Monday, March 30, 2015

Does the idea of indigenous missionaries planting churches excite you?

What do you get, when you put 175 indigenous Honduran missionaries, pastors, and church leaders together with a group of inspirational pastors/teachers from the US and Canada, during the dry season of the year? 
The most amazing Pastor Training Conference ever - and - LOTS of requests for help with church planting projects!

The start of the rainy season, with daily thunderstorms and torrential downpours, is fast approaching, and twelve pastors came to us at the conference, requesting assistance with installing roofs on the churches they are building. Keep in mind, the majority of these pastors work in villages where they are the only ones holding any type of regular Christian worship services - these are indigenous church planters in widespread, remote, exceptionally poor villages. The homes in these villages are generally much too small to serve as gathering places for a growing home-church, so the construction of a basic, bare-bones church building is an important part of the process of planting a new church in these villages.

Construction in adobe bricks (the cheapest method) has to be done during dry weather, and the roof must be installed before the rainy season arrives, to protect the hand-made, sun-dried bricks. The other reason for the rush to finish is, of course, so that the new congregation will have a place to gather, out of the rain, when the weather changes.

Now, here's the challenge. There are only a few weeks left until the rainy season really gets going (official start is May 15th). We don't have the funds to help purchase the materials for all of these roofs, but we are certain God wants the people of those villages coming together for worship! The cost to purchase the materials is under $1000 per church, and the labor will be donated by each pastor and fledgling congregation. With the price of the entire roof being this cheap, it doesn't take a lot of money to make a big impact!

Perhaps you are one God has called, to assist these Honduran church planters with their ministries - to be a part of spreading the gospel message in the rural mountain villages of Western Honduras. Donations of any size will help, as we rush to meet the challenge of getting these roofs on before the rains begin!

To Donate by Mail, send checks to:

The Foundation for Missions
PO Box 560233
Orlando, Florida 32856-0233

- Make check payable to "The Foundation" -
- Write "preferenced for Sowers Ministry, church construction" on an enclosed paper -

To Donate Online:

     Click on THIS LINK to donate online using credit card, debit card, or automatic monthly donations from your bank account. Make sure that you choose "Missionary Support" from the drop down menu, and type in "Sowers Ministry, church construction"  in the box requesting "additional specifics on 
how to use the gift."

If additional instructions or information are needed for donating, 
please don't hesitate to call The Foundation for Missions, at 407-730-3364.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Gifts for Gracias - a quick note from Boo, with PICTURES

We, and the people of western Honduras, would like to thank all of you for your hard work, prayers, and support with this year’s shipment, and all the other years too. It means so much to the pastors up in our mountains. Most of them don’t have a salary, but instead live off the land, farming or gardening.  

We’re now in the final stage, which is making the actual gifts for the pastors and distributing them. The other stages on our end were first getting the donations here, then organizing all the stuff, then putting together what we call “starter bags,” which are made up of the things that go into each pastoral family’s gift - such as a soccer ball, backpack, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, pencils, pens, etc.    

Iris, Crusita, and I would appreciate your continued prayers for strength and energy as we finish this task.

Boo, organizing donations
Crusita (Iris' cousin), organizing donations
Russellito, helping by not fussing

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Gifts for Gracias - How Does it All Work? (Part 1)

Ten years! That's how long the Gifts for Gracias project has been blessing Honduran pastors and their families (and a large number of orphans and other children, as well). We're honored to be a part of this huge group effort! In this post and the next one, I'll be explaining how the whole project works, from beginning to end.

Before we do anything else about Gifts for Gracias each year, our family has to decide whether or not to continue the project for another year. We revisit this question every year. It is an expensive project, but more than that, it takes a vast amount of time; for us, and for our volunteers in the US. Is this project worth the money and effort, or should we use our resources in a different direction? So far, we've chosen to continue, though rising costs of shipping and fewer people working on our end of things (now that many of the children are grown and moved out) make it a tougher decision than it was before. However, challenging economic times also increase the value of the gifts to the recipients, so that factors into the equation, as well.

Once we've made the decision to continue this tradition, arrangements can begin to be made. We need to have locations to receive the donations - and it takes a mountain of donations to fill a 40' shipping container! We are blessed to have volunteers in Florida and Maryland who give up space in their churches and in their homes, garages and sheds every year for this project! You people know who you are - but this includes the Cofer family, the Richards family, and Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Maryland, my parents and the Linden family in Florida.

Once the locations are set, it's time to get the word out about the project - which we do through the blog, Facebook, and emails. Donations are collected locally, and also come to us through the mail, nationally and even internationally! I remember the first time I opened a batch of gifts donated by a family in Japan to be given to people in Honduras - that was about the coolest thing ever! With the magic that is Amazon, lots of donors purchase gift items online and send them to us without ever seeing or touching the gifts themselves. 

A few months before the container ships, the donations which have been collected in Florida travel by rented truck up I-95 to Maryland, so that everything is in one place when the time comes to fill the shipping container. In the past, we've had some donations to pick up at various locations along the way between Florida and Maryland, though this year that wasn't the case. Perhaps some church, group, or individual in that part of the country would like to volunteer to collect gifts and donations for 2015? We'd love the help!

While all of these donated items are rolling in, our intrepid volunteers in Maryland do more than just store them. They sort out things which don't fit the guidelines for the project, they organize items into categories and label the boxes, and they pack the boxes so they are as full as can be, and tape them well for shipping!

Finally, when there are enough donations collected - and the timing on this tends to vary each year - the loading of the container is scheduled! We ship our donations with Dole - the same company that ships fruit north from Honduras. We get a special charitable rate, and they have one less empty container they have to ship back south!

We set the date, and the shipping company sets the time. We also manage a lot of the paperwork for getting the shipment through Honduran customs at this point in the process. You'd be surprised to learn how much paperwork, how many letters written and translated and signed and notarized and rejected and redone and FedEx-ed are involved in this process! But eventually all the plans are in place for the loading and shipping.

The shipping company gives a window of time when the truck can be expected to arrive on the assigned day. Volunteers gather and wait. Once the truck and container arrive, we are allotted two hours to load the whole thing. Going beyond that time limit costs extra - and we don't like to pay extra - so the crew gets right to work. There's a need for speed, plus it seems to snow on the loading day pretty frequently, so the workers like to get this done as quickly as possible. 

The loading has taken place in different locations over the years. Some years there has been heavy equipment involved to help with the loading - and other years the equipment was being loaded and sent to us! This year there was no snow, very little construction equipment, and no spools of cable for building bridges, so the process may have been a bit simpler . . . 

For instance, last year:

Once loaded, the container travels by truck to the dock, is loaded onto a container ship, and sails to Honduras. That part of the process takes less than a week!

Part 2 coming soon: Getting the donations from the ship, to our home, and then into the hands of the recipients! Thanks for reading through this long post!  

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Gifts for Gracias - Taking a moment to CELEBRATE!!!!!!!

Of course, as a regular reader of this blog, you already know about the Gifts for Gracias project. (If you don't know, then this will tell you all about it.)

Well, we're excited to announce that the project is now . . . halfway done! That's right! Usually one would make a big announcement when a project is fully completed, but why wait? Let's get excited NOW!

In my next post, I'll explain the rest of how this project works, but for right now, here's a shout-out to the people who have worked so very hard to donate to the project - putting together Christmas gifts, collecting used items, purchasing and items online to have shipped to us! 

We also want to recognize those amazing people who gave up space in their churches and homes (and sheds, and garage, and . . . ) to store the packages as they arrived - like the Cofers and Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Maryland and my family and the Linden family in Florida. I know this is a huge inconvenience to these volunteers!

When the donations arrive, various volunteers help to sort though everything. They weed out donated items which don't fit the guidelines of the project, they organize everything into categories (used clothing and linens, used household items, new items to use for putting together gifts, pre-made gifts, etc), pack the boxes carefully to avoid damage and wasted space, and label and seal the boxes! When you are talking about a pile of donations large enough to fill a 40' container - this equates to MANY hours of work!

Once enough donations have been collected, to fill all of the space in a 40' shipping container . . . it's time to load it up!

In the photos below, you will see three containers/trucks. One was used at the church to store donations, another was rented to move donations from another location to the church on loading day, and the third is the container which will make the trip to Honduras, loaded with everything which has been collected for Gifts for Gracias. Special thanks to Jim Cofer, for coming up with the idea of building a loading platform, to simplify the process!

I know, for sure, that I will leave some people out, as I take a moment to thank some individuals. I sincerely apologize - I don't even KNOW the names of everyone who was involved on the US side of things! Feel free to add names, in the comments, if you know of someone who should receive mention here!

Our VERY grateful thanks go out to: Jim and Denise Cofer, Ben and Norma Irvin, Fredericktowne Baptist Church, Jan and Eric Linden, Holy Trinity Anglican Church, Father Dave Austell, Charlie Clifford, 
Mary and Gary Richards, Jeff and Mary Ellen Roberson, Melissa and Chad Barrows, Ron Carstens, Mary and David Freeman, Joanne Fuss, Graceham Moravian Church, Jules Michael, the ladies (and gentlemen) of the SonLight forums and the SL Facebook group, Rick Bricker, Kelly Spoor, Bob Brown, George Norris, Servant's Heart, Mark Warner, Shannon Grieves, Jed Dearing, Matt Ward, Charlie Kemp, and EVERYONE ELSE WHO HELPED!!!!

Coming up next: How the whole Gifts for Gracias Project works.