Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Why Sponsor a Child Through Manna 4 Lempira?

One of the things I (Trish) like most about our  ministry - and one of the most frustrating things, as well - is that Allen likes to "go deep." When he sees a problem, and he looks for a solution, he generally doesn't jump on the most obvious possibility. Instead, he thinks through the ramifications of implementing a potential solution, and he also considers whether the idea is sustainable in the long term.

An example of this would be feeding malnourished children. We could set up a feeding center in one location, and go there regularly to personally prepare the food and attempt to give Bible lessons (with our imperfect Spanish) . . . but this would limit us to feeding the children in just a couple of locations each week! We wouldn't have time to go to additional locations, and we wouldn't have the time in each location to really get involved in the lives of all the children. This solution would leave too many unmet needs in our part of Honduras!

So, instead, we created a system where local pastors in needy communities run the feeding centers. They involve volunteers from their congregations to help with the cooking and serving, they are able to give the Bible lessons in the exact same local version of Spanish that the children use, and they live where the children are - placing them in an ideal situation to get to know the children and their families, and to lead them to God.

With this set-up, instead of running a small number of feeding centers ourselves, we now oversee 150 feeding centers throughout western Honduras - with the partnership of our generous donors! The pastors are delighted that we give them the food for free, which they can use to reach and serve their communities - none of them expect or receive any compensation for this.

I think this is wonderful - it makes so much sense to analyze what has been done in the past (by our ministry or by others), consider the outcomes, and make adjustments as needed, to do the best possible job we can!

However, it is frustrating for me, because I feel compelled to explain why we do things in the way that we do . . . and, oftentimes people aren't all that interested in reading about each part of the ministry in that much depth!

We're attempting to solve this problem by creating videos. The short video I'm introducing today gives a partial explanation of how the Manna 4 Lempira sponsorship program works to help the children in our part of Honduras. Maybe another time I'll make a video to show all the work that happens behind the scenes to keep the program running - there's a lot of spreadsheet work, regular oversight, measuring feet, and traveling (collecting backpacks from across the U.S. and delivering them to collection locations for shipping)  . . . but we'll save that for another day and another video!

This video specifically focuses on how the program helps the sponsored children - and how we serve the sponsors, as well.



If you're seeing this post by email, here is the link to view the video:  

  - posted by Trish

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Show Me That Smile, Again!

You may have noticed that the Sowers4Pastors blog received a little makeover (those of you reading this post by email might want to click over to www.sowers4pastors.blogspot.com, so you can see what we're talking about). It’s all turquoise-y and pretty. There’s also a picture of Allen, Trish, Russell, Iris, R.J., and Abby in the header that is large enough to make Trish squirm with discomfort and long for the former header of anonymous mountains in Western Honduras. The redesign is because Trish wanted to make the blog more cohesive with the soon-to-be-unveiled new website. The reason Trish was working behind-the-scenes on the blog at all was because she was adding a link to the Amazon Smile program (more on that in a minute) - and, in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie fashion, Trish found herself tying the color scheme of the blog and the website together.

Now, more on that Amazon Smile program…

On the pretty, turquoise-y blog featuring a gaggle of smiling Sowerses, you will also see a box at the top of the right-hand margin, which says, “Support Sowers4Pastors Inc.” There’s some more writing and a link to take you to a place to sign up for the Amazon Smile program. It’s easy to find because it is neither turquoise-y, nor particularly pretty. It’s orange and black, like a construction paper jack-o-lantern. But what that little box can do is BEAUTIFUL!

By signing up to participate in the Amazon Smile program, you can designate Sowers4Pastors to receive 0.5% of the price of your eligible Amazon purchases. That 0.5% does not include things like shipping costs, tax, and subscription programs. The products and prices are identical to those on the main Amazon site, so don’t worry about paying inflated fees.

The link, for those of you seeing this post by email, is
https://smile.amazon.com/ch/82-1025136
In order to benefit Sowers4Pastors, you will need to remember to enter through the designated Amazon Smile site, whenever you go shopping on Amazon. It does not work on the regular website, or on the Amazon app. If you use the regular Amazon website, or are purchasing on your phone using the app, the money won’t get to them.

If 0.5% doesn’t sound worth your time, let me remind you how far Sowers4Pastors can stretch a dollar. They have multiple feeding centers, which are not sponsorship centers. It takes a ridiculously small amount of money to keep those centers in operation. The cost to feed one child is around $2 per year. That means that when you make one $100 purchase on Amazon, you feed a child for three months! That's nothing to sneeze at!

Sign up! It’s an easy way to participate in spreading the Gospel, feeding children, training pastors, and all the other great things Sowers4Pastors does, by ordering things you were already going to purchase from Amazon. So, go ahead! Show me that smile again!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, June 8, 2018

It's All Relative

Since childhood, I’ve been fascinated by larger families. Perhaps it has something to do with my love of shows like “The Waltons,” “The Brady Bunch,” and “Eight Is Enough”. At any rate, getting an update on each member of the Sowers clan sort of reminds me of catching up with John Boy, Mary Ellen, Jim Bob, and the rest. Here’s what’s happening with the Western Honduras version of the Walton family:

Allen

Allen is doing very well since his heart procedure of May 2017. He recently had blood work done, which came back pretty hunky-dory. (That’s my interpretation of Trish’s statement, “The doctor was pleased.”) Aside from trying to eat a healthier diet and taking lots of daily medicines, Allen is pretty much back to his normal routine. The family appreciates all of the prayers for Allen’s health and the people who contributed to paying for medical expenses.

Trish

Trish is enjoying being a grandma. She has also been able to travel to the States with Allen. That wasn’t a possibility when all of the children were home.

Kirstin


Kirstin is working as an R.N. in Florida. She has set up a sort of Sowers family extended home, with two of her younger siblings sharing an apartment with her.









Russell



Of course you hear about Russell on this blog all the time, as he is part of Sowers4Pastors. He’s a busy missionary, husband, and father. In exciting news, his wife, Iris, is getting her driver’s license this week.










Rachel


Rachel is a missionary, living in the capital of Honduras with her husband Brandy, and their baby boy, Nathan. She has started a new ministry with Brandy, which is helping young women from Western Honduras who want to move to the capital city to attend college. They are working to fund scholarships, and to set up a safe home, which will serve as a sort of boarding house for the impoverished young women who want to improve their lives.

Christopher (aka Gus) and Bethany (aka Boo)



It seems wrong not to give Christopher and Bethany their own paragraphs, but their updates are identical! They are both working in the same hospital where Kirstin works. They are both attending the same nursing school, and are even in the same classes. And they are both sharing an apartment with Kirsten, which they fondly refer to as “The Nursing Home”!


Ben working in the media center
 at his school
Ben


Ben has been at boarding school for almost two years! It has been working out beautifully. Even though Trish doesn’t like having him away from home so much, the school has been a real blessing and benefit to him. Ben has been playing on the basketball team, working on multimedia stuff, and has basically carved out a place for himself at school.




R.J., Abby, and Nathan

Trish jokingly said, “They don’t help with the ministry much yet.” Trish considers herself the most fortunate missionary grandma in the world. While so many missionary grandmas have grandchildren living in other countries, Trish is right next door to R.J. and Abby. And, even though she doesn’t get to see Nathan as often as she would like, he is in the same country!

 


Good night, John Boy.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Teams, Coffee, and a Website - Oh My!

Russell shared information for a basic, “What’s Going On In Ministry” post. As usual, there’s a lot going on!

Allen made a sudden trip to the States, and while the family in Honduras can carry on in his absence, they did have to reorder some of the things on the schedule. Trish and Quito just completed two videos for Allen to use in his visits to the States.

Everyone's excited about
the upcoming teams!
Kim Hall and her family fly in on June 9th. They will hit the ground running and have a week to prepare for their team’s arrival on the following Saturday.

Russell is scurrying around to prepare for a summer of visiting teams (among other things). The first seven teams will all be VBS/kids’ ministry oriented. There’s a lot of preparation that goes into that. Melvin and others in the crew are riding around visiting feeding centers to make sure the program leaders know what they should be doing to prepare.

Carlos and Helder are fertilizing the coffee farm, while it’s the rainy season. Fertilizing now allows for good absorption, and there is less risk of burning the plants. In a moment on philosophical genius, Russell declared, “The weeds are growing like weeds.” Eight extra temporary workers have been hired, so there could be up to twenty men working the farm for the next couple of weeks. The weeds must be chopped with machetes. Then, they turn around and fertilize the coffee plants.

Coffee nursery


Helder has a nursery growing 20,000 coffee plants and 1500 shade trees, which will be added to the farm. The trees are a fast growing, tropical bean tree, which actually release nitrogen into the soil, rather than depleting nitrogen. That will help to fertilize the coffee plants. Since they are fast growing, they will soon offer shade to the coffee plants. This variety of tree is one of the few in the area that does not lose it's leaves in the dry season, and so it will shade the coffee during the hottest months. All of the plants in the nursery were recently fertilized. They will be allowed to grow there until late August or early September, when they will be planted.

Remember those first seven teams, that will be working with kids? Well, the eighth visiting team will be working on a construction project. Russell is having to plan ahead to gather all of the necessary supplies for that.

Speaking of construction… the Sowers are about to construct a new building on their property, which will contain ministry office space, storage for the food received for the feeding centers and for the coffee grown on the farm, and will also have bunkrooms for male interns. No, it will not slow down the construction of the new house. This building will be used as a temporary warehouse, which will be used to sort all of the materials that arrive on the end-of-2018 shipping containers. This will speed up the process of completing the house because they won’t have to store things there! Since the finishing touches on the house involve more detail-oriented work, they won’t be able to make much progress on that while they have visiting teams - but the crew can work on the construction of this new building.

A tantalizing glimpse of the new website!

Trish and Kelsea are working to enter all of the information about the kids in the sponsorship program on a yet-to-be-revealed new website. Kirstin (Allen and Trish's oldest daughter) is even lending a hand in Sarasota! Each child will have a profile of information, and a photo, on the website. Trish has taken on the task of entering the sponsors’ information into the system. Stay tuned for the big website unveiling!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, June 4, 2018

The Missionary Telenovela

This week’s conversation with Trish involved a continuing story. Trish laughed and said it was sort of like the missionary equivalent of a telenovela. This blog post really needs a narrator with a great speaking voice, but you’re just going to have to use your imagination.


Narrator with great speaking voice: Previously on Sowers4Pastors, Allen and Trish were in Seattle.

Allen and Trish had never been to the Seattle area before. But, they have friends there who were interested in becoming more involved in Sowers4Pastors’ ministry.

Narrator with great speaking voice: Providentially, Kelsea, the ministry intern, is also from the Seattle area.

While in Seattle, Allen and Trish discovered there wasn’t any one church that was ready to commit to becoming a Sister Church. However, there was a huge interest in sponsoring children, in general. They decided to set up a sponsorship program with the local community, rather than with a single church. They simply needed to find an ideal community in Honduras for a new sponsorship program, where the children will only be made available to people in the Seattle area.

Kelsea’s sister agreed to head up the program on the Seattle side. Rather than sending letters to individual sponsors, Sowers4Pastors will be able to send packets of information to Kelsea’s sister, and she will disseminate it. She will also help with people who wish to fill backpacks.

Narrator with great speaking voice: But, wait! Someone still need to find the ideal location for a new sponsorship site. (Enter Russell.)


Russell got busy finding a site that met all of the necessary requirements. They needed a place that was not too remote to visit regularly. Normally, they need a local church with a pastor who is up to the job of running a program. Sponsorship programs mean a lot of administrative work on the part of pastors. Sowers4Pastors operates the programs as a way of helping pastors reach their community. Operating a sponsorship center is not a paid position, so it must be something that is very important to the pastor.

In this case, however, the new program is slightly different. The chosen community doesn't have a local evangelical church - instead there is a pastor from another community, and a teacher from the local school, who are hoping to plant a church in this community - and they'll be starting that process by running a sponsorship center. This is an exciting new development in the sponsorship program!

It took a while for all of the pieces of the puzzle to fit together. Russell has been working on it for weeks.

Narrator with great speaking voice: Russell’s diligence has paid off!



Russell, Kelsea, and the crew members who work with the sponsorship programs are currently registering children for this new program, in the neighboring communities of Azacualpita and Cones.

Having all of the children sponsored by people from one geographic area will be incredibly beneficial. If a group of people from Seattle wishes to visit their sponsored children, they can come down as a team. Rather than driving to multiple locations, all team members will have sponsored children at the same center.



Narrator with great speaking voice: Will all of the children find sponsors? Will other areas want to follow Seattle’s lead? Will we ever learn the first name of Kelsea’s sister? Stay tuned!

 - posted by Christi
 - pictures are all from the new sponsorship center, in the communities of Azacualpita and Cones

Friday, June 1, 2018

Guess Where Allen Is!

It’s time to play a little game I like to call, “Guess Where Allen Is!” Go ahead. Guess! Did you guess? (Sorry, but I can’t actually hear you.) If you said, “Allen is back in the U.S., even though he and Trish just left the U.S. a few weeks ago,” then you should really go on a game show! He is in the U.S. Specifically, Allen is in Maryland, though he will soon be making his way to Ohio and Pennsylvania. This trip will last just over two weeks, and will involve making connections in churches in all three states.



The reason for the trip is simple. When Allen has the opportunity to speak to a missions committee at a church that is possibly interested in supporting Sowers4Pastors, he takes it! A couple of weeks ago, Allen, Russell, and Trish were hosting a vision team from Ohio. I spoke to two of the team members and wrote about their first impressions of Sowers4Pastors and their plans for future action.

In that blog post, Pastor Don mentioned he would be meeting with his church’s mission committee a couple of days after returning home. He was true to his word. In that meeting, the board decided to offer monthly support to Sowers4Pastors. They also donated $1000 earmarked for the motorcycle ministry, to help Pastor Omar purchase a motorcycle! In short, that church has some big ideas for ways Sowers4Pastors might partner with them. They invited Allen to go talk their church, personally. Hence, Allen repacked his newly unpacked suitcase and boarded a plane. (Random thought alert: “Hence” is a very underused word!)

As Trish explained, most church mission committees vote a budget in a certain month. They will say something like, “When the next cycle rolls around, we can vote on whether or not we can support you.” You see, partnerships don’t happen overnight. Naturally, churches want to “know” the missions ministries they are supporting.

The relationship with this church in Ohio hasn’t happened overnight, either. Trish talked about a gentleman in that congregation who has a tremendous heart for sponsoring children. He sponsors approximately 20 children through Manna 4 Lempira. This soft-spoken gentleman is very deliberate about letter writing. He sponsors young boys and mentors them through letters--encouraging them to stay in school and be serious about their faith.

Last year, Allen and Trish happened to be in the States, on a trip to collect backpacks, when they got word the Ohio church was going to be honoring this super sponsor in a Sunday service. It was also the day the honoree was having a fundraising dinner to raise money for sponsorships. Allen and Trish made a detour and were able to attend the service.

This is how connections are made. It’s almost like a courtship where the church and the missions ministry get to know each other to see if they are a good fit for each other.



In case you’re wondering, Trish decided to stay home to take care of responsibilities in Honduras. Also, she wanted to be available for Ben. And that’s why we’re not playing the game, “Guess Where Trish Is!” Maybe next time.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, May 28, 2018

You Tell Two Friends, and They Tell Two Friends, and So On . . .

Do you remember the 1970’s and 80’s television commercials for Faberge Organics Shampoo? (Stick with me here!) A smiling woman with crazy good hair held up a bottle and said, “I told two friends about Faberge Organics Shampoo, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on…” Before you knew it, you were looking at a whole bunch of images of the same smiling women holding up a bottle of what seemed to be a phenomenal shampoo!


In the previous post, we talked about Mercedes--the town, the church, and the sponsorship program. We talked about the astounding growth that church has seen, under the leadership of Pastor Israel Portillo, his son, Pastor Melvin Portillo, and his son-in-law, Pastor German Diaz . We talked about some of the wonderful things Pastor Israel has accomplished. Today, we’re going to focus on Pastor Melvin and Pastor German, the two men who are carrying on in the “family business”.

Pastors Melvin and German began attending Pastor’s Training School in 2016. The following year, they returned for their second year. They also served as mentors for the first year students. As long as they were mentoring, they decided to take it a step further. They asked if they could use the Pastor’s Training School materials taught to first year students, and begin their own school in Mercedes!


Pastor German, worshipping at Pastor Training School

This year, Pastor Melvin and Pastor German are in their third year of Pastor Training School, as students. They are now mentoring second year students at that school. They are also taking back material to teach both first and second year students in Mercedes! Currently, twenty-six people are attending the Pastor’s Training School in Mercedes!

Pastor Melvin, at Pastor Training School

Since the students attending this satellite school live in or near Mercedes, Pastors Melvin and German don’t have to worry about finding room and board for those enrolled. This is in contrast to the original Pastor’s Training School, where many students travel great distances to attend. Since there is minimal travel time for students in Mercedes, they are able to meet three Saturdays a month, and they carry a lunch from home.


Pastor Israel told his son and son-in-law about Pastor’s Training School. They mentored students. They started their own Pastor’s Training School. Those pastors will go on and continue to share what they learn with more and more people, and so on, and so on, and so on...

 - posted by Christi