Monday, July 14, 2014

Happy Birthday, Kathy Girton!!!

Most everyone in my world is well aware that my son, Ben, and I were kidnapped last August. It was a harrowing experience, but we both came through it alive, for which we are immensely grateful to God! We did not, however, come through it unscathed. Emotionally, both Ben and I have had a good bit of work to do this year, to put ourselves back together again, so that we can go about our lives without being overwhelmed by fear and pain . . . and we're not done with that process yet!

We've had a vast amount of prayer support, and family and friends have gone out of their way to help us through our time of healing. This post is being written to honor one individual who gave, and gave, and continues to give, in her effort to help us on our pathway back to a normal(ish), productive, joyful life.

Kathy Girton came into our lives through a mutual friend. This friend has had her own brush with crime-induced trauma, so she knew what the months following the kidnapping had in store for us, back when I still had no clue. She connected us, and Kathy and I communicated by email, in the month between the kidnapping and my scheduled trip to the US.

Kathy gave of her time to help me research counselors who could potentially work with me during my short stay in Maryland last September. My time was too short, my location too limited, and my budget too small for any of those counseling options to be a good fit, however.

Kathy offered to counsel me herself, and eventually I made the decision to meet with her during my time in the US. I wasn't especially gung-ho about the whole counseling thing, to be honest. I wasn't sure if it would be helpful at all. At the same time, good friends were advising me that it was necessary . . . some even bullying me to go (out of love, of course).  Eventually I gave in, not very graciously, with the thought that later people wouldn't be able to tell me "I told you so" if it turned out that I would encounter lingering problems from the kidnapping trauma which counseling might have averted. Yeah, 'cause I'm all mature like that, LOL.

We managed to come up with a plan that would work. Kathy's willingness to do whatever she possibly could do, to help, was apparent from the start. Though she lives and works in Cincinnati Ohio, and I was visiting Maryland, she arranged to travel half of the way eastward, while I traveled halfway westward. We met in Zanesville. She wouldn't be charging me for counseling fees - which can be in the hundreds of dollars per hour - she just asked that I cover her expenses. AND, then, by arranging for us to meet in Zanesville, she was able to stay in the home of a family member, thus managing so that all I had to cover was her fuel cost to get there!

Kathy, it turns out, is a former missionary. She worked in the Dominican Republic with her husband (now deceased) and her kids (now grown). People change when they live internationally, and they change in even more specific ways when they live as missionaries in a foreign country. There is a disconnect which is hard to explain, between missionaries and non-missionaries. It has something to do with the intentional choosing of a lifestyle which requires so much sacrifice for yourself and your family. It has something to do with getting into planes and boats and cars that appear more unsafe than safe . . . with your children at your side. It has something to do with embracing a life that you love and hate at the same time, and with living so far outside of your own ability to control things; where leaning on God becomes absolutely vital, because you can't depend on your monthly salary or your highway guard rails or your health care system or your local police . . .

Kathy understands all of this. She knows the life, knows the hardships, understands the complexity, the frustration, and the conflicting emotions that come with it on a daily basis. She's aware of the level of stress inherent in this lifestyle, because she has lived it herself. She knows that you can't tell a traumatized missionary to go ahead and be rude to people if you're unsure of their intentions. She knows you can't tell a missionary that, if someone in the road ahead looks suspiciously like a kidnapper, you should run them down rather than risk another kidnapping by stopping . . . because, the whole reason you're in that place is to love those people. Otherwise, this life is NOT worth the cost. She understands this.

Kathy is also a current missionary . . . though she works on a different mission field now. She trained to be a counselor so that she could continue to minister. She lives on donated support, just as I do. In the same way that Allen isn't paid by the people who use the bridges and schools he builds, Kathy didn't charge us for the counseling she has done with us. It's her missionary ministry . . . ministering to missionaries.

We set aside several days to meet in Zanesville. In spite of my being a rather grudging participant, I came with the attitude that, if we were going to the trouble to do this counseling thing, I'd give it a fair chance and come in with an open mind. We were together, talking pretty much all day, for two days. There was a LOT of crying involved.

At the end of the two days, the release I felt, the lessening of pent up emotion and anxiety (that I hadn't even realized I was carrying around with me), was something I could feel physically. It's hard to describe, but I knew right away that this counseling thing was something I had to keep doing, to keep from eventually exploding like a shaken up bottle of soda!

After our time meeting in person, Kathy and I met by phone, once each week. This was easier while I was still in the US. Once I returned to Honduras, Ben asked if he could talk with Kathy every week, too. So, each Wednesday morning, we'd purchase pre-paid international minutes on our phone and have our counseling sessions. Sometimes we couldn't get a line out. Sometimes we'd run out of minutes before we would run out of things to talk about. Frequently we cried all over the phone. For about six weeks, earlier this year, when the cell phones in our area were out of service, Ben and I drove to a village about a half an hour away and sat along the roadside in a spot where we could get a cell signal, so that we wouldn't miss our talks with Kathy.

In December of last year, four months after the kidnapping, Kathy came down to Honduras and stayed for a week, working with Ben in person for the first time, and spending time with me, as well. She also visited our home, and chatted with other family members. In an amazing way, she has blessed the whole family, recognizing that we were all affected by this trauma, not just Ben and myself. She was also able to get a feel for our day-to-day lives, so that she has counseled us not just about the kidnapping, but about all of the stresses of our very full life, many of which loomed larger this year, as we've felt our way through the aftermath of the trauma.

Recently, Kathy has been gradually decreasing the frequency of our talks. For the first time, during the month of June, we went an entire month without any sessions. I'm doing okay, but I will admit there were several times during the month when, based on my emotional response to something, Allen felt led to ask, "And how much longer until you talk to Kathy again?"

We owe Kathy a debt we can never repay. Happily, just as we don't expect repayment for the work we do in Honduras, Kathy isn't looking for her reward in this life, either.

Thanks for everything, Kathy . . . and Happy Birthday!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Hodge-Podge of Ministry Photos

We had to compile a collection of photos, representing significant aspects of our ministry. I figured, as long as I had them all in one place, I should post them here.

Hopefully you can figure out what each photo represents . . . 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Get to know Karen Vanesa

Karen is the second child we're highlighting from our feeding center in Tejeras Lempira. Isn't she lovely and soulful-looking? (You can read about Yovani, in a previous post, here. That post also gives some info about how our feeding center program works.)

Karen lives with her mother and three siblings. She's eleven years old, and she attends the local elementary school. There is no father in this home, and they are extremely poor. Although families with no father in the picture are not at all uncommon, this family has been somewhat ostracized in their community. Her mom works doing housework in other people's homes, on a regular schedule, so she does have a small amount of relatively reliable income.

Because Karen's family had no place to live, a member of the church which runs this feeding center is allowing them to live rent-free in a small house he owns but hasn't been using. In spite of the stigma sometimes attached to single parents in these small villages, the church reached out in love to this family. The house is in very run down condition. It only has two rooms, no electricity or water in the house, and the size of the whole house is around 20' x 15'. It is also located in a low, swampy area. They are grateful to have the use of it, though, as they own no house or land of their own. (Much of what you or I would consider to be "slum conditions" in this loaned housing is actually pretty standard for this area - dirt floors, crumbling adobe brick walls, no screens or glass in the windows, leaky roof, no utilities, no indoor bathing or cooking facilities, etc.)

Karen's future is not bright. It is likely that she will receive minimal education, and will feel hopeless about her lack of opportunities. But Karen and her family are learning about God, and his love for them, through the ministry of Pastor Orlando Rivera. They are receiving tangible gifts of love, from God, through Pastor Rivera and his congregation, and through us, with your help! Our prayer is that the love of God will transform the lives of Karen and her family, giving them an understanding of God's wonderful plan for them!

We don't offer sponsorships for individual children, but without any paperwork or funds transferred, you can pray for Karen and her family. Prayer does change things! You can also pray for Pastor Rivera and his church, as they minister to this family. And you could pray for our ministry, as we strive to help the pastors in our area get the resources that help them in their work.

If you'd be interested in donating toward the feeding center project, as a whole, here is the information you need for that:

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 Sowers Ministry - Feeding Centers" 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 - Feeding Centers" in the box requesting "additional specifics on how to use the gift."

If additional instructions or information are needed for donating, please don't hesitate to call The Foundation for Missions, at 407-796-4939or send your questions by email to

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Missionary Kids Camp - here's an update

If you missed the post about the upcoming camp for Missionary Kids in Honduras, which Rachel is organizing this year, you can find it here.

Since then, Rachel has kept busy! She and Boo created a FB page, MK Camp Honduras, and she's been recruiting campers, counselors, staff, and donors. So far she has signed up 39 campers, 13 counselors, and 18 staff members! This is already enough people that we could hold the camp today, and there are more than 2 months left until the camp. We know some families have not been able to officially sign up yet, as they're checking on schedules and such.

Additionally, worship times, themes, T-shirts, schedules, foods, and activities are all in the process of being planned. Candy for canteen sales, handkerchiefs for team colors, prizes, etc are being ordered and are traveling down in suitcases with teams between now and camp.

Now, we are still badly in need of donors to complete the funding of the camp. So far we have about $800 donated. You may recall that we have a donor offering to match all donated funds, up to $3000. That means, we are still $2200 short of getting all of the matching funds that have been offered! Obviously we still need some additional donations here.

If you'd like to help the children of missionaries enjoy a week of camp, geared specially for the needs of kids raised outside their home culture, here's how you can donate:

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 Sowers Ministry - MK CAMP" 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 - MK CAMP" 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 407-796-4939,
or send your questions by email to

Thank you so very much, from all the Honduras Missionaries and their kids!!!!!!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Feeding Centers - Meet Yovani

Twelve year old Yovani Mateo lives in the sprawling village of Tejeras. He and his four siblings regularly attend the feeding center run by Pastor Orlando Rivera, of the Iglesia Lirios de la Valle (Lilies of the Valley Church). 

Yovani's parents both live in the home, but his father has lost both of his legs in an accident, so he is unable to work. His mother picks up jobs around the village when she can; cleaning houses, washing laundry, cooking, and doing other kinds of housework. The family is desperately poor, and they have trouble getting enough food to eat on a regular basis. Yovani attends the public school in his village.

The meals at the feeding center are available twice a week, and they are enriched with a collection of vitamins and minerals specifically designed to supplement the diets of malnourished children. Hopefully this enriched food will help stave off some of the possible effects of poor nutrition - like stunted growth, skin and muscle damage, blindness, and cognitive delays. 

In addition to receiving this food, the children visiting the feeding center learn about God and His love for them. Yovani and his family now attend Sunday School and worship services at Pastor Rivera's church, as well.

Here on the blog, I tend to write about the big picture . . . that we supply and oversee more than 100 feeding centers in small remote villages throughout the mountains of western Honduras (and even a few in other locales - like the center we supply which feeds homeless children in the large and extremely dangerous city of San Pedro Sula). I haven't made a habit of highlighting the individuals who benefit from these programs, but we recognize that people need to hear that part of the story, as well.

Large sponsorship programs feed large numbers of children by creating a relationship between the donor and the individual child. While this method helps encourage donors to stay involved with the specific child or children they are helping, it is a very expensive ministry model. We've looked into setting up a similar sponsorship program for our feeding centers, but we simply don't have the resources to maintain this model. We would need to visit each feeding center frequently, take regular photos of all of the sponsored children, see that they write letters to their sponsors, get the letters translated, and mail the letters. When communications were received from sponsors, these would have to be translated and delivered. We simply do not have the ability (time or manpower) to be the intermediary for all of these relationships, and if we made the attempt to do all of this, it would require the collection of significantly more funding to run the program. 

Here's what we do, instead, with the resources we do have:

When a pastor or other individual approaches us about the need for a feeding program in their area, we help them set it up. Generally the pastor recruits volunteers from his church or community to cook the food, and a convenient location in the village is chosen for the site. This location is often the church building, or a large porch off someone's home. The pastor of the local church is the one who has the relationship with the children and their families, not us, and not the donors. He is the one who helps them, prepares the Bible lessons, teaches them, prays with them, etc. We supply the food, at no cost to the pastor, and we ask for some recordkeeping, mostly just the names and ages of the children in attendance, for accountability purposes. 

The downside to this ministry model is that the donors are not getting the opportunity to develop a relationship with the children. There are many upsides. For instance:

The local pastor understands not only the child's language (no need for a translator), but also the culture in which the child lives. He can know the family situation much more intimately than a donor from afar, and.even more fully than we can do, in spite of our having lived here for more than a decade.

The local pastor is likely to be on a similar economic level as the child and the child's family. This avoids the difficult but common scenario of the recipient seeing the donor (and their comparative wealth) as the solution to their problems. The pastor is more able to point the recipient family to dependence on God, rather than dependence on the sponsor.

The local pastor volunteers his time for this ministry, as an outreach of his church. This keeps down the direct cost of a salary, and also the additional overhead costs involved in having paid staff.

The cost to sponsor one child in a large corporate program is in the range of $35 - $40 per month. This money is used for advertising, multiple levels of salaries, all of the relationship-building activities mentioned above, in addition to actually providing food and services to the child. Our program provides similar services to the child, with the exception of the communications between a specific child and donor, for approximately 25 cents per month.

Using this model, Allen, Russell, Iris and I are facilitating the feeding of 12,000 children. For the same donation which would sponsor one child in a corporate program, a donor can ensure that an entire feeding center - more than 150 children - is funded!

As a friend of our ministry stated, "With sponsorship, there is a strong cord between you and one child; with your model there is a beautiful, multi-strand web from the donor to you to the pastors to literally thousands of children. We may not be able to see those cords as well, but our Father in Heaven surely does."

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

The final days of the bridge project, part 2

Sickness and busyness has intervened, but I'm back now, to share the rest of the story about the La Flores bridge project. LOTS of photos in this post!

If you missed it, here is the link to Part 1.

There was much to be done in the final week before the ceremony:

Street lights were installed at each end of the bridge.

The bomberos (firemen) came out to hose all of the sand, gravel, and debris off the bridge.

All of the tools, equipment, and extra supplies which had been kept on site for the project had to be picked up, packed up, and loaded onto a large truck.

The bridge was painted sky blue and white (the colors of the Honduran flag).

Completed paint job . . . this photo was taken during the opening ceremony. 

Because the new bridge was built beside the old one, and not in the exact same location, the road was moved just a bit closer to this house, and the new road level is higher. To help protect the buildings from water runoff and eroding dirt, a small retaining wall was built between the house and the road.

In spite of all the work, there was still time for some fun with the crew:

Even though Allen is feeling his age these days, the young guys still can't take him in arm wrestling!

Allen and Russell held a barbecue the final day the entire crew worked on the bridge. Although some of the guys are our regular work crew who've been with us on multiple projects, others were local to this bridge project, and became regulars just for the duration of this job. The barbecue was a sort of farewell event for the extended crew.

Part 3 . . . when I get to it . . . the Grand Opening Ceremony!