Friday, September 25, 2020

Ambassadors Needed! Apply Within!

We like to see a swift resolution to all problems. I blame classic television. Thirty minutes (minus time for commercials) was long enough to have Lucy Ricardo sneak her way into Ricky’s act at the Tropicana, get Beaver Cleaver out of any conceivable jam, and track down Davy Jones to sing at Marcia Brady’s junior high prom. Sadly, real-life problems don’t follow the timeline set by networks. There are no quick fixes in life, and especially not in missions. Feeding hungry children isn’t a one-time thing. Filling backpacks for a few years will not give a child a thorough education. These are ongoing concerns that can’t be resolved with some witty banter and a catchy theme song. That’s why Sowers4Pastors is asking you, their partners, to step into a new role.


Supporters of the ministry have been so generous and no one wants to continue asking the same people for additional donations each time there is a new need. That’s why Sowers4Pastors is asking you to step into a new role as ministry ambassadors. Fancy, huh?


What does an ambassador do? Serve as a promoter of the ministry. Ask new people to come alongside Sowers4Pastors and help us to empower pastors in Western Honduras and to feed the children these pastors minister to. Help the ministry find more partners, people who could be prayer warriors for the ministry, sponsor a child, donate time or resources, or some mix of the above. Maybe this means stepping out of your comfort zone a bit by asking your friends, neighbors, and church to help Honduran children in need. The ministry is always looking for more partners, but now more than ever as the team deals with the current food crisis caused by the pandemic. 


Sowers4Pastors had seen tremendous gains on childhood hunger over the years, but COVID-19 lockdowns took things back to starvation levels they hadn’t witnessed since 2006. Thanks to the help you have already given, thousands of kids are no longer starving, but many are still suffering from chronic malnutrition. And for close to six months children were getting far fewer calories than they needed. The crisis isn’t over.


Pastors who had previously said their communities were doing okay and didn’t need feeding programs came back and asked for help to feed people. The government offered help in the form of one-time gifts of food. They gave 40-50 meals worth of food for an entire family. Most families needed help for 5+ months. That amount of food wasn’t enough for one meal per day for a single person, much less feed a large family. 


Sowers4Pastors’ food costs have tripled and three times as many kids need food. As Allen said, “It’s not rocket science to figure that we are going to spend nine times as much on food this year. So, that is where we are. A lot of people who are normally generous givers haven’t been able to give right now, as they are also experiencing negative repercussions of COVID-19.”



The ministry is also still down 2000 backpacks from the amount collected last year. Sowers4Pastors is struggling to come up with funds to supplement both the backpacks and the increased demand for food. Fortunately, they listened when their accountant told them to put aside a reserve for times such as these. But that reserve is being depleted. 


Allen said, “How do we expand our U.S. horizons while our Honduran horizons are expanding? The number of pastors asking for help has gone through the roof. The number of kids we’re feeding has gone through the roof. We would hate to stop other programs because we don’t have the funding. Where do you cut? Pastors training school? Motorcycles for pastors? Church roofs?” 


The Sowers have prided themselves on being good stewards of the money entrusted to them by their financial supporters. One of the ministry’s goals is to make sure that as much of donated funds as possible actually makes it to the needs it was donated for. While some big organizations may resort to spending large chunks of change on advertising campaigns, Sowers4Pastors is always looking for ways to make a single dollar more effective in helping the people it was intended to help. Allen has always believed that responsible use of donated funds should include not spending excessive amounts of donated money on ads. But this means the ministry needs other ways to get the word out and find partners who are ready willing and able to help the ministry in one of the many roles needed. 


So please, put on your shiny new ambassador hat and help spread the word about Sowers4Pastors and the good work it does in empowering pastors to feed malnourished kids spiritually and physically. Share the ministry on social media! Talk to family and friends about the what is happening in Honduras! The ministry needs promoters and cheerleaders who will help them find more prayer warriors and supporters willing to help respond to both the ongoing problems in Honduras and the current crisis. As always, the Sowers thank you for your help, as they can’t do it alone. Only with your help, can they help make life better for these Honduran children, and empower Honduran pastors to help lead their people to a closer relationship with their Lord and Savior.




-posted by Christi.




Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Backpack Shenanigans

 “It’s time to play Blog Post Family Feud! 100 imaginary people were surveyed and the top five answers are on the board. Name shenanigans the Sowers are currently up to.” 

 “Steve, I think I’m going to say skydiving!”


“Show me skydiving!”





As usual, the crew is up to all kinds of different shenanigans. A week and a half ago, Allen arrived in Ohio to get the filling process of the next container of food in motion. He loaded all of the food packing equipment from the Maryland event into a small Penske truck. He dropped things off in Columbus and headed to the Amish communities of Apple Creek and Sugarcreek to show participating groups how to do a food-packing event. This packing event will be completed by Amish, Mennonites, and a bunch of people whose parents were Amish or Mennonite, but now attend other Bible-based churches. Supplies will be distributed between six different locations. The food will be packed, loaded onto a container, and sent to Honduras. From there, he went to join the backpack crew in Indiana. 


The backpack collection portion of the trip is going well. Russell, Kirstin, and Kelsea had already picked up 1800 backpacks when they met up with Allen in Indiana and picked up a second Penske truck. They collected donations in Indiana from Kelly S., Deb B., and Mr. and Mrs. B.


While in Indiana, the crew stopped to traverse the longest navigable underground river in the US, at Bluesprings Caverns. Not with the trucks obviously, but in boats.Try to say, “Longest navigable underground river in the US,” ten times fast. 


Besides visiting the depths of the earth, the adventurous crew decided to traverse the heavens.... Very quickly…. In a vertical direction…. Without an aircraft. In other words, the crew went skydiving. For their first time, they decided to go tandem skydiving, which is when you are strapped to the instructor. Kelsea notes that for a first timer, tandem skydiving is a good start, as she wasn’t sure she could have forced herself to jump off the plane. Being strapped to an instructor who pushes you out helps with that part!





The two Penske trucks then headed to Ohio to pick up donations from Life Community Church in Hilliard and The Branch in Sugarcreek. From there, the crew went to Pittsburgh, where Allen and Kirstin visited the family dentist, Miss Annette. While there, Allen got a cavity filled. Also while in the Pittsburgh area, the traveling missionaries collected 6000 menstrual kits from Days for Girls. Allen succinctly described that as, “a winner.” 


The total number of backpacks collected this year is still projected to be down about 2000 from last year’s total of 8000, but the news isn’t all bad. A lot of new people are trying their hand at filling backpacks this year. And some of the groups that previously said they would be unable to participate have contacted Allen to say they have enough people interested in doing it again. 


Other projects currently in motion include paperwork for shipping containers. Honduras has accepted Sowers4Pastors preliminary paperwork to do duty-free shipping on the container of food packed in Maryland. A trailer was brought in to store the boxes of food until it’s time to fill the container. 


The crew has arrived in the MD and VA area, unloaded the backpacks into the staging containers, and returned the Penskes. They are currently visiting Boo and her husband Sam in VA. They don’t have a lot of downtime this week, but they are trying to fit a little fun in between meetings and unloading boxes. 




As the first leg of the backpack trip comes to an end, the Sowers4Pastors crew wants to give a shoutout to all the different people who packed backpacks. This year has been a rough year for everyone, so the crew is extremely appreciative of anyone who helped with this project. The team also wants to especially thank anyone who coordinated, collected or stored the backpacks. Thanks everyone!!


- posted by Christi


Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Wildfires, and snow, and cacti (Oh my!)


How’s this sound for excitement: wildfires, Corona (the city, not the virus), a giant cactus photoshoot, the Grand Canyon, snow in September and pickleball? Just a couple of highlights from Russell, Kelsea and Kirstin’s trip across the U.S. collecting backpacks in the very strange year of 2020! The backpack trip is already in its third week, if you can believe it, and what a trip it has been.




Russell and Kirstin flew over on September 2nd to Washington State, where the trip commenced, and met up with Kelsea, who was staying with her family. Russell and Kirstin stayed with Kelsea’s sister, Kate, and got to spend some time with Kelsea’s parents and other siblings. During this time they stopped at Heidi C’s home in Lynwood, WA and made the first backpack pickup! They then finished packing up all the backpacks Kate had worked on and loaded them all into a Penske truck. On Sunday, they attended Kelsea’s home church for an outdoor service, then hit the road.

That afternoon they stopped and picked up backpacks from Caitie F. in La Center, WA. From Washington, the Penske truck headed into Oregon, then picked up backpacks from Kelli J. in Stayton. The crew spent the night in a hotel just north of the border with California, looking to get a good night sleep before the start of a very long Monday! They had one day to drive from there to Southern California. From hotel to hotel, it was a 17-hour trip, which included a few quick stops to pick up more backpacks from sponsors. This was the first of several very long days in a row. Don’t worry, the crew took turns driving and napping. They also drank a lot of coffee!

As they passed through California, the traveling trio met up with Naomi H. in Sacramento and Melissa P. in Morgan Hills and picked up donations and backpacks from them. Melissa was especially glad to see them, as her family had almost had to evacuate during the preceding days due to wildfires! She (jokingly?) told the crew that she wouldn’t mind having to evacuate now that the backpacks had been picked up! Then they kept driving until they arrived at their hotel at 1:30 in the morning.

After catching a few hours of sleep, they were back on the road by 7:00 AM on Tuesday, September 8th. The crew found it amusing that their next stop was a city called Corona. Seems appropriate, somehow. There they picked up the backpacks Kristin M. assembled with the help of her friends and family.

It was at this time that the wildfires really started getting bad up in Oregon and Washington. Kelli in Stayton, OR had to evacuate her house just a few days after the crew had passed through. She has been able to return since, praise God! Up near Kelsea’s family, half of Bonney Lake, a town near her sister’s house, had to evacuate. The crew was at this time supposed to be getting close to the end of the most grueling part of their trip, and was hoping to make a few stops for sightseeing now that their schedule was a little more flexible, but this was somewhat tainted by worrying about friends and family along the West coast. The crew was amazed to see how much haze and smoke the fires were generating. They were also extremely grateful that their trip was not affected by the fire - they were getting notices on their phones about evacuations in some of the areas they were driving through, but never near where they were.

As they drove through Arizona, the haze gave way to dust blowing up from the desert, as well as a few tumbleweeds on the road! The first sightseeing stop was to fulfill Kelsea’s birthday wish of taking a picture next to a giant Saguaro cactus in Quartzsite, AZ. Fortunately by then they had driven past the worst of the smoke. The truck then headed to their hotel, which was about an hour from the Grand Canyon. They got to the hotel in time for dinner for the first time since they left Washington state, so they were able to have a real, non-fast food meal. They also rearranged the boxes in the Penske, and caught up on some much-needed sleep. The next morning the crew went out to enjoy a quick look at the Grand Canyon and snap some selfies before heading out again. 




From there, they continued on to Colorado Springs by way of New Mexico. Shockingly, it started snowing that night as they passed through NM on Wednesday!! Again, the crew had reason to be grateful, as the snow never became serious enough to impede their progress or make them feel unsafe. Once in Colorado Springs the next day the crew picked up the boxes and donations Monica L. was holding for them, and got to enjoy a quick bite of pizza with her and her family. Then they continued on their way to Kansas to visit Joplin and Andrea E. and their church, The Well.

Here they got to take a break for a few days over the weekend with members of The Well, who treated the crew to quite a few fun activities. This included a trip to a pickleball court on Friday and celebrating Kelsea’s birthday with a Mexican themed fiesta on Saturday! Happy birthday Kelsea! At The Well, the crew picked up more boxes of backpacks and donations. After church on Sunday 9/13, the crew again headed out, stopping briefly to pick up backpacks in Columbus, MO from Kimberly K.

Now the crew is in Indiana. They have met up with Allen, who drove up from Maryland where he was helping with food packing events and other ministry needs. The truck is getting pretty full now, so the crew will rent a second truck as they continue on.

Russell, Kelsea and Kirstin would like to say thanks so much to everyone who has been able to donate backpacks this year. They say it has been both thrilling and humbling to see so many people putting so much time and energy into backpacks during this difficult year. They also want to thank you for praying. Kirstin says, “Thanks so much to everyone who prayed for a safe journey! We have really felt God’s protection upon us!” The crew asks that you continue to pray for their safe journey as they continue the great American Backpack Trip of 2020!




- posted by Christi

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Manna 4 Lempira Correspondence (in the Age of Covid)

 

Feeding hungry people isn’t the only aspect of Manna 4 Lempira’s mission that was complicated by COVID-19 restrictions. Child sponsors love to get letters from their sponsored children. Sponsored children love to get letters from their sponsors. But that is intensely complicated at the moment because the kids aren’t meeting in a central location. When they are not working in the fields they are in their homes. There is no way to get the word out that it’s time to write letters. There is no fast way to deliver letters from sponsors. In short, it’s kind of a logistical nightmare now, but that doesn’t mean that progress isn’t being made. Things are definitely more “Pony Express” than “Post Office,” but it’s still progress. 

In the Manna 4 Lempira locations (Mercedes, Tablon, Betania, and Quelacasque), pastors and Sunday school teachers have been putting the word out and delivering writing paper to have the children write letters. Since the pandemic began, Manna 4 Lempira has succeeded in getting letters from most of the children, but there simply isn’t a way to track down 1400 kids. When Kim finally began receiving back folders filled with letters from children, she expected to see one form letter per child. But many of the kids have written two or three letters throughout quarantine. They have not forgotten their sponsors! 

In their letters, most of the children are commenting on the emergency food they have received, stating that they were worried about food, but then the pastor came and delivered food and visited with them, and it really helped. Every child has commented about how much they miss attending church, Sunday school, or school. (Read to the end to find some excerpts from three letters from sponsored children!)

There are also letters coming in from the sponsors. Since no one is flying into the country (and the normally unreliable postal service is currently shut down), there is no way to deliver physical letters from sponsors. Because of that, Manna 4 Lempira sponsors have been asked to email their bi-monthly letters. This isn’t ideal, but let’s all take a moment to contemplate the marvel we call the world wide web. Even if you can’t send gifts and photos, sponsors are still able to tell their children that they love them and they’re praying for them. 

Each emailed letter from sponsors and each physical letter from children must be translated. This is more time consuming than you might imagine. The day before we spoke, Kim spent eight hours just getting the sponsors’ names on the letters from the children. When the teachers aren’t there to remind the children to put their sponsor’s name and their sponsorship number on the letter, it usually doesn’t get done. 

As promised, here are a few of the letters that have been received from children. These are typical of letters from any of our sponsorship centers, and it puts all of our inconveniences in perspective!



Letter 1:

I hope that you are doing well and you are healthy alongside of your family. Many thanks for the backpack that you sent to me. It is very beautiful. The things that you sent me are very beautiful. I wish you many blessings in the name of Jesus. I feel very thankful for all that you’ve sent me. I like to play with the dolls, jump rope, and I like the color of clothes that you sent me.

I wish that you have a very happy Easter. I hope you eat a lot of fish and cake.

Many thanks for all the things that you sent me. They are very beautiful. I really like the books and the letters you sent me. I love you very much.


Letter 2:

A letter of thanks for the backpack. I am thankful for the backpack that you gave me. I feel very happy with what you sent me. All the things in my backpack are very beautiful. Many thanks for all that you give me. 

Here is how I am spending the quarantine. Here it is difficult because the school is closed and we cannot receive classes. I feel sad because I can’t go to school.

Here are some of the difficult things about the quarantine. It is difficult to buy. Everything is expensive. We worry in the kitchen for food that there will be nothing to eat.

Here are some blessings from God during the quarantine. We are always receiving blessings. We are always receiving bags of food. They (meaning the pastor, the Halls, and Sowers4pastors) are giving us food to eat.

We pray for you so that God will protect you wherever you go. We pray for you.

Letter 3:

I feel so happy for the letters that you sent me. They are very beautiful for the words that you write to me. Every day I miss you so much. I love you. I tell you that I’m not going to school but I am doing the assignments that my teacher sends me. I feel very happy for all that you’ve given me. They are many blessings. I feel so proud to have a sponsor who is so beautiful like you are and who is so kind to me. May God bless you my beautiful sponsor. I love you so much. God is love.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, September 7, 2020

Manna 4 Lempira During the Age of Covid-19

 For better or worse, COVID-19 has meant a lot of free time for a lot of people. Kim Hall, with Manna 4 Lempira, is not one of those people. Kim and her husband Jonathan are busier than ever, so it was wonderful to get a chance to catch up with her today.

Kim with kids

A large part of Kim’s job with Manna has always been to stay connected to the kids and act as a liaison between sponsors and their sponsored kids. When COVID restrictions made large group meetings illegal back in March, the degree of difficulty tied to that job description increased exponentially! It went from visiting a feeding center with hundreds of children to visiting one home at a time. A few churches are now able to meet using the required biosecurity measures. One of those measures is that children can’t attend.

Sample page of
discipleship materials

With children unable to attend church, a big concern for the Manna team was providing resources for Pastors and teachers to use so that they could continue ministering to the children and their families. Kim reached out to a team of Manna sponsors who compiled a 6 week discipleship challenge for every child to complete in their homes with their families. The booklets were distributed, and they were such a success that the pastors have requested another one, which is almost ready to go!

Through it all, Kim and Jonathan have made a valiant effort to go out as much as possible. They have been putting emergency provision bags into the hands of pastors. Kim said that she can’t stress enough how important Sowers4Pastors mission of empowering pastors is. Manna 4 Lempira and Sowers4Pastors have been able to stay in touch with the pastors and Sunday school teachers who are planted in the communities. Those pastors and Sunday school teachers know when there is someone in need.

Some communities are open to visits from Kim and Jonathan, while others are more afraid of a visitor potentially spreading COVID-19 to their area. Kim and Jonathan are sensitive to the communities’ wishes. As Kim stated, “It would be horrific if we got COVID and passed it on. But if we don’t go, we won’t know what’s happening. We pray about doing the wise thing and listening to what our partners need.”

Family receiving roof repairs
Since this started, Kim has delivered thousands of bags of emergency provisions, including rice and beans. These bags have been a stop-gap for the neediest families. Often, the bags are delivered to the pastors, who in turn take them to those in need. Other times, Kim has been able to make the visits personally.

One church is particularly receptive to visits. Manna 4 Lempira has set the goal of visiting the home of every child in that program. The pastor is accompanying them. Kim said there’s nothing like getting to see their homes, meet their families, pet their dogs, and hear their needs. During one visit, they found a mother too ill to work. She and her children were living in a borrowed house with holes in the roof during the rainy season. Thanks to Manna and Sowers4Pastors, roofing supplies were delivered to the pastor who just happens to work as a roofer, and the roof was repaired.

In another visit, Kim saw a woman in her church with cancer. When the pandemic hit and public transportation was halted, the woman was unable to get to her treatment appointments. Without that visit, Kim wouldn’t have known that the woman went eight months without chemo. In the past two weeks, Kim has been able to drive the woman to multiple appointments for treatments and tests. Her cancer grew during her time without chemo and her prognosis isn’t great, but she knows she is loved and that she isn’t going through this alone.


“I feel like God is answering prayers,” Kim said. “The pastors are pointing us in the right direction about who we should visit. We wish we could get around to see everybody, but I can’t express strongly enough how thankful we are for the church partners we have.”

She continued by saying, “This ministry isn’t us. It’s putting resources in the hands of the pastors to do the ministry that is in their hearts. It’s a special thing to go alongside them. I don’t know of any more loving, hard-working people.”

 - posted by Christi

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Great News about Air Travel to Honduras!

Guess what! We have an update to this handy-dandy post concerning the reopening of the airports in Honduras. Feel free to click on the link and refresh your memory. (In case you are trying to streamline your life, here’s a CliffsNotes version of the earlier post: Honduras reopened airports, but not to visitors, so don’t pack your bags yet. This is a step in the right direction, though.) Now, are you ready for the exciting update?

If the previous news was a step in the right direction, this news is like the kind of giant step you used to take during a rousing game of “Mother, May I?” (Mother, may I board a plane to Honduras? Yes, you may!)

Non-Honduran citizens and non-residents are now entering the country. That has been forbidden since March. Even people like Kelsea, who live and work in Honduras have been finding it impossible to re-enter the country after leaving, due to limited flights. That is rapidly changing, and it means that Kelsea and Kirstin will each be catching a flight to Honduras shortly. YAY!

What does this news mean for visiting teams? Well, the government is working on making it possible for tourists and short-term mission groups to come to Honduras, and do the things they have come to do. As Trish relayed what she has heard so far, she stressed that government plans tend to be fluid rather than set in stone. So, the plans of today will likely see changes tomorrow.

This is what the plan looks like for now:

Anyone entering Honduras, regardless of citizenship or residency, must have had a negative COVID-19 test in the past three days. Test results must be presented at the gate.

Teams and tourists will be required to obtain additional paperwork to show they have permission to move about the country freely. Trish doesn’t foresee this as being a problem and she believes it is unlikely that groups of gringos will be stopped and asked to show their paperwork.

What this means for teams:

While teams will be able to get paperwork allowing them to move freely throughout the country, Hondurans are still restricted to traveling only on one specific day every ten days. Many of the Sowers4Pastors teams work with children while they are all assembled at their local school, however the schools have not reopened. At present, the ability to gather a crowd of Hondurans for any kind of ministry work is severely limited.



Shout "Hallelujah" for this big step, and please stay tuned for the next step forward!

 - posted by Christi

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Git-R-Done

In the words of comedian Larry the Cable Guy, the featured players in this backpack collection trip are ready to “Git-R-Done!” This is a phrase that became a favorite of Allen’s many years ago when a gentleman named Rev. Sparks heard Allen speak. The following week, Rev. Sparks delivered a card that contained a donation to the ministry. Allen was grateful for the donation, but the talking card it came in was also appreciated. The inside of the card had a picture of a hillbilly with a gruff voice saying, “Git-R-Done!” A few years ago, when Sowers4Pastors became its own 501c3, the team had a discussion about what to name their fledgling organization. Most of the Sowers clan feel a little weird about having their last name be part of the ministry’s name - sometimes they intentionally mispronounce the name of the ministry, saying “SOWERS” (rhymes with mowers) rather than “SOWERS” (rhymes with flowers). As they were searching for a name, Allen jokingly suggested that the ministry should be called “Git-R-Done Ministries."

This year, when Allen arrived in the U.S., he had a whole pile of paperwork to do. With Kirstin’s help, it is “gittin’ done!” Allen’s goal is to speak at a different church each Sunday. Oh, and while he’s doing this, he and Kirstin are also walking between 10 and 12 miles every morning to improve their fitness and decrease Allen’s risk factors for Covid. In the afternoons, Allen is also riding a bike for about 12 miles.

Allen and Kirstin aren’t the only ones “Gittin’-R-Done.” Russell and Kelsea, along with Kirstin, are getting ready to fly out to Seattle to begin the first leg of the backpack collection portion of the trip. Being at the designated locations at the correct times means they will be pulling 16-hour-days of truck driving. Once they hit Kansas, things will slow down a little, but they will still be in “Git-R-Done” mode. Along the way, Russell will be repacking each box they collect (as needed) in order to use every square inch of space.

Even though there are periods of time when the team will be pushing hard to “Git-R-Done,” that doesn’t mean the Sowers are all work and no play. The truck crew for the West-to-East leg of the trip (Russell, Kelsea, and Kirstin) will make a brief stop to admire the Grand Canyon during the part of the trip where they will be pushing hardest. The Stateside crew is enjoying the chance to spend some time catching up with friends of the ministry. Of course the entire ministry team, especially Allen, is always ready to jump back in and “Git-R-Done!”

All told, the backpack collection trip will involve six weeks on the road and five different rented Penske trucks. It will also include traveling through more than 30 states and a total of over 10,000 miles of driving.

Before Allen joins the convoy, he must first deliver food packing equipment from Maryland to Ohio, where a group from Amish, Mennonite, and independent church communities will pack the next container of food. Between speaking at churches, getting into tip-top shape, and preparing for the trip, Allen is also working to raise funds to ship the next container of food for the kids in Honduras. If you want to join the ministry in “Gittin’-R-Done,” you can partner with them through prayers, packing events, backpacks, and financial support. As always, Allen says “Thank you, thank you, thank you for helping us ‘Git-R-Done!’”

HERE is the link to the itinerary of the West-to-East backpack trip. If you think you should be on the list and are not, please let us know!

 - posted by Christi