Thursday, December 6, 2018

Better Later Than Never, and other Short Stories

While Trish was traveling, it wasn’t always possible for her to post each of the blog posts I continued to churn out at what was probably an annoying rate. If something was time sensitive, it made it into the blog. If it was less time sensitive, it got mentally filed into a “deal with it later” file. Guess what time it is? It’s LATER! Trish is focusing on posting things that got missed while she was gallivanting around in a Penske truck. What does this mean to you?

It means there’s a chance that you may notice a flurry of activity from Sowers4Pastors’ blog. If you’re an email subscriber, please don’t despair. You aren’t being spammed! This is a temporary increase in activity. Promise.

Building Overdrive

Construction of the new building is in overdrive. I’m not allowed to say they are “frantically” working because that sounds negative. So, I won’t say that! I will say that they are steadily, meticulously, and carefully working on the new building at a deliberately fast pace!

The first shipping container could arrive as early as today or tomorrow. Half of the new building already has a roof. Since the building is subdivided into separate rooms, the materials in that container will be unloaded into the roofed portion of the building. The second shipping container is believed to be about a week behind. It’s like the story of The Tortoise and the Hare, except in this version the moral is, “Fast and steady gets a roof on in time!”

The Shortest of Short Stories

The coffee harvest is still going strong!

Allen’s Home, Kelsea’s Gone, and Trish Needs a Revolving Door

Allen arrived home on Dec. 4th. For those of you who have been waiting for an update, RJ did NOT get sick on the ride to and from the airport! Whew! As he explained in his best “Spanglish,” he “drank the pill and didn’t throw up”.

With Allen back, one of the things on the agenda is to regroup and have an organizational meeting. Kelsea is in Seattle until after the Christmas holidays, but Allen, Russell, and Trish will gather around the kitchen table to discuss ways to help Sowers4Pastors function with optimal efficiency and effectiveness.

Trish will be leaving on December 31st and will be gone for most of January, as she attends appointments for Nathan’s U.S. citizenship!

End of Year Giving

This is the time of year when Sowers4Pastors is under extra financial stress. The ministry has recently purchased the backpacks people so generously filled. They had the expenses of the trip to the U.S., including renting all of those Penske trucks. They purchased shoes for the children. They purchased school supplies and hygiene items to fill backpacks (whatever was needed that wasn't donated). And they paid to ship two containers. Thank you to everyone who has recently donated to Sowers4Pastors. For those of you who would like to help ease the financial burden, that would certainly be appreciated!

And - don't forget that there are still matching funds available, for donations given toward the purchase of motorcycles!

Thanks so much for your support and prayers!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Growing Pains

Growth is good. Right? Of course it is! But just because it’s good, that doesn’t mean it’s painless. Anyone who has ever experienced the angst of adolescence can attest to that! Sowers4Pastors is experiencing its own kind of growing pains. That’s good. It can also be a little angsty! (Hey! What do you know? “Angsty” is actually a word. I was expecting the red squiggle of disapproval I so often receive under words I write!)

Sowers4Pastors is at a stage in its ministry where things are happening at a fast and furious pace. They are what they have always referred to as “kitchen table missionaries”. They have no sleek headquarters filled with minions. They don’t have all of the personnel and resources a larger organization would have. They just don’t put money into that kind of thing. (Plus, good minions are so hard to find!) There are advantages and disadvantages to both types of organizations. As Sowers4Pastors is in the process of growing from small to bigger, everyone is stretched to keep up with the ministry roles.

Here’s a real life example of how those growing pains have manifested:

One of Sowers4Pastors’ child sponsors was interested in the matching funds program for church construction. He generously donated $500 knowing that amount would be doubled to allow a congregation to have a roof on their church. Awesome!

Trish shared that information with Russell and he, in turn, started construction on the new roof. Super awesome! Trish was traveling. Russell was swamped. Kelsea had family visiting, and we busy showing them the ministry.

After waiting patiently, the sponsor finally said something like, “Um, could I please see some pictures of the superduper, awesome new church I helped fund?”

Oops! Trish contacted Russell. Russell contacted Kelsea, who had, in fact, already taken pictures of the new church construction with its shiny, new roof. Kelsea located the pictures in a file with pictures from her family’s visit to Honduras. The sponsor was very gracious about the delay.

As the ministry grows, more things are required and more people are involved. Every process they need takes a little longer because they are still setting up a new system. For example: Trish is having to create a receipt for people who donate non-monetary gifts. Once a template is created, it will be a breeze. Right now, it's a big item on her to-do list.

Trish acknowledged it would be lovely if there were some sort of glorious flowchart, which would almost miraculously inform each individual sponsor or donor of everything that person needs or should know. The reality is, it would take an incredibly organized, and highly skilled minion to come up with such a system. And Sowers4Pastors remains a minion-free, kitchen table ministry. Oh, sure, they’re putting an extra leaf into the kitchen table to help accommodate the growth, but there are still limitations. Sowers4Pastors appreciates everyone’s patience, as they move forward in exciting ways!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, December 3, 2018

Thoughts on the Migrant Caravan - from our November Newsletter

The migrant caravan trying to cross the border into the U.S. is headline news. Because we live in Honduras, we’re being asked regularly for the facts: How bad are things in Honduras, really? Are these people fleeing for their lives? Are they just coming up for jobs? Is it true that they are gang members? Is this all a political stunt?

Here are a few thoughts on this topic:
  • Yes, Honduras has the reputation of being a violent and dangerous country. There are places (mostly in the cities) and activities that are best avoided, as is the case in many U.S. cities. Honduras has not recently become more dangerous than it was in the past – in fact, crime statistics have been improving significantly in Honduras in recent years.
  • Absolutely, many Hondurans go to the U.S. looking for jobs, opportunities, and a better life; unemployment is rampant here. Also, some Hondurans find themselves in situations where they feel the need to run from dangers which threaten their lives. In the migrant caravan there are certainly individuals from each of these groups.
  • Central America has a gigantic problem with gangs, and gangs take advantage of the vulnerable. It seems highly probably - almost certain - that there are gang members in the caravan, mixed in with non-gang members.
  • Millions of Hondurans dream of going to live in the U.S., but most cannot afford the cost of the trip. If someone offered them the chance to go up without paying, offering them help and support and some protection . . . well, it would be very easy to round up a large crowd of eager participants. This does appear to be how the caravan began. We don’t know who instigated this or why, however.
How can the caravan situation be resolved?

We don’t know the answer to the question of how the U.S. should deal with this migrant caravan at our border – this really is the kind of problem that our elected leaders need to resolve in the best interest of the country, as that is their job. We pray that their decisions will be both wise and merciful.

Is there anything we can do about this, as individuals, families, and churches?

The trip to the U.S. border is incredibly dangerous - migrants are regularly murdered, raped, seriously injured, or they simply disappear. Rather than encouraging Hondurans to leave their homes and make such a horrific journey, we absolutely believe that the best course of action is to help improve the lives of Hondurans inside Honduras.

As you know, we’re already working on that! While our central focus remains helping Honduran pastors reach the lost in the villages of western Honduras, through our combined ministries we are also helping to improve the lives of the people who live in those pastors’ communities. Our feeding centers and sponsorship programs, run by the local pastors as outreaches to their communities, are fighting the problems of chronic malnutrition and lack of education. Through partnerships with local governments, we are improving water systems and building bridges.

Watch this video, to learn more about how the Manna4Lempira Sponsorship Program is making a difference!

These programs are making a difference! In several of the communities where we work, the public schools are currently building additional classrooms and hiring more teachers, because the number of local children who are able to attend school is increasing so rapidly. These are children who previously were growing up without this opportunity - but now they are able to receive an education because your donations make it possible! Educating these children now will absolutely transform the future for everyone in these communities - this is a long-term, hope-giving solution!

Won’t you help us, as we work to alleviate the root problems which cause Hondurans to leave their beautiful country? We do all of this in the name and for the cause of Christ.

 - posted by Trish

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Insert Cleverness Here

In most blog posts, I try to come up with some sort of reasonably clever introductory paragraph. Today, I’ve got nothin’! That’s okay. Just think of this as a writing prompt. This is the point where the reader should come up with his or her own clever introduction. Really. Try it. Okay. Have you got it? Good. Now, here’s what Allen and Trish have been up to since the last update:

It's a photo of a Pilots for Christ meeting. Don't strain
your eyes - Allen and Trish are not in this photo, LOL
On Saturday morning, Nov 10th, they shared their ministry with a chapter of Pilots for Christ International on Merritt Island, Florida. As soon as that was over, they hopped into the car and drove five hours to Tallahassee, where they spent the night. The following morning, they spoke at Piedmont Park Alliance Church. It was an exceptionally good morning. Trish spoke about the kidnapping experience, during the Sunday school hour. Allen spoke about the ministry during the church service. Trish described it as a very welcoming church. Allen and Trish are excited about the possibility of partnering with the church in some way. As Trish said, “As exciting as it is to go to far flung places, it is fiscally responsible to have churches which are more local to one another. Adding another church in Florida would be great!”

On Sunday afternoon, Allen and Trish drove to Sarasota to get together with family. Trish’s brother was visiting that weekend, so Trish was able to spend time with her brother, her parents, and Kirstin, Gus, and Boo. (I’m pretty sure I’m supposed to be calling Gus and Boo by their given names, Christopher and Bethany, but old habits die hard!)

On Monday, Allen and Trish drove to Orlando, and Trish flew home on Tuesday morning. No one is more excited about that fact than R.J.! After catching an early morning flight, Trish was greeted by a welcoming committee at the airport. Abby had a doctor’s appointment in the city, so Russell’s whole family went to appointment, and then to pick up Nana. R.J. greeted Nana by saying (more or less as he had been taught), “Welcome back to your home!” He also got to experience the joy of riding around on the luggage cart, on top of Trish’s luggage. They enjoyed lunch at the airport food court and then drove home--which took four hours, rather than the usual three, due to road construction.

Trish was officially welcomed back to her home at around 8:00 PM. After a much needed night’s sleep, Trish woke up to find herself being “that person everyone is shooting balls at, but she’s hitting them all!” She has answered questions, written emails, looked up phone numbers, found a needed birth certificate, and squeezed in time for our phone call. Since Allen isn’t travelling with a good internet connection, he is relying on Trish to find information as he needs it. She described herself as being “on call” until Allen returns home in December.

Early on in our 8:00 AM phone call, R.J. arrived at the house. I have to wonder how long he had been waiting before Iris allowed him to pay a visit to Nana. Hey, guess what! I just realized I don’t have a clever ending either. You did such a great job in your introductory paragraph, I trust you to come up with your own ending, as well. Fantastic!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Hither and Yon, and then Hither Again

Have you ever made a mental itinerary, which included a little down time, only to discover that “down time” was going to be replaced with running hither and yon? Surely you have. It’s sort of like making plans to relax on the weekend only to discover your child’s science project is due on Monday. This is pretty much what Trish is experiencing.

The final countdown is on for Trish’s return to Honduras. Although Allen will remain in the States until the first week of December, Trish will be flying home on November 13th. Why?  Ben’s ninth grade school year is coming to an end and Trish wants to be home to spend time with him. She’s also very eager to deliver the violin to him. The thing is, that even though Allen will be available for meetings for several more weeks, churches are opting to find a time to meet with both Allen and Trish. People have a tendency to say, “Let’s schedule things before Trish leaves.” And that brings us to the “hither and yon” portion of this blogpost.

Allen and Trish have been meeting with churches who are involved with Sowers4Pastors in varying degrees. Some are fully in partnership with the ministry. Others are simply wanting to hear more as they consider becoming involved in the future. When Allen and Trish set up meetings, they always do their best to give priority to the pastors’ schedules. They don’t say, “We’ll be in Tallahassee on such and such date.” They say, “What date works for you? We’ll be there!”

That’s why they have been bouncing around the state of Florida like a couple of ping-pong balls. They’ve been spending time in Melbourne and New Smyrna Beach, which are on Florida’s east coast, as well as Tallahassee, which is in the northern part of the state, and Sarasota, which is to the west and farther south.

Here’s a sampling of what their journey has looked like: They are in Melbourne on the Tuesday and Wednesday. On Monday, they were in Sarasota. The day before that, they were in Edgewater, which is north of Melbourne. They drove to Sarasota on Sunday night, had dinner with their kids, spent the night, and headed back to Edgewater. Trish will happily sacrifice the dream of downtime for the chance to develop relationships with churches, even if it means taking a very scenic route around Florida.

Allen pointed out this is one reason it is always good when they have more than one church to visit in any location. As much as they love visiting stand-alone locations like Seattle, they are hoping to be able to work with additional churches in that area, in the future.

While Allen and Trish are running hither and yon, Russell and Kelsea are hosting a medical team in Honduras. The team is doing well-visits on children in some of the sponsorship locations. They are also doing an open clinic for the surrounding area. Well visits are a part of the sponsorship program, and they also serve as a screening process for Sowers4Pastors’ ongoing mercy medical missions. These people don’t need no stinkin’ downtime! They are the most mission driven missionaries you’ll ever meet.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

After the Hurricane

Hurricane Michael hitting the Florida panhandle
As Allen and Trish start wrapping up their latest U.S. trip, let’s give a recap of what has happened since they were driving behind Hurricane Michael.

In Edgewater, Florida, they spent time opening backpack boxes and making them full enough to not crush in shipping. There wasn’t time to repack all of the boxes, so there are additional repacking events scheduled for future Saturday mornings. Edgewater is a collection point for shipping a container of donations, and these donations include food for the feeding and sponsorship programs. Because the amount of total U.S. donations equaled too much for two shipping containers (the one from Edgewater and the other shipped from Maryland), and not enough for three containers, something was going to be left behind. Sowers4Pastors receives whole containers of food from Minnesota, so the food could be replaced, but he backpacks could not. Allen and Trish knew they could help victims of Hurricane Michael with a large donation of the food they couldn't ship.

Congregation members from Piedmont Park Alliance
Church, in Tallahassee, who helped move the food
from our rental truck into their rental truck!
After checking with the people who had donated this food, to be sure they approved of diverting some of it to hurricane victims, Allen and Trish looked around for contacts to see if there was a way the food would be useful. This wasn’t the type of food donation storm victims in the U.S. normally receive. It was the type of special formula food served at the feeding centers. Allen had a number of organizations working in the disaster area tell him they already had enough food. Then he made a connection with a pastor in Tallahassee, Florida. The pastor immediately said, “Yes! We will make good use of it!” However, at the time, he wasn’t sure what that use would be. Still, he felt God was telling him to accept the donation.

The drop-off was made and the Tallahassee pastor began making some phone calls of his own. His experience was similar to Allen’s. People said, “We have all the food we need. Maybe if you had plywood, or some building materials…” Then, he made a phone call to another ministry, which eagerly asked for all of the food!

The ministry that received the food works with low income and at-risk people in the community. While they were not in the direct path of the storm, they were on the outskirts. The food donations they normally receive had been diverted to storm victims. Also, many of the people who normally contribute to this ministry were directly impacted by the storm. The man who operates the ministry said that, on the morning he received the phone call about the available food, he had been praying about how he would continue to feed the people who depended on him! The food is being used to feed the homeless and low-income families, on the edges of the hurricane impact zone.

66 boxes of backpacks awaiting transport
in Missisippi

After they dropped off the food, Allen and Trish headed to Gulfport, Mississippi, where they picked up 66 boxes of backpacks. When they arrived, Brita, who headed up the backpack drive, checked her tally sheets and realized they had 449 backpacks. She laughed and said that if they had known they would have made one more backpack to hit a nice, round number. On Sunday morning, Trish spoke in that church about the kidnapping story. Between Sunday school and the church service, a woman approached Trish. She said she had missed the deadline, but wondered if they could take one more backpack! Yes. Yes, they could! 450! 

Hannah's family, in the rental truck with the backpacks

Next, they headed to Valparaiso, Florida. They picked up 175 more backpacks, which were a combination of backpacks for sponsored and unsponsored children. Hannah, the woman who headed up the collection in Valparaiso, did so at the encouragement of her young son and daughter. Trish said that backpack collection was unique because it was more child led.

Allen and Trish continued east and delivered this final batch of backpacks to Edgewater. In total, they have covered more than 6800 miles on their backpack collection trip. Even with a hurricane there were no major incidents to report. A check engine light in a Penske truck and a six hour delay are minor in the big scheme of things. They were able to collect backpacks from churches in Seattle, Colorado Springs, Kansas, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, one in Virginia, four in Georgia, two in Florida, and 4 in Mississippi. They were also able to speak at numerous churches and to additional individuals who are talking to their churches about partnering with Sowers4Pastors.

Stay tuned for the final backpack tally!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Russell's Life Cycle of Coffee

There’s almost something poetic about one of the busiest, most high-energy people I know growing coffee. Thinking about Russell’s life is sort of like imagining the life cycle of caffeine. Drink coffee. → Accomplish a bunch of stuff. → Harvest the coffee. → Drink more coffee. → Accomplish more stuff. You get the idea. It’s also a little like thinking about the age old question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” Except this would be, “Which came first, the coffee or the crazy-busy Russell we all know and love?”

Russell and his crew just finished harvesting the first precocious fruits of the 2018 coffee harvest season. That early harvest is sort of like nature’s trial run for things to come. It's so small the harvesters are paid by the day, rather than by the bucket of picked fruit. Russell said that this year, the baby harvest yielded around 2000 lbs. He said it wasn’t much, but, I think it sounds like a ton! (Hehehe. Get it? 2000 lbs. A ton. Hehehe. It’s punny.) With that preliminary harvest done, they now have less than three weeks until the first REAL harvest for the year.

Depulping station under construction
Building the tanks at the depulping station

The upcoming REAL harvest will hopefully yield about twice as much as last year. He was hesitant to give a prediction in pounds, but it should be big. It’s big enough to make completing a new depulping station a necessity. The depulping machine was donated last year. The station will increase efficiency. Russell described the depulping station as a place that will have big holding basins for the coffee that comes in. It will be up in the air and the fruit will be poured in through the depulper. The fruit will come out one side. There will be concrete slabs where the pulp will be dried for use as fertilizer. The beans will come out the other side. They will remain there for eighteen hours, before being heated up and washed to remove the sticky residue. Then the beans will be dried and stored, for use as, well, coffee.

Interior door being stained

Simultaneously, the work on the house is continuing. Iris’s father just brought the interior doors for the house, and the work crew started installing and staining them. And, because he didn’t have enough going on… Russell is assisting another missionary who is opening a coffee shop. Russell is helping with the construction for a couple of hours each afternoon.

Pastors at the evangelism event
It’s also the final week of Pastors Training School. Unrelated to the upcoming graduation, an event was held in the central park on the evening of Oct. 23. The pastors wanted the opportunity to see what a planned, urban evangelism event might look like. The 23rd was also the day Kelsea’s family returned home from their visit. Kelsea and Russell were busy from 4:00 AM until 11:00 PM. When I suggested that maybe his day wouldn’t be so busy on the 24th (the morning we spoke), Russell sounded slightly appalled. He politely reminded me that’s what coffee is for! Drink coffee. → Accomplish a bunch of stuff. → Etc…

 - posted by Christi