Thursday, February 18, 2016

You can feed a malnourished child, for TWO CENTS per meal!

To go directly to
donation information,
follow the arrows!

The Problem:

We deal with a significant number of children with severe, chronic malnutrition in the mountain villages around Gracias. This malnutrition often causes the children to have stunted growth, impaired mental development, and weakened immune systems that make them unable to fight off illnesses. Usually, the problem is not that they don't get enough food, but that the limited diet available doesn't provide them with the vitamins and minerals needed for good health.

The Solution:

For just 2 cents, we can provide a child with a vitamin-enriched, nourishing meal. If we provide that child two such meals each week, we can stave off malnutrition. This means that the cost of saving one child from malnutrition for an entire year is just $2.08!!!!!

How we do it:

Networks of volunteers make this amazing result possible. Churches and other groups in the US donate time and money to pack specially designed foods for export. We receive this food at no cost beyond the shipping and customs fees to bring the food to Honduras. We then distribute the food to over 100 pastors in Western Honduras, where members of their congregations volunteer to cook the food and run the feeding centers, to aid those in need in their own communities. We provide oversight and accountability for each center.

This networking system places the local pastors in a position from which they can effectively minister to the children in the program, both physically and spiritually. 

Each shipment of food contains 286,000 adult-sized meals, which equals approximately 400,000 child sized meals (depending on the size of the child). The cost to ship a container, divided by the number of meals, comes to slightly less than 2 cents per meal.

Donation information: 

1.  To Donate Online:

Use this link to go to The Foundation for Missions donation page, and scroll down to the section which says "Donate to a Missionary/Ambassador." From the drop down menu, select "Allen and Trish Sowers" (we're way near the bottom). In the field labeled "Any additional specifics?" you should type in: Sowers Feeding Program

Please note:
 If you want your donations to go specifically to one of the Sowers4pastors projects, do not use the section of the page labeled "Donate to a program or project." The office may not know you want the money to go specifically to a Sowers4pastors project unless you go through the "Donate to a Missionary" section and select our name. Just make sure to put the project name in the "additional specifics" field of this section, as well. 

2. To Donate by mail, send checks to:

The Foundation
PO Box 560233
Orlando, Florida 32856-0233

- Make check payable to "The Foundation" 
- Write "preferenced for Allen Sowers Ministry - feeding program" on an enclosed paper 

3.   As you give, remember these facts:

 - $2.08 will feed one child two highly-enriched meals each week, for an entire year!

 - $20.80 will feed 10 children for the year.

 - $104.00 feeds 50 children for the year!      

 - If you give $20.80 per month, you can be responsible for feeding 120 children!

4.  Feel free to ask questions in the comments section. Should you wish, you can send us your phone number, and Allen will happily call to discuss the program with you personally, in greater detail. (If you put your name and phone number in a comment, we will receive it and it will not be posted online.) 

Thank you so much for helping us help the people of Western Honduras!

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Here's what a "missionary vacation" looks like!

Dining al fresco, in Copan Ruinas with my sweetie
Allen and I are on a short vacation . . . which means that we've physically removed ourselves from the ministry for a few days, so that we can rest and refresh. It also invariably means that we take some time to step back and look at the ministry from a fresh perspective.

This get-away is going to be over abruptly, and probably quite soon, as we're expecting a call any day or any minute, saying that our shipping container full of donations has been released by the port and is on the way to our house. When we get that news, we'll be packing up and heading home (we're just 2.5 hours away from home, and the driving time from the port, for the tractor trailer with the container, is around 16 hours, plus the time the driver spends sleeping overnight sometime along the way).

This is definitely a working vacation, as Allen has spent several hours today on phone calls, and we've passed a few hours hosting a discussion, with some online friends, about how to improve our communications and what we can do to encourage people who are intrigued or interested by our posts, to actually take the next step to becoming partners with us. I'm mostly talking about financial partnership here - because so much of what our ministry does, including feeding children, building churches, training pastors, Gifts for Gracias, etc., requires money, to make it happen!

One of the things that has been bothering us recently is that we're not making it easy enough for people to donate. There are some aspects of this which are not in our control, but one thing to which I am committing myself, is the creation of a complete - and as brief as possible - blog post about each of our ministry projects which depends on donations. Hopefully this will be something that people can check, when they are interested in donating, and have all the info they need in one place . . . and it will also give people a package of information that they can easily share with others.

My grilled chicken.  I'm a bad food blogger - I took
a bite (several, actually) before I took a photo!

So, though I am on "vacation" now, I am starting to work on a series of posts, each of which will cover one aspect of our ministry, hopefully in enough detail for donors. Now, these posts will, quite probably, leave some questions in your mind - because I can't explain every detail and still keep it brief. Feel free to ask those questions in the comments, as that way the answers to the questions will be available to others who visit the page! That will be helpful to everyone!

As is common in Honduras, our hotel features a central
courtyard garden. My favorite aspect of this garden is that,
instead of a fountain in the center, there's the WiFi router,
on a pole, cleverly camouflaged with greenery.
I'm a BIG fan of a strong WiFi signal.  
See it? 

I'll start off with quick pages about how to get involved, financially, with our general feeding center program, as well as with our child sponsorship program (which is amazingly efficient in the use of the funds, because EVERYONE involved is a volunteer).

Watch for those blog posts coming soon . . . but not right away.

I AM on vacation, you know.  

Friday, February 12, 2016

Exciting New Thing #3: Starting up the Pastor Training School again

My final post, in the series about exciting new opportunities in our ministry, actually involves something that is not entirely new. We ran a pastor training school for a number of years in the past, until we determined that we had met the need for training, in the vicinity of Gracias, at that time. Now, however, it is time to start up the school again - which is great news! It means that more pastors are working in our area to reach the unreached villages in the mountains of Lempira!

This year, the school will be run by a partnership involving Allen (General Director), Russell (Administrator), local missionary Shannon Hopkins (Assistant Director) and local missionary Clay Powell (Academic Director). Additional partners include Edgewater Alliance Church, in Florida, and Life Community Church, in Ohio. Both churches are sending down teams to help with the teaching, as well as contributing to the funding of the school.

Clay and Cynthia Powell created this great video, to give you a taste of what this project is all about:

The pastors do not pay anything to attend this school - they just have to arrange their own transportation to get to Gracias. The cost to sponsor a pastor for one year of school - $250 - includes the cost of his food and housing, during the time he is at the school, which is 3 days each month for 9 months.

To sponsor a pastor, or make a donation to the school:

When donating online, use this link (which will take you to the Foundation for Missions donation page) and PLEASE BE SURE to specify that your donation is for the Sowers Ministry Pastor Training School or for the Sowers Ministry Pastor Sponsorship. Failure to do so may result in the money not being credited to our account!

Similarly, if you prefer to donate by mail (address is also found at this link), please write, on a separate piece of paper, that your donation is to be used for the Sowers Ministry Pastor Training School.

Thank you so much for your interest in and support of this ministry, through prayer and giving! We are thrilled to have your partnership in the spread of the Gospel in Honduras!

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

AND . . . in case you missed them, here are the links to the other posts in the series: "Exciting New Opportunities in 2016"

Monday, February 8, 2016

Bridge-in-a-Week, January 2016 - Here's how it got done!

The prep work, done before the week the team was here actually building the bridge, is explained in the previous post: Have you ever built a bridge in one week? Would you like to?

Now, here is the day-by-day play-by-play, of the week of construction.


On Saturday, January 23rd, Allen, Russell, and Clay were waiting in the airport in San Pedro Sula, a 3 - 4 hour drive from Gracias, to pick up the incoming team. As the team was through customs and loading into our vehicles at around 3:30, the rest of the day involved just finishing the trip to Gracias.


This huge hole, under the landing, is an important
structural element. When filled with cement,
the immense weight will keep the whole bridge
from collapsing into the river from the tension
of the cables. 

With the huge hole, in the photo above, filled with
concrete and stones, these short wall forms were
added, and the weldments were set in place, ready
for the addition of more concrete.
Sunday morning it was chilly! The work started early, as members of our work crew, who live near our home, came to the house to help Allen load the hand tools and last minute items into the vehicle. Allen brought thermoses of coffee from home, and picked up the team from their hotel in Gracias. The group bought baleadas to eat for breakfast during the hour long drive out to the bridge site.

A finished landing, awaiting side walls. The
weldments protrude from the side, and the pieces of
rebar sticking up into the air will connect the
side walls to the landing.
At the site of the bridge-to-be, on the side of the river nearer to Platanares, about 30 - 35 volunteers from the villages were ready to work! With combined effort, the group completed the digging of a hole which, once concrete was poured into it, would become one footer and the landing for that side of the bridge. The concrete mixer was started up, and batches of concrete were mixed, hauled to the hole in buckets, and poured in. Unfortunately, after only two batches of concrete were completed, the mixer broke! While some of the group worked on trying to fix the mixer, the Honduran volunteers just settled in to mixing concrete by hand - something they are very used to doing. The work was slower, but it got done!

By the end of the day the footers and floor of the landing of the bridge on the Platanares side had been poured, with the appropriate weldments embedded in the concrete.


Volunteers mixed LOTS of concrete down by the
river, and carried it up to the landing sites in
five gallon bucketloads. 
On the second work day, Russell (with his broken foot) worked on the other side of the river (the Santa Rosita side), leading a mixed crew of gringos, volunteers, and some of our regular construction guys, basically repeating the work which had been done on the other side of the river the previous day. Meanwhile, on the Platanares side of the river, Allen led a crew in putting up concrete forms to create the side rails of the bridge landing. This part also incorporates weldments. At the end of Monday, one side of the river had a complete landing, with side rails, while the other side had a landing without side rails.


Side rails, showing the weldments where
the side cables will be attached

On Tuesday, the railings (with their embedded weldments) were poured on the Santa Rosita side of the river. While that was happening, on the other side of the river the spools of cable were being unrolled, and as each cable  left its spool, it was walked down a cliff, over the river,  and up the other (less steep) side. Then the end of the cable which left the spool last, was connected to the weldments on the Platanares side of the river - where the landing and railings had been completed already. The bridge required a total of 10 cables - 4 under the deck and three cables on each side of the bridge.


Everyone took the day off of working on the bridge on Wednesday. Allen took the gringos out to see a feeding center, and they also visited our coffee farm. Mostly, it was a day of recuperation. Meanwhile, Russell drove Clay and Cynthia and our friend Ben Dearing (who helped with the bridge construction during his visit) to the airport in San Pedro Sula, to catch departing flights. Steve Spanos, the team leader, went along for the ride. They hit some bad traffic, so the trip took much longer than normal. Steve and Russell got back to Gracias around midnight.


Cables, lying on the ground from one side of the
river to the other, waiting to be connected
Steve Spanos, bravely leading his team
Back to work on the bridge, first thing! Since Tuesday, the cables had been laying across the river. On Thursday, the work of attaching the cables to the weldments on the other bridge landing took place. Each of the ten cables had to be pulled up into place, and then a winch was used to tighten them up, until there was about 2 feet of sag in each cable. Once the wooden beams and deck, which weigh over 10,000 pounds, are added to the bridge, the total sag should be around 5 1/2 feet.

With all ten cables attached and tightened, the workers began the task of adding the crossways beams, and then nailing on the planks which make up the deck of the bridge.


In this photo you can see the beams,
going across the bridge from side to
side, the deck planks, on top of the
beams, and the suspenders, which are
short vertical pieces of cable attaching
the side cables to the cables below the
deck of the bridge.
On Friday the work continued on the deck, and the workers also added the suspenders, which are vertical cables attaching the side cables to the bridge deck.


The final day of work - also the day when the team would begin their return trip - saw the completion of the bridge deck and the suspenders. The final process in the construction was balancing the bridge, so that the deck is level from side to side. This bridge needed a small adjustment, so they loosened the fasteners on one of the cables, allowed it to sag just a bit more, and then re-tightened the connection, so that the bridge deck wouldn't slant to one side.

The finished bridge!
Every day during this week, our intrepid US team ate ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, since the site was too remote to purchase food locally.

At the end of every work day, all of the tools had to be secured. This required carrying them to locations on each side of the river. On the Platanares side, the tools were carried 400'  up a very steep slope to the truck, loaded into the truck, driven about a mile, then unloaded again into a secure building. On the Santa Rosita side the hillside isn't quite as steep, and the tools were carried about a half a mile (without the use of a vehicle), to be locked up for use the next day.

US team standing on finished bridge
We are so grateful to the visiting team members and Edgewater Alliance Church, for all of their contributions to this great project! Also, thank you to Eric Linden and Michelle Spanos, for posting photos of the construction on FB, where I could pilfer them for use in this blog post.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Have you ever built a bridge in one week? Would you like to?

Allen and Russell build bridges: big ones, little ones, some for vehicles, some only for pedestrians, some with solid concrete decks and others suspended by wire cables. Occasionally, they do a project where a team comes down to help, and an entire bridge is built in just one week! We've done this twice now, have another bridge-in-a-week on the schedule in a few months (in Haiti!) and we'd love to do more!

Before our bridge was built, people crossed using this log
Here's the scoop on the bridge that was built during the final week of January, 2016.
Bridge between the villages of Platanares and Santa Rosita,
built January of 2016

Although we call it a "Bridge-in-a-week," we
actually started this project over a year ago. We knew there were some churches interested in sending teams to build bridges, so we did some research to find locations which fit the specifications: first, we were looking for a situation where there was a real need for a pedestrian bridge; second, it was important that the local villages could and would send in sufficient volunteers to work alongside the visiting gringos; and third, the local government had to be willing to contribute part of the cost for the purchase of materials (the rest of the money needed would be raised by the team).

About six months ago, the bridge location for this particular team's project had been determined, between the villages of Santa Rosita and Platanares. Russell traveled out to the site to measure the exact distance that the bridge would need to span, and to choose the spots where the two ends of the bridge would be built. Then the men calculated the quantities of materials needed.

Russell met with the government leaders of the two nearby villages and explained what items they needed to have collected, by volunteers in their villages, to have on site when the gringo team arrived. This included quantities of sand, gravel, stones slightly larger than soccer balls, and rough hewn lumber. All of these can be collected locally, for no cost when the labor is done by volunteers. Russell also instructed them as to where the holes for the footers of the bridge anchors were to be dug, so that this part of the work would be completed in advance of the arrival of the team.

A few weeks before the team was scheduled to arrive, Allen, Russell and their work crew collected the pieces of rebar and metal pipe needed to make the weldments. Weldments, for this project, are welded together metal pieces, which are partly encased in concrete and partly exposed. The bridge cables, which hold up the bridge, are securely attached to the exposed parts of the weldments.

Making weldments: First, the blacksmith work of heating and hammering
the rebar to bend around the metal pipe

Making weldments: Second, attaching the rebar to the pipe by welding   

This photo is from the actual construction week, showing the weldments
in place and ready to have the concrete poured around them

We gathered up the weldments, the cable, the concrete forms, the cement mixer, and all the other equipment and supplies, and ran a heavy load out to the bridge site a week before the construction was to begin. We had another team scheduled immediately prior to the bridge team, so the menfolk needed to have everything in place a week ahead of time.

 Read about how the actual week of construction went, HERE! 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Exciting New Thing #2: Sustainability 4 Pastors

Many of you know that we have been working to add an aspect of sustainability to our ministry, by growing coffee on the land that we own outside of Gracias. Now, we are taking this concept to an exciting new level: this project is in the very earliest stages - we will be assisting certain carefully selected, rural pastors in starting miniature coffee farms on land which they (or their church) own!

The ability to plant and harvest a cash crop will raise these pastors and their families beyond the subsistence level of farming. This will allow them to use their profit to purchase a greater variety of food than they could grow for themselves, which increases their chance for a well balanced diet, thus staving off malnutrition and giving them increased energy, stamina, time, and funds for their primary work of evangelism and church planting! The additional income would also allow these pastors to regularly purchase such luxury items as toothpaste, shampoo, soap, deodorant, newer clothing, etc.

Here's how it will work:

First, this opportunity will only be made available to pastors who have been carefully screened, to ensure that they have ownership of the necessary land, and that they also have the knowledge, understanding and motivation to follow through with the work required for success in this endeavor.

Harvesting coffee
Once a pastor is chosen for the program, we will provide him with everything he needs to plant and care for half an acre of coffee plants, including: 1000 young coffee plants (ready to transplant), specialty equipment (like a backpack sprayer), and all the fertilizer, fungicide and pesticide needed for the first three years. The pastor will need to contribute all of the labor to plant the fields, plus we are not providing the common farming tools (like hoes and machetes) which he would already own.

The first few years of coffee farming there is little to no harvest, so there is no income, only expenses invested into the fields of young plants. Once we have helped the pastor through these first three years, his annual coffee harvest can be expected to pay for the expenses of the following year of farming, plus giving him a profit of as much as $1500.

Many of the rural pastors currently have the opportunity to make about $500 - $1000 per year, working as laborers for other coffee farmers. Growing coffee on their own land would not keep them from this work, but would empower them to harvest their own coffee for themselves, allowing them to more than double their annual income!

Harvesters sitting with coffee fields in the background

Each plant, if cared for appropriately, will produce an annual harvest of coffee beans for up to thirty years. As long as the pastors continue to use a portion of the proceeds from each harvest to care for their plants, and to replace those plants which aren't thriving each year, they basically are set to grow and harvest coffee in perpetuity! We're very excited about this project, which will allow the pastors to make a better income for their family while continuing to live in the area where they currently minister through pastoring, evangelism, and church planting!

The cost to us, to set up a pastor to grow coffee on his own land, is $500 over the course of three years. At this moment, we have two candidates chosen for the project, and we are looking for a few more - up to about five, to start with.

This is a brand new, experimental ministry project. If you're interested in being a part of this, we'd love to have your help!

You can donate using the "To Donate" button at the top of this page. Just always remember (whether donating online or by mail) to specify that the donation is for the Sowers Ministry . . . and if you'd like to donate to a specific project (such as this one - Sustainability 4 Pastors), notate that information, as well. If you fail to follow these instructions, the bookkeeper will NOT KNOW to put the money into our account.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016