Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Manna 4 Lempira - VIDEOS

This summer we have three, back-to-back-to-back weeks of Manna 4 Lempira teams! And there's plenty of work to keep them all busy. Here are videos of the work the teams did while here . . . I will add more as they are created.




Working at the Tablon sponsorship center



Working at the Betania sponsorship center

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Enjoying the Views at MK Retreat

Note: Christi wrote this last week, while the camp was happening. I (Trish) waited until now to post it, so that I would have some pictures to share. Enjoy!


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Break out the sunscreen, mosquito repellent, and marshmallows! It’s MK Teen Retreat time! This morning, Allen called from a campground about 45 minutes from Tegucigalpa, with a view he says is reminiscent of the Smoky Mountains. That wasn’t the most important view to him, though. Allen said, “Everywhere you look, there are groups of missionary kids hanging out--spending time with each other--groups of kids just enjoying their time together.”



From our vantage point, it may seem like the time has flown since last year’s MK Teen Retreat. To the young people who have looked forward to it, the year has likely seemed much longer. As Allen stressed, “Their parents decided to make the sacrifice to become missionaries, but their kids sacrifice, too. They struggle with not fitting into either culture. Even when they are able to visit North America, they are no longer truly North Americans.”

Crafts!
Of course, they aren’t Hondurans, either, which is precisely why they need a special camp to spend time with other teens in their same position. Allen pointed out, “For 50 or 51 weeks a year, they are expected to help with their parents’ ministry. They need this time.”

In case this all seems like a “rerun” from previous years, Allen reminds us, “A lot of times what you do in ministry is a recap or repeat of what you’ve done before. It’s the same old thing, but still very important.”

At least two things are different about this year’s retreat: 1) This year there are more boys than girls, and 2) Rachel is more than six months pregnant--meaning other people have needed to step up to the plate. One of those people cannot be Russell, since he is home helping Kim Hall with Manna 4 Lempira activities.


Games!

This year’s retreat features a lot of new faces.  According to Allen, about half of the people at the retreat have only been on the mission field for two years or less. He said there has been a lot of changes to their missionary community, with a lot of new people moving to Honduras.

Worship!
If you remember the posts about last year’s retreat, many of the attendees were graduating and getting ready to attend college in the U.S. One of those people, Ella, traveled from the States to lead Praise and Worship at the retreat! Her three siblings are in attendance, and her mother is doing the cooking (which Allen says is top notch, with “lots of yummy stuff”).

Crafts are a big hit, as always, particularly with the girls. Some of this year’s crafts include using metal stamps on dog tags, wood burning pictures onto disks cut from tree branches, and string art.

Games are also popular. Teens who seldom see any game other than soccer are enjoying things like capture the flag and dodgeball.

Thirty-four teens and ten staff members are at the 2017 MK Retreat, which started on Sunday the 11th and will end on Friday the 16th. Many people traveled seven or eight hours to be a part of this event, with as many as eight people arriving in one car. Please remember to pray for their safe travels as they return home and begin the countdown to NEXT year’s MK Retreat!



- posted by Christi

Monday, June 12, 2017

Prayer Mail

Recently, Trish wrote a blog post entitled “The (Almost) Lost Art of Letter Writing”, in which she talked about the letters Kim Hall has been posting on the Manna 4 Lempira Facebook Page from children waiting to be matched with sponsors through the Manna program. It seems Honduran kids love to write and receive letters.

Earlier in the month, Kim posted the sweetest of letters from a girl named Lilian, who is currently awaiting a sponsor. (Fortunately, Kim wrote an English translation of the letter, since I barely passed Spanish II in college and my translation skills are sketchy at best.)

Here’s what Kim wrote:

One of the things I know I can never repay to my sponsored children is the time they spend in prayer for me. What a gift!
I am humbled by each letter we receive, filled with prayers that are repeated each night on behalf of our family. I am often comforted in hard times by the knowledge that someone precious to the heart of God is lifting me and my family up by name!
I came across this letter from Lilian, a child waiting for a sponsor through Manna 4 Lempira, and was touched by her earnest prayer for her future sponsor. Dear one, Lilian is already praying for you, even before she knows your name!
"In the first place I thank God for having chosen people like you of a good heart. For the support you have brought to each one of us we give much thanks, from the bottom of our hearts--eternally thankful.
I ask God to guard you wherever you go and each day give you more health. May he bless your lives and home. I give thanks for sending me those lovely gifts.
May God bless you and guide your steps each day. May He clear your doubts and fill you with courage from His Spirit, and overflow blessings in your home and in your life.
May God fill today with blessings--
Lilian "

Think hard. What was the last piece of handwritten snail mail you received? What was the last piece of handwritten, uplifting snail mail, expertly decorated with butterflies and flowers, in which the author asked God to richly bless you with health and courage? Lilian has now been sponsored, but there are more children waiting for sponsorship . . . waiting and praying for you, perhaps?


For $15 a month, you can provide a child with two nutritious meals per week, school shoes, a backpack filled with school supplies, and Bible lessons. It’s an opportunity to bless and be blessed by some sweet letter writer. Think of it as Prayer Mail! More information on the Manna 4 Lempira Sponsorship program, and how you can be a part of it, is available here! - posted by Christi

Monday, June 5, 2017

Sister Churches in ACTION!

This is what happens, when people come up with an idea and, together, we run with it! 

Kim Hall had an idea: start a sponsorship program through the Sowers4Pastors ministry, which would offer the benefits of other sponsorship programs and also help fund the larger feeding program (the majority of the 14,000 children fed by Sowers4Pastors are in locations where the sponsorship program is not available).

Eric Linden had an idea: offer churches in the US a chance to sponsor, as a body, all of the children in one, specific, church-run feeding center in Honduras, setting up a "Sister Church" relationship between the two churches.
Edgewater Alliance Church team

Edgewater Alliance Church in New Smyrna Beach, FL had an idea: help their sister church with a major construction project. The sister church, in Guacutao Lempira, Honduras, had planted a daughter church in a nearby village, and that new church was in need of a building.

In May, a team from Edgewater Alliance came for a week, helped add a roof and a floor to the new church's building, and also spent several days working with children in Guacutao.  This team, with the help of translators and teachers at the school, taught Bible lessons at the public schools around Guacutao!

Maybe YOU have an idea, we could run with?????



Above is the highlights video from the Edgewater Alliance team's week. Don't be looking for Allen in this video - it was during this team's stay that Allen ended up in the hospital. 

 - posted by Trish

Thursday, June 1, 2017

The Sowers' Series of Unfortunate Events

Are you familiar with the children’s book series, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket? Lemony Snicket did not corner the market on A Series of Unfortunate Events, as you will clearly see should you choose to continue reading this epic tale of woeful circumstances, which flowed together to make for an incredibly trying time for the Sowers family. Unlike Lemony Snicket, however, this post doesn’t begin with the line, “If you are interested in stories with happy endings, you would be better off reading some other book.” Ultimately, the story of The Sowers Series of Unfortunate Events does not come to a tragic end. For that, we can all be thankful!

Normally, my posts for Allen and Trish are all about what’s going on in their ministry. This week, Trish asked me to share some more personal details. Mainly, she wants me to stress that, although some trying things have happened recently, they are pushing through!

Foreshadowing

When a visiting team arrived last week, Allen and Trish already knew there was potentially something wrong with Allen’s heart. He had a couple of tests done and was planning on returning to the doctor for additional tests and possibly treatment, after the team left.

Never a Dull Moment

Tuesday, May 23rd was a particularly crazy day. Trish was in her house when she heard the dogs barking. While she was looking out the front door, a strange man entered the backdoor. He said someone wanted to kill him, and that they were chasing him! Iris and Trish moved the distressed man out of sight until Russell was able to get there (about 45 minutes later) to contact the police and de-escalate the situation.

The hospital where the procedure was done.
While Trish’s heart was still pounding over that excitement, Allen was completing the construction project with the team - though he assures us that he was only supervising, not working physically. With the construction part of the week done, on Wednesday morning Allen and Trish headed to the hospital in San Pedro Sula, where a scheduled catheter examination morphed into a long procedure to repair numerous serious problems in Allen's arteries. (Details on the hospital events can be found here.) Trish spent Thursday trying to scrape together the money to pay for the unanticipated cost of the huge procedure. (This post gives more details on the "trying to spring Allen from the hospital" part of things.)



This is a photo from the Honduran newspaper,
La Prensa, showing Dr Somoza, who is
Allen's cardiologist.

Allen spent one night in the hospital, in an
intensive care room like this one.














Stormy Weather

On Friday, May 26th, Allen and Trish were in a hotel in San Pedro Sula, where Allen was recuperating from surgery, and Trish was recuperating from being married to a man who just had heart surgery. Russell was away from the property, driving the visiting team from Gracias to San Pedro, to catch their return flight. Even Iris and the kids were away from home for a few hours. That’s when a gigantic storm hit the property. A lightning strike damaged their solar power equipment, leaving the property without power. The storm also blew down thirty pine trees on the property. On the coffee farm, trees are incredibly important for the shade they provide, and these trees will have to be replaced quickly. Members of the work crew ran a generator until the Sowerses returned home--saving the food in the freezer and providing lights for security. Before returning from San Pedro Sula, Russell and Allen purchased several smaller power inverters, which will provide the families with minimal power, as a stop-gap.

In a week or so, another local missionary will be hosting a visiting team. That team will bring a piece of replacement equipment, which, while not as good as what the Sowerses previously had, will be better than what they can purchase in Honduras. As Trish said, “Until the end-of-the-year container arrives, we’ll be limping along with power shortages.”

One More Thing

On Saturday, May 27th, Trish received word Ben had gotten into some trouble at school, as kids tend to do. That meant she needed to stop at the school on their way home from San Pedro Sula. Trish had intended to take Allen home and then turn around and go back to the school, but the stop and overnight stay for Trish prevented her from having to travel quite so much. (Allen and Russell continued home that day - as they were urgently needed to address the solar power situation.) The good news is that Ben’s teachers say he is trying harder in school and has good participation in class. He is turning in assignments and, academically, he is moving in the right direction. He's promises to try to obey the school's rules better, too.

A Happier Ending

Trish pointed out this is not the first time A Series of Unfortunate Events has happened to them since they’ve been missionaries. Just last year, while Allen and Russell were in Haiti on a bridge project, there was a daytime robbery and an attempted nighttime robbery, followed by a damaging lightning strike, in relatively quick succession. But this was the biggest cluster of bad things so far (and that’s coming from a woman who was kidnapped with her son!). For the most part, both Allen and Trish are back on the job. Allen is being careful to not be too physically taxed, which is sort of like expecting the Energizer Bunny to take it easy. He is back to planning, making phone calls, sending emails, and overseeing construction projects.

While the Sowers did not see Allen's heart problem coming, they are profoundly grateful he experienced those small warning chest pains. Those pains kept this post from turning out full-fledged Lemony Snicket, giving it some Pollyanna undertones instead - so that this Series of Unfortunate Events has a much happier ending than it might have had.

- posted by Christi

Friday, May 19, 2017

Missions: The Long and the Short Term of It

It’s almost time for the team from Edgewater Alliance Church to head to Honduras. The team will be led by Pauli, an enthusiastic volunteer who will be staying on for three extra weeks, putting that enthusiasm to good use.


Short Term



In addition to their on-the-ground activities, the Edgewater team is also transporting shoes down to us, for distribution to kids in the sponsorship programs!


There will be eleven people in the Edgewater team. Five of those short-term missionaries will be working on a church construction project. As mentioned in a previous post, this construction project isn’t for Edgewater Alliance’s sister church. Instead, it’s for its sister church’s church plant. Hmm… I suppose that makes the church plant the offspring of Edgewater Alliance’s sister church. So, would that make it a niece to Edgewater Alliance Church? Oh, it doesn’t really matter. It’s still all in the family! The walls are already up, so the construction group will be putting on a church roof and pouring the concrete floor.


The other six team members will be doing VBS type programs with the local public schools in the area surrounding their sister church. They will also be handing out letters to the children who are sponsored by members of Edgewater Alliance. The entire group will be visiting another feeding center and learning about other ministry aspects.


Extended Stay


Congratulations on your recent
graduation, Pauli!!!!
When the rest of the team flies back to the States, Pauli’s adventures will be just beginning. Her second week in Honduras will be spent registering kindergarteners for the sponsorship program at Edgewater’s sister church. She will also be registering children for the sponsorship program of a Maryland church’s sister church. On top of that, she will be helping to finish up this year’s final Gifts for Gracias boxes.


Pauli’s third week in Honduras will find her at Pastors’ Training School, where she will be helping out in the kitchen. She will have the opportunity to lend a helping hand wherever one is needed. At the end of week three, Pauli and Allen will head to central Honduras for… drumroll, please… M.K. Retreat!


Yes, it’s almost time for M.K. Retreat, which Rachel has been hard at work planning. Since Pauli’s visit coincides with this much anticipated event, she will be part of the staff. At the conclusion of the retreat, Pauli will hightail it to the airport and make the journey back to Florida.


Missionary Internship


If all of this sounds like something that interests you, Russell wants me to assure you they are looking for more people who will commit to extended visits. Please contact the Sowers if you would like to serve beside them in Honduras for a month or longer. Or LONGER? Yep!


As the matter of fact, the Sowers are praying someone will step forward to make a two year commitment to be a sort of “assistant missionary”. This person needs to be an English speaker who can assist Russell. The family feels this may be of particular interest to a recent college graduate. Job details will include: helping to manage social media, taking care of administrative tasks, and visiting feeding centers. Due to some of the administrative duties, attention to detail when working with numbers is important. The job description would mean some time spent in office and some in the field.

The bilingual schools in Honduras do something similar by having teachers come down and teach for a year. They are paid a stipend to cover basic living expenses. That what the Sowers would like to do. As Russell said, “This is perfect for someone who is interested in missions, but isn’t ready to commit to being a full-fledged missionary - someone who wants to get their feet wet in missions work.”

- posted by Christi

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Shiny New Curriculum



What do you remember about the Sunday school classes of your childhood? I remember a lot of flannelgraph people in “Bible clothes,” singing “Deep and Wide” along with the hand motions, and coloring lots of pictures of things like Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lions’ Den. Most importantly, I remember tons of Bible stories and biblical principles, which were taught by dedicated volunteers. Today, flannelgraphs are few and far between, but the lessons they taught are just as important as ever. That’s one of the reasons the Sowers and Kim Hall are so excited about the new Sunday School curriculum, which has been procured to teach the children in the Manna 4 Lempira and sister church feeding centers. When we last spoke, Russell was about to head off to a training seminar for the indigenous volunteers who will be serving as teachers.


Really? It’s Not a Word?

While shiny new curriculum with teachers’ manuals and student booklets may be something we take for granted in North American churches, such age appropriate materials are not the norm in Central America. Fortunately, a pastor’s wife from the “big city” Russell frequently references wrote just such a curriculum. The new material even works interdenominationally (which my computer is telling me is not a real word, but which should be). My call with Russell was a quick one because he was on his way out to the training seminar at a rented retreat center on Tuesday.


Retreat!


The curriculum’s creator was on her way to instruct the teachers on how to utilize the materials. Manna 4 Lempira and sponsorship groups with enough teachers to cover each age group were going up to attend the seminar. In order to use the new curriculum, groups must have at least eight teachers, which will mean at least two teachers for each of four age groups. The seminar was scheduled to last throughout the day on May 9th and half a day on May 10th, with participants spending the night at the retreat center.



Raising Leaders


What about the groups who don’t have enough teachers to participate? Russell says they are working to raise up leaders that can be assigned as Sunday school teachers. It’s possible some of those new leaders may come in the form of youth who are ready to assume more responsibility. If everything progresses as Russell anticipates, they will have another training seminar by the end of this year.


Ripple Effect


The curriculum is intended for every age group in the sponsorship program, from two-year-olds to sixteen-year-olds. Each group will work through about three booklets before moving up to the next level.


Russell reminded me that most of the Sunday school teachers have 3rd-6th grade educations and have never been exposed to materials like this. Previously, lessons were taught using nothing but the Bible and possibly a storybook. We talked about how this sort of fundamental information will benefit the teachers’ lives, as well as the children’s.


video



Thank you to Kim Hall for her tremendous investment in the lives of these children, as the director of Manna 4 Lempira. Thanks also to the people who have stepped up to help pay for the materials. None of us know what sort of ripple effect this sort of training will have throughout the lives of children, families, and communities of Western Honduras.

- posted by Christi

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Not the Amazing Headless Chicken Family

It’s time for a Sowers’ Schedule post, but this one has a twist. It has a theme! The theme is Delegating. Sometimes we read about the Sowers’ busy lives and wonder how in the world one family can accomplish so much. They are not running around the mountainsides of Western Honduras like chickens with their heads cut off - they know how and when to delegate!


Not the Only Oars in the Water


There are always a certain number of overlapping activities. There is always the Bible book store, but the primary responsibility for the daily operations falls on another missionary family who runs the store out of their house. Once in awhile, the Sowers purchase more materials for the store, but it’s not a daily thing. Of course, the feeding program continues in the background, with the pastors doing most of the actual work - preparing the meals, giving the Bible lessons, etc. The same goes for the coffee farm. Although Russell is actively involved with the coffee farm, he has a crackerjack team of men who do much of the work independently and check in with him as needed. Pastors’ Training School is going on, but Allen and Russell’s roles are more administrative. They don’t have to be there every day, with Melvin (Russell's brother-in-law) on site to handle things as they come up.


When it Rains, Pour the Fertilizer


The rains are starting and that means changes to the farm activities. The crew will start fertilizing this week. They will also begin a nursery of plants that will go into the ground at a later time.

So, what are Allen and Russell doing?


Open Wide




Allen and Russell were out with a dental team from Pittsburgh all last week. This group mainly did tooth extractions and fillings. Trish pointed out that when medical teams visit, they are limited by the tools and medicines they have available. Dentists are able to relieve tremendous pain simply by performing extractions and fillings.


Feeding the Sheep


Sunday School curriculum has been selected and purchased for pastors to use in the Manna 4 Lempira and sister church feeding centers that are ready to start this program.(Due to staffing issues and lack of classroom space, some of the feeding centers can't divide the kids by grade level.) The curriculum was created in Honduras and the woman who wrote it will be visiting the area on Tuesday and Wednesday. They are going to have a seminar for the teachers who will be teaching in four locations.


Preparing for a Team


The construction crew will be welding trusses and setting them in place for a church roof project. This is prep work for a team from Edgewater Alliance Church, which is arriving on May 20th. Although Edgewater Alliance has a sister church, this construction project is not for that church; rather, it’s for a church plant that grew out of the sister church. The team will split into two parts with two separate crews, while in Honduras. One team will work on a new church roof and floor. The other team will have VBS type programs in schools. Such programs fulfill requirements for religious training in Honduran public schools and are welcomed by school administrators.


Bridge Work Continues




Before the Edgewater team arrives, a crew will be trying to finish the concrete work for a bridge project. They also still have to do the cables and put on the wooden deck - but they probably won't be able to get back to that until July.


The Gifts that Keep Giving to Gracias


Do you remember when the Allen, Trish, and Russell thought they were finished with Gifts for Gracias for the year? Surprise! A large denomination came forward with a late list of fifty pastors’ names. What’s a missionary family to do? That’s right! They’ll be opening up the supplies, creating fifty boxes of gifts, and storing the remainder until next year.

- posted by Christi

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Many Seasons of Western Honduras

To everything there is a season, and this is Church Construction season in Western Honduras! As Allen explained it, this is the time of year when Sowers4Pastors receives a flood of about twenty-five requests from pastors seeking help in building a new church. In Honduras, these are referred to these requests as “solicitudes."


Why is this Church Construction season? Thank you for asking! One reason is that Coffee Harvest season recently ended. That means many people have a little extra cash right about now. Extra Cash season also happens to coincide with the dry season needed to build an adobe church and not have it turn into mush. (Allen might have worded that a little differently, but I’m almost positive that when he said, “begin to erode,” he really meant, “turn into mush”.)

Sowers4Pastors doesn’t provide the materials for the entire construction, but are in the roofing business. When dealing with exterior walls with the tendency to erode or become mush when wet, people get in a whale of hurry to put a roof on said walls.


Of the twenty-five “solicitudes” for new roofs, Sowers4Pastors approve about twelve per year. As always, they analyze each situation to ensure that this is the best use of available funds. The Sowers ask questions like:

  • Does this church body own the land on which they are seeking to build?
  • Have they outgrown other local meeting places or might they continue worshiping in another venue for a while longer?
  • Is this a healthy, vibrant church, which is seeking to grow the Kingdom?

Unfortunately, even when they have asked the tough questions, Sowers4Pastors is limited by their funding. If the work of building churches interests you and you wish to get involved, consider making a donation to the cause. If you ask me, it’s beginning to look like, “Support Growing Churches in Western Honduras” season around here!

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If you'd like to help, donations for church construction can be donated by specifying "Sowers Ministries - church construction," when using the instructions found at the "To Donate" button at this top of this page. For more information on how Sowers4Pastors helps with church construction, click this link.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

- posted by Christi

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The (Almost) Lost Art of Letter Writing

I've lived outside the U.S. for over 16 years now, so I try to be careful when I make comparisons between Honduras and the U.S., because I don't really know my home country all that well anymore. When it came to my perception that Honduran kids are way more enthusiastic about writing letters than people in the U.S. would expect them to be, I wasn't entirely sure that I was correct. I asked around, though, and mostly the responses I received were what I'd anticipated - that letter writing is mostly a "lost art" in the United States.

Letter writing is NOT a lost art in Honduras, however!

Kim Hall, the director of our sponsorship program, has been posting, on Facebook, some of the letters she's received from children in the program recently. These particular letters were from children who had not been matched up with sponsors at the time of posting - though now most of them have found sponsors, thanks to Kim's hard work in translating and sharing the letters!

The way the Manna 4 Lempira sponsorship program works, we register all of the children in a particular feeding center, and they all start to receive the material benefits of the program immediately - even before we have sponsors for them. Now, to a person who isn't into writing letters, this sounds like a great deal for the children - but here's the rub. These Honduran kids apparently LOVE to send and receive letters! The kids who don't have sponsors are writing and sending in letters anyway, and they feel very sad that they don't have anyone writing back to them!

Over the next few weeks, I'm going to share a few of Kim's FB posts about these letters here on the blog. These particular children are now sponsored, but Kim Hall tells me that we have 111 children registered in the program who are currently waiting for sponsors! If you'd like to be a part of this exciting new program, check out this link, for all the info you need to know!

Kim writes:
It is a great joy to learn--through letters, photos, and visits--the personalities of the young people that God has entrusted to this ministry. They are all uniquely beautiful and engaging--truly precious in our Father's sight! 
Bubbly, 13 year old Riccy has a sweet and sassy smile. She is always wearing girly accessories! Her letters are chatty and she includes fun details about her life and her interests. The rose, the happy face, and the glittery pen she used to decorate her letter made me smile when I saw them! My favorite detail she shared is that soon she will be baptized! 
I look forward to seeing Riccy blossom as she connects with her first sponsor! Please consider starting a conversation with this sweet and expressive young girl who has been waiting to find a sponsor since October.

Remember - while Riccy has already been matched with a sponsor (who will, hopefully, become a friend and regular correspondent for Riccy), there are still more than 100 other children waiting to find sponsors to read their letters and respond to them! Let's revive the (almost) lost art of letter writing!!!!

 - posted by Trish