Thursday, October 18, 2018

Roadtrips Aren't For Sissies

What a difference a week makes! When I spoke to Trish a week ago, she and Allen were in a parking lot outside a Christian school in Virginia. This week, they are on the west coast of Florida visiting Kirstin, Christopher (Gus), Bethany (Boo), and Trish’s parents. In the space between one phone call and the next, there was a lot of lugging boxes of backpacks from one place to another, a lot of driving, and a lot of driving rain (courtesy of Hurricane Michael).

Eating out with Oscar and Rhoda, in Virginia

When Allen and Trish left the aforementioned school parking lot, they drove to St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Yorktown, Virginia to collect backpacks. They loaded those boxes of backpacks into the 16-ft Penske truck they were driving at the time. Then they headed to South Carolina, where they spent the night. The following morning, the weather was a might blustery and hurricane-ish in South Carolina, but the track of the hurricane was looking good. It was east of them and headed northeast. Allen and Trish were heading southwest to Atlanta. So, after admiring the water that was gushing through the canned lighting in the hotel lobby, Allen and Trish took inventory of the situation and decided to go ahead and hit the road. After all, they were going in the right direction to get out of the storm.

Driving south, along with many relief vehicles,
and catching a bit of Tropical Storm Michael

They drove slowly and carefully, but said everything was okay. All roads were passable and it didn’t seem ridiculously dangerous. After driving for three hours, they stopped for gas. That’s when Trish pulled out her phone and received a warning message she had missed before they left the hotel. The warning, which had been sent three hours prior, said that for the next three hours there would be flash flood warnings in the area they had just driven! This is probably one of those “ignorance is bliss” situations. With a full tank of gas, they hit the road again and drove out of the storm.

After a stop to pick up a violin on the northside of Atlanta, which has been donated for Ben's use, they drove to a Home Depot near downtown Atlanta. That’s where they traded the 16-foot truck for a 26-foot truck. Now, ordinarily, there would have been volunteers there to help them move the boxes of backpacks from one truck to the other. But, Allen and Trish had moved this trip forward on the schedule, and with the storm, there hadn’t been a real way of knowing when they would need help. In the end, Allen and Trish schlepped the boxes all on their own. It took about four hours and wasn’t exactly the optimal activity for a man with a bad back to undertake. But they did it and they’d do it again! Why? By switching trucks rather than starting off in the big truck from Maryland, they saved the ministry more than $800!

From there, they went to Kim and Jonathan Hall’s house to pick up 100 more boxes from Manna4Lempira sponsors. They spent the night at the Halls' house and, the following morning, they headed to a church nearby. The church supplied boxes of backpacks, as well as bags of used clothing. Since the pastor and his wife are Honduran, they understand how important warm jackets and clothing will be to the recipients.

Then, it was on to St Marys/Kingsland Georgia - right near the Florida line. A project run through the First Baptist Church of Kingsland filled around 500 backpacks! With those onboard on Sunday afternoon, Trish and Allen headed south to Jacksonville, Florida to pick up donations from a Manna4Lempira sponsor.

Completely full truck, at the end of the trip
from Maryland to Florida

By that evening, the truck was parked in a Walmart parking lot in Edgewater, Florida. The next morning, the truck’s contents were unloaded into the storage facility near Edgewater, and the rental truck (the 5th truck rented so far on this trip) was returned.

Fuzzy photo of the volunteers who helped with the
unloading in Florida
They are enjoying a little time with their grown children who live in Florida before beginning the next phase of the trip. But, of course, it’s not all downtime. Sowers4Pastors is currently storing some food in Edgewater for future use in feeding centers. Since that food is not needed for immediate use in Honduras, Allen is currently trying to find out if anyone working on Hurricane Michael relief could use the food right now. As Allen said, they “can’t donate it unless someone has a plan to use it!”

 - posted by Christi

Monday, October 15, 2018

Matching Funds Game

As a child, I used to love watching game shows. One of my favorites was Match Game (Insert a year), which aired from 1973-1982. Each year, during the New Year show, it was a big deal to watch the title of the show roll over to the new year. Yes, I remember distinctly the thrill of seeing Match Game ‘75 turn into Match Game ‘76. Today, we’re talking about a sort of missionary equivalent, that I like to call: Matching Funds Game 2018!

Sowers4Pastors isn’t only about feeding centers and educating pastors. They are also actively involved in helping deserving pastors obtain motorcycles and assisting in church construction projects. And, that’s exactly where the Matching Funds Game 2018 comes in!

Most of the pastors in Western Honduras also work in the fields each day from 4:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon. We’re talking about literal fields, not the metaphorical kind! After putting in hours of hard, physical labor, these men go home to eat a midday meal and get prepared to go out to work as pastors. It is not uncommon for pastors to walk up to fifty miles a week! Fifty miles is a lot for anyone to walk, but we’re not talking about taking a stroll on paved streets. Fifty miles in Honduras means a lot of walking up and down super steep hills, wading through water, etc… And they do this every week!

That’s why Sowers4Pastors has a motorcycle ministry. Deserving pastors must come up with $600 to put toward a motorcycle. Sowers4Pastors provides $1000 to go to the cost of a new Honda motorcycle with semi off-road capacity. Right now, there is a matching fund challenge to assist pastors in getting motorcycles. That means, for every $500 donation, a donor will match it! Make no mistake, it is not easy for a Honduran pastor to come up with $600 to put toward a motorcycle. If a man is willing to do that, it shows how serious he is about being a more effective pastor. Your donation could mean the difference between a pastor helping to plant a church or not.

The second part of the Matching Funds Game 2018 involves church roofs. As you know, Sowers4Pastors seeks to empower, not enable. That’s why churches are required to come up with their own land. They must pour the concrete foundation and put up the walls. Then, Sowers4Pastors can help with the roof. Each roof costs $1000. With the current matching fund, they can now put on a church roof for $500.

As Allen said, “We are not trying to take over the pastor’s job. It’s not our church. They’ve got the sweat equity. They are doing the work. We are just trying to give them a little bigger sword to fight the battle.”

He continued by saying, “If this is something you’ve ever thought of doing, now’s a great time to step up. If you can’t come up with $500, consider making this a project for your small group or Sunday school class.”

It’s probably the most rewarding game you’ll ever play!

 - posted by Christi

Donation Instructions:

Click here to go to the donation page,
choose "Motorcycles and Horses for Pastors" or "Church Construction Projects"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Blog Post from Sketchy Notes

Talking to Trish when she and Allen are on the road is like listening to the weatherman on Christmas Eve charting the course of Santa Claus. Except Trish’s conversations include some technical things the weatherman glosses over--like when Santa has to stop to rotate the reindeer and how many presents are in the sled at any given moment. And the weatherman doesn’t have Allen shouting additional facts from off camera. Also, there’s the fact that sometimes Trish talks faster than I listen, so I did my best to get things straight. But, on the highly probable chance that I totally botched things in my note taking, perhaps we had better think of this as a “big picture” post.

Since we last spoke, Trish and Allen made it to Colorado, where they picked up 700 filled backpacks. They picked up backpacks from two churches in Kansas, and then it was time to turn in their 16-ft Penske truck. They unloaded the truck’s contents into a storage area near Wichita and then rented a 26-ft truck. They headed back to the storage area and reloaded all of the precious cargo onto the larger truck. According to my sketchy notes, they then went to Indianapolis, to collect more backpacks. (Well, actually, according to my sketchy notes, they went to “indianapolic,” but I’m pretty sure that was a typo!)

Trish was able to attend a women’s retreat for a couple of days, in Columbus, Ohio. While there, she was able to share her kidnapping story. Because, let’s face it; if you’ve got a kidnapping story, you should probably share it.

She and Allen looked at their growing cargo and pondered if they should make a detour to drop things off in Maryland and then return to Ohio to finish their collection trip. They decided against it, thinking they might be able to fit everything into the honkin’ big truck. After that, they went to Sugarcreek, Ohio to pick up more backpacks and food donations. It was about then that they looked at the honkin’ big truck and realized it was not honkin’ big enough to meet their needs. Still, they headed off to Somewhere, Pennsylvania to pick up more donations. Trish said, “The truck was groaning!”

His and Hers trucks, at Fredericktowne Baptist Church in MD

That’s when they stopped and picked up an additional 16-ft-truck for Trish to drive. I ask you, is there anything more romantic than his and hers Penske trucks? They finished the convoy in Maryland. After a night’s rest, they unloaded the larger of the two trucks (his). A lot of the boxes were not full enough. When boxes have air space, they get crushed when stacked. So, they and a small crew of Maryland friends took time to stuff the boxes with used clothing to fill in the chinks.

Boxes full of backpacks, crushed under the weight of other boxes! This is before
we stuffed used clothing into the spaces between the backpacks.
Maryland friends helping us stuff the boxes!

That evening, Allen and Trish took the smaller truck (hers) to Lighthouse Church, where they picked up another 125 boxes of backpacks! They took those back to where the rest of the collected items were stored. The following day, they took the boxes which hadn’t been processed and stuffed them full with more backpacks and used clothing. All total, they were able to eliminate 80 boxes and 100 big bags of clothing by consolidating the contents into fewer boxes - which is good because they had collected more donations than will fit into the shipping container!

When we spoke on Wednesday (Oct 10), Allen and Trish were beginning their trip south. Instead of a car, they rented another 16-ft truck. (Those crazy, romantic kids are sharing a truck this time.) They are loaded up with the overflow of donations, that can't be shipped from MD to Honduras, with them. Hopefully there will be room for those boxes in the container shipping from Florida! On the trip, they will be picking up more boxes of backpacks in Virginia and in Georgia. I skipped the part where they spoke at a Christian elementary school, on the morning of our phone call. I probably skipped a lot of stuff, but…

They are now on their way to Atlanta and have set a collision course with Hurricane/Tropical Storm Michael. While Michael won’t be a hurricane when they catch up with him, they are anticipating a lot of rain. Well, look at that! A hurricane and rain ties in perfectly with that weatherman referenced in the first paragraph. Who needs notes? This stuff writes itself!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, October 1, 2018

Mailtime, Mailtime, Mailtime, MAIL TIME!!!!

If you happened to be raising children during the late 90s to early 2000s, you’re probably familiar with Blue’s Clues. On the chance you weren’t raising kids, or your television wasn’t tuned to Nickelodeon during that time, you completely missed out on the mailtime song. The host of Blue’s Clues definitely believed that receiving a letter was a joyous occasion and he wasn’t afraid to sing about it!

Mailtime, mailtime, mailtime, mailtime, MAIL TIME!!!!!
Here's the mail, it never fails
It makes me want to wag my tail
When it comes I wanna wail, MAIL!!!!!!!!!!

In coming months, sponsors of children though Manna 4 Lempira and the sister church program will be singing their own mailtime songs. That’s because Russell, Kelsea, and the crew are working to get letters from sponsored children. Last week, Kim Hall joined them as they collected the letters from the Manna 4 Lempira children. Kim took those letters back to the States, and they will be distributed to the sponsors.This week, Russell and Kelsea are collecting more than 1200 letters from the sister church children! Kelsea’s family will be visiting in October. They will take the letters home, where they will be sent to the Stateside sister churches, and delivered to the sponsors.

Each child is completing two letters. The first letter is about his or her home, and the second is a Christmas letter. This type of letter was the brainchild of Kim Hall, who made some form letters for the children to complete. She included things most sponsors want to know about their children. For example: The letters about their homes will include information about what their houses are made of and how many people live in each house. Each child is handed a blank form letter and some colored pencils. They take the letters to their own spot to fill in the information. Back in June, they did similar letters, which were about their favorite Bible characters.

If this seems like an impersonal way to send letters, it really isn’t. Each child thoughtfully fills in the requested details. Moms generally help the younger children. When the children write free-form letters, they tend to say the same thing. While it’s sweet to read, “I really want to meet you,” the sponsor doesn’t get much information that way. They weren’t learning much about the child’s life.

So, if you are sponsoring a child, don’t forget to check your mail in coming months. And get ready to burst into song.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Metaphor-Free Blog Post

Nine times out of ten, I don’t know what a week’s blog topic will be until the Wednesday morning phone call. Sometimes I play a game with myself and try to guess. The frontrunners generally include:  pastors, motorcycles, coffee, backpacks, sponsorships, sister churches, family, bridge construction, visiting teams, or a visit to the U.S. This week, the frontrunners lost out to constructing a building. No, that’s not a spiritual metaphor. It’s about the new building that’s going up on the Sowers’ property, at this very moment.

Russell and four or five crew members are currently laying blocks for the new building, which will include an office, a bunkroom for male interns, a private bedroom for Ben, a locker room/break room for the farm guys, and a warehouse/storage facility. If this were a spiritual metaphor, I’d point out that they are laying on the firm foundation that the team from Lighthouse Church poured, during their recent visit. No building on the sand for these missionaries! If this were a fairy tale, I’d point out that they’re definitely more like the third little pig. No amount of huffing and puffing will blow it down. But, since this is just a story about building a new facility, let’s just get on with it!

According to Kelsea, approximately ¾ of the building is now about a block high (the photos in this post were taken about a week later than that conversation, so you can now assess the speed of the progress). Russell is hoping to have the project completed by mid-November--in time for the arrival of the shipping containers. In another week or so, the blocks should be high enough to put a roof on the building. It will eventually be stuccoed, though that may not happen in time for the arrival of the backpacks. The plan is for electricity and plumbing to be completed by mid-November, but there could be some wiggle room on that.

Kelsea laughed that Sowers4Pastors has a pattern of not using buildings as they were originally intended. Russell and Iris are living in a building that was meant to house visiting teams. Allen and Trish are living in a warehouse. By next year, the plan is for everyone to be in their own homes and for each building to be used for its intended purpose. Living the dream!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, September 14, 2018

Update from the Road

Allen, Trish, and a Penske truck filled with backpacks are rolling down the road, as I write. They spent several days in Seattle. Through Seattle4Lempira donations, and backpacks from some long-term Manna4Lempira sponsors, they collected around 350 filled backpacks.

While in Seattle, they were also on hand to initiate the new Seattle4Lempira sponsorship program. About twenty-five people have already signed up to sponsor children. Those are the children Kate, Kelsea, and Russell were able to visit during Kate’s recent trip to Honduras.

Allen and Trish left Seattle on September 11. In a day’s time, they crossed through beautiful mountains, went through a small part of Idaho (which they also proclaimed to be beautiful), and made it to Montana. They spent the night in Deer Lodge, Montana, which was picturesque, though Trish confessed that the moderately priced motel where they stayed probably isn’t what the name “Deer Lodge” brings to mind!

At the time of our call, our favorite couple in a rental truck was heading to Yellowstone National Park. Yep. They are going to drive through Yellowstone in the aforementioned Penske truck filled with backpacks! How fitting! They had hoped to be able to spend a couple of days in Yellowstone, but ministry obligations take precedence. They aren’t complaining, mind you! How many people get to see Old Faithful from a Penske truck? They will end up in Wyoming, where they will visit with a childhood friend of Trish’s. From the background, Allen joked that the theme song for this trip is Johnny Cash’s, “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man”.

In exciting news, the husband of one of Trish’s friends discovered a spool of cable at a port in Seattle. It’s just the sort of cable needed to build bridges! And it’s Sowers4Pastors’ for the taking! This particular spool is GINORMOUS! The cable itself is 1.5 inches in diameter. The spool contains more than 4000 feet of cable. It’s 6.5 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and weighs more than 20,000 pounds! That will barely fit in a shipping container and is almost half the weight allowed in a container!

The tentative plan is to collect the spool from the port and store it for a year. Next year, when collecting backpacks, Allen and Trish are considering flying to Kansas and making their way to Seattle with the backpacks they collect along the way. They will add the backpacks to the container with the spool and ship it off to Honduras! The plan is to have three container shipping ports--Maryland, Florida, and Washington--all thanks to a really cool spool.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sister Act

When Kelsea made the decision to move to Honduras to intern with the Sowerses, her sister Kate had no idea that she would also become an important part in the Sowers4Pastors ministry. I was able to speak to Kate during her first trip to Honduras and she shared how she became involved. 

Kate and Kelsea visiting the Seattle 4 Lempira sponsorship center

Kate laughed, remembering how things transpired. Kelsea had mentioned to Allen that their church in Seattle might be interested in getting involved. Kelsea asked Kate if she would like to be coordinator for Seattle4Lempira. During a visit to the Seattle, Allen and Trish had an open house at the home of Kate and Kelsea’s parents. Following their presentation, Trish announced, “If you’re interested in sponsorship, talk to Kate or Kelsea.” And just like that, a volunteer was born!

When asked how she would describe her role with Sowers4Pastors, Kate admitted it’s a little difficult to put into words. Then she said, “I feel like I’m an advocate for the sponsorship program in the Seattle area.”

Kate helps connect people with the sponsorship program, through Seattle4Lempira. She is also a point person for churches in the Seattle area. When Kelsea gives her information, Kate passes it on to Heidi Cook, who is coordinating the program at another church.

During her six day visit to Honduras, Kate, Russell, and Kelsea visited the two schools attended by children currently being sponsored by Seattle residents. The day of their school visits happened to coincide with Dia del NiƱo (Children’s Day) in Honduras. Kate arrived with a supply of bubbles, coloring pages, and soccer balls. By playing with the children, she was able to get to know them better. They tried to teach her some Spanish and she taught them some English.

When we spoke, it was Kelsea’s birthday and the sisters were going to celebrate by spending some time kayaking. Kate is already looking forward to future visits. She and Russell have talked about what it might look like to bring a team down from the Seattle area. They also talked about the possibility of Kate coming back in early 2019 to help hand out backpacks.

Kate has big plans for Seattle4Lempira. When she first began working with the program, they were pushing to collect the backpacks. That’s because there is a definite deadline for that project. Now that Allen and Trish are driving around the U.S. in a Penske truck filled with those backpacks, Kate is looking forward to working on getting more children sponsored. In an optimistic tone, she said, “I think it will grow. I am determined to see it grow!”

 - posted by Christi