Monday, July 6, 2020

Exciting Testimonial from a Backpack Packer in California

Kristen's Manna 4 Lempira child
Some people dip a toe into the water and others promptly climb to the heights of the tallest diving board and make a cannonball dive into the deep end of the pool. As one of the newer Manna 4 Lempira sponsors, Kristen has proven herself to be a sponsor of the cannonball variety. And her actions are making a huge splash on the backpack drive.
 
Kristen wasn’t a stranger to child sponsorship and is a longtime sponsor with another organization. She knew about Manna 4 Lempira and Sowers4Pastors through friends. In fact, Kristen wasn’t even a stranger to the backpack drive. Over the years, she has purchased school supplies from a friend’s Amazon wishlist, which were promptly used to fill backpacks. 

A few months ago, Kristen saw the picture of a little girl in need of a sponsor and said to herself, “She’s mine!” This is her 34th sponsored child, but her first through Manna. This is also her first girl to sponsor. Kristen decided to collect a few extra items whenever she purchased things for her child’s backpack. But when Sowers4Pastors released a video about the impact of backpack distribution to the children of Western Honduras, it was just the nudge she needed to jump in.

Sowers4Pastors - Backpack Distribution Impact Short Version 
The video that gave Kristen the "nudge"

She told Allen that she felt that the maximum number of backpacks she could fill was 24. She wanted to know if she should ask for two cases of backpacks “just in case.” Anyone that’s ever had a conversation with Allen knows how funny that is. Naturally, he encouraged her to ask for the extra case and promptly sent her 48 empty backpacks!  

Kristen set up an Amazon registry with all of the school supplies and hygiene items needed to fill four dozen backpacks. Then she shared the project with her friends and family via Facebook. Within four days, she had received almost everything she needed. She was only missing things like a few bars of soap, ten tubes of toothpaste, and some pens. She has extras of some items, such as the 600 spiral notebooks she received. The surplus will be given to Sowers4Pastors to fill other backpacks. 

Photo from Kristen's facebook post
(Link to Kristen's post)

“Mindblowing,” is how Kristen describes this experience. On the first day, she received one box from Amazon. On the following day, she received nine more. She has an entire tub of socks and underwear. She also has things like washcloths. And she is still keeping an eye out for additional items to arrive. 

The virtual backpack drive has allowed people far from Kristen’s home in Southern California to join in the giving. One family in England placed an Amazon order for the effort. Kristen said she knew her close friends and family were generous. She was surprised to find that some of the people she doesn’t know as well were also eager to participate. Some people have also sent donations to be used toward the purchase of supplies. She said she has received messages saying things like, “Let’s send these babies to school!” 

Kristen isn’t complaining about the fact that her garage is so full of boxes that she can’t park in her in it for the time being. She said, “I’m incredibly touched and overwhelmed. This has been a light in the darkness. It’s been a tough year. Almost everything on the news has been depressing. To see people step up with such enthusiasm has been the highlight of my year.” 

Wouldn't you like to have an experience like Kristen's? She actually received everything she needed to fill the 48 backpacks, before the backpacks arrived at her house! Through her friends and family, she collected all the school supplies and other items by mail. Even in the times of Covid, packing backpacks in person is absolutely a viable project! To find out how you can pack backpacks for children in Honduras, send an email to allen at sowers4pastors dot com. It could be the highlight of your year!

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Fill a Backpack -and Send a Child in Honduras to School- without even putting on a mask or leaving your home!



Filling a backpack for Sowers4Pastors just got easier than ever before. The term “virtual backpacks” has been bandied about, but that’s not entirely accurate. The very real backpacks containing necessary school supplies and hygiene items will be delivered to very real children in Western Honduras. It’s not the backpacks that are virtual, it’s the process of filling them! With just a few clicks on the Sowers4Pastors website, you can virtually fill a backpack without ever leaving your home.

Click here to Fill a Backpack Online! 


If you clicked on the handy-dandy link, you saw that you can choose from four options. Your $25 donation will allow you to virtually fill a backpack for a little boy, little girl, older boy, or older girl. Potentially changing a child’s entire future doesn’t get any easier than that! Your donation covers the cost of the school supplies (as required by the Honduran schools), hygiene items, and some fun items like a doll or soccer ball. (Sowers4Pastors covers the cost of the backpack and transportation.) Oh, and all of this do-goodery is also tax-deductible. 

Every year, Sowers4Pastors delivers backpacks to approximately 3500 children who are registered in the sponsorship programs. That number includes both sponsored and unsponsored children. Part of the $15 a month sponsorship fee promises that each sponsored child will receive a backpack whether or not the sponsor chooses to fill one specifically for their child. 

Additionally, backpacks are given to the children of pastors in the area. Backpacks are provided for the children registered at many of the feeding centers that aren’t part of the sponsorship program. And backpacks are given to children in the local communities without any of these other connections, simply because many of those children wouldn't be able to attend school otherwise. 

If you are a child sponsor, you continue to have the option to physically fill a backpack for your sponsored child. You can also just fill a large Ziplock bag with the extra “fun” items you want your child to receive and let someone with Sowers4Pastors or Manna put the items in a backpack along with school supplies. And remember that your sponsorship already means that your child will receive a backpack if you are unable to fill one. 



Each year, some generous people take on the project of packing backpacks for non-sponsored children and children who aren't in a sponsorship program. This year it has been much more difficult for individuals and groups to go out and purchase school supplies. With social distancing, people are less likely to run from store to store scooping up the back-to-school items. Virtually filling a backpack will take away the hassle of shopping in this era of Covid-19. You can still fill backpacks the old-fashioned way if you choose to, but this is going to be a great option for those who are unable to get to the store. You might say that it’s virtually painless!



If a sponsor wants to send a backpack to their sponsored child through this system on the website, there is a way to do that, too. To ensure that the backpack is allocated correctly, simply give the name and sponsorship number of your child in the section for notes on the payment page. 

Last year, Sowers4Pastors collected 8000 backpacks. If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring. Hopefully, Allen and his rented Penske truck will be traveling across the U.S. in a couple of months, collecting a multitude of backpacks. But no matter what happens, plans are in place to get as many backpacks as possible into the hands of Honduran children. 



Would you like to know more about why the backpacks are needed in Honduras? Then here's a helpful video for you.

Sowers4Pastors - Backpack Distribution Impact 


 - posted by Christi

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Face to Face Stories: The Academic High Achiever

The disciples of Jesus had lived a dream. For three years, they followed Jesus, witnessing miracle after miracle. It was a life they never could have expected. So what did they do when they thought that the door had closed on that future?

Peter, Andrew, James, and John went back and picked up the nets they had dropped to follow Jesus. When Jesus found them in Galilee, he found them doing what they knew how to do—fishing. Fishing was vital work, and honorable work—but we know that God had another occupation in mind for these men.

Many young people in our Manna 4 Lempira programs are living a similar experience during this season of quarantine. Having been empowered, encouraged, and equipped to stay in school they have chased a different dream for their lives—something that may have been outside the realm of possibility for their parents. But with the drastic disruption in the normalcy of life here, including closure of schools and businesses, these youth are going back to what they know. 

Everywhere I look these days, I see corn fields—sprouting green rows of hope pushing up through the broken earth. And in these fields are young men like “Jose”. 

Their work is skilled work. As someone whose gardens never produce more than a few wrinkly tomatoes, I envy the intelligence, experience, and hard work that produces fruitful fields. I’m thankful for their work too, as a consumer dependent on this vital harvest. However, I know that in these fields are young men who, when given the opportunity, also have other affinities that can impact the futures of their communities in other positive ways.



Last year, I stood beside Jose, bursting with pride, as he graduated from high school with top honors. I know the struggle that his family has endured to get this far. Life has not been easy, even without the complications of coronavirus. But in spite of bitter circumstances that made him man of the house at a young age, Jose is a kind, godly, young man with a servant’s heart. He is always smiling his dazzling smile, optimistic and happy. His hands are best suited for skilled work at a keyboard, his keen mind best challenged by rows of computer code. With the impact of coronavirus, his dream to major in Information Technology at the local university died for a season. Instead of typing intricate rows of code, he plants orderly rows of corn.

I stood by Jose’s side recently and listened to him share about his work, blisters on his sun-browned hands and determination in his coffee black eyes. Jose is doing what he must do to provide for his family at this time. With his mother’s stall in the local market closed for 100 days, Jose is working to feed her and his four siblings. Right now, it’s hard to think ahead to a future in information technology. He must think about putting meals on the table.

This situation highlights the vital role of sponsorship in the life of a young person. As the situation with COVID-19 continues to develop—and hopefully wind down—in Honduras, we are here, forming a safety net to ensure that Jose’s dreams don’t die. We will be here as a ministry to continue encouraging Jose and many like him to pursue their dreams. We will continue to supplement their food supply with crisis provisions to encourage Jose and take some of the burden from his young shoulders.

The disciples of Jesus went back to fishing—but not for long. God had plans that nothing could stop for those men to share a message that would change the world. We are no less confident that God has plans to change homes, communities, and Honduras through the lives of young people like Jose. We know that whether God’s plan is for Jose to bless his community through productive fields or through technology, coronavirus can’t stop that plan—and we want to be there to help Jose reach his full potential for his country and for God’s kingdom.

 - posted by Kim

If you'd like to help with the cost of distributing food 
to the struggling families in western Honduras,
here is a link where you can do so:

Click here to donate

Monday, June 22, 2020

More Motorcycles for Pastors, plus Church Construction

After a two day “break” from the church construction project at Quelecasque, Allen, Russell, and some of the crew were back on the job site, when I spoke with Trish on Wednesday. Trish used the word “break” when describing the two- day gap in building, but the word definitely needs quotation marks around it. The reason for the brief halt on the building project was that they were falling behind on work on the coffee farm. 


Allen and Russell hired a few local guys with the necessary skills to come in and help out around the farm for a while. With the increased number of men on the coffee crew, the building crew was free to return to Quelecasque.


You may recall that the project involves adding a second floor to the existing church building. The 2nd floor was divided into six sections. The concrete flooring has been poured in four of those sections. [Note: Please read the next sentence in your best infomercial voice.] But wait, there’s more! (See? Aren’t you glad you did the infomercial voice?) They have already started putting up walls on the sections with flooring. Things are coming together.




It’s also time for the motorcycle ministry to help provide another batch of motorcycles to deserving pastors. The first stage in the process is identifying the pastors who will be recipients. Sowers4Pastors has a donor who partners with them to help fund this project. This donor requests information on the pastors being considered. There is a questionnaire for each pastor to complete. As with so many things, this process became a little more complicated due to current travel restrictions. 


Why can’t all of the information be easily gathered by phone? Well, if you’ve ever tried to have a phone conversation with Allen or Russell when they are out and about in Honduras, then you know that cell reception is spotty, at best. It’s slightly better than using two tin cans and a reeeally long piece of string. But only slightly. 


Sowers4Pastors put Melvin in charge of collecting the information they needed from prospective motorcycle recipients. Sometimes he couldn’t reach the pastors. In those cases, Melvin relayed the questions, by phone, to the pastors’ supervisors. The supervisors then communicated with the pastors and relayed the answers to Melvin, again by phone. The information was then translated into English and given to Trish, who entered the information into the application forms. Finally, the forms were sent along to the donor. 




Even though the process was convoluted, it was effective. Hopefully, 12-14 pastors will have motorcycles fairly soon. 



 - posted by Christi

Friday, June 19, 2020

KELSEA GOT OUT!

Since the middle of March, flights in and out of Honduras have been severely restricted. Relief flights were set up by the government for people to leave, if they wished to do so, and to allow citizens or legal residents to fly in. For the most part, this has worked reasonably well. 

The Sowers family made the decision to stay put, but for various reasons many missionaries have made the decision to travel. Since the restrictions began, most people reentering the country signed a document promising to quarantine in their own homes for 14 days. This is what the Hall family of Manna 4 Lempira did when they returned from their trip to the States. 

People being deported back to Honduras from other countries do not have the option of spending time quarantined at home. Many people are being returned to Honduras and those deportees are being placed in quarantine camps for 14 days, before being released to go to their own homes. This has been going on since late March. 

Kelsea was planning a trip back to her home in the State of Washington. (Please hum “Leaving on a Jet Plane” as you read the following lines.) All her bags were packed. She was ready to go. Russell drove her to the airport to catch her scheduled flight on May 17th. Alas, she never left on a jet plane! Her flight was cancelled.

Since the Sowerses don’t live close to the airport, Kelsea stayed with their daughter Rachel, who does live near the airport, to try to catch the next scheduled flight. The next flight was scheduled for May 21st. That flight was also canceled. Kelsea’s next chance for a flight out was going to be on May 25th. If that flight didn’t take off, Kelsea would need to wait another week, until Russell’s next designated travel day, when he could come and drive her back to Gracias. She chose to have Russell pick her up on Monday the 25th. Aaaand… All the flights scheduled that week after Kelsea returned to Gracias did depart. Oh, well. 

Kelsea waited for a week at Russell’s house before deciding to try and travel again. She booked a flight leaving Honduras on June 1st, but it was canceled last minute due to tropical storm Amanda. The next available flight wasn’t scheduled to leave until the week after on June 9th, so Rachel graciously opened up her home again, so that Kelsea would have a place to stay and Russell wouldn’t need to make another airport run. Finally, after a total of 3 weeks and 4 cancelled flights, Kelsea was able to make it to the States! You know what they say, 5th time’s the charm!  

Right as Kelsea was preparing to travel, there was a government announcement regarding flights into Honduras, which caused quite an uproar amongst the missionaries. It was announced that everyone who flies into Honduras would have to go to the quarantine camps for two weeks - no exceptions. The level of privacy and safety in the camps, as well as the lack of ability to social distance, made this a rather horrifying proposal to the missionary families that were considering traveling! Oddly enough, the government has not actually followed this new rule, and missionaries are continuing to fly into Honduras without having to quarantine in the camps.

Photos of the quarantine camps:





So, in spite of difficulties and concerns, Kelsea has safely returned to her family for now. Meanwhile, Sowers daughter Kirstin is still waiting for the rules to change so that she can fly down to join the ministry. Currently, incoming flights are only available to Honduran citizens and individuals with legal residency, neither of which applies to Kirstin. She was planning to join the ministry, and live in Honduras full time, starting in May. Now we’re hoping for July . . . or August . . . or who knows when?

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Face to Face Stories: The Famous Doña Manuela

When I met Doña Manuela, I didn’t know she was famous. I didn’t know that everyone in (and around) Gracias has grown up craving her delicious bread, made in the huge, white, adobe oven that squats outside her humble home in a village outside of town. After I spent a day in the kitchen with the Doña and began to share my experience, it quickly became clear that she is a household name. Countless people have shared memories of her mouthwatering empanadas or rich tortas.

The reason I arrived at the home of the Doña was not on a quest for the perfect bread, but to share bags of crisis provisions with her family. Her grandchildren live in the home and are beneficiaries of the Manna 4 Lempira program. Early in the pandemic, I had been contacted by the oldest grandchild. There was no food in their home. If Doña Manuela is a locally revered artisan of bread, how did the situation for her family become so needy so fast?



Before COVID-19, her custom had been to bring her famous breads to town for purchase by her shockingly extensive clientele. Now, with a restriction on vulnerable people over 60 leaving their homes as a safeguard against the virus, Doña Manuela can not leave her village to sell. Her son, who typically supplements the income in the home as a taxi driver, is also unable to work due to government restrictions on transportation.

The situation of Doña Manuela and her family during this crisis sheds light on the delicate balance of survival here in Honduras. When conditions are normal, life is hard. It requires a daily commitment to hard work—days spent in the backbreaking labor of kneading breads and baking it in the scorching oven, and then transporting it to town and carrying it through the market to earn a modest income. Most of this income is reinvested in the business and used to feed the family, and not much is left for savings. Barring sickness or disaster, a living is possible—but it is a day to day living. Any disruption in the daily routine is devastating and quickly leads to desperation




Providing crisis relief is crucial in this time as a way of carrying hard-working families through until they are able to resume their normal activities. Doña Manuela and her family will, God willing, arrive on the other side of this pandemic to continue blessing the residents of Gracias with her delicious creations—thanks to the generosity of donors who have provided emergency food provisions for families like hers.

 - posted by Kim Hall

Friday, June 12, 2020

Food Crisis Update

It’s time for an update on the current food crisis in Honduras, as it relates to Covid-19. We’re used to seeing graphs depicting curves in need of flattening, so let’s discuss the increased need for food in those terms. This chart doesn’t really have a curve yet. It’s more like an arrow shooting upward in an almost steady climb. During normal times, there are approximately 150 pastors coming to Sowers4Pastors to receive food for their communities. That number is now approaching 300 pastors!


Clay Powell, who heads up Pastors Training School, has been keeping up with the pastors who were his students, and was delivering packages of food to them. During his visits, the pastors began relaying the needs they were seeing around them. As a result, an additional 150 families have been added to the list of people Sowers4Pastors is trying to help. Keep in mind that those 150 families are not the only new additions to the list. People are being brought to the Sowers’ attention through other sources as well. And, of course, they are seeing increased needs from people they were already helping. 

There are a couple of things that Sowers4Pastors hope will start to make a difference toward flattening the hunger curve:
  • It has been somewhere between a month and six weeks since the rains started. By her own admission, Trish is no farmer, but she believes people should begin harvesting a variety of locally grown foods within another month or so. Even people who do not normally plant gardens did so this year, and that is a hopeful thing. Unfortunately, corn, a main staple here, won't be ready for harvest for several more months.
  • The government of Honduras has started reopening the economy. Monday, June 8th was the beginning of the process. Basically, the situation is that most businesses have been allowed to reopen. The exception is what we would call public transportation, even though it is private - not government run - in Honduras. Buses, taxis, and vans which are used to shuttle people are not allowed to operate. This means that a lot of people can’t get to work. People are resourceful, though. For instance, the Sowerses have had several workers staying with them since they couldn’t easily travel each day. Hopefully, some people will begin working and bringing in money to purchase food.

The virus itself continues to be a problem mainly in larger cities. The number of cases being reported each day is the highest it has been so far. Unlike in the U.S., where there have been huge discussions about weighing the danger of the virus against the danger to the economy, things are more black and white in Honduras. With so many people facing literal starvation, Hondurans must get back to work. There is also talk of reopening schools--perhaps sometime in the next month. 

Thanks to the donations they have received, so far Sowers4Pastors has been able to purchase enough supplemental food to stay ahead of the needs. As a ministry, they have immediate and long-term plans in place. Remember that their baseline is feeding 14,000 people twice a week. When this crisis is over, they will be out of food and will still need to feed an incredibly large number of people on a regular basis. Allen has been working to find ways to purchase food through the most cost-effective sources. As long as there are adequate funds, Sowers4Pastors should be able to continue to meet the needs of the people it serves. 


Please keep praying about this ongoing situation in Honduras!! The crew with Sowers4Pastors is excited to see God's hand at work, in the lives of these pastors and families. Please continue to pray for God's strength and abundance to rain down on these people! - posted by Christi