Thursday, November 10, 2022

Shipping Containers and Hurricanes

 It’s time to talk about shipping containers. And hurricanes and tropical storms. And how hurricanes and tropical storms affect shipping containers. There’s a lot to talk about right now. 

The biggest news is that Florida is being hit by Hurricane Nicole. This comes about a month after Florida met Nicole’s angry relative, Hurricane Ian. 

The empty shipping container was supposed to arrive in Florida on Thursday. On Saturday, the boxes in the Florida storage container are supposed to be moved onto the shipping container. As of Wednesday morning, the arrival of the shipping container is being delayed by one day. Please pray that it doesn’t get delayed beyond that. Also, please pray that there will be enough manpower to move the heavy boxes from the storage container and onto the shipping container. Edited to add: the shipper had to change us over from having the container all weekend - so we could take our time loading it - to having just a two hour window to load (with $200 in extra charges for every hour after that). Please pray we are able to get this changed back!

Here’s the thing: Sowers4Pastors understands that people who've been hit by a hurricane have bigger things on their minds than the S4P shipping container. The timing stinks! But loading the shipping container is still a job that has to be done if children in Honduras are to receive their backpacks in time to begin a new school year. Similar circumstances were at play when Allen arrived in a rental truck filled with boxes that had to be moved into the storage container. People were dealing with cleanup from Hurricane Ian. Allen was grateful for both the help he received and for the fact that he was able to help with some cleanup efforts.

Oh, and to make matters more interesting, the Maryland shipping container is also expected to have a run-in with Nicole. By the time she gets to Maryland, she should be a tropical storm instead of a hurricane. 

2021 loading in Florida

Sowers4Pastors has been involved with the shipping of containers for many years now. And, as Allen pointed out, “Every container seem a bit more difficult than the one before it. There is an onslaught of red tape that we have been receiving to get a container through customs.” He also explained, “We started this whole process almost an entire month earlier than usual this year.”

Trish jumped in with the reminder that there’s a limit to how early they can start the paperwork. If they file it too early, it could expire before the containers arrive. It’s a bit like an intricate dance. Timing is everything.

Allen mentioned that even some visiting team members have had difficulty clearing customs with donation items they’ve brought in their suitcases. Allen also spoke of the gentleman in Ohio whose organization donates food to Sowers4Pastors. That organization ships food all over the world and he has reported that the cost of shipping to Honduras is 2nd only to shipments going to Haiti, in this hemisphere. Sowers4Pastors and anyone else trying to get a container into Honduras is forced to pay government fees. They are being charged extra by shipping companies because the shippers know there’s a good chance their containers will be tied up in customs. 

“We are asking people to pray that we don’t get hit with any undue delays,” Allen said. “We’re also getting ready to start working on shipping two containers of food in the not-so-distant future.”

As you pray for everyone in the path of Hurricane Nicole, please remember to pray for the backpacks. Those backpacks are really so much more than meets the eye. Each backpack represents the opportunity for one child to attend school. Sowers4Pastors needs to have the backpacks in hand before teams start arriving in the middle of January in order to distribute them. The sorting process takes a while, so it would be phenomenal if S4P had the contents from the shipping containers before Christmas. 

 - posted by Christi

Monday, November 7, 2022

Matching Funds Update!

Calling all of you numbers/math people out there! This post is for you. And in case you’re not a numbers/math person, it’s also for you. But you’ll want to make some mental adjustments. If you don’t like numbers, please replace each number with something you do like. Like puppies. Or unicorns. It doesn’t really matter what you choose as a number replacement as long it doesn’t make you break out in a cold sweat. Ready? Okay, let’s talk about the matching funds update. 


Sowers4Pastors received a large number of applications for motorcycles. After sorting through those applications, they accepted 24. That means that the ministry’s expense will be $24,000. (That’s a lot of puppies or unicorns for you non-math people.) Fortunately, some generous donors have agreed to match any number up to $12,000. At the time of this writing, $5,000 has been donated. But remember that the $5,000 is already being matched. To make things very simple, Sowers4Pastors needs an additional $7,000 in donations. That $7,000 will be matched, bringing the total up to the needed $24,000 (or 24,000 puppies or unicorns).

Church Roofs:

More than thirty applications were received for new church roofs. Sowers4Pastors has accepted twenty of those. The total ministry expense will be $40,000. Since generous donors have also agreed to match funds donated to build this batch of church roofs, the ministry only needs to collect $20,000 through other donations earmarked for this cause. So far, Sowers4Pastors has received $7,000 in donations. With matching funds, that’s $14,000. The ministry needs an additional $13,000 for church roofs. With the amount of already committed matching funds, that will bring the total to $40,000. That’s very doable! 

So let’s talk about why these donations are important. Allen likes to remind people that a donation of 14 cents toward a motorcycle saves a pastor 14 miles of walking. Now, what about those church roofs? Well, when a church moves into a church building, there is a consistent increase in the number of attendees. People no longer have to crowd into houses or stand outside of doorways to hear a Bible lesson. The matching funds have already been committed and Sowers4Pastors doesn’t want to leave a dime sitting on the table. There has never been a better time to stretch your donation dollars!

One last thing - the team at Sowers4Pastors wants to say THANK YOU to everyone who has already donated toward these projects! 

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, November 2, 2022

Backpack Trip 2022 is a Wrap!

 By the time this is posted, Allen will be back in Honduras, having successfully completed the 2022 backpack trip. At the risk of sounding like something from a PBS pledge drive, it couldn’t have happened without supporters like you! And it couldn’t have happened without God being in the details. 

Back in 2020, Allen and Trish thought the backpack trip might not happen. And they certainly thought that if it did happen, there was a chance it wouldn’t be successful. It happened and it was successful. People found creative ways to fill backpacks and left their boxes at the ends of driveways for contact-free collection. 

In 2021, there were some fairly big supply chain issues. People struggled to find the materials needed to fill backpacks. People joined forces to find the necessary supplies. 

This year, there’s inflation to deal with. People are having to make hard choices when it comes to spending. While Trish didn’t have the final numbers from this year’s collection trip, she did have this to say, “I’ve been amazed at how often I’m hearing about groups and individuals who’ve filled more backpacks than last year! Summit Christian Academy in Virginia packed more than ever before. Many churches did more. Many individuals did more. It’s exciting to see people’s commitment to the project.”

Trish continued that thought by saying, “We need that kind of commitment. In the current economy, many Hondurans are going to find it much harder to send their kids to school. Many parents will ask themselves, ‘Do I need my child to work, instead of going to school?’ That’s a question a lot of families already have to ask on a yearly basis.”

It’s a little counterintuitive to consider that this isn’t necessarily an issue that hits the poorest families the hardest. The very poor in the areas surrounding Gracias are already living off the land. Yes, it will be harder for them to purchase things like medicine and other items from stores. But the lower middle class families may actually be feeling greater effects. They aren’t living off the land. They have been working in towns and living with already tight budgets. Their budgets have no wiggle room for price increases of necessities like food and fuel. Trish wonders if Sowers4Pastors will receive more requests for help from communities that previously didn’t need assistance. It is likely to happen. Sowers4Pastors is committed to stepping up and doing its best to help those in need.

While Allen was away, the new staff members were being trained. This will be their first year to help organize and deliver backpacks. That’s a good reminder to ask you to please pray about the timing of the arrival of shipping containers. It is an annual concern that the backpacks won’t come by the time the first backpack distribution team arrives. This year, Sowers4Pastors pushed the process to start earlier than usual since the shipping process is generally taking a bit longer than in the past. Some of this has to do with the 2021 presidential election in Honduras. Whenever the country changes parties, some of the rules change. Sowers4Pastors is dealing with a lot of things beyond its control. Join everyone at S4P in praying that the timing will come together and that everyone involved will remain flexible if the timing shifts a bit. 

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Matching Funds Alert!

This week, Allen took a break from replacing drywall in homes damaged by Hurricane Ian in Florida to excitedly talk with me about the fact that there are people willing to match donations given toward motorcycles and church roofs. You’re probably very familiar with both of those ministries, but let’s look at them in new ways.

Motorcycles for Pastors

Pastors of individual churches aren’t the only ones putting motorcycles to good use. Denominational supervisors have also been using motorcycles to travel around and encourage their pastors. Without a motorcycle, a supervisor might visit each pastor twice a year. But supervisors who receive motorcycles are able to visit each of their pastors monthly or more! They are able to offer encouragement and that encouragement is resulting in significant growth! The pastors are going out and planting more churches. 

For years, Allen has said that each motorcycle provided to a pastor leads to an average of one church plant. But the reality is that most of the motorcycles the ministry has helped to provide are still on the road. Most of the motorcycles remain operational for a decade. Since they are still being used, the actual benefit could be much higher than one church plant per motorcycle. 

With the current matching funds drive, your donation of $500 can help provide a pastor with a motorcycle. That comes to a penny a mile over the vehicle’s projected life expectancy. Or, as Allen so aptly put it, “You can save a pastor from walking 14 miles a day for just 14 cents. We as North Americans tend to forget what that means to someone.” You could actually plant more than one church in Honduras for a donation of $500!

Church Roofs

This year, there were well over 30 applicants requesting a new church roof. From that number, twenty were chosen. Five have been completed and there are 15 more to go. Even with the rising cost of building materials, each roof is still a bargain. With the matching funds, your donation of $1000 can complete an average sized church roof. The average church seats 250 people, which means that you can put a roof over each head for only $4!

A couple of very large churches were among those selected this year. These churches will be able to seat 500 people.

The video below explains more about how we handle church roofs.

The Bottom Line

Due to financial restraints, S4P is not able to take on each request for a motorcycle or a church roof. There are many worthy applicants, but the resources are limited. Allen said, “Out of the people who approach us for help, we probably turn down 80%. We tell the pastors not to be discouraged. They can apply again in the future.”

An additional $16K is needed to complete the current church roofs. The motorcycle ministry needs an additional $10K. If you are able to donate to one of these ministries and feel it is what God wants you to do with the resources He has provided to you, this is the time to do it. With each dollar being matched, there’s no better time to donate. If you can’t send money, please pray that Sowers4Pastors will receive the funds needed. Please know how much everyone at S4P appreciates your prayers!

- posted by Christi

Friday, October 14, 2022

Offering Praises after Hurricane Julia

 It was a sketchy internet sort of day for Trish as she attempted to share her thoughts about this week’s blog post. But sketchy internet is something that is very much preferable to the things that didn’t happen over the past few days. As you probably know, Honduras was bracing for a possible full-on hit by a hurricane/tropical storm. Today, let’s all pause (like Trish’s internet connection) and thank God for His protection and mercy. 

This time last week, weather forecasts looked ominous. A day or so later, the forecasts looked downright alarming. The possibility of a hurricane is particularly terrifying for the people who lived through Hurricane Mitch in 1998. Mitch was so big and so powerful that it is still impossible to have an accurate record of fatalities. It is known that more than 10,000 people were lost as whole villages slid into rivers and were washed away during Mitch. 

Trish said, “People here have a very healthy realization of the danger that hurricanes possess. They go on with their lives, but people who lived through Mitch will never forget. In the event of a hurricane, they know what might happen.”

One image that has made the rounds in newspapers and on social media in Honduras shows a group of people that went out onto a vehicle bridge over a river in San Pedro Sula and got down on their knees to pray for God’s protection. 

Hurricane/Tropical Storm Julia was predicted to touch every single part of Honduras–moving east to west across the country. But the track of the storm changed, and Honduras was not hit as hard as it might have been. 

“I hate that when the track of the storm changed that meant that other people were hit hard. Nicaragua and El Salvador were hit harder because of the change of the storm’s path. We don’t rejoice in that. But we are thankful that things weren’t as bad in Honduras as they might have been. We had days when the rivers on the mountaintops were filled to capacity. There was an expectation that there would be more flooding in the lowlands - and that happened much less than expected,” Trish explained.

Honduras was not untouched. One river did go over its banks on Tuesday and one area in the lowlands had to be rapidly evacuated. Roads and bridges are damaged all over the place. Many crops were destroyed. And the regular rains from rainy season aren't over yet! Trish shared that an afternoon thunderstorm rolled through at her place yesterday that - for a short time - brought more ferocious weather than anything she experienced during the actual tropical storm.

Trish reflected, “While we're feeling a lot of gratitude and relief, there is also still a lot of damage. People will have to go back to their homes and clean up. Some will have to rebuild. And there's significant damage to the infrastructure of the country. It’s also important to remember that there’s no FEMA money. There is no homeowner’s insurance. There won’t be people coming from other states to help put things back together. But even though most of the people had so little to begin with, they are actively praising God.”

Please join Sowers4Pastors in offering praise. Also, remember to pray for those who were affected by the recent storms. 

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, October 6, 2022

The Tropical Weather Blob - A MAJOR Prayer Request

 In preparation for this blog post, Trish wondered, "What should we talk about today?" Then she waited for inspiration. Trish knew there was one thing she didn’t want to talk about. She didn’t want to talk about the weather! How could we talk about the impact the rains are having on Honduras when so much of the U.S. is still reeling from Hurricane Ian? No, we definitely shouldn’t talk about the weather. Anything but that! So, Trish spoke to Allen about possible topics. "What should we talk about today?"

"The weather!" he replied. "Talk about the weather and the impact flooding and excessive rain are having on Honduras." Okay. Trish chuckled to herself because that really is the most pressing topic. She describes it as a “slow motion hurricane without the wind.” The result is still devastating even if there isn’t a single BIG weather event. 

For the past few days, the weather in Honduras has been a little dryer and people were hopeful that the country has been through the worst of the flooding, mud slides, washed out bridges, damaged roads, etc. But there is another storm system that looks like it will be hitting Honduras next week. It’s too soon to know what to expect. Hurricane? Tropical storm? As Trish said, “We don’t know, but the forecast shows there is a tropical blob of weather heading our way.” And that is why Trish should really have her own show on the Weather Channel. Because a lot more people would care about meteorology if we could talk about tropical blobs of weather.

Why is this blob - that may or may not develop into a storm - such a concern? Because Honduras is in a very vulnerable state right now, as was mentioned in this previous blog post

(Trish is editing this to add: Since speaking with Christi yesterday, the blob of weather has been developing. It is now expected to hit land as a category one hurricane and continue through Honduras as a major tropical storm.)

Here are some reasons that Honduras is so vulnerable right now, and why we are asking for prayers:

Washed out dirt road

  • Many of the homes are made from dried mud. When dried mud gets saturated, it just becomes mud again. Plus, homes in western Honduras are often built into the hillsides, because there is so little flat land up in the mountains. People scoop enough earth out of a hillside to make a flat spot to build upon. When heavy rains come, the area surrounding the homes can slide down. One family in the Mercedes sponsorship program recently woke up to find their home filled with mud. They lost everything they owned. The family is rebuilding their home and donations were collected to help them replace some of the basics, like clothing and school supplies. Stories of destroyed homes are regularly in the news around Gracias right now!

  • The Honduran infrastructure is fragile and limited. There aren't many roads, and the ones that exist often aren't well built or well maintained. Both dirt and paved roads are experiencing severe damage this year.  Water projects are also taking a hit. The parts of the system that collect the water from the river are battered by the strength of the flood waters until they break. When a part breaks, it can’t be repaired until the flood water subsides.  

Newspaper report about serious damage to major roads in the country

This bridge accesses villages in one of our sponsorship programs!

  • Much of Honduras' economy is agricultural. In the northern part of the country, a lot of fruit is grown for export – especially pineapples and bananas. That is a lowland coastal area that is always the first to flood. Large areas of homes have been lost in that region. In the area around Gracias, a lot of subsistence food is grown – things like corn and beans. And, of course, there’s the coffee. While gardens tend to like water, there is a limit to how much they can take. The plants especially don't like when they are washed down the mountainside by mudslides!

Flooded homes in a flatter part of Honduras.
The massive rains we are getting in the mountains flow down to these areas.

When there is a single, catastrophic weather event, people rush to send help and money. Since the situation in Honduras has been gradual, over the course of several months, the situation really hasn't created much interest outside of the people who are affected. Please remember Honduras in your prayers – particularly as the upcoming tropical weather blob approaches!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Special News Report: Hurricane Ian

 Everyone with Sowers4Pastors was watching the path of Ian even before it was posing an imminent threat to Florida. At that time, it was a tropical storm heading west, right on the latitude of Honduras. That is a common hurricane pathway when they’re first beginning. The storm was predicted to turn north, and it did.

The concern for the people in Western Honduras was that the area is already waterlogged. Or, as Trish so aptly put it, “We’re completely flooded and up to our gills right now!” 

Trish explained the situation further by saying, “Any interaction with the hurricane would have dumped more water on us. Fortunately, we were spared. It turned north, as it was projected to do. We caught tiny pieces of the edges of the hurricane. Essentially, we’re in the same, somewhat dangerous position as before - but at least we're no worse off.”

As you undoubtedly know, the northern turn means that Hurricane Ian is headed toward Florida. Trish’s father is in Sarasota where Ian has approached with sustained winds of 155mph. As of this morning, Trish believes her father’s home has lost power. Christopher and Audrey also live in Sarasota, but they left town to attend a wedding. Then they weren’t able to return home due to airport closures. That means they aren’t there to check on Trish’s dad. Ian is nearing Category 5. The official word is that it is time to “hunker down.” Trish’s sister and niece live on the east side of Florida. That area is facing tornadoes and heavy rain. 

Many people have asked how this is affecting backpack collections. The backpacks that have been mailed are on the east coast of Florida. They are vulnerable due to an elevated risk of tornadoes and flooding. There are still a few individuals on the west side of Florida who are in possession of backpacks to donate. Some boxes of backpacks are in a truck moving from Maryland to Florida. The truck is currently in Virginia. There is the possibility that Allen will be driving south as the storm moves north. The Maryland backpacks (including those collected on the first leg of the trip) are safely stored ther.

This is around the fourth time a hurricane has affected a backpack collection trip. 

Because flooding and Ian weren’t enough to deal with, two earthquakes occurred in Western Honduras on Sunday. The epicenter was near San Pedro Sula, a three-hour drive from Gracias. Each quake was about a 5 on the Richter scale. Trish felt them in Gracias. However, her children who were in a warehouse store in San Pedro Sula didn’t feel a thing! The earthquakes are being blamed for three houses collapsing in Lempira. The collapses were likely the result of the combined effects of earthquakes and saturated soil. 

Please continue to pray for the safety of everyone affected by Hurricane Ian. Add to that, prayers for the backpacks. And, while Honduras was spared the brunt of the storm, please pray that rains will subside and the ground will have a chance to dry out. It is interesting to note that tropical storms are a greater threat than hurricanes in Honduras since most damage from the area occurs from rain, not wind. 

 - posted by Christi