: I always expected to be the mother of girls. I wanted girls. We were going to play Barbies and read Judy Blume books together. I was going to learn to French braid hair so my imaginary daughters would always look their best. Sugar and spice and all that jazz! Thankfully, God knew what I needed far better than I did. Boys. I needed sons and I got two of them, neither of whom is interested in having me braid his hair! I’m eternally grateful the decision was not up to me. But when you sponsor a child through Manna 4 Lempira, the decision is up to you.




You can scroll through their online albums for feeding centers (Mercedes Center and Betania Center) and look at a sea of precious faces waiting for someone special to sponsor them. If you look through those albums today, you will see a sea of boys staring back at you. Why? Because more people want to sponsor girls than boys. Waaaaaay more people want to sponsor girls than boys.



Now, no one is suggesting that sponsors don’t care about feeding little boys, too. Of course you do! Perhaps more people are sponsoring girls because we often hear about the plight of girls and women in developing countries. Perhaps it’s because you have daughters of your own and you want them to experience helping someone like them. Those are very good and valid reasons. And, of course, we want the girls to have sponsors. We simply want the boys to have sponsors, as well.





Currently, all of the children in several feeding centers have been registered. This is a problem across the board. Right now, the Manna 4 Lempira program has a backlog of FIFTY unsponsored boys. Yet, the Sowers are hustling to register the children in another feeding center because they are COMPLETELY OUT of unsponsored girls.





This is the sort of thing that makes Trish squirmy for fear someone will be offended by these statistics. If you are currently sponsoring a girl, or if you will sponsor a girl sometime in the future, THANK YOU! If you are considering sponsoring a child, whether it is your first or fifth, all we ask is that you prayerfully consider sponsoring a boy. Trust me, little boys like food, and shoes, and school supplies, too!

 - posted by Christi
 - pictures added by Trish
 - DISCLAIMER: the boys in the photos used in this post may not be the boys currently available for sponsorship!



Children currently available for sponsorship can be found at these two links:


Complete instructions, on how to sponsor a child, can be found here.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The Missions Paparazzo

For five weeks, which include the entire month of August and some change, it’s almost like the Sowers family is starring in their very own reality television show. Oh, okay, so it’s not at all like that. But they are getting to spend five weeks with videographer, Jenny Oetting, who is documenting the work they are doing with Sowers4Pastors. I got to chat with Jenny for a while and get her impressions of what it’s like to be staying with The Real Missionaries of Honduras and thought you might be interested in what she had to say.


Have Video Camera, Will Travel


This is Jenny’s second trip to Honduras. In January, at the urging of Manna4Lempira’s Kim Hall, she packed up her equipment and traveled from her home in Georgia to document the work taking place by two visiting teams. The Sowers were impressed with the videos Jenny produced and thought, “Hey! Why don’t we have Jenny come back and spend some time making movin’ pictures of all of our ministries?” (Note: I like to paraphrase. I have no proof that any member of the Sowers family has ever said, “movin’ pictures”.) It’s not that Allen, Trish, and Russell have gone publicity crazy and have a desire for their own personal paparazzo. It’s that, by having Jenny visit, they will be better able to show people where they live, what they do, and, most importantly, what the needs are for Sowers4Pastors.


Just Your Typical Atypical Week


The week I spoke to Jenny was not a typical week. Though, on second thought, it was typical in how atypical it was. All of the Sowers children (with the exception of Ben and Rachel) had been together at the ol’ home place. The day before our phone call, she watched as Trish said, “goodbye” to her offspring who live in the U.S. Allen and said offspring set off for the airport and Trish stayed behind to hold down the fort. Trish was feeling puny, with the start of what would turn out to be strep throat. Russell and his wife, Iris, were still feeling the effects of chikungunya. Of course, the Sowers don’t stop for puniness, or even mosquito-borne diseases with weird names. Russell has still been overseeing the coffee project, while Trish has been doing her regular exotic tasks like making lunch for workers, buying groceries, and a jillion other jobs.


Questions for Jenny


Not surprisingly, when I asked Jenny what has most impressed her about spending so much up close and personal time with the Sowers, she didn’t hesitate with her answer: “It’s the sacrifices they make. I’ve only been here two weeks and I’ve already seen them have to say, ‘goodbye,’ to their kids. They are selfless compared to the way I would live. They are always putting others before themselves. It’s a good reminder of how we should be living. It’s something I’m going to take home with me.”


So far, Jenny has been to MK Camp, Pastor Training School, visited feeding centers, and spent time in the coffee fields. In case you’re wondering, she was able to answer one very pressing question for me. No, the coffee fields don’t smell like coffee! Bummer.


What has been Jenny’s favorite uniquely Honduran experience? She said her favorite thing has been visiting a church, and riding in the back of a pickup truck to get there. She said someone told her the pickup experience is a lot like surfing! You have to pay close attention to the direction of the waves, er, roads! Jenny loved playing with kids at the church. She said, “The kids here… I don’t think kids in the U.S. would do this. You start playing with one and, a second later, 20 kids show up! Start with one. Then the first thing you know there’s a whole group surrounding you.”


The Takeaway


What is Jenny going to take away from this experience? To that, she replied, “My eyes have been opened to how I view everyone. Everyone is special. If you see someone in need--go for it! Don’t hesitate. Just jump in and help.”


It sounds like Jenny has already found a way to jump in and help. She said being a videographer is her dream job, but missions is what got her started in it. When she was little, her family was in contact with a missionary family in Kenya. That family would send postcards and and Jenny knew she wanted to do something to help missionaries. She’s thrilled to be there, getting to see full-time missionaries in person.


What does she want everyone to know about Sowers4Pastors? Jenny responded, “Their ministry is huge. What they do is huge. Their impact is even bigger. If you get the chance, you should come. I know not everyone will have that opportunity, but it’s good to know there is a family down here with good intentions.”


Glitz, Glamour, and Cow Manure


During the call, a brave and mighty watchdog sounded the alarm, thus protecting Trish and Jenny from a cow that came too close to the house. We had to wait for the ruckus to stop before finishing our conversation. Ah, yes, there’s so much glitz and glamour among The Real Missionaries of Honduras!

- posted by Christi

Friday, August 19, 2016

Let's Talk About Bridges!

As I sat down to brush up on the bridge building projects going on with Sowers4Pastors, I found myself taking a stroll down memory lane. Please indulge me here. Growing up, I attended a tiny, little, country church which contained limited musical talent. Very limited. Anyone with the guts and gumption to do so could stand behind a microphone and deliver the “special music”. What those sweet souls lacked in ability, they made up for in enthusiasm. One of the most frequently requested musical numbers was the Southern Gospel song, “I’m Building a Bridge,” performed by a quartet who had the ability to memorize lyrics and project to the back pew. That alone put them on par with the Gaithers as far as we were concerned!


Lyrical Bridge


I can still hear their attempts at harmony as they sang the chorus:


I’m building a bridge, across the divide.
I’m building it strong; I’m building it wide.
God gave me the plan. I’m following through.
I’ll make it somehow. Brother, how about you?


While the voices in my memories were singing about a metaphorical bridge (One that I’m sure I didn’t understand as a child who was enthralled in my Sunday morning task of coloring in all of the o’s in the bulletin.), the Sowers are involved in some very literal bridge projects.


Literal Bridges


A team of eighteen people from Lighthouse Church in Maryland will arrive in Honduras on August 27th for the purpose of building a bridge-in-a-week. Do you remember the bridge-in-a-week project Allen and Russell headed up in Haiti, in May? Yeah, well, this project is like that, except it’s in Honduras instead of Haiti. That’s great because: 1) It will seriously cut down on Allen and Russell’s travel time, and 2) It will eliminate the need to have things translated between three languages like that “I Love Lucy” episode when she inadvertently passed counterfeit money in France. Also, it’s nice anytime Sowers4Pastors gets to help serve the local communities of Western Honduras.


Allen and Russell will be laying the groundwork to get ready for the team. They will go over the plans (yet again!) and make sure they have all of the needed supplies purchased and delivered in time for the team’s arrival.


The Sowers men aren’t just involved in building one bridge across the divide! Another bridge building project is already in sight. A team from Trinity Anglican Church in Jacksonville, Florida will be traveling to Honduras in February to work on yet another bridge project. The team will be working to complete a bridge for their sister church. That’s a larger, car bridge, which will take a couple of months to build, but the team from Florida will be there for the final week of construction.These projects are crucial because they connect rural communities to the outside world.





Sowers4Pastors builds bridges with the same intensity I devote to binge watching a good show on Netflix, which, I must say, is causing me to reevaluate my metaphorical bridge building! Brother, how about you? - posted by Christi

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The final set of MK interviews

Do you know how it feels to return home from a trip you had been looking forward to taking for months and months? That’s what it feels like for the people who planned, worked at, and attended MK Camp. For those involved this is a time of basking in the memories of this most recent camp, while already looking forward to the next one. It was a pleasure to speak to a family involved in MK Retreat and MK Camp. I think you’ll enjoy hearing from the children and wife of Wes, MK Retreat’s 2016 speaker.
Skit night at MK Camp


Playing It By Ear
Joel--Age 17, turning 18


Joel’s family has been in Honduras for twelve years. Living in a particularly remote area, he has been homeschooled throughout his school career. For the first eleven years, he only saw other gringo kids twice a year--at MK Camp and at an annual conference. Did you catch that? Twice a year!


His family returns to the U.S. on average of about every 3 years. Normally, they stay for 6-8 months, when raising support. This summer, however, they will be going in for a family reunion and will only stay a few weeks.


After high school, Joel plans to attend college in the U.S. His tentative plan is to get a Bachelor of Science degree in biology, and then get a Master’s in a specialized area of biology. But, Joel already understands that plans can change and is open to do whatever God tells him to do. He said he is “willing to be a missionary and willing to not be a missionary.” Given the choice, he “would probably want my kids to experience what I have. It’s something I want to do as an adult. I’m playing it by ear--listening to God’s voice.”


Joel wants people to understand that being an MK is not just about moving. He said, “Life is really difficult. I don’t claim to have felt the worst pain. But people act like they understand. Maybe they’ve moved to a different town, but they don’t know what it’s like.”


In a poignant outpouring about what MK Retreat and MK Camp mean to him, Joel stated, “In an MK’s life, in general, there is little to no stability. No one seems to understand. There’s a lot of pain. A lot of sorrow. When I was a kid, once a year, I got to hang out with people who understood… I used to live for MK Camp every year--holding out for it. It’s really important."


Just Don’t Tell Taylor Swift!
Abigail--16 (Sister of Joel)



In 2009, Abigail and Joel’s family had to leave Honduras for a time, during a period of political unrest in their part of the country. At that time, Abigail found out how much she doesn’t understand about American culture--particularly, American pop culture. She was visiting a new friend, when the girl said, “My favorite music artist is Taylor Swift.” Abigail, proved to be the only 9-year-old American girl who didn’t know who Taylor Swift was when she responded, “I’m sorry; I don’t know who he is.”


Abigail says she will probably go to college in the states, after she graduates from homeschool. She’s thinking of studying psychology to become a counselor or a therapist. Sounding much like her brother, she then stressed, “My plan is to obey God.” Good plan, Abigail!


Returning to a theme from the last blog post, Abigail wants people to understand MK’s aren’t perfect. She said, “Our life is not always fun. Just like everybody else, we mess up. We have bad days. We struggle with God. We have our doubts. It’s not all bad, but it’s not all good, either. We have good stories and traumatic stories. It’s important to understand… When we visit the states and get involved in a youth group, everybody is like, ‘Yeah, you know this because you’re a missionary kid.’ I’m a missionary kid, but I’m also a Christian. Every Christian should know what’s in the Bible. I’m just a Christian.”


About MK Camp, (and now MK Retreat, as well), Abigail said, “Ever since I was a little kid, it has been the highlight of the year. I grew up in the middle of nowhere. We saw other missionaries twice a year. One of those times was MK Camp. It’s my favorite time of the year. We can get together with people who understand us. You don’t even have to talk about it. You just get along with each other better than you get along with anyone else. It’s amazing!”




A Mother’s Perspective
Cindy--Mother of Joel and Abigail, Wife of Wes


Water games at camp!
After hearing so much about the kids’ perspective, it was nice to get a mother’s point of view on MK Retreat. Cindy said, “It has been a lifeline to my children. It is so valuable. It is one of two events that my kids have looked forward to for their whole lives. It has also been an amazing break for us as parents. For ten years, we lived where we had no babysitting and couldn’t leave them alone. It was a blessing to us as a couple. When they were small, we used to take at least one day of camp to refresh as a couple.”


Cindy continued her thought by saying, “This time, Rachel has been asking if High School Retreat [which is actually for mature 13-year-olds and up] is really important. YES! They have so much pain inside their hearts that they feel they can’t share with anybody. They are getting to see they aren’t alone. They need time to be the recipients of all the ministry. It’s an important piece in healing their hearts and growing them as leaders. It shows them they’re not alone.”




















Lots and lots more photos (and a video) available at these links:

Official Camp Video

Photos from camp - mid week

Photos from camp - final days

Thursday, August 4, 2016

More about MKs, as they gather for CAMP


If you’ve been following along on Sowers4Pastors, you probably remember the fun I had talking to a bunch of MKs and some of their parents in phone interviews, during MK Youth Retreat. Well, I saved a little something back for MK Camp time. In case you’re confused, MK Youth Retreat is for mature 13-yr-olds and up. MK Camp is specifically geared for the younger missionary kids (though many of the older kids come too, as counselors). Rachel serves as director for both, while Allen and Russell do her bidding, and Allen assists with fundraising. It’s a good system! Especially for the MKs! MK Camp is happening this week!


Please, Don’t Eat the Dog!
Interview with Ella--Age 17


Ella was devastated when her parents announced they were going on the mission field. She was thirteen, at the time, and had grown up in the same town all her life. Upon arrival to Honduras, Ella attended a bilingual school. That meant 80% of her school day was in Spanish. It was a tall order for a young teen who didn’t speak Spanish!


She said their inability to speak the language fluidly causes frequent misunderstandings. We laughed over the story of her dad going to the grocery store for dog food. Rather than asking, “Do you have dog food?” he was asking, “Do you eat dog?” Oops!


Thus far, she has been homeschooled for high school. That’s about to change, though. Ella is moving back to the states this summer. She will live with family friends and attend school for her senior year. She’s sad to go, but feels it is the best choice for her academically, as she plans to go into medicine.


Ella has had plenty of opportunities to experience what it’s like to work in a medical mission field. She said, “One time, we were helping out with a bunch of islanders. They were asking if we had any dentistry stuff, but we were just doing general health check ups. We asked why they needed a dentistry clinic and learned it was because one of the women had a cavity and wanted toothpaste to put on it. They think toothpaste fixes cavities. Cavity? Use toothpaste! Sick? Take a vitamin. The way they view medicine is very different.”

What does Ella hope to do with a medical degree? She hopes to go into concierge medicine, which will allow for time off to travel and do third world missions.


She wants people to understand the loneliness that goes along with being an MK. She feels MK Youth Retreat and MK Camp are vital because, “You’re used to the lonely stuff and you’re with a group of people who get that. We know a lot of people who have moved on. Teams come down. You get attached to them and then they leave. We MKs understand how other MKs feel. We keep in touch with each other. It’s a lot of encouragement.”


One of the Chief Cooks and Bottle Washers
Interview with Tish (Ella’s mom)


Ella’s mom, Tish, helps out with the cooking for MK Camp and manned the kitchen alone for MK Youth Retreat. This is her third year to don an apron for the occasion. Why does she do it? Because, as a mother, she understands what the camps mean to the missionary kids. She also insists the kids are easy to please.


Tish said, “From a missionary’s perspective, it’s a very important time for my kids to connect with other kids who understand them. When they get together, they form an immediate bond. It’s a wonderful mental break for them. It’s a lot of fun. The Sowers do an amazing job with games, crafts, etc… The kids connect very deeply and keep up with each other all through the year. When your kids are doing well and have friends, you feel good."

She summed up her thoughts on MK Camp by saying, “For people in the states who don’t get why it’s important for the kids--the importance is for the kids and for their families… A lot of families don’t stay [on the mission field], and it’s often because of the kids. These camps facilitate and create a way for them to have lifelong friendships. Some of these kids are up in the mountains where trucks can’t even go. They would be more isolated without this. Isolation affects families’ ability to stay on the mission field."

Did You Hear the One About the Power Outage?
Interview with Mikayla--Age 17


Mikayla has lived in Honduras for 8 years. During that time, she and her family have lived in three different towns. She currently attends an international Christian school. Even so, there are few Americans in her school. In the past, she has attended a bilingual school, which wasn’t international.


She said that sometimes her Spanish is better than her English. The last time she was in the states, she didn’t understand the jokes and Americans didn’t understand hers. Mikayla said most of her jokes center around things like the electricity going out or running out of water. Yeah, those aren't things the typical American experiences on a regular basis!


After high school, Mikayla plans to go to the states, get a job, and go to college to study psychology. She has been profoundly inspired by Rachel. She hopes to be a camp director, herself.

She wants people to know, “Camp is my safe spot. Everyone gets me. No other Americans understand. No Hondurans understand. We [MKs] don’t have to pretend to get each other. We just do. It’s a place where everyone is accepted. It’s where I connect and help other people feel accepted."

- posted by Christi