Tuesday, December 20, 2016

What if . . .

What if you could remove the worms and parasites from a malnourished child, for 2 cents?

What if you could feed a malnourished child 100 meals for $2? (2 cents per meal)

What if you could sponsor a child, providing them with school supplies, school shoes, 2 highly nutritious meals per week, and Sunday school materials, for $15 per month?

What if you could put a roof on a new church building, that will seat 200 people, for $800?

What if you could help a pastor, who is walking from village to village (60 miles each week) planting churches, to get a motorcycle, for $1000? Or help him purchase a horse for $500?

The fact is that you can do all of these things, and more, in partnership with Sowers4pastors and the pastors of western Honduras. 

What if . . . . . . . ?

As you contemplate your end-of-the year giving, please consider partnering with us! This link tells you how to donate. Thanks so much, and Merry Christmas!

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."
Matthew 25:40

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

No Fairy Godmother

Whenever Allen or Trish make it back to the States, they receive some most excellent questions about how their sponsorship program impacts the children, their families, and their pastors. This has come up so often that we figured we should address this in its very own blog post.

Walk the Walk

People are often surprised to learn some children walk miles through the mountains in order to get to feeding centers. Let’s face it, in our society, if we ever expected our young children to hike across rugged terrain for a meal, we could expect the authorities to pay us a little home visit! The Sowers understand your concern, but here’s the deal: Honduras is not the United States. Their cultural norms are not our cultural norms. That doesn’t mean one way of life is wrong and the other is right. It merely means they are different ways of life.

In Honduras, it is absolutely expected that a child may walk miles to school, church, etc… The parents aren’t being neglectful. It’s just how things are. The fact that parents send their kiddos off to feeding centers does not indicate they are so desperate for food that they will risk the safety of their children. It means, hey, it’s a mountainous region of Honduras. If you want to get somewhere, you should probably start walking because mommy doesn’t have a minivan.

Parents take necessary precautions. It is normal for children to travel in groups, with the older ones keeping an eye on the younger ones. Some pastors even operate their feeding centers on Sundays to save the children one trip each week. And, as absolutely foreign as that sounds to us, my father told similar stories about his childhood.

What? I Don’t Get Three Wishes?

The next thing people want to know is whether the sponsorship program sets up a fairy godmother sort of situation. They wonder if it alters relationships between children, their families, and pastors.

Trish addressed this with me by saying, “We are only moving letters back and forth three or four times a year. Any gifts the kids receive with those letters are usually limited to what can fit in a small Ziplock baggie. These kids are not being continually showered with gifts and it’s not a matter of some kids being picked out above others. A child receiving some good things and a few letters does not come between the kids and parents.”

A Matter of Pride?

Finally (for the purposes of this post, anyway!), people want to know if the parents of sponsored children find it hurtful to see someone else doing things for their child. Trish assured me the parents react the same way we might if our child received a big scholarship. I don’t know about you, but I’d be thrilled for my children to receive scholarships.

For a parent who cannot afford to send a child to school because of the cost of a backpack, school supplies, and shoes, this is the absolute equivalent of a scholarship. The parents feel great gratitude and joy.

Allen, the numbers man, wants me to reiterate that the cost of a backpack and school supplies in Honduras would be around $70. The cost for the exact same items (or frequently items of higher quality) is $30. That’s not counting the expense of shoes. Plus, many families are dealing with multiple children. In a country where a family’s annual income might be $1000, it’s easy to see how the backpacks and school supplies could mean the difference between a child receiving an education or not receiving one.

Get involved!

If you're interested in being a part of helping these children, in remote villages of western Honduras, here are a few ways you can help, with links to additional information:
  • Donate to the general feeding ministry, in which 14,000 children are currently being fed, at a cost of 2 cents per meal

 - posted by Christi

Friday, December 9, 2016

Where the Rubber Meets the Road

It’s time! Hey, it’s time! Do you remember the excitement you felt when you woke up on Christmas morning, as a child? That’s sort of how I feel right now. These are the moments we’ve all been waiting for: It’s backpack distribution time!

And Now a Word to Our Sponsors!

On December 3rd, Russell and Allen were at Camelote Campuca to hand out backpacks to 55 kids who have been sponsored by the good people of their sister church, Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Maryland. The children registered for the program back in October, but not every eligible child was able to make it that day (it’s coffee harvesting season, and many children were off picking coffee). So, word was spread to tell the other children to show up on distribution day, too. An additional 25 children were registered and received backpacks. How could they go ahead and receive backpacks without official sponsors? Thank you for asking!

Fredericktowne Baptist Church congregation was so enthusiastic about sponsoring children they have a waiting list of sponsors! The children were quickly entered into the system so the information could be sent to Kim Hall, in the states, and she created sponsorship packets for each of these children. This Sunday, FBC will put those additional children up on their sponsorship wall during the church service for members to sponsor. Because Russell knew there were people ready to step up, he was able to provide each child with their very own backpack filled with school supplies.

Shoes, personalized gifts, and letters to the children at Camelote Campuca from their sponsors at FBC are expected to arrive in February. They’re currently being collected in Maryland, and will be delivered when the container arrives.

These Halls are Not for Decking

Tomorrow, Kim and Jonathon Hall of Manna 4 Lempira are arriving in Honduras with their family. On Sunday, the Sowers will take the Halls to visit Pastor Alfredo’s church at the Betania feeding center. There, they will distribute almost 200 backpacks, pairs of shoes, and letters to the children at that location.

Then, on Monday and Tuesday, they are meeting with five separate groups in El Tablon, where they will work with Pastor Omar. The children there will be receiving their backpacks, which were personalized by their sponsors, and came down earlier in the container which was shipped from Florida in November.

Wednesday and Thursday will find the group at the Mercedes center with Pastor Israel and Pastor German. 330 children will be receiving their personalized backpacks and letters, through Manna 4 Lempira!

An exhausted Hall family will be driven to the airport on the 16th. Allen and Russell will forge on, heading to Las Crucitas the next day, to give the children there the backpacks from their sister church, Trinity Anglican Church in Jacksonville, Florida.

Kicking off the New Year

Things don’t slow down in January! On January 7th, a team from Edgewater Alliance Church in Edgewater, Florida is flying in. On January 8th, 9th, and 10th, the Sowers will take the team out to distribute backpacks, shoes, letters and to perform medical well visits for four different groups with their sister church at Guacutao. Pastors Lorenzo and Antonio will be on hand for that.

Worth the Wait

For some of you who packed school supplies back in August, you’ve been waiting a long time for this. But, hey, good things come to those who wait and backpack distribution is a very good thing! Allen would like to remind you that it costs Sowers 4 Pastors about $20 to assemble a stocked backpack in the States. For a parent in Honduras, the same supplies and pack could easily cost them $70! Allen is able to purchase shoes for $15 in the States, which would cost around $60 in Honduras.

So, to all who contributed in any way... Thank you!!!! Your backpacks, sponsorships, shoes, etc... are making a profound difference in the lives of these children. These programs help encourage kids to receive an education and also bring kids into the church, where they can hear the Gospel message. And, as Allen reminded me, "This is why we do this."

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Heaven on Wheels

Not an actual pastor - we discourage our pastors
from doing stunts 😉
The mountains of Western Honduras are now home to fourteen more indigenous pastor driven motorcycles! These “Heaven on Wheels” pastors represent seven different denomination from eight different departments (like small U.S. states).

Let’s Get this Project Rolling

This process started in June, when the Sowers got word of a funding opportunity for this ministry. The Sowers would like to say thank you to the Christian Motorcyclist Association, Missionary Ventures, Foundation for Missions, and Edgewater Alliance Church for their part in making this happen.

Pastors are selected based on who walks the greatest distance, who works the most hours, and who serves the most churches. It’s not unusual for a single pastor to have several churches and walk fifty or more miles per week. There was no shortage of candidates. As Russell said, “We could help hundreds of pastors who meet these requirements, but the limiting factor is the funding from the states.”

This year, in fact, they knew there was a possibility of getting funding for about ten new motorcycles through the Christian Motorcyclist Association. (The CMA ended up funding nine.) Yet, they had fourteen amazing candidates. So, of course, they did what Sowers do and took a leap of faith. Surprise! Then Allen sent out a plea to a friend at Edgewater Alliance Church, who helped present a proposal to their missions board to apply for the other five motorcycles.

Have Box Truck, Will Travel

Russell gave me the rundown on how they obtain the motorcycles. Once the funding is obtained, Russell contacts Honda and places an order. When the order is ready, he rents a large box truck and drives about five hours to the big city to pick up the motorcycles, helmets, and necessary paperwork. Then he makes the return trip with his precious cargo. Once he has them home, he tests each set of wheels to make sure they’re good to go. Then he calls the ecstatic new owners to come get their hard earned motorcycles.

A Lesson in Sweat Equity

Yes, I said, “hard earned motorcycles.” You might be thinking the motorcycles are given to pastors as an act of charity. You might be thinking wrong! I knew the pastors were expected to come up with a portion of the funding, in what Allen likes to refer to as sweat equity. I knew the bikes only go to those pastors who have demonstrated they are serious about their desire to own and maintain a motorcycle. As we’ve discussed before, it does no good to give a motorcycle to a pastor who can’t afford to keep it running. What I didn’t remember is how very much sweat equity is involved.

Each pastor pays 40% of the price of a motorcycle. That’s $640 toward the purchase of a $1640 motorcycle! Given their annual income, that is nothing short of amazing! By operating under the sweat equity guidelines, Sowers4Pastors is able to help more pastors receive much needed transportation. Instead of eight motorcycles, they provided fourteen, for the same amount of donated money. (Okay, there was a fraction involved there, but we’re rounding up!)

Allen pointed out that most missionaries who receive the motorcycle money pay for the full amount, with no investment on the part of the pastors. There have been instances of those pastors selling their motorcycles, rather than using them in ministry. But, for the pastors who have sacrificed so greatly, specifically in order to receive a motorcycle, their new wheels are a highly valued possession. It’s the difference between a child who is given a new bike and one who had to rake leaves and mow lawns in order to purchase a bike. That's a pastor who really wants, and will use, a motorcycle!

Not all pastors see a motorcycle as being worth this investment. Some would rather take their money and use it toward something like a sound system for their church, and that’s fine. But, for the pastors who choose to make this investment, they are able to expand their ministry area and be more efficient in their use of time.

In case you've paid attention to the ongoing tally: Sowers4Pastors has now distributed 180 motorcycles and 70 horses or mules for pastors, in total!

- posted by Christi

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Fruits of their Labors

Remember when we told you we had a videographer staying with us, to make videos of our ministry to share with others? (It's okay if you've forgotten. You can go and read that post now, HERE.)

Today I'm excited to share with you a bit of what Jenny Oetting is creating, from all the material she shot during her month in Honduras. This video documents a particular team who came down to do a Bridge-in-a-Week project.

I think you'll be impressed with what the team accomplished - and what Jenny has accomplished here, too! Please comment and let us know what you think!

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

The (Coffee) Fields are Ripe for Harvest

Whew! It has been a while since we’ve “talked” and much has happened. Allen and Trish are home from the U.S. now. Russell, Iris, and R.J. have moved onto the ol’ homestead. And R.J. has learned he’s close enough to yell for Nana and Gampa to get him from his front porch. This post, however, is about The Great Sowers’ Coffee Harvest of 2016!

Harvesting coffee!
For someone who doesn’t even drink coffee and has never seen it growing, I have to tell you, I am ridiculously excited about this! If you’ve been paying attention, you know this is the very first coffee harvest for Sowers4Pastors. If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s that growing coffee isn’t for people who must have immediate gratification. This harvest has been more than two years in the making.

Just under 9 acres of coffee plants, which went in the ground more than two years ago, are being harvested in three separate harvests. Harvest numero uno has been completed! (Don’t let my obvious mastery of Spanish intimidate you!) Harvest numero two will happen in a month. And, number tres will be one month after that.

The most spectacular news is that the first harvest has greatly exceeded Russell and Allen’s wildest expectations. And you know how wild their expectations can be! Having done his coffee homework, Russell was hoping they would be able to harvest 2000 lbs total, this year. Um, yeah. The first of three harvests has yielded about 3000 pounds of dried coffee. The second harvest will be BIGGER and the third will be about the same size as the first. Expectations have been adjusted and Russell now anticipates a total harvest of 10,000 pounds.

Harvesting coffee

Here’s what a coffee harvest looks like for Russell:

  • The coffee cherries are picked.
  • Russell has 36 hours to get the fruit to a machine that de-pulps it.
  • The machine removes the cherry and leaves only the bean, losing about ⅔ of the total weight.
  • The fruit de-pulper is about 3 miles away from the coffee farm and Russell has been hauling it in the evenings.
  • Once it’s de-pulped, there is a gummy substance on the outside of the bean. The beans are soaked in a washbasin overnight. The next morning, they are washed and the gummy stuff falls off.
  • This year, they are using tarps to dry the coffee in the sun. Eventually, Russell would like to have concrete slabs for this purpose.
  • Once it’s dry, it’s ready to be sold to a middleman, who will possibly do more processing himself, add Russell’s harvest to that of other growers, and then sell the whole shebang to an exporter.

Since this year’s harvest has been so big, Russell is hoping to be able to reinvest some of the earnings to purchase a de-pulper. That will allow them to de-pulp on their own property. It will save time and money. Plus, it will mean they can keep the pulp to use as, what Russell assures me, is the world’s best organic fertilizer. He says if they put the coffee cherries back in the ground, it’s like Miracle Grow! This, of course, will save bookoodles of money on fertilizer.

Removing the fruit, to get to the seed (coffee bean) inside

In his modest way, Russell said, “All of the hard work and investment is starting to pay off. We’ll be putting the money back in the farm. It’s becoming self-sustaining faster than anticipated.”

This link takes you to a video of the de-pulping process, narrated by Russell: https://www.facebook.com/russell.sowers.1/videos/688880694614980/

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Missionary Adventures: The Travels of Allen and Trish

If you’ve been following along at all, you know Allen and Trish are currently in the U.S. And, of course, excitement seems to follow them where’er they go, as Trish wrote about in this post. There are a few things she didn’t mention, though.

The Best Laid Plans of Mice and Missionaries

When the Sowers were planning their time in Florida, they completely neglected to factor in Hurricane Matthew. Even so, they had a wonderful time at Edgewater Alliance Church. Kim Hall was on hand for the church’s Kickoff Sunday in the Sister Church Program. Sponsors were able to be paired with the children whose lives they will impact.

Edgewater Alliance Church was hit by Hurricane Matthew. While it wasn’t as bad as it might have been, please remember them in your prayers as they deal with the aftermath.

This past week, the Sowers were at Lighthouse Church in Maryland. It was like old home week since, if you’ll recall, a team from Lighthouse Church was recently in Honduras to build a bridge in a week. They did it in five days!

November 6th will find Allen and Trish at Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Maryland for their Sister Church Kickoff Sunday. Kim and Jonathan Hall are flying in for the event. When I spoke to Pastor Tim in September, he was eager for other people to catch the vision of Sowers4Pastors. His congregation agrees with him and they will be pairing children with sponsors. Fredericktowne Baptist is also knee-deep in school supplies and backpacks, as they work to fill a container which should ship from Maryland within a couple of months. It was a thrill for Allen and Trish to see the volunteers packing backpacks for children in Western Honduras. Trish was especially touched by the reminder of how much time and effort people take to get supplies to them. Of course, she already knew that, but it was special for her to see it firsthand, since she normally doesn't get to come to the U.S. on these trips.

What else is in store for the Sowers this visit? Just as much as they can squeeze in by November 22nd, when they are set to return home! In case you miss him this go-round, Allen is set to return to the States toward the end of February.

On the Road Again (and Again)

We in the U.S. can expect to see a lot more of Allen and Trish in the future. How much more? Well, they’re still trying to determine that, but it seems most likely that they will be spending up to four months a year in the U.S. It’s not exactly a changing of the guards, but they are starting to separate out duties with Russell a bit more as they set up a new routine.

The wonderful news is that Russell has been training for this for most of his life. He’s a Sowers! He knows what to do when it comes to the day-to-day operations of Sowers4Pastors work in Honduras.

Don’t think for one minute that Allen and Trish are retiring or stepping away from their work in Honduras. They aren’t! They’re merely shifting things around. They still plan on spending the vast majority of their time working in Honduras. With most of their children grown, Ben away at school, and Russell at the helm, they have the opportunity to shake things up a little, though. Allen and Trish's work will involve finding more partners to help, as the ministry in Honduras continues to grow.

These wild and crazy missionaries are even contemplating purchasing a trailer to live in while they are stateside! A trailer would allow them the mobility they need to make their treks to various parts of the country. As profoundly grateful as Allen and Trish are to everyone who opens up their homes to them, it would be nice to be able to permanently check “find housing while traveling” off their to-do list! It would also allow them freedom from living out of suitcases. If this is something that interests you, please know there is a chance the Sowers will be looking at raising partnerships to make this dream a reality.

Stay tuned for more missionary adventures!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Planes, hurricanes, and tropical diseases

Wow - this blog has certainly been quiet, recently! I am here now, however, prepared to offer explanations/excuses.

Back at the end of September, with my departure date (for my trip to the US) unexpectedly moved forward, I was rushing to prepare, and then it was time to travel! Though you can get from Gracias to San Pedro Sula in three hours and you can fly from San Pedro Sula to Orlando in about that same amount of time . . . for various reasons my travel day started at 4:30am, and ended at midnight! I was one tired missionary at the end of that day!

Immediately upon my arrival in Florida the concerns regarding a hit from Hurricane Matthew began reaching a high intensity. Coincidence? Some may think otherwise  . . . hmmmmmm? We decided we'd better make some preparations, and we hunkered down while the storm approached and passed on to the north.

We were staying in Orlando, where things weren't likely to get very bad, though there was still some risk. Because the storm track shifted to the east, Orlando was spared any significant problems. However, we had intended to spend time with friends and supporters over on the east coast of Florida, and those folks, while praising God that the situation wasn't worse, still had a significant amount of damage and mess to clean up. It wasn't a good time for them to visit with us, so . . .

We packed up on the spur of the moment, traveled all the way across Florida to the other coast, and spent a few days mixing delight with frustration, as we visited with my parents and two of our kids, and also prepared and filed our taxes. Yuck! (In case you're wondering about the timing - US citizens living internationally get an automatic filing extension.)

None of this left much time for working on the blog!

This past Saturday, the 15th, we scheduled a return trip back across Florida - leaving the Gulf Coast early, traveling to Lakeland, where we met up with friends of the ministry who'd collected a pallet-load of spiral-bound notebooks for us, caravanned with them to Winter Springs, to pick up toothbrushes, toothpaste, and blankets donated by other friends, and continued on to New Smyrna Beach. There we added these items to the rest of the donations which had previously been collected, to ship to Honduras. That was a big day; we were already feeling the pressure to make the most of the remainder of our available days in Florida. But then . . .

Sunday night I became very sick - a recurrence of an illness I've had multiple times over the past few years. The high fevers and chills usually abate within about a week, so we decided to lie low for a few days while Allen nursed me and continued working on ministry arrangements, involving dozens of phone calls. (We believe the recurrent illness is a form of malaria - not anything contagious by contact. No one else in my family ever gets it, just lucky me. I'll try to get a blood test done, and meds to kill whatever-it-is for good, the next time I'm sick with this while in Honduras. It's hard and expensive to get it done in the US.)

Today (Thursday), as Allen travels to Gainesville Florida to pick up additional boxes (for the feeding centers) to ship in the container, I am finally feeling much better - enough so that I'm even writing a blog post!

I won't guarantee that the blog won't go quiet again - we're keeping busy, and we'll spend a part of this next week loading a container, and another part driving from Florida to Maryland - but I am hopeful that there will be no more incidents involving huge named storms or strange tropical diseases to disrupt things! Please pray with us that this will be the case!

- posted by Trish

Monday, October 3, 2016

The Benefits of Indigenous Pastors - part two

Part one can be found here. 

When we left off, Allen was enlightening us with his thoughts on indigenous pastors and the best ways to reach the unreached people in the remote villages of Honduras. In doing this, he made some necessary comparisons between North American missionaries and indigenous pastors.

Here are a few more of those thoughts:

North American Missionaries Are Better Educated.

This is true. The average missionary arrives from North America with a college degree, and, most likely, a seminary degree. The indigenous pastors of Honduras are most definitely not as well educated. Of course, neither are the congregations. Allen is a proponent of providing training and education for the indigenous pastors. As he said, “It is NOT okay for indigenous pastors to have faulty theology. So we teach them.” Maybe we don’t need extra baggage to minister to people with a 3rd grade education.

Everything doesn’t have to be complicated. Allen points out that he is seeing a shift among many U.S. churches, as well. He’s seeing churches that are returning to the basics. There’s a trend to not get bogged down over whether someone is a premillennialist, postmillennialist, or amillennialist. As Allen put it so simply, “God loves us. Do we love Him? Do we love our neighbor?”

Utilizing Indigenous Pastors Is Economical.

It is standard practice for a North American missionary to raise support for living expenses. By the time you figure in things such as insurance and a retirement plan, it is expected for a gringo missionary to require $3,000-$5,000 per month in support. That’s not to imply they are living an extravagant lifestyle, but let’s compare that to indigenous pastors.

It is customary, in the mountain villages, for each pastor’s congregation to provide him with a stipend. $5 per month is typical. Just as the apostle Paul earned his own way through tent making, these pastors work in local fields to provide for their families.
While many well-known charities pay their indigenous pastors, teachers, and feeding center cooks, Sowers4Pastors does not hire and pay the people who work in their feeding centers. Allen compared paying the teachers and cooks to a U.S. church paying its Sunday school teachers. They work because they want to help their community.

Let’s Look at Success Rates.

Pastor Omar preaching, playing, and delighting
his congregation!
Did you know that when foreign missionaries plant new churches, there is only about a 50% success rate? In a church plant in the mountains of Honduras, it is unrealistic to think a foreign missionary pastor will be there indefinitely . . . and when a missionary leaves, for whatever reason--furlough, illness, to raise support, etc…--the newly planted churches tend to fall apart.

On the other hand, the success rate of churches started by indigenous pastors is much higher than 50%. Even when that pastor moves on, the odds of long-term success are much great than for churches started by a gringo. With an indigenous pastor, the congregation has a sense of ownership. It is their church rather than the gringo missionary’s church.

Ministering to the Needs

When an indigenous person goes to a gringo for counseling, there is a tendency for the person in need to begin seeing the pastor as their source of help - a “little god.” Allen feels that may be because the gringo is often more highly educated and better funded. At any rate, he is often placed at an elevated status.

When an indigenous person approaches an indigenous pastor with a problem, the pastor is seen as “one of their own,” resulting in less hero worship. The person in need can more clearly see that their hope is in Christ.


As mentioned in a previous post, Allen is not criticizing the work done by North American missionaries. He is one, after all! He would simply like for people to consider the best way to reach the most people with the resources available.