Monday, December 30, 2013

Oh my, I'm laughing so hard!

Ben received a gift, a couple months ago, of a very nice iPod that does lots of nifty stuff, including taking pictures. Although he has not yet been exposed to "social media," Ben is certainly going to be prepared for it when the time comes. He has been perfecting the art of the "selfie." (You're gonna LOVE these! . . . well, I like them, anyway!)



And before you ask . . . no, he's not wearing an earring in the photo with the hat. That's a curl of hair - he needed a haircut! (And yeah, I had to look twice to make sure, myself, LOL)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sending out an email newsletter . . .

Yes, on Christmas Eve!

If you're not on our mailing list (or aren't sure if you're on the list), and you'd like to receive the letter, send your email address to trish (at) I'd be more than happy to add you to the mailing list.

Merry Christmas Eve!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

See something new?

Every year, Allen updates our ministry overview information. Yesterday I created a new tab at the top of the blog, so that this information will be easily available to everyone. If you're interested in seeing what we're up to, in the big picture, then take a look!

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pig Breeding Success!

Sadly, the two piglets we were bottle feeding didn't make it. 

Happily, this thriving litter of eight piglets was born on Sunday, Ben's birthday . . . during his birthday party! Mama and babies are all doing well!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

More Piglet Pictures . . . because CUTENESS!

The piglet above was smushed into the mud by the other pigs soon after birth. Boo dug him out, we warmed him up, and now he's doing great. He still has some mud on his face. He loves to nurse, and does it expertly!

This piglet has lovely reddish stripes down her back. She is a lousy nurser, and insists on having the bottle enter her mouth from the side. This decreases the suction, so we increased the size of the hole in the nipple. We weren't getting her to eat much before, but now she's happy. Those closed eyes in the photo indicate a nearly sated piglet!

Ahhh, here's some enthusiasm from the pretty piglet we thought we'd lose, due to her previous disinterest in nursing. She's doing so much better now!

A note: All gender references in this post should be disregarded. We don't know whether these piglets are male or female. LOL

Monday, December 9, 2013

SURPRISE: Piglets!

We knew it was going to happen sooner or later. I mean, we have male and female pigs, together in the same pen, so it was kind of inevitable.

Only, we've been a bit distracted the past few months, and nobody was paying attention to the timing . . . and when Boo checked on the pigs this afternoon, one of them was giving birth!

The first few piglets were already born and dead when we found them, but two of the babies were rescued from the pen alive. Unfortunately, either because of our involvement, or possibly just because she is a first time mother, the sow refused to let her piglets nurse . . . in fact, she attacked them whenever they got near to her.

You know what that means, right? Uh huh. We're bottle feeding piglets now.

Sadly, the odds are against these little guys. They didn't nurse from their mother at all, so they didn't receive the first milk, called colostrum, which they need to help them fight off diseases. We'll give it our best shot, however, and see if we can keep the babies alive.

Another of the pigs is pregnant (we discovered that when we were dealing with this one), and so I'm hoping that, if she gives birth in a day or two, and if we can keep these piglets alive until then, maybe we can sneak these two in with the second litter. We manage this easily with our dogs, but we don't know much about pig nursing . . . so it will be an experiment.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Boo's Botanicals

I'm back from being sick, hurrah! I'm still moving kind of slow, but today I was working on organizing some photos, and I came across a few really lovely pictures Boo took of plants in our yard. I hope you enjoy them!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Sorry so suddenly silent: Sick

Currently convalescing.

Prayerful petitions for positive progress 'preciated. LOL

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Rachel is home!

Rachel is home! And she's BAKING FOR US!

In Honduras, the military oversees the elections. Since we have a presidential election coming up, Brandy has had some traveling to do for work. He's actually here in the department of Lempira, doing lots of traveling to remote locations where polling places are being set up. Rachel didn't want to stay home alone while he was here, so she came to Gracias by bus, and is staying with us during the times that Brandy is working. She'll also get to spend some time with him, as he has some days off during his time here.

This morning she's baking pumpkin bread, and if the sun shines long enough for us to gather enough power to run the oven, she's going to make some pies, including chicken pot pie!

We're glad to have Rachel home for a few days, as you might imagine!!!!!

Update: 6 loaves of pumpkin bread, 2 batches of molasses cookies, 2 family size chicken pot pies, and several as-yet-to-be-determined fruit pies! It's a happy day in the Sowers kitchen!!!!!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

We're getting ready for Gifts for Gracias . . . are you?

The deadline for your participation in the Gifts for Gracias Christmas project is coming up quickly! Although the last date for mailing packages is the end of November, we continue to receive personal deliveries from the Maryland area for another month after that. Then the container will be shipped from Maryland to Honduras, and the fun begins down here, as we assemble a gift for each of the members of the families on our many pastor lists!

During the last few months of every year, our family spends a lot of time getting the house and our lives in order for the onslaught of the container full of gifts and donations. Everything is very busy and cluttered here once the container arrives, so it helps to have some preparation and organization completed in advance.

For instance, it's very hard to clean the house, once the shipment fills almost every inch of floor space (except for pathways) up to ten feet high or so. Because we know it will be several months from the time the shipment arrives until we unearth most of the house again, we try to do a deep cleaning right before the shipment. Things are still pretty dusty and dirty by the time we're finished, but at least we know we tried!

The kids and I get an extra-large amount of schoolwork done in the last few months before our part of Gifts for Gracias begins. We know it will be difficult to get much done during the time the house is full and we're so busy sorting everything and making gifts, so we try to squeeze extra school in ahead of time.

Usually, we have some left-over items from the previous year. Perhaps we had an overabundance of stuffed animals, for instance, or school supplies, or toothbrushes, or something else. Often these items are given away during the course of the year, but there are always a few boxes of leftovers which need to be pulled down off shelves and put into use along with the new donations. We also sometimes receive items brought down by teams during the course of the year, which are saved for use at Christmas, and those also have to be brought out of storage and put where they can be made use of. We move those items down from the shelves during this preparation time.

This photo is from Gifts for Gracias 2006 - we had a carport at that rental house

The past few years, Ben has completely given up his bedroom to be used as storage space when the shipment arrives. Because we have almost NO room to move once the shipment is unloaded into the bodega, it is difficult to actually work with the items in the boxes. Ideally we would make stacks of boxes containing similar items, so that we could more efficiently gather the specific items needed for a particular family's gifts. In reality, we just scramble up and over and around and through everything, until we've created and distributed enough gifts that we've regained some floor space! It's more than a bit overwhelming at first! (I'm so excited that we are building our own house now, so that soon-ish we should be able to use the entire bodega for this kind of work, instead of having the use of only part of the bodega because we're also living in it!) Since our new house isn't finished yet, we move Ben out of his room, take down his bed and store the parts up against the wall, put his toys up on a high shelf, and just generally clear that space for the shipment. Ben sleeps on the couch, or in Gus' room, until his room is emptied and available for him again. Ben's a trooper!

At the last minute, we rearrange the "house" part of the bodega, so we reserve as little space as possible for our personal use. We push the kitchen table to one end of the kitchen, and we use the bit of space at the other end of the kitchen for a couch, the TV, and the Christmas tree. Boo and Gus also tighten everything up in their rooms, so that we can put some items in those spaces as well.

Now that you know what we're doing . . . what are YOU doing now, or planning to do, to help with Gifts for Gracias? We can surely use your help!!!!!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Driving over a cable bridge . . . some fun videos

Living in Honduras frequently requires one to do things that would be considered ridiculously unsafe in the US. Today I am going to show you some videos of vehicles crossing the old cable bridge in Las Flores, Lempira. This bridge will eventually be replaced by the bridge we are currently building . . . but for now, there is a LOT of traffic over this very unsafe bridge. (Our apologies that some of the videos are sideways. Boo didn't know that I don't know how to turn them before posting, LOL)

Here's a heavily loaded truck crossing the bridge. Boo is taking the video while standing above, on the uncompleted new bridge:

Boo took this next video while standing down on the cable bridge. You'll notice, as the truck gets close to her, Boo has to reposition herself on the outside edge of the bridge, so the truck has room to pass.

Now, this video I can't get to post here, so you'll have to click a link to see it . . . but DO LOOK AT IT! I promise you will laugh! It is a video, from inside a vehicle that is crossing the bridge. Allen is driving, and visiting team members are in the vehicle. You WILL enjoy their conversation as they cross!

Click here for the video

Now, don't let these videos keep you from coming to see us. Remember, it's going to be an adventure!
(Thanks for the team trip video, Michelle!) 

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Bridge Construction Videos, Part 3 - still mixing and pouring, but also smoothing the surface

As I've been watching all of these videos of the bridge construction work (see Part 1 and Part 2) it occurred to me to wonder how many bucket loads of concrete it took to complete the work of this one day. I had Allen do the calculations, taking into consideration that the buckets were being filled about 1/2 - 2/3 full each time. His answer? 2500 bucket loads. 2500 trips back and forth from the mixers to the edge of the pour. That would certainly make for a long day!

 . . . and, another section of the bridge deck is poured!

Next up . . . videos of cars and trucks crossing the existing cable bridge! I think you're gonna like these!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bridge Construction Videos, Part 2 - mixing and pouring the concrete

Part 1 is here. The following videos are from the same day as the video in part 1. 

With all of the materials placed where they will be fairly close at hand, the volunteers bring buckets full of sand, gravel and water, and bags of cement, and dump these materials into the mixers. The men running the mixers keep track of the proportions of each type of material, so that the final product has the proper strength.

In the next video, the men are filling buckets with the mixed concrete, carrying each bucket to the edge of the area being poured, and dumping in their load of concrete. It must be a bit overwhelming, to see how very little the whole project is furthered by each individual bucket load! But as the number of trips grows, somehow the deck of the bridge is created, bit by bit!

In the following video, Boo concentrated on the work of the men maintaining just one aspect of the job - the sand pile.

In this last video I'm going to post today, you can start to see the pile of dumped bucket loads turning into a mass that can be smoothed out and will eventually be the surface of the bridge.

Let me know what you think of Boo's videos, if you would. The men are mixing and pouring concrete again today (the videos in this post are from last week), and Boo is out there, taking more photos and videos!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Bridge Construction Videos, Part 1 - staging the materials

Last week, I had Boo go along to the construction site on a day the men were pouring concrete, so that she could get some videos for me to post here.

The day didn't go as expected. As we started in on the deck portion of the bridge, we had around 45 volunteers show up for the first big pour. The second big pour day around 70 volunteers came out to work, but somehow, the word didn't go out to bring in the needed volunteers for the most recent pour day (recruiting volunteers is the job of the local government officials), and so only 14 men (all from one village) showed up

Our intrepid crew, along with these few volunteers managed to do the pour in one very long, grueling day, even though one of the cement mixers broke down along the way! Here are some of Boo's photos and videos, so you can experience the day:

Side view of the bridge. The left span is completed, the forms are in place for the pouring of the middle span, the right span still consists only of beams resting on the supports.

Top view of the bridge. Nearest section is completed, and will be the location of the mixing of the concrete for the next span. In the very back of the photo you can see the third span of the bridge, where there are still just beams, and no deck.

The video below shows the men gathering the materials and placing them on the completed part of the bridge deck, so they'll be close at hand as the mixing and pouring begin. Each of those bags of cement weighs about 100 pounds.

I'll post part 2, showing the mixing and pouring of the concrete, as soon as I can get the videos uploaded (it takes hours for me to upload a single video).

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Rachel's Water Woes

Rachel is NOT a whiner. So she rolls up her sleeves and deals with the water issues which are a part of life in Tegucigalpa, the capital city of Honduras.

Here's how it works.

There is a water schedule. Rachel and Brandy can count on their water coming on at midnight, every other night. It is on from midnight until about 8am, then it goes off again, for the rest of the two days.

Rachel and Brandy don't start running the water at midnight, because they're already asleep by then, and also because the water coming into the pipes is noisy. Rachel gets up early the next morning, and starts collecting water in the pila.

A pila is a water storage and washing area, combined. Here's a photo of Rachel's pila:

This is a rather small, rough version of a pila, and it doubles as the bathroom sink, as it is located inside the bathroom. The bottom part is for water storage. The area at the top left is where Rachel washes her laundry. The dirty laundry from the washing area drains out, not into the clean stored water.

Every other morning, Rachel gets up very early and fills up her pila, and also fills a clean, lidded trashcan that she and Brandy keep for water storage. More well-to-do homes would have a large water storage tank on the roof, but homes in this price range have to make do with their pila.

While the water is coming in, Rachel hurries to wash her laundry and dishes, mop her floor, and take a (cold) shower. The goal is to have all of those completed, and still have her pila and trashcan full of water, when the water supply turns off!

Rachel told me that sometimes, toward the end of the second day, they have to make difficult choices about what they'll use their dwindling water for. Flushing the toilet has been known to trump taking a shower at that point in time.

This water is NOT their drinking water, by the way. Just like other places in Honduras, the tap water isn't considered safe for drinking, so Rachel and Brandy purchase 5 gallon jugs of purified water for their drinking water. As far as I know, there isn't a shortage of drinking water.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

More about Rachel's new life

I've received a few requests for more information about Rachel's apartment and her lack-of-water situation. First, the photos. Above is Rachel, making the first meal she and Brandy ate in their own home as a married couple. They didn't have a stove yet, at this point in time! Behind her is the exterior door, and in front of her is the little kitchen area. The whole apartment is 250 sq.ft., including the bathroom.

Here are Rachel and Brandy (he's the one taking the picture) sitting on their mattress, eating their meal, before Russell delivered the bed Rachel made. To the right in the picture is the wall of the bathroom, which is cut out of a corner of the rectangle that makes up the whole apartment.

In this picture you can sort of see Rachel's little kitchen area. That's all the counter space, and there aren't any cabinets. This sort of kitchen is pretty common in Honduras. When you rent a house or apartment here, the appliances are rarely included, so Brandy and Rachel purchased a stove and refrigerator. 

Rachel's new stove runs on propane, but the gas sold in Honduras is slightly different, and ovens and stoves sometimes require some extra parts and adjustments to work with this type of gas. Rachel is looking sad in this photo because she can't use her oven yet. Some of you know how Rachel LOVES to bake!

Rachel seems happier with her fridge. All you have to do to make it work is to plug it in!

You'd be standing in the kitchen, to see this view. The wall of bathroom which doesn't face the bed has the stove and refrigerator up against it. You can see their little table, with two chairs, to the right, as well as their clothing storage shelf.

And that's about it for the layout of Brandy and Rachel's apartment. Just for fun, I posted a photo of Rachel and Brandy (along with some other people I don't know) at an event at the officer's club.

This post is long enough now, with all of these photos, so you'll have to wait until tomorrow for the explanation about the water - or the LACK of water.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Videos - the fun begins!

Yesterday Bethany and I went to town for groceries. Just for fun, we decided to take a couple of videos of the drive, and see how they turned out. I was surprised at how easy it was to upload them to YouTube . . . I haven't put up a video in years and it was much more complicated the last time. It did take a long time to upload, but it was just slow, it didn't use up too much of my limited internet, or keep me from using the computer for other things. So, based on this experience, you might be seeing more videos from me in the future!

Here are the two videos taken yesterday. They're both just short clips from our regular drive to Gracias. One shows the very roughest part of the drive, the other is just random. I think you'll be able to tell which is which!

If there's something you'd like for us to video, let us know, and we'll see what we can do - it's kind of fun!

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Finally! The picture of Rachel's bed

Last month I posted some photos of Rachel crafting the bed she would be using in her new, married life. Here's the link to that post.

Rachel visited us this week, to help as a translator for a visiting medical team, and while she was here, she gave me a photo of her bed, all put together and made up in her new apartment in the city. She couldn't email me the picture, the way most people would have done, because she and Brandy don't have internet in their home. Most of the time they don't have water, either, but that's a story for another day.

Today, say nice things about my amazing daughter, who is not only a fine wife and housekeeper, but a pretty good woodworker, as well!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

What? You think I've got a rough life?

Lots of people are impressed with how difficult our lives are, as we live and work in Honduras. And, yeah, if you compare to the average suburbanite in the US, we're living a pretty rough lifestyle involving lots of extra work just to get through the regular housework, let alone the added difficulties involved in our ministry work, schoolwork, travel, health care, security, etc.

But . . . we don't compare in that way. We compare our lives to the Hondurans who live in the mountains around Gracias. When we look in that direction, it's sort of embarrassing to complain about having to do so many things the "hard way." Some photos might show you how ridiculous my complaints sound:

I'm annoyed at how I have to wait until we have enough power coming in, before I can run the washing machine or the dishwasher.

It's so hard, keeping our older vehicles in safe running condition, especially with such really rough roads here.

I miss those convenience foods I used to be able to get in the grocery stores in the states!

Cooking and baking are such difficult and unending chores (in my thermostat controlled gas oven). I wish we could go out for some fast food once in a while!

My housework would be so much easier if my house was truly big enough for the size of my family!

If you find yourself thinking about how much more difficult my life is than yours, and are impressed with how much HARDER are the lives of these Hondurans . . . consider helping us make life one little bit easier and nicer for the Honduran pastors and their families with whom we work. Get involved with the Gifts for Gracias project - it's happening NOW!!!!!

Click the following link for info on how you can help:

Saturday, October 19, 2013

From a friend of a friend . . .

This afternoon, I spent a few moments searching in my Facebook group for posts related to Ben's kidnapping. Because I was busy living the events as they happened, I wasn't on Facebook to read everything that was posted at that time - especially posts written in the first hours and days after Ben was released. It has been meaningful to me to read about how my friends were caught up in the situation with us, how fervently they prayed, and how exuberantly they celebrated his release!

During my time in the US, many people told me that they were praying for us during the kidnapping, and that they shared the prayer request with other people. In some cases, whole college campuses prayed for us, in others, groups on mission trips in foreign countries prayed. I've heard versions of this story over and over . . . that people felt compelled to stop what they were doing, and pray, and share the prayer request with others. And how those "others" felt compelled to pray, and share with others, and on and on. I have never before seen a prayer request spread so quickly to so many people! To have been the focus of all of these fervent, heartfelt prayers is absolutely overwhelming.

As I was reading these earlier Facebook posts, I came across something a friend posted, relating a message she had received from one of her friends. The friend, Mary Beth, is not anyone I know, at all. She had never heard of me before she saw the prayer request. I read this for the first time today, and was so touched by it - partly because it's just so amazing, but also because I've heard many others express similar sentiments! Here's what she wrote:

I just have to share with you that when you shared the prayer request about Ben, I felt something that I rarely feel...absolute confidence that God was going to move. It was like I could see the angels, legions of them, lined up and waiting to move, waiting on the prayers of the saints. I always pray when someone shares a request, but this time I felt compelled to call Ed into the room and for us to pray out loud together. I felt led to share it on FB, call my mother-in-law to have her pray and put it on her church's prayer chain. I was, for lack of a better word, obsessing about this all day today. Not obsessing as in, worrying, but like God wouldn't let me stop praying about it. It was like He was encouraging me to not just knock, but to pound on the door of heaven. I just knew that He wanted to move but that He wanted US to pray for it. Very strange, I've rarely had that kind of faith, that kind of confidence in what God was doing. Normally I'm all, "Your will be done" etc. But this time I was like, "Go God, go get him and bring him home!" I spent around 2 hours on Trish's website and blog just "getting to know" her and her family and their ministry (I figured since I couldn't stop praying, it would be nice to find out who I was praying for, lol! And I wasn't focused on work anyway, so...). What a cool family and what a wonderful ministry. I'm always happy when people focus equipping local people to minister. I was VERY impressed with their financial stewardship as well. I'm so glad that Ben is safe and I can't wait to hear how God made this happen. Thanks for your faithfulness to share the need of your friend! I love you my dear. MB

We're still sort of stunned here by this whole situation. Please forgive me as I keep dwelling on it!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

My daily walks . . .

I started going out and walking everyday, for exercise, a few months before Rachel's wedding. After the kidnapping I completely stopped doing a lot of things I had been doing, and this included the daily walks.

Now that I'm back home again, I've started the daily walks back up. They're still good exercise, but I also appreciate having the time alone, to think, and pray, and sometimes cry, when that seems to be the thing I need to do.

Because our house is located at the top of a very large hill, any direction you take from the house goes downhill, and the return trip is uphill. It's difficult, having the most strenuous part of the walk at the end, when I'm most tired, but that's just the way it is. Yesterday, the kids went partway down the hill and hung a hammock for me, so that I have a place where I can rest in the middle of my walk. It's also a nice place to sit and think and pray, and the views from the hammock are exceptional!

I took a camera with me yesterday, so I could show you a bit of my walk. Sorry some of the view photos aren't that great - it was right at sunset, with the sun shining right over the tops of the mountains, and some of the photos are washed out as a result of this (and as a result of my not taking enough time with the pictures).

Heading off into the woods . . .

I have a large number of canine walking companions. They make me feel very safe as I head off into the woods!

Starting to head downhill now . . .

Arriving at the hammock!

One of the lovely views from the hammock!

Another view from the hammock, in a different direction.

Here's a different view from the hammock! That's my puppy, Duke. He likes to keep an eye on me, and make sure I'm doing all right. He worries about me - you can probably tell. LOL