Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas morning at my house!

(Click on the photo for a clearer version - I don't know why it's fuzzy here, but clear when you click on it.)

Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

To everyone who is still showing up here to read, even though I haven't written much this month:  

Merry Christmas!

We've been busy, and having a blast!

  • Oldest daughter Kirstin is here for the holidays.
  • We butchered a hog and held a pork roast for our regular construction crew all on the same day (the 22nd). It was ridiculous to do the butchering, process all the meat, and prepare and serve a meal for twenty-some people on the same day, but we did it! The freezer is now full to the brim with pork! 
  • We'll be having Russell and his wife Iris, and Rachel's boyfriend Brandy here for Christmas dinner tomorrow - featuring another home-grown and home-cured ham!
  • Once Christmas is over we'll turn right around and pull down the decorations, so that we can reconfigure the house/bodega into mostly-bodega, as the container of donations should arrive within the next week or so. 
  •  ALSO, we're going to have to butcher our bull almost right away . . . basically as soon as I can arrange for someplace to store a very large amount of meat!  The bull keeps breaking out and wandering off, and we don't have a good way to both contain him better and feed him, so his time is up!
  • In addition to all of that, the construction on our house has also been progressing. Did I mention that we were busy?

The pumpkin bread is baked, hams are brined, and this morning (Christmas Eve, for heaven's sake), out of necessity, I canned 20 pints of pork broth (because I can't justify sticking anything into the freezer just now, as I'm trying to make room for the influx of beef). The fridge is already full to overflowing with leftovers from the party this weekend plus three 13 x 9 pans full of raw pork being turned into bacon.

So, that's all I'll write for now . . . I have stuff to do!!!!! Merry Christmas!!!!!!!

Thursday, December 6, 2012


We recently had another batch of puppies, and Boo took this amazing photo of one of the pups sleeping on his mother's foot.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

More team photos!

We've been so busy! Allen returned from several months in the US, flying into Honduras one day ahead of the visiting medical team. We're so blessed to have Russell working with us, as he was able to set everything up for the team's arrival, in Allen's stead.

Now, we're trying to get caught up on all the things that get pushed to the back burner when Allen is away, as well as handling a bunch of complicated ministry tasks, including year end paperwork stuff, putting in a request for more motorcycles, purchasing books and Bibles to replenish stock in the bookstore, and importing the container of Christmas gifts and donations.

I'm currently sorting through the photos members of the team took, so that Rachel and I can use some of them, grouped by themes, here and on the Facebook page. For now, just to keep whetting your appetite for more, here are a few random shots, which caught my eye as I was sorting through the larger collection of photos:

Here's a rare photo of me that I don't hate, so I thought I should post it. LOL

I wasn't sure whether or not to post this one . . . just keepin' it real. LOL

Indoor/outdoor dentistry

That's my daughter Boo, the dental assistant.
More to come, I promise!

Monday, November 26, 2012

We had a team from MARYLAND!

Last past week we hosted a medical team from Maryland - which happens to be my US home. It makes me happy to have conversations with people who live in places I know and love! This group worked hard to run medical and dental clinics in remote locations in the mountains of Lempira.

Boo, our regular photographer, is also an accomplished dental assistant and she was busy as could be all week, assisting the dentists (she even extracted a tooth!), so she didn't bring home many pictures. I've received a few photos from the team, and I expect to get more soon . . . but meanwhile, I'll share the ones I've got!

More to come . . .

Monday, November 19, 2012

We've made a change!

I wanted to take a moment to announce, officially, that Allen and I have changed to a different mission organization. We are now with "The Foundation". You can find The Foundation website at www.tfofsp.org. We're excited about this change, as we expect it to improve our ability to do more with the money we receive - something we're ALL trying to achieve these days!

I thought I'd just post our recent newsletter here, so that you will know all about it:

                                                                                                                                                     November 2012

Dear Friends and Family:
Hello from Honduras! Our family is doing well, and we hope and pray that the same is true for yours! This newsletter contains some news that is new. It’s important too, so please make sure you read it thoroughly!
After 10 years with Missionary Ventures International, it has become clear to us that the type of ministry work we are doing is no longer as much of a match with the vision of the mission as it had been when we joined MVI, and so we prayerfully determined to make a change. As we searched for a new organization, we wanted to be sure that the new mission would be as careful with your donations as we try to be.
The result of that search is that we are now announcing our affiliation with The Foundation, headquartered in Orlando Florida. This organization, headed up by Steve Beam (former president of Missionary Ventures) is committed to sending 100% of the funds donated for our ministry and personal use to us on the field (most mission organizations keep some percentage for stateside overhead expenses). Coupled with our ongoing attempt to live on the field as tentmakers as much as possible, this means that we will continue to be able to stretch every donated dollar to the limit. Just one example of this is our feeding program (run in cooperation with “Kids Against Hunger”), in which children are fed a hot, nutrition-packed meal for one penny – currently 1.2 million meals annually.
We’re excited about our new affiliation with The Foundation, and we encourage you to check out their website and see what they’re all about.  In previous letters, we’ve asked specifically for prayers for wisdom, regarding how we might reconfigure the ministry to deal with the current times of financial tightening. We believe those prayers are being answered, at least in part, in the changeover to The Foundation, and we’re excited to see how God chooses to work things out in the future, as we continue to strive to follow His will. For new donation information and web links, please see the details at the bottom of this letter. (Just FYI, Russell and Iris are remaining with Missionary Ventures.)
If you’re into Facebook, our ministry now also has a Facebook page – in fact, we have two: Sowers4Pastors (main ministry page) and Gifts for Gracias.
Now for those who can’t access the internet, here are a few updates. Since December of last year, the majority of our day-to-day manpower has gone into a gigantic bridge construction project in Las Flores. Working six days a week, for months, the guys were able to build the support walls on both sides of the river, and completed one and almost completed the second of the two supports located in the riverbed. They also made 9 of the 12 huge beams which are required for supporting the roadway. Now the river is swollen, and work on the bridge will have to stop until the rains decrease and the rivers come back down later in the year.
In other thrilling news, when the bridge project had to stop for a bit we began the gradual process of constructing an actual home for our family up here on our property. Currently we live in the bodega/warehouse; the large open space has been configured into multiple rooms through the use of many carefully placed bookcases. We aren’t planning to go into debt to build our house, so the construction process will take a good long while, but after two years of living in the bodega, well, just getting started on the actual house is pretty exhilarating.
Other ministries have continued to greater or lesser extents. The feeding program is growing like crazy. Ministries supplying motorcycles and horses to pastors continue apace. Pastor training school attendance has decreased a bit, as the extreme need for trained pastors to work in the newly reached areas of the mountains around Gracias has been decreased as several classes of students have graduated and moved on to pastor new churches. Sales of Bibles and Christian books have continued, as Iris (Russell’s wife) handles this aspect of the ministry out of their home.
Throughout the years, and as our work here has grown and changed to meet the needs of the areas where we’ve worked, your support of our ministry has meant so much to us, and we have attempted to use the funds given into our hands as God would want us to do, to help as many people as we can, with both their physical and spiritual needs. Thank you so much for being a part of this!

Allen and Trish Sowers, Rachel, Christopher, Bethany, and Ben

I've updated the info on our website, www.sowers4pastors.com, and also the blog page which tells how to donate (found just below the photo at the top of this page). Thanks for being a part of this ministry with us!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

There's a strange, glowing object in the sky!

Is it? . . . Could it be? . . .  It's the sun!

Last night we had crazy strong winds, and the winds seem to have swept away our persistent patch of cloudy weather. And just in time, too . . . I really need to get some of this laundry done!!!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Cloudy days and days and days

We've had quite a string of days with heavily overcast skies - about 5 in a row now. It's a bit like living inside a cloud. With this kind of weather we bring very little power in through our solar panels, and so we live a limited existence. In the evenings we can't run any electronic items for entertainment, but that isn't the worst of it. We can't bake anything. We end up reducing the number of hours a day we run the freezer, and after several days of low power we've even had to unplug the refrigerator a few times. Ben isn't able to do the part of his schoolwork that requires him to use the computer (he's heartbroken about that, I'm sure), and I'm using the laptop computer for my work, instead of the desktop, to save on power that way.

Last night, I really wanted to follow the election results as they came in, but the amount of power stored in the batteries at the end of the day (I should say: at the end of what passes for daylight hours right now) was unusually low - in fact, it was about the amount we would normally have in the batteries in the morning before the sun rises, after using power out of the batteries all night. So, we unplugged everything in the house except the laptop computer and the internet modem, and sat around in the dark watching the results roll in.

According to the sketchy weather predictions we get here, we should expect this cloudy weather to continue through the beginning of next week. We'll certainly be glad to see the sun again, when the clouds finally decide to give us a peek of it!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Another day of pouring concrete . . .

. . . which also means another day I prepare lunch for a crowd! Today the meal will involve about a dozen people. I'm planning to make fried egg sandwiches. Pray for me! (Maybe pray for those who will be eating, as well.) LOL

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Sadness involving me and cooking

Here's a fact about me. I have no sense of smell at all. As a result, I can only taste those tastes which can be detected by the taste-buds on my tongue - sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.

Strawberry - sour, occasionally slightly sweet
Banana - usually slightly sweet
Apple - sweet or sour, depending on the variety
Chocolate - bitter and sweet
Chips, pretzels, etc - salty
Cheese - salty
Rice, potatoes, pasta, milk - nothing
Unseasoned meats - nothing
All vegetables - nothing

You get the idea.

I'm upset today, because I'm tired of having the responsibility of doing a job - cooking - in which I can never feel confident that I will have an adequate outcome. I had to make lunch today for a crew of guys who work on our house construction. I went for safe and easy - I made boxed macaroni and cheese. Did you even know that it's possible to screw up boxed macaroni and cheese?

I don't know if perhaps the milk was off, or the margarine, or even the packets of cheese powder, but everyone agreed the meal was strange and nasty, and almost all of the food I prepared went to the dogs (who, by the way, were delighted with it).

For a moment I'd like you to pretend that you're me.

  • First of all, you have the responsibility for making sure that your family and occasionally those outside of your family are fed. You'd like the eating to be a pleasant experience.
  • Second - you can only work with foods you've never tasted before. This will be hard for most of you to even imagine, since you are used to tasting foods. Perhaps you can pretend that you're cooking in some foreign country where they use ingredients you're completely unfamiliar with.
  • Third - you can't taste anything at all before, during or after the preparation of the food, including the "adjust seasonings" part of the venture. To most fully experience what it means to be Trish, you should really find a way to avoid smelling any of the foods you work with, as well.
  • Fourth - you can use a recipe! But, assume that two or more of the ingredients are unavailable where you live, so you have to make substitutions with items which aren't quite the same and are likely inferior to those listed in the recipe (canned peas or spinach in place of frozen, for instance).
  • Fifth - as a wild card, assume that at any moment one or more of the foods you have to work with may be tainted or just taste bad. Good news for you - you can see if the food is moldy. Other than that, you'll probably not know that you've served your family nasty rotten food until they mention it. They will mention it. 

Now, do this faithfully, several times each day, over the course of years. Work hard to improve your skills. Try to think of ways to fail-safe against the potential pitfalls. Deal with the fact that everyone else you know is trying to incorporate healthier foods into their family's diets, while you're increasing the processed foods, as a way to avoid inedible results. Try not to notice as your family picks at their food, or how excited and happy they are when someone else does the cooking. Keep going even when they politely say: "Oh it's fine, Mom" when you cook . . . but say: "WOW this is really great!!!" when someone else cooks.

Teach your daughter to cook. Find that your family enjoys eating again. Cook less and less yourself, thereby forgetting some of the lessons you've learned along the way. Have daughter grow up and move out.

Get frustrated and unhappy all over again.

Sigh. This is me being sad. I'll get over it and be all salamanders and puppies and basement-happiness tomorrow. Today I'm wallowing. Don't show up for dinner - you've been warned!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Come see my basement

I have basement walls! Here's what they looked like, with some of the panels/forms still in place:

Yesterday the crew poured the basement walls; today, they stripped off the panels used to create the shape for the pour. Closest to you in the photo is the gap in the walls where the stairway will be located.

Here are some pictures of the work in progress:

To me, this feels huge - there's a room I could stand inside of, if I were willing to climb down in there (no stairs yet, LOL). My new house is happening!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Happiness regarding computers and scorpions!

I believe I've resolved the problem we've been having with our computer not wanting to communicate with the internet. It took many hours, over the course of several days, for me to pinpoint the cause of the problem and to research and eventually find the solution. Then it took more hours for me to figure out how to implement the solution - which was re-installing a faulty driver on our "ethernet adapter."

Actually making the repair was a two minute job. (Now I know why the IT guys make the big bucks!)

Since the re-installation I have turned the computer on and off about half a dozen times, and it has connected to the internet without any problems every time. Before the repair, it would easily take a dozen tries before we could get it to connect. So, although I don't know if I've managed a permanent solution, I have definitely made a significant improvement in the situation.

This causes me great happiness!

Want to know what else is causing me happiness just now (at 3 in the morning)?

Today I worked on emptying out my bedroom, so that I can do a very thorough deep cleaning. My allergies told me this couldn't be put off any more, so I've been gradually getting it done. Today I moved the bed out from the wall, although I didn't get a chance to clean behind it yet. When I woke up a short time ago to let out one of the dogs (he really did need to go out, LOL) I noticed that my earlier work had disturbed a largish scorpion, and it had climbed up the wall beside the bed . . . and I was able to dispatch HIM before he got ME!

Double happiness!

Back to bed now . . . but my thoughts and prayers are with the East Coasters as the big storm arrives. Be safe!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Today I'm wearing my "computer maintenance and repair specialist" hat . . .

 . . . and it doesn't fit me all that well.

Our newish desktop computer is having problems connecting to the internet - which honestly is the primary reason we have a computer at all. I've researched the problem online (when I can convince the computer to go online),  and I have several online friends and acquaintances helping me figure out a solution, but so far no go.

Allen always says that he doesn't like working on computers because you can't see the problem you need to fix, and you can't bang on it with a hammer to fix it. I'm feeling this way a bit myself this morning. If nothing else, banging on the uncooperative computer with a hammer would be therapeutic!

As I work on this, I keep checking on the updates regarding the big stormy mess heading toward the mid-Atlantic states. I'm praying for you all!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Found in the garden

Beautiful, don't you think? We kept it for a few days to enjoy looking at it, then let it go.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Construction of basement walls - step 1

The basement walls of my new house are starting to take shape!

After the footers had been poured, and the ground leveled, Russell and the crew started putting up the wall panels. These panels are super-strong, and are designed to hold up to the pressure of very heavy wet concrete being poured into them. The crew has set up and pulled down these panels a lot, in the course of working on bridge projects, so they know what they're doing here.

It appears that the basement walls may be poured on Saturday or Monday. Can you imagine? This house is so much smaller than the houses Allen used to build in the states, and it is so much less involved (the basement, for instance, has no plumbing except a drain in the floor, and the house won't have central heating or AC) that the work seems to go very quickly - at least to me, the one who isn't doing any of it. LOL

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

FLASH FLOOD - and resulting bridge repairs

It's rainy season, and one of the great dangers of rainy season is flash flooding. (Another huge danger is landslides, but this post isn't about landslides.) About a month ago a river near the village of Monte de la Virgin experienced a gigantic flash flood. In telling me about the event, Russell said to try to imagine that a small river suddenly was engulfed by the waters of the Mississippi. A wide swath of land on both sides of the river lost plants and soil, so that now there is a huge rocky bed with a smallish river running through it.

Here's the newly widened riverbed.

See the man? I circled him so you could find him easier. I wanted you to see him, to get a sense of the scale of the destruction. Before the flash flood, soil and plants covered most of the area up to the edge of the water in this picture (on the day this photo was taken, the water level of the river was a bit lower than average). Contrast that with the current situation, and you can see that the amount of water  needed to tear out both banks of the river like this must have been amazing!

One of the bridges we built in the past few years spans this river. It is a swinging or cable bridge (a direct translation of the Spanish name for this type of bridge is a "hammock bridge.") The construction of this bridge makes it suitable for small vehicle traffic, up to pickup trucks. During the flood, the water rose above the level of the bridge deck, and did some damage to the cables holding up the bridge, as well as to the boards which were used to create the deck, and to the side rails. The whole bridge took a lot of pulling and wrenching.

Here is the bridge, undergoing repairs. You can see how high the water had to get, to reach the deck of this bridge!

Six cables run under the deck of the bridge. Two of those cables broke, and three others needed to be tightened back up. After the damage and until the repairs were completed, people continued to use a bridge that only had one of these lower cables functioning correctly. Russell said he saw a car cross the bridge - and that the bridge was sagging down into a "V" shape with the weight of that car!

Fortunately we had some cable on hand, so we were able to make the replacements. The local government supplied the lumber to repair and replace the bridge deck.

Repairs in progress - in this photo you can see the damage to the safety fencing, as well.

Russell and our crew of workers completed those repairs last week, so now the people of that area can safely cross their bridge again . . . and our crew has been able to get back to work on the construction of our house! Yay on both counts!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Cloudy Day News - and Construction Progress!

We've had about four or five cloudy days in a row. This is worthy of mention when your household electricity comes from the sun. We count on the few hours each day when we (usually) receive an overwhelming abundance of power. During those hours we run the washing machine and dishwasher, and other non-essentials like vacuums, extra computers, etc. Later in the afternoon, when we have an abundance of power, but not an "overwhelming abundance," we run fewer items, so that we can store up power in the batteries for use after dark.

On cloudy days like today we spend a lot of time turning things on and off. This morning I have plugged and unplugged the chest freezer a couple of times, and I have also started and stopped and started the dishwasher and clothes washer quite frequently. Having lived with solar power for several years now, I've developed a sort of "unconscious consciousness" of sun vs cloud, so that I notice a subtle change in the quantity of light and can jump up from whatever I'm doing and adjust our electricity usage as needed.

Today it looks like I will get one load of dishes and three loads of laundry done, which isn't too bad for an overcast day. I have to stay on top of it, and keep things running whenever we do have enough power, because if I dawdle and need to run high-usage appliances into the afternoon hours when I should be storing up power we'll run low in the evening, and we'll have to curtail our electricity-using activities then. The teens and Ben are used to this . . . they'll watch DVDs on the TV or play Xbox using the TV when we have lots of power, but they'll watch a movie or play games on a laptop computer when power is somewhat limited, and they'll read and play board or card games when the energy situation is dire. We've never had to resort to using candles or oil lamps, as we have a generator we run when the weather has been especially dark.

This particular cloudy day, while difficult for running appliances, was lovely weather for mixing and pouring concrete! It's an especially exciting day, because todays construction project was creating the footers for the basement walls of my new house! (Sorry the photo quality is lower than usual - Boo was experimenting with the settings today.)

Next step: putting up the actual basement walls!!!!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

New Motorcycle Pastors

These are some of the recipients of the recent motorcycle distribution. We're so pleased to be able to help these pastors overcome some of the difficulties related to ministering in such mountainous terrain, over difficult (sometimes non-existent) roads. This amazing blessing is made possible by the members of the Christian Motorcyclists Association, and we're so grateful to them for their efforts on behalf of world evangelism!

I think this is so great! Some of these pastors oversee 3 or 4 (or more) churches in different villages, preaching several nights each week. Lack of good transportation can be a major obstacle to their work, so this blessing is huge for them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

MINISTRY - an update

When I think you've heard enough about our gardening, baking, animal and homeschooling craziness, I remember to write a post about the ministry . . . you know, the reason we're here in Honduras at all, right? So, here's an update on the ministry for you!

Yesterday Russell distributed motorcycles to pastors. It's a big deal, and yet it feels sort of ordinary to us, now that we've done this so many times. It is certainly a big deal to the recipients!

Preparations are underway for the annual graduation of the Pastor Training School. Following the graduation ceremony the school will be out of session for a few months, and will restart in February or March.

The Gifts for Gracias project is coming together. There are just a few more days to ship a package of gifts or used items in the mail to Maryland - the mailing deadline is October 20th. If you live near enough to Thurmont Maryland that you would care to make a delivery in person, you'll have another week or two for that.

I'm still worried about whether or not we'll get enough donations to fill our container . . .but I have to admit I worry about it every year, so I'm trying to hope and pray, instead of worrying. Seems like a better use of my time.

The bridge construction work is mostly on hold until January, when the water levels in the rivers will be lower. The Bible sales and feeding centers continue to run on "automatic" - okay, so really Iris handles most of the work on these ministries for us - and they are going strong!

We had a team from Jacksonville Florida here recently, and they helped us install roofs on two churches, as part of our Church Construction Projects. Thanks team!

Of course, on top of this, when there's some "spare time" we work on our new house! It's an exciting time for us!

Thanks for reading this ministry update . . . and look how many labels I was able to connect with this post - I actually went over the limit (who knew there even was a limit to how many labels you could tag to a post?) and had to remove some of them!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Taking the Good with the Bad

I had one really lousy day this past week. Friday started off badly with disobedient and destructive animals, and went on to include a trip to town to make sure that a deposit had been made correctly into our bank account (it wasn't, by the way - less than the entire amount was deposited, so I have that to deal with Monday morning). Then, to top it all off, I managed to ruin - absolutely destroy, really - one of the tires of Russell's Land Cruiser by driving too close to the sharp top of a piece of metal pipe sticking up about 3" along the side of the main road through Gracias. The sharp piece of metal snagged a long rip in the side of one of Russell's brand new (of course!), expensive tires. Sigh.

This is not Russell's tire, as I didn't have a camera with me. It's a random internet photo of a flat tire.

The good side of all this is also one of the nicest things about living in Honduras - people are soooooo ready to help you when you have a problem! I think it might be because life is hard here, and everybody needs some help from strangers sometime.

The incident happened on the main road, a one-way road with parking allowed only on one side . . . and my car was immobilized on the other side of the road, with just barely enough room for trucks to get through between me and the parked cars. This situation slowed traffic a good bit, and many people stopped to ask if I needed any help.

Several men got involved in trying to help, but Russell's tires have nuts which can only be removed with a special tool - and we didn't have that tool in the vehicle with us. These men were able to help us find the jack in the back of the Land Cruiser, jack up the vehicle, and remove the spare tire, which is attached underneath, sort of between the two back tires.

Russell (who was out of town, driving my Land Cruiser) called a mechanic friend, who immediately walked the few blocks from his home to our location, with the correct tool, and removed the popped tire. Unfortunately, the spare was significantly under-inflated, and couldn't be used until it was pumped up. We were stopped in front of one of the small radio stations in town, and the gentleman who runs the radio station immediately offered us the use of his truck, to take the spare tire to be filled. Rachel and the mechanic headed off with the tire, while I stayed back and directed traffic (one of the emergency flashers on the back of the Land Cruiser wasn't working, so other drivers weren't always aware that my vehicle was disabled, and these people needed to be directed around the problem).

Eventually I was back on the road, though much shakier in my driving than previously. I hate that I ruined and have to replace a brand new and expensive tire! It makes me want to stay at home and out of trouble from now on, but of course that won't be possible. I just need to take the good with the bad, remember that these kinds of things will happen, and be grateful that I live in a place where so many people are anxious to help when I get myself into a difficult situation!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Today was a good day:

We had cherry, blueberry and apple pies, plus a monster chicken pot pie! Thanks for all the hard work, Rachel!