Thursday, November 30, 2023

Training for Church Leaders AND Honduran French Toast!

“Empowering pastors” is at the core of everything Sowers4Pastors does and it is not a once-and-done thing. There’s not some list with checkmarks beside the names of pastors to indicate, “Okay, we’ve empowered that person. Next!” It’s sort of the way we don’t get to exercise and eat right just once and call it good! Empowering pastors is an ongoing process and it’s why the recent Sunday School training was so vital. 

Last Saturday was the 3rd and final training in a series of three. Pastors and church leaders from the twenty-three different communities involved with S4P gathered together for what was, in fact, an empowering time. The first two sessions had focused on how to structure Sunday school classes and taught some techniques to get the most out of the new Sunday school materials provided by S4P. The third session was all about giving a word of encouragement to the church leaders.

Alejandro shared why offering encouragement was such a powerful way to wrap up this Sunday school training. He said, “We know that when you take the responsibility to be a church leader or a pastor, it isn’t easy. They face struggles in their lives every day. We thought we needed to offer something different.”

The session started out with the attendees connecting through worship. Then it moved into a powerful time of preaching. Alexandro feels that the sermon was exactly what the Lord intended people to hear. Initially, a different local pastor had been invited to offer a sermon to the group. That pastor had to decline because of a previous obligation. So a different local pastor was contacted. He didn’t give word that he would be there until two days before the session. He asked Alejandro what sort of message they were needing. Alejandro suggested that he preach about staying strong or something similar.

The pastor preached about all of the struggles people in the ministry face. Alejandra said, “It was amazing. In the preaching, the Holy Spirit gave new encouragement to continue the work. People were crying [because they were so moved] and all of the people in attendance felt very happy. By the end of the meeting, people felt free about things in their lives.”

Lunch was provided and Alejandro was particularly complimentary about the dessert of torreja. In case you’ve never heard of torreja, either, it looks an awful lot like what we might call French toast! Admit it, French toast would make a fabulous dessert!


This entire training was made possible by the love of every church in the States sponsoring Sowers4Pastors and the work they do. Alejandro said, “We want to take this opportunity to thank the churches sponsoring us for helping us spread the Gospel. Thank you for helping us encourage all of the pastors. Because of you, they have new techniques for leading Sunday school and a new strength in the Lord.”

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Latest News on Allen's Back Issues

Do you remember the old joke, “Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” That’s sort of the same vibe as hearing Trish and Allen talk about their time in Georgia, thus far. “Aside from the whole pesky thing with Allen’s back…,” Trish started. And Allen finished with, “The place where we’re staying is wonderful.” 

It is time for an update on what has been accomplished to date regarding the “whole pesky thing with Allen’s back.” Trish was quick to point out that Allen already had the ball in motion by the time she arrived in the States. He had found a new, better health insurance, and was waiting for it to take effect. He was proactive in getting an appointment scheduled with a primary care physician, so his visit happened just days after the insurance kicked in. 

Trish shared, “We have a foot in the door. Three days after the insurance was in place, Allen saw the doctor, who completed a physical, ordered X-rays, an MRI, and bloodwork. He also gave Allen two prescriptions for pain. The X-rays and MRIs were scheduled for 10 days after the initial appointment.”

While Allen and Trish were in the car on the way to get the X-rays and MRIs, they got a call. (Insert ominous music.) It was the insurance company saying that they were contesting the MRIs. No explanation was given. Allen and Trish discussed the possibility of paying for the MRIs out of pocket. But there were actually going to be 4 separate MRIs–two of Allen’s neck area and two of the lower spine, and the cost was an issue. They chose to go ahead with the X-rays and blood panel, hoping the results from the X-rays would convince the insurance company of the need for MRIs. 

After a week of waiting patiently for the results, Allen contacted the hospital and learned the X-rays still hadn’t been read. They were read later that same day and, thanks to the marvel that is the internet, Trish and Allen could see the results. 

“You can see a scoliosis squiggle in the spine. We don’t have a lot of information beyond that. The X-rays show that quite a few discs are compressed and the doctor mentioned arthritis in the writeup. We didn’t know that scoliosis and arthritis were going to be a part of this,” Trish said.

They anticipated that their new orders for an MRI would be covered. They had previously scheduled a second one, which had been canceled by insurance because of the delay in reading the X-rays. It was at this juncture that the insurance folks declared they would not authorize an MRI until Allen had completed six weeks of physical therapy. 

However, when the results from the X-rays had been officially read and reports were written up, the insurance company agreed to authorize the MRI scans. Allen and Trish will be making a trip to Florida for those on Wednesday (Nov 29).

Allen and Trish are asking for prayers that the things that need to happen will actually happen. Please pray for wisdom for all concerned. The first pain med prescribed came with a side effect of brain fog. A different medicine was prescribed to replace it. Pray that it will be effective and that Allen will feel more like himself. Pray for the additional financial costs that Allen and Trish are facing. And pray about their housing situation.

As Allen already voiced, the place where they’re currently staying is wonderful. But it is a three hour drive to their medical facilities in Florida. Car rides are not Allen’s friends right now. He has been able to manage trips to the doctor thanks to his pain meds, lidocaine patches, and ibuprofen, but it isn’t feasible to make that trip multiple times a week for physical therapy. They need to find out how frequently Allen will have physical therapy and how much time there will be between appointments. At a minimum, it may be necessary to figure out a different housing situation for two or three days each week. And, assuming that Allen will eventually have surgery, it probably won’t be possible to make a trip back to Georgia immediately. They will need a place to stay during his recovery time. 

Someone asked Allen to discuss the difference between medical care in Honduras and in the US. Medical care in Honduras is a fraction of the cost. The blood panel Allen had done in Florida cost 20 times more than a more extensive panel he had done in Honduras last year. Overall, the care in Honduras is good for anyone with the ability to pay out of pocket, and the costs are much lower than in the US. There isn’t much of a wait to get in for treatment, either. Appointments can usually be scheduled on the same day, or within a few days.  But advanced care isn't readily available, and the quality is up and down.

The goal is for Allen and Trish to be able to return to Honduras, to work, to retire - probably to do some of each. They still feel God is calling them to be involved in the ministry, and the cost of living is less there. They own a home there. It certainly makes financial sense for them to live in Honduras. 

Trish shared, “When you go on the mission field, you know that you’re making sacrifices. And it’s not just about giving up amenities while you're overseas. If you make being on the mission field a lifetime decision, there will be lifetime consequences. We trust God with this as we’ve been trusting all along.” 

 - posted by Christi

Update from Trish: We will need to be leaving the cottage where we've been staying just before Christmas. The timing may seem awkward, but we are hoping that the medical visits will start being scheduled more frequently, and if that's the case, then we'd need to be closer to those locations anyway. Also, if we're at the point of choosing a spine specialist, we can choose the one we feel best fits the situation and then try to find housing near there. It seems to be God's timing that we move to another housing location, so please pray with us that an available housing option (free or low cost) comes to light in the right location when we need it. At this point, we believe we've narrowed down our care options to Orlando, Tampa, or Sarasota, so we're hoping to find housing in central Florida. Thanks for praying!

Thursday, November 16, 2023

How to Pray for Sowers4Pastors during the "Off Season"

Just for kicks, today seemed like a good day to see what would happen if AI was used to write a Sowers4Pastors blog post. Rachel had already shared what’s going on with the ministry during this off season, so the instructions for AI were to “write a blog post about the off season.” The results weren’t nearly as bad as this writer might have hoped! (gulp… gasp… sputter...)  The first suggested sentence was:

“The off season is a great time to relax and recharge, but it can also be a great time to get ahead on your work.(emphasis, mine)

So, yeah. That pretty much brings us to the point of this post, which is to talk about how the people with S4P are using this off season to get ahead on the work for seasons to come. Well played, AI. Well played. 

What AI doesn’t seem to understand is that the off season for Sowers4Ministry isn’t the same as a vacation where one might choose to do something productive or not. It pretty much just means that there aren’t teams on the ground and that the containers filled with backpacks haven’t arrived yet. But that will all change soon enough. 

The containers are on their way! One of the two containers is already at the port in Honduras and heading toward customs. If all goes well, it should arrive on the property in about a week. That means that the bodega needs to be ready to receive the shipment. Over the last two years, the bodega that stores all of the backpacks and other supplies has received a lot of deep cleaning and organizing. Rachel explained that the scene is similar to what it looks like when a church in the States hosts a major backpack filling event. There are a lot of extra boxes of supplies (crayons, pencils, pencil sharpeners, etc.) to complete any backpacks that aren’t totally filled with the needed items. The office workers have been getting a jump on things. There were some extra generic backpacks in the bodega that have already been filled and are ready to hand out to children that don't receive a designated backpack from a sponsor.

Christmas letters from the children to their sponsors are also being completed. The ministry is checking to make sure that each of the kids in the program is still attending school, by checking whether or not they receive a letter from each child. They are getting the letters translated and packed, as well as working out how these boxes of letters will be shipped to the States. 

There are some meetings coming up, too. One will be a teacher training with a small, Christmas-themed dinner to thank the Sunday school teachers involved in the program. A separate meeting will be for the directors of the schools–addressing how the ministry is making sure that the children in the program are attending school.

Team visits for the coming year are being coordinated. As the teams begin prepping on their end, S4P begins prepping, too. There are dates to figure out, hotels to book, and scheduling of any extra activities that teams want to do. 

The first team will arrive in January to register children and hand out backpacks, so S4P is already thinking about registration forms for the children and making child profiles. Secia will be getting the registration forms printed soon. They are also preparing the forms for letters that will be handed out in March. It takes a long time to print that many forms, but Secia is on it!

The first coffee harvest is happening now. Even a smaller coffee harvest requires people to pick the coffee. That means that the guys on the staff are driving back and forth an hour each way to pick up the coffee pickers in their pickup trucks. 

Speaking of trucks… The vehicles are receiving extra maintenance to be sure they are ready for team visits. It’s important to have each vehicle operational so that there’s always a backup plan for transporting teams hither and yon.

Oh, and plans are in the works for the end-of-year staff Christmas dinner, too. 

If you’re thinking that the off season sounds just as active as every other season, you are not alone. Rachel put it in perspective by saying, “When you have a team visiting, that takes precedence over other work. Everything else gives way to that. Some of the work that can't bet done during team season can be done now.”

- posted by Christi

Thursday, November 9, 2023

Moving Forward with the Coffee Farm

Coffee trees almost ready for the harvest!

When Brandy joined Sowers4Pastors, in addition to working in ministry he also returned to the work which has been in his family for generations - agriculture! Although he got his bachelor's degree in Aeronautical Science (at the Air Force Academy) and was trained as a pilot, Brandy is now overseeing the Sowers4Pastors coffee farm. He arrived when S4P was smack in the middle of a coffee harvest. He learned about picking coffee. And pulping coffee. And drying coffee. Then things took an unexpected dark turn. He learned about coffee blight when the farm was hit with the same blight that was devastating coffee farms all over Honduras. Then there was a wildfire that burned more than 2000 coffee trees on the 50-acre farm. It was a depressing time.

Because Brandy’s personal knowledge of farming is somewhat limited, he had the good sense to look for help. He brought in agriculture engineers who were experts in the field. He consulted with these experts and learned from them. And he prayed. Everyone in S4P prayed. 

This is a current tree, bearing fruit
to be harvested very soon!
In the beginning, one of the reasons the coffee farm was started was to create jobs and help the community. But, in recent years, there has been a shortage of coffee harvesters. Even the number of regular S4P farm workers dwindled following the blight and the fire. Ten to fourteen farm workers became two to four workers as many of the men moved on to other opportunities. 

After all of that, Brandy and the rest of S4P felt they should continue working with the farm. Instead of actively farming 50 acres, the area is (for the time being) reduced to 17 acres. The land is still there and the entire area is recuperable at some point in the future. But for now… 17 acres. Due to the blight, some of the trees were pruned back severely, limiting how much coffee will be harvested for the next few years. Brandy expects coffee production to be very low for the next two years and hopes to have a more substantial harvest in three years. 

Keeping the farm going means that it will still create some jobs. The coffee farm has helped Sowers4Pastors become closer to the community–forging good relationships. And, Brandy, whose grandparents worked on coffee farms, has discovered that he has more relatives in the area than he can count. Basically, he seems to be related to about half of the residents in the nearby community of Catulaca. Just last week, he was talking to a local man, and they discovered they are something like 2nd cousins! 

The coffee trees that were pruned
back to short, thin stumps
are being carefully tended. 
  S4P also wants to continue to be able to give good coffee to the      gringo teams that visit and to take coffee to the churches they        visit in the States. 

 Brandy described the trees as beautiful and full of coffee when   they   first joined S4P. He said, “Seeing the coffee dying on the   trees   was hard. It was a big loss. But it’s doing okay. It took   some   engineers to help figure out a plan to work on it. They   suggested   what fertilizer to use to help the trees recover faster.   It has been a   nice experience, learning about coffee. All of the   newer staff   members are from the city. Alexandro said he had   never seen a   coffee tree before coming to Sowers4Pastors. He   thought that   after the harvest, you had to cut the trees. The trees   are coming   back. It has been a big challenge but we’re trusting   in God and   we’re feeling better.”

Recently, Brandy attended a men's conference. While there, he spent time praying for different things and he heard God’s voice while praying about whether or not they should continue with the farm. That voice said, “Keep doing it. Keep having fun!” 

 - posted by Christi

Saturday, November 4, 2023

Storytime with Esdras: Traveling to the US with Sowers4Pastors!

Everyone has a story to tell and this time it’s Esdras’ turn to tell his story about being the first Honduran to ever go on a backpack collection trip for Sowers4Pastors.


The first step involved obtaining a U.S. visa, which S4P helped him obtain. When Esdras was asked about that, he said, “God was in the middle of the process.” 

He pointed out that many people in Honduras think that obtaining a visa involves having a lot of money and going through extensive questioning. Esdras’ experience was quite different, consisting of three questions and answers:

Q: Why do you want to go to the USA?

A: I’m working with a mission organization. 

Q: Why can’t the people just send their money here instead of someone going to pick it up?

A: The people are sending backpacks filled with school supplies for Honduran children!

Q: Who is paying for you to go?

A: I am not a rich man. The ministry is paying for me to go.

Esdras is now in possession of a 10-year US visa! 

Once Upon a Time

Esdras went into the trip only knowing half of the backpack story. He knew what it was like to be on the receiving end of the containers. When he thought about backpacks, he thought about unloading the boxes from the containers, sorting through the contents, and, ultimately, distributing backpacks to the children. But he had never given much thought to the collection process. It was like he had read the final chapters of a book without reading the “Once upon a time” part.

This made the trip that much more meaningful to Esdras. Even as he spent hours putting notebooks and glue sticks into the backpacks at Edgewater Alliance Church in Florida, he was thinking about the future. He said, “I was picturing a kid getting that backpack. The work is hard. You have to put everything into the backpacks. Then you check each backpack and put them into boxes. It’s nine hours of working every day. But that is not too much when you can think that each backpack is for one kid in Honduras. I could do that every single day. I was thinking in my heart that each backpack is going to help share the Gospel and help a kid in Honduras. And I was thinking what a big heart every sponsor has. They helped me with the work, but they would not see the kids in Honduras. They didn’t know every situation and school in Honduras. They couldn’t see it all but they were giving in love. It’s amazing what love they have for the kids. I’m grateful for all of their help to share the Gospel with the kids. I’m grateful to God for each sponsor.” 

Different Translations, Same Story

“When I visited EAC in Florida, the first service on Sunday had a communion time,” Esdras shared. “It was a great experience. It was in another language (not Spanish) with different people (not Honduran). It’s beautiful that we can have communion together in one language with one God, one faith, one church…”

“My English is conversational. I can talk about little things. In Honduras, my practice was limited to two or three hours at a time. In the US, my practice was twenty hours a day for three weeks. That was a good experience and I think my English is better after my trip. Some days it was hard. It was hard for my brain. Sometimes I was tired and didn’t want to talk in English. But it was good because I was glad to try to share and talk about the Gospel with each person. One day, I was trying to place an order for a coffee and the person told me about his life. That was a good opportunity to share the Gospel!”


When asked if there was more to this story, Esdras shared, “Everything in the USA is different. There are different roads. The beach is different. The cars. The food. It’s all different.” He said, “Now I know one thing–that the USA is a beautiful country. Honduras is beautiful, too, but it’s different. The people were so kind. The people adopted me to be part of their families. I’m grateful to God for those people and how they received me with love. I’m grateful for each experience there. I have a long, long story about each moment. Mr. Allen and Kirstin were there with me. I didn’t have any idea what the process was. Now I can understand. I had the new experience of driving a tractor to put the boxes on the containers. I had never driven a tractor before. When I finished the backpack work, some people showed me different theme parks. And it was my first time to eat steak! That was a delicious choice!” Esdras laughed while remembering, “I really enjoyed the food. I love the food in the USA. So delicious!”

(Not) The End

Esdras' first backpack collection trip may be over, but he is eagerly awaiting the arrival of the backpacks in Honduras, so he can pick up the story where he left off. 

- posted by Christi

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Having Allen's Back

"Don't worry. I've got your back!" That's something you might hear whenever someone is letting you know that they are there to support you. Right now, it's something that Allen needs to hear because his actual back is causing him grief! After dealing with back issues for most of his adult life, the pain has finally caught up with him.

Allen’s long history with back pain stems from a combination of weight lifting as a young man, construction work, a minor car accident that happened years ago, and his incessant need to help lift any heavy object in need of lifting. Over the years, the damage would get better. Then it would get worse. But, as Trish shared, “He always considered it to be manageable. Until it wasn’t.”

The proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back” moment came while Allen was on the current backpack collection trip. He had just arrived in the US and the pain was different. Instead of only being in his back, the pain was radiating down his limbs. That might have been a good time to stop pushing. However, Allen is not a person who stops until a job is done. So, he pushed on.

He completed the first leg of the trip. And the pain was pretty bad. He completed the second leg of the trip. And the pain was still pretty bad. When it was time for the third leg of the trip…Holy moly! The pain was so bad that even Allen had to stop. 

Kirstin completed the trip by herself. In a giant Penske truck, she drove from Mississippi, where she picked up backpacks collected in Texas and Mississippi, through Alabama where she also picked up backpacks, and back to Florida. It all got done while Allen waited in Florida. 

Allen, Kirstin, and Esdras were scheduled to fly back to Honduras today (October 19th). That won’t be happening for Allen. Instead, Trish will be flying to Florida next week, to join him. The plan is to find out what can be done for Allen’s back, and get it taken care of! They anticipate there will be at least one surgery involved. The damage from the long-ago car accident is in his neck and the other damage is in the lower back, so… Who knows? 

Because they have been in Honduras for decades, Allen and Trish only had minimal health insurance in the US. That always worked out well since healthcare costs are so much lower in Honduras. The insurance was mainly to cover costs in case Allen got sick or was injured on a backpack collection trip. Options for spinal surgery in Honduras are not great, and if they were, there would still be the issue that Allen is not currently in Honduras. The insurance they already had wasn’t going to cut it, so Allen found a different health insurance. Due to their low income, they qualified for an Affordable Care Act plan that doesn’t exclude pre-existing conditions. That will kick in on November 1st. In November, Allen will see a doctor and, hopefully, get plans to ease the back pain, and start taking steps to resolve the causes of the pain.

The new insurance plan requires all medical treatment to be in Florida. That brings up the next issue… Allen and Trish needed a place to stay. Since this could drag on for months, they needed to not be guests in someone’s home. And, in order to keep expenses down, they needed a place where Trish could cook, do laundry, etc. 

View from the cottage where Allen and
Trish will be staying!

Trish said, “We have been blessed by the generosity of a supporter.” The supporter is someone Trish met in an online homeschooling forum, back in the day. “She and her husband have a home in coastal Georgia with a guest cottage. It’s a two-bedroom cottage with a full kitchen and all of the amenities. It’s off in the woods by itself. If you put it together like a dream, this is what you’d come up with. It’s about an hour from Florida. We’re hoping to get treatment set up in Jacksonville and to remain in Georgia for as long as we can. It may be necessary to move around a bit, if the locations of the needed care requires us to be farther south.”

What does this mean for the ministry? Trish will continue doing her ministry work online. Everything else is in the very capable hands of Brandy, Rachel, Kirstin, and the rest of the staff. They will get the containers, etc. Trish anticipates that they will likely pass out the backpacks before she and Allen return home. 

How can you have their backs? Obviously, both Allen and Trish can use your prayers. Trish is preparing now, to leave her house empty for an unknown period of time. Allen does not have a reputation for being a patient patient in the best of times. These are not the best of times. He’s in a lot of pain and he isn’t sleeping well. Since there's not much he can do, we can expect that he will be experiencing boredom, as well.

You can also help with the additional financial burdens by donating through the website and selecting Allen and Trish Sowers Support from the dropdown menu.  It has been suggested that Trish set up an Amazon wishlist, for people who would like to help them with some of their needs while they will be in the US. Others have suggested restaurant or grocery gift cards might be helpful. If you're interested in helping in any of these ways (or you have some other way you'd like to help), you can contact Trish at trish @

Trish said, “We’re just taking this day by day. God has brought us through difficult times in the past, and we know that He has this in hand, too.” - posted by Christi

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Bible Lessons are Making a Difference!

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Whoa!” Did anyone else sing John 1:1 when you read that? No? Then it is pretty obvious that you never spent months with a kids’ Bible verse cd stuck in your minivan’s player! What can I say? The verses set to tunes flow out of my consciousness at unusual times. And, sitting down to write a post about the importance of Bible lessons in schools and churches in the sister church program, John 1:1 with a very jazzy “Whoa!” at the end of it bubbled up. 

We talk quite a bit about backpacks filled with school supplies, hygiene items, and toys and the impact they have on kids. We know that the free pair of shoes the kids receive can be a game changer. And no one questions the importance of nutrient-dense meals to stave off malnutrition. But maybe we don’t talk about Bible lessons as much as we should. That’s not to suggest that Sowers4Pastors isn't fully aware of the importance of the Bible lessons! 

When Alejandro and Secia joined Sowers4Pastors they immediately understood the importance of finding the right materials to use for the Bible lessons. This was made more challenging by the fact that the children come from a variety of denominations. Some of the parents were adamant that the lessons should not teach a specific doctrine. Secia found materials that teach values according to the Word of God. In that way, the lessons teach about scripture. Sing it if you know the tune! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. Whoa!" 

Kids don’t just listen to the lessons. Each child in the program is now given their own book of lessons. This has led to some wonderful testimonials from the teachers.

A teacher in Guacutao (Edgewater Alliance Church’s sponsored sister church) shared that the material isn’t only teaching values. It is also helping them with reading and writing! When the teacher presents the Bible lessons, he also asks questions of the kids–reinforcing what they have read and heard.

In Crucitas (a location in the Lighthouse Church program), a teacher shared that the children now have better behavior and have learned a better way to to speak to others based on the weekly Bible lessons. 

Alejandro said, “Backpacks, food, and shoes… We know those things are a huge blessing to the communities. But the Word of God is the most precious thing we can give them. The backpacks work for a year. If we can put the Word of God in their hearts, that is the biggest thing ever! We are already thinking ahead for next year. We’ve already found the materials. We are expecting next year to be even better!”

 - posted by Christi