Monday, July 8, 2024

Allen's Progress Report

 In case you missed the blog posts that gave updates on how Allen was progressing after his back surgery in April, there’s a fairly good reason for that. It seems that we kinda sorta inadvertently neglected to write them. Oops! We thought we had. We meant to. Posts went out by email and were posted on Facebook. But, well, it seems that those “updates” that were just private conversations between Trish and I that were never written up and posted on the blog. Today we’re changing that. 

Heading home!!!

Allen did really well with his post surgical recovery. He was up and walking the following day. The actual healing of all of the work done on his lower spine is a much longer process. That’s what was going on during the months of May and June. 

The best thing to come from all of this is that Allen is in a lot less pain than he was before he had the surgery. He is learning how to move and sleep differently and that has caused his neck pain to move down the pain scale from “YOWZA, THAT HURTS!!!” to “Ouch, that is uncomfortable.” Or for people who use a more traditional pain scale, it has gone from intense to mild. The improvement was so dramatic that the decision was made to not go forward with the second surgery for repairs to his neck. On top of that, the surgery has helped resolve the issue of some of the nerves in his legs getting crushed. 

Even though the surgery was a success, Allen is facing the sorts of limitations that were to be expected. He doesn’t have the mobility that he used to have and he has to walk differently. The curve in his lower back doesn’t curve as much as it did prior to surgery and that causes him to kind of lean forward. When he focuses on standing straight, he is bending his knees and there is added pressure on his hips. His doctor has pointed out that the other parts of his body are going to be taking on additional stress and this could create other problems in the future. There’s a chance that a cane or walking stick may be in his future. 

Allen still deals with occasional flashes of intense pain. These are generally related to shifting movements, like getting into position in bed, or shifting in his chair while sitting in church, and they are sudden, surprising, and shout-out-loud painful! We'd appreciate your prayers about this, as we are hoping this is just a normal part of the healing process that will ease with time and additional healing, and not a problem that will grow and have to be addressed.

Allen is learning how to deal with his new normal. The bone spurs and arthritis that were the underlying issues behind his back pain were “cleaned up” in surgery. Of course, those things weren’t cured by the surgery. Few people come out of a back surgery feeling like everything has been healed. Allen is not one of those few people. 

Both Allen and Trish want to make it abundantly clear that they do view this as a success story. Trish said, “We did what we came to do. We are praising God that we were able to get through the crazy process with the healthcare system. We are thankful that we can move forward without Allen being in pain all the time.”

They are now packing to go home to Honduras in what they are thinking of as a test run. Trish asked and answered the question that is on many minds, “Can we live in Honduras? We’re going to go back and see how it goes. We’ll see if God has that in store for us or something else.”

Charlotte smiles just thinking about
meeting Nana and Grandpa!

Allen and Trish will be flying to Maryland this week. On July 14th, they will visit a supporting church there. Then on the following Sunday, they will visit a church in Ohio. Their flight to Honduras is on July 23rd. They are ready to go home and see some of their grandkids, including one they haven’t even officially met yet. 

While this has not been an easy process, there have been some good things to come from it. Having Allen and Trish in the States for so long was a good opportunity for others at Sowers4Pastors to successfully run everything. Trish shared, “In general, it’s a hard thing to hand off something you’ve built and watch others run it. We are going back as supporting players, as part of a team that has functioned well in our absence. That has been a goal for quite a few years.”

Allen and Trish want to thank everyone who has been praying for them and the ministry. Thank you to those who contributed to their unexpected expenses. They appreciate your ongoing prayers that they will be able to go back and work with the ministry on the ground. Please also continue to pray that Allen’s pain level and mobility will continue to improve. While they didn’t specifically mention this, pray for Trish as she packs up everything to move back to Honduras about eight months earlier than previously expected! 

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Checking in with the Feeding Centers

Esdras is taking this time in the middle of the year to reflect on the feeding centers–on how much they are growing and how Sowers4Pastors hopes they will continue to grow in the future. 

A goal this year for S4P was to visit each feeding center. Esdras reflected on that by saying, “Each time I have visited a feeding center, it has been an opportunity to see how God is impacting the lives of these kids.”

Usually, pastors pick up the rice themselves, sometimes driving as much as four hours. Because of this, S4P staff has to make an effort to see the feeding centers in action. Visiting each center brings home the importance of this part of the ministry. 

Esdras said, “You can see the kids growing in the Word of God. At the same time, we can see that the pastors are doing a great job.” 

S4P provides fortified rice for the centers, but the pastors often add eggs or beans to the rice. Or sometimes they use the rice in a pot of soup. The food is not only nourishing the children physically, it is a way of enticing more children to attend Sunday school.

“Some kids don’t want to go to Sunday school,” Esdras said. “It’s not attractive to them. Some kids may just come for the rice. But during the time the pastors give the rice, they are also able to share the Gospel. The kids may come for one thing but they go home with the most important thing – the Gospel! Our goal is to get more feeding centers because we consider how important the program is. This year we have added thirty centers. For the rest of the year, we are looking for more pastors who can share the love by sharing the Gospel through rice. We praise God for those pastors.”

Esdras went on to talk about the fact that it is not Sowers4Pastors’ job to run each feeding center. All the feeding centers scattered throughout the rural parts of Western Honduras, that simply wouldn’t be a possibility. S4P’s job is to empower the pastors so that the pastors can then spread the Gospel to their communities. If the pastors were not serious about that, the whole thing would fall apart. 

The goal is to add another thirty feeding centers to the program in the coming months. Esdras would like to share that Sowers4Pastors regularly prays for the people who make the feeding centers possible. 

“We are thankful for every sponsor, for every donation, for every person that God put on their heart to help with the rice. Thank you so much for making this possible,” Esdras ended.

It will be exciting to see what the second half of 2024 has in store for the feeding centers.

- posted by Christi

Monday, June 24, 2024

Praise Jesus with Song and Construction Paper!

On June 1st Sowers4Pastors held its second Sunday school teachers’ training of the year and they welcomed a group of eighty eager Sunday school teachers and pastors. The meeting fittingly began with a sermon on The Great Commission. That was followed by a time of prayer for each teacher and pastor in attendance. Alejandro described the entire meeting as taking place in “an atmosphere of joy.” 

S4P provided the Sunday school teacher in attendance with new educational materials for different age groups. They also taught the attendees some new teaching techniques, activities, and songs. And, of course, some of the songs included fun hand motions.  As Alejandro said, “The children love songs. What better way to sing than to praise the Lord!”

The ministry also provided supplies such as colored construction paper, pencils, and crayons. That may sound like a small thing, but those items are not always readily available for the Sunday school teachers of Honduras. Even if they have the budget to purchase such items, it's not always easy for them to find them in the under-stocked stores in their villages. 

As previously mentioned, there were eighty pastors and Sunday school teachers in attendance. Together, those eighty people regularly reach more than two thousand children! This work isn’t only impacting Lempira. It is safe to say that among those two thousand children are future pastors, teachers, and leaders. 

Alejandro reminds us, “They are the ones who will continue to preach the Word. We believe that we are working to help all of the country and the whole world.” 

At the end of the training, the group shared lunch together. It was a way for Sowers4Pastors to say thank you to the Sunday school teachers and pastors. S4P would also like to thank the churches and sponsors in the States that made the meeting possible. Please continue praying for S4P so that they can continue to fulfill their vision of empowering pastors.

- posted by Christi.

Wednesday, June 12, 2024

Handling the Unexpected

Brandy and Rachel’s Saturday started off like any other Saturday in a household with four young children. Everything was busy but fine, except Brandy was having a lot of nausea and pain. It's not uncommon in Honduras to catch a stomach bug, so they didn't think much of it at first - except it kept getting worse and eventually it became apparent that Brandy didn't have just a stomach bug.

They arrived at the clinic where Rachel recently delivered Charlotte and waited around for Brandy to be examined. When the doctor saw Brandy at about 12:30, he did some poking and prodding. The doctor had Brandy lie down as he applied pressure to his side. That seemed fine until the doctor removed the pressure and Brandy let out an, “Owww!” At that moment, Rachel thought to herself, “Yep. It’s his appendix.”

The surgeon was there lickety-split. In fact, everyone required for an appendectomy was already prepared for a surgery. There had been a surgery scheduled for that morning in the clinic. The operating room was prepared. The anesthesiologist was on hand. The OR nurses were there. Everyone has shown up except the patient. How providential that Brandy happened to show up just when they were all ready to operate! By 1:30, Brandy was in the operating room having his appendix removed.

As Rachel put it, “They saw Brandy and were like, ‘Oh, look! A patient!’”

Appendectomies are somewhat more common in Honduras than they are in the States. In the US, a doctor might try antibiotics first and take a wait and see approach if the appendix isn't too inflamed. In Honduras, healthcare is more limited and the dangers associated with a ruptured appendix are too great. So it’s standard practice to remove the appendix at the first sign of appendicitis. Though, generally speaking, there is not a crew on standby!

While Brandy was having surgery, Esdras was at the airport picking up a medical team. Rachel and Brandy are very grateful for the staff that has stepped up to the plate to handle three weeks of back-to-back teams. Though Rachel doesn’t normally go out with the teams, she does handle the logistics. Now, with a new baby and a recuperating husband, her plate is already quite full. 

This is the first time the other staff members have been in charge of the logistics for a medical team. There is extra protocol involved with bringing the medicines and other supplies into the country. The staff is doing all of the registration and coordinating the appointments for the team to see the sponsorship kids that have been identified as having medical concerns. It’s a lot!

And just because there wasn’t enough for Rachel to concern herself with, Michael has decided to use this time to potty train. In the long run, that is excellent news because it will be nice to only have two in diapers versus three. For now, though, it does present some new challenges. Brandy is unable to lift a child right now and with potty training, time is of the essence. Rachel may find herself nursing Charlotte and rushing Michael to the potty simultaneously. 

Charlotte says, "Thank you for praying
 for my Mommy and Daddy!"

Brandy is doing well, overall. The doctor will see him when he is three weeks post-op. For now, he is able to walk around in the house. They’ve been told that he should be able to resume some office work in a couple of weeks. Since the office is a 20-minute drive on a bumpy road, it might be better to work from home, though. They are not sure when he will be able to visit some of the sponsorship locations again. 

In positive news, Allen and Trish have been given the all-clear to return to Honduras. While they don’t have a travel date yet, they are planning for some time in July. 

Thank you for keeping everyone at Sowers4Pastors in your prayers. There hasn’t been a dull moment lately, but God is good. All the time.

- posted by Christi

Friday, June 7, 2024

Things on the Back Burners

If you’ve ever tried to prepare a big holiday meal, you understand the importance of back burners. That’s where you can put things that, while still being important to the meal, don’t require immediate attention. And obviously, they make a great analogy for how life can be sometimes when things get hectic, and some things are simmering in the background. Rachel took some time to share things that are happening in the background for her family.

Brandy is working toward getting US citizenship. And it is a long, drawn-out process requiring mountains of paperwork. Before he can get citizenship, he needs an immigrant visa. To quote Rachel, “We’re always in the process of waiting for something concerning that. The embassy in Honduras has a very long wait for visas. The current wait for tourist visas is more than 800 days out! We don’t know yet what the wait is for the type of visa Brandy needs, but prayers are appreciated.”

Speaking of citizenship… It has been about five years since Nathan gained dual citizenship. Even though Rachel is a US citizen, the process was complicated because she hasn’t lived in the States as an adult. Nathan was able to get citizenship based on Trish’s and Allen’s citizenship. When Michael was born, Rachel started working on the citizenship process for him. But she soon discovered she was pregnant with Levi, so it seemed prudent to wait until the baby was born and make both applications at the same time. When Levi was born, the same thing happened, and she found she was pregnant with Charlotte. Well, now she is very hopeful that she will be able to apply for citizenship for Michael, Levi, and Charlotte at the same time! The process involves a lot of time, money, and extra stress but it is important to make sure that each of the children has dual citizenship.

With so much else going on, you may have forgotten about Rachel and Brandy’s construction of a new house on the ministry’s property. Having a home on the property is a matter of practicality. The office is there, and Rachel is a full-time working mother of four. Even with a nanny helping with the little ones, she needs to be able to see them throughout the day. 

When Rachel and Brandy first moved to Gracias, they knew their finances would change with Brandy leaving the military. They didn’t anticipate how much their needs would increase, though! Fundraising has been sitting on the back burner even as their family grew and grew. The cost for their diapers and milk alone is sizable! Rachel estimates that they are currently going through five giant boxes of diapers a month.

The added financial needs have been a big concern to Brandy, in particular. When they found out they were expecting sweet baby Charlotte, they kept it under wraps for a few months. They hadn’t even shared the big news with family when Kirstin told Rachel that Brandy looked more stressed out than usual! After praying about it, Brandy came to the realization that if God was going to send them four kids that He was going to have to provide for them.

Please pray that all these simmering things on the back burners will continue towards their completion. We trust in God, both in the big things and the little things. We will consider all the different stressors an exercise in "casting cares." If you feel led to be an instrument of God's provision, and committing to partnering with the Sowers Reyes family, you can click on this link. Thank you for your support!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, May 23, 2024

Reverse Culture Observations from Trish

 “Reverse culture shock” is an emotional or psychological reaction that people experience when they return home after living abroad for a long time. It all sounds very dramatic, doesn’t it? Reverse culture shock! It’s also sometimes referred to as “re-entry,” which sounds even more dramatic because it sounds like what astronauts go through when they return to earth. But Trish is not a dramatic person so her reverse culture shock is, quite frankly, a tad anticlimactic. Her version might as well be called, “Reverse culture observations”

She has had many reverse culture observations while helping Allen navigate the US healthcare system and picking up his prescriptions. Another reverse culture observation involves school buses. Yep. Big yellow school buses. You see, in Central America, it is a common practice for individuals to buy retired US school buses and then set up their own bus routes. In Guatemala, people buy the buses and repaint them with elaborate paint jobs. (While Trish didn’t mention what sort of elaborate paint jobs, it’s fun to imagine vehicles painted like The Partridge Family’s bus or the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo driving along the roads of Guatemala.) Alas, the retired buses in Honduras don’t experience an Extreme Makeover, Bus Edition. They still look exactly like they did when they were carrying kids to and from school–yellow with the name of a school district written in black lettering. 

Examples of Guatemalan painted buses

If you’ve ever driven behind a school bus, you know they aren’t exactly known for their speed. The same is true of retired school buses carrying passengers in Honduras. The difference is that, in Honduras, if you’re behind a bus and it pulls over to pick up or drop off passengers, that is your moment to easily pass it. It’s expected. If you fail to pass a bus when this opportunity presents itself, the vehicles behind you are not pleased! With decades of that sort of bus protocol programming, Trish finds herself having to fight the urge to put the pedal to the medal and whizz around a school bus that stops in front of her . . . even when she is in the US. If she actually did it, that might be shocking, but since she has, so far, been able to stop herself, it’s merely a reverse culture observation.

Even though she does have to stop behind school buses, Trish is enjoying her time in the US very much. Well, aside from Allen’s back saga, she is enjoying her time. The truth is that both Allen and Trish have been overdue for some time off – especially over the past three years or so. Even though Trish is still working for the ministry, working remotely is different than being there 24/7. She’s still working on updating children's profiles and Allen is still called in on some ministry matters even while he’s recuperating from surgery. But they do have more time to focus on other things, as well.

For Trish, focusing on other things means that she is able to devote more time to working on her book about the kidnapping. She is working with a hybrid publisher, which comes with some major upsides. One of the biggest upsides is that Trish doesn’t have to worry about fitting her worlds into the publisher’s mindset. She has also been given a lot of flexibility in regard to timing. Trish’s publisher has been willing to work with her through her unexpected international move and Allen’s surgery. One thing about working with a hybrid publisher, however, is that Trish will be responsible for marketing the book. She’s learning how to do some things that are outside of her skillset – like setting up an author website and creating a dedicated Instagram account. She is squeezing all of this in when she can. 

Trish wants everyone to know that we can expect her to start posting things as an upcoming author very soon. So much of book marketing is done online, so having those who have followed her as a missionary following and sharing her social media posts will make a major impact on how much reach the book achieves.

She is keeping busy with work and some fun things, too. Trish has made some new friends. She and Allen have been enjoying the church they’ve been attending. They are currently attending online but are thinking they may be able to return to in-person services soon. Trish is also delighted to be playing her harp regularly again! She has played the harp since she was ten, but the humidity of Honduras and the lack of someone to do regular maintenance on the instrument there meant that it was necessary to leave it in the States - just one of the sacrifices made to follow their calling!

Trish’s mostly unflappable nature means that she enjoys the things she gets to enjoy and doesn’t pine about the stuff she doesn’t. So, while she would surely love to hold her newest granddaughter, she is contenting herself with lots of photos of baby Charlotte and her other grandchildren. 

As always, please continue to pray for Trish and Allen as they deal with all of the things!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, May 16, 2024

It Started with a Tiny Mosquito

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

                                                Mark 16:15, NIV

It’s no secret that Sowers4Pastors takes the instruction in Mark 16:15 very seriously by spreading the gospel throughout the villages surrounding Gracias. One side effect of getting to know people by spreading the gospel is that staff members of S4P are frequently made aware of different kinds of needs as well.

As Alejandro shared, sometimes S4P staffers learn about other ways the ministry can support the children and their families. They frequently encounter health needs. Alejandro said, “We cannot cover the medical needs of 2000 kids. That is not possible and that is not our goal. But sometimes we find things that are urgent things that are putting the kids’ education or lives at risk. When that happens, we try to find the resources to support the families.”

The first step is almost always to contact the sister church involved with the area where a significant need is found. Alejandro said, “In that way, we are able to reach out and support the kids.”

One special case that recently came up involved little Emely Rivera, a six-year-old studying in Guacutao. In this case, the need can be traced back to a tiny mosquito. Back in February, a team from Edgewater Alliance was visiting to help pass out backpacks. When Emely walked up to receive her backpack, team and staff members noticed that she had an infected wound on her face. They asked Emely’s mother about it and she said Emely had been bitten by a mosquito and then started experiencing pain and fever. The bite, which had started out like a small pimple, was growing.

Michelle and her husband Mike

Michelle, an EAC team member, is also a nurse. She checked Emely and offered to pay for Emely’s medical costs. S4P staff took Emely to the doctor where Emely was able to receive the needed medical tests. It was not a simple mosquito bite. The mosquito was carrying a type of parasite that was eating away at the flesh on Emely’s face, called leishmaniasis. Left untreated, it would have reached the cartilage in her face and started eating that, too! 

The case generated an alarm to the medical system in Lempira. Officials visited the area of Guacutao to eradicate the disease-spreading mosquitos. The act of helping one child ended up helping the entire community.

Emely’s treatment involved receiving a total of twenty-two injections but she is now doing great. The wound is closed and she is once again a healthy little girl. Thank you to Michelle and EAC for all you guys do for these communities. And, of course, as Alejandro said, “We are once again declaring that God is good!”

- posted by Christi