Thursday, September 29, 2016

The Benefits of Indigenous Pastors - part one

When it comes to motivational speaking, Zig Ziglar and Norman Vincent Peale had nothing on Allen Sowers! If you don’t believe me, try spending some time talking to him on the phone. You don’t even have to talk. In fact, it’s probably better if you just listen and soak up the motivation! Since you may not have the opportunity to chat with Allen on a regular basis, I’m going to pass on some of the content from our most recent fairly one-sided conversation. Today, Zig, er, Allen, was speaking about the benefits and problems of indigenous pastors versus foreign missionaries. (In order to get the full effect, you’ll need to read this at warp speed because that is how Allen talks!)

Village People

It is believed there are 2000 villages in the mountains of Western Honduras, which don’t have a Bible based church. Just let that sink in for a moment. TWO THOUSAND VILLAGES! How many people might that be? Now those villages aren’t accessible from main roads. Often, they aren’t accessible from any roads!

The North American mentality tends to be, “Well, we should send missionaries to Honduras to plant churches.” On the surface, that sounds like a great plan. After all, it’s the Great Commission, not the Great Suggestion. Right? But does the Great Commission mean that we, as American Christians, need to place a missionary in each of the estimated 2000 villages in one portion of Honduras? Or is there perhaps a way to accomplish more while being better stewards with the money God has provided? The Great Commission must be completed, but how do we go about that?

A Different Way

A gringo missionary family might say, “We’re going to live in a place that’s an hour and a half to two hour walk from the nearest road. We’ll park our car at the edge of the road and hike to our new home. Oh, sure, that means we won’t have electricity, internet, or easy access to the outside world, but… Great Commission and all that. We’ll homeschool our kids with books we’ve brought with us and hauled on our backs. We'll have to bring in our food, as the local diet isn't sufficient to stave off malnutrition. And, if the kids get sick… well, we won’t think about that.” Some might be willing to make that sacrifice, but does that mean it’s the best way? One missionary family who starts a church plant might reach several hundred people. What if, instead of planting a church, that missionary family works to empower Honduran pastors?

Sowers4Pastors thinks it’s important to utilize indigenous pastors as a way of reaching the masses. By working with indigenous pastors, there can be exponential growth. The Sowers have worked with maybe 1000 pastors. Each of those pastors has ministered to their communities . That means that, through the pastors who have a relationship with Sowers4Pastors, approximately 100,000-120,000 people have been reached with the Gospel, and are now plugged into local churches in their communities!

Instead of foreign missionaries each planting one church, they could help indigenous pastors plant twenty-five churches. This idea isn’t simply about cost effectiveness. It’s about soul effectiveness!

Allen stresses that this approach would not work in all countries. In a Muslim country, for instance, there would not be a group of indigenous Christian pastors ready to assume responsibility for ministering. He most assuredly is not disparaging missionaries who take a different approach, though he questions the need for most missionaries in Honduras to be from North America. He is offering food for thought. In fact, he is offering so much food for thought that it will need to be continued in another post! Stay tuned!

- posted by Christi

Monday, September 12, 2016

Guess What!

Guess what! Go ahead and guess! Wrong! (I’m assuming. Maybe you’re a very good guesser. I dunno.) Oh, I’ll just tell you. Do you remember the funding requests for twelve motorcycles that were denied, for quota reasons, for a dozen hard working indigenous pastors in Western Honduras? And do you remember how Sowers4Pastors said, “Hey, these men have already done their part in raising a deposit. We’re going to step out on faith and trust that God will provide a way”? God is providing a way! Nine of the twelve applications have now been approved for funding! (Yes, that’s a lot of exclamation points in one paragraph. But it’s sooooo EXCITING!)

In case you need a refresher course, here’s the original blogpost concerning the need for funding for these motorcycles. Go back and read the bios of some of the applicants to understand why this news is worthy of some serious over-punctuation and enthusiasm!

Please note that three of the pastors are still in need of funding for their motorcycles. If you haven’t already, please consider donating to this worthy cause. If you have already donated, thank you very much!

Allen would like to thank EVERYBODY involved in this funding approval. That includes the Christian Motorcyclists Association, Missionary Ventures, and The Foundation for Missions, and everyone who prayed about our funding dilemma. Did we forget anyone? Because Allen really doesn’t want to forget anyone. So, if someone has been left out, it was completely unintentional. Know that you are thanked and your efforts are truly appreciated.

In case a mere “thank you” is inadequate, let’s try saying it in different languages! Gracias. Merci. Grazie, Domo Arigato. Do jeh. Danke. Khop Khun Mak Kha. Spasiba. Takk. Mahalo. Toda. Efharisto. There. Do you sense to depth and sincerity behind the expressions of gratitude? Just in case you’re not feeling the love, I’ll throw in a little pig latin. Ankthay ouyay!

Because of your gift, thousands of people in remote villages will be able to hear the Gospel. Thank you, Lord! (It wouldn’t do to forget to thank Him!)

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Catching the Vision

Beware! If you spend any time around the Sowers, you just might catch something. Pastor Tim Webster of Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Maryland, the Sowers’ sending church, discovered that firsthand a couple of weeks ago. Pastor Tim visited Honduras and caught a bad case of the Sowers4Pastors vision!

Pastor Tim has only been at FBC for about fourteen months. During that time, he has done what good pastors do upon arriving at a new home church. He has tried to get to know the people and to understand how the church operates. He knew Fredericktowne Baptist sponsors a certain number of missionaries, but one name kept popping up more than the others. Sowers. He knew Allen visits the church each fall. He knew they work with pastors. He knew they work with the poor. And, he had some vague knowledge that they do something with coffee. So, Pastor Tim set off for Honduras to learn more about Sowers4Pastors and how the congregation at Fredericktowne can help them.

When he landed in Honduras, Allen and Russell were there to greet him. He had met Allen previously. And he has had the pleasure of meeting Boo. But he had not met Russell. He had not witnessed the Allen/Russell dynamic. He said that was the first thing that hit him. He realized this wasn’t a case of slapping up a shingle that says, “Sowers and Son,” where the father makes all of the decisions and the son is just there. He realized, “This guy is key to this thing.”

“The more time I spent with them, the more I loved watching Allen say, 'What do you think?' to Russell,” said Pastor Tim. He continued to explain, “This is a leadership principle. Allen is still there. He’s still needed. But all of the pieces are in place for Russell to take on more and more responsibility. That’s how it should be done.”

Of the 144 feeding centers, Pastor Tim got to visit three of them. They weren’t just drive-by visits. He got to see them in action. He said, “I got to see the women making the food. They were spicing it up. Adding their own flavor. The food had a different taste in all three centers.” He continued, “In the first center, I watched 200 children sitting there completely under control, respectful, and waiting. Three years olds were patiently waiting. They’re very grateful. When Allen visits a center, he takes them candy. To see a kid get a couple of pieces of candy and give me one of them was…” Well, I guess we can all figure out what that was. Gulp.

As he was visiting, Pastor Tim was thinking about getting to partner with the church that will be Fredericktowne Baptist’s sister church. He is eager for his congregation to develop relationships with the people in a sister church. As he met children, he thought, “Those kids are going to be ours!”

The church in Maryland has already packed backpacks through their VBS. He’s excited to think that, in February, some of the children he met will be receiving those backpacks filled with school supplies.

Although he does not speak Spanish, Pastor Tim was able to communicate with the children while playing. He discovered you only have to learn two words to play red light/green light!

At the Pastors’ Training School, he was able to teach through an interpreter. He found the men to be hungry for knowledge, sincere, and devoted.

He saw the bridge projects. “Unless you visit, you don’t really have a frame of reference,” he said. He saw the difference in foot bridges and car bridges. And he realized the Sowers could have made a lot of money by building the much needed bridges. “They didn’t because the bridges are their sweat equity. That’s them earning the respect and right to be heard.”

The non-coffee-drinking pastor got to see the Sowers’ vision of coffee. He saw it being planted. He saw healthy farms growing coffee and thought, “They’re going to be there, too.” Pastor Tim is impressed by the fact the point is to raise more money, not for themselves, but to give away through the ministry.

He spoke of Allen and Trish’s journey and of the crucial part Trish plays in their ministry. Just when their Honduran “dream home” was becoming a reality, Trish said, “We don’t need to live there. Let’s give it to Russell.” She provides meals for the workers. She doesn’t complain when Allen spends months on end in the U.S. As Pastor Tim said, “She has a quiet strength. Without her being so (for lack of a better term) low maintenance, they couldn’t do what they do.”

Ultimately, Pastor Tim would like for Fredericktowne Baptist to send a missions team once a year to put on a VBS. “If that’s our sister church, we need to visit. We need to build relationships. This isn’t about being cost effective. It’s about the people.”

As for himself, he hopes to be able to return to do some teaching at the Pastors’ Training School. He said, “I look at Allen and Russell and see two guys who do things I can’t do. But there are things I can do that they can’t do. Having been a pastor for thirty years, one thing I can do is mentor pastors. There are issues affecting pastors, which are the same everywhere.”

He closed with, “You have to be pretty much dead to not catch the vision if you’re there! You can’t just see it and say, ‘That’s done.’ There’s a responsibility.” - posted by Christi

Monday, September 5, 2016

Breaking News about Donations

Breaking News: Foundation for Missions has a new donation page! If you ever tried to navigate the old donation page, you undoubtedly know this is a good thing. The new site is pretty and sleek, but, if you currently give through automatic donations each month, or if you plan on making a one-time or ongoing donation in the future, there are some things you need to know.

If you go to the donation page at the Foundation For Missions website, you will see a Global Fund box. Now, stick with me here! If you scroll down, you will see two more boxes. The box on the left hand side says, “Donate to a MISSIONARY/AMBASSADOR”. The box on the right hand side says, “Donate to a PROGRAM OR PROJECT”. You can’t miss them. As it so happens, the aesthetically pleasing background photos for each of those two boxes show the Sowers’ stomping grounds in Western Honduras.

Now, as you probably know, the Sowers do NOT solicit money for their own living expenses. Any donations given to them are automatically funneled into their ministry. So, if you donate through the “Donate to a MISSIONARY/AMBASSADOR” side and fill in the blanks with the Sowers’ names, that money will 100% emphatically-absotively-posilutely-guaranteed be used to fund a ministry. If you wish to donate to a specific project, include that information in the field labeled, “Any additional specifics?”

If you have a wild and defiant streak and choose to set up your donation through the “Donate to a PROGRAM OR PROJECT” side, but you intend for the funds to reach Sowers4Pastors, you must specify that in the area that asks for "additional specifics”. It is not enough to put that you want the money to be used for a feeding center or to sponsor a child. There are other missionaries in other parts of the world who have those ministries, too. I repeat, if your intention for a donation to a program or project is to help fund the work done by Sowers4Pastors, you must indicate that!  

How does this affect your current ongoing automatic donation? I thought you’d never ask! In order to continue your ongoing donation, you must navigate the new site and set it up through the new system. Your previous automatic donation system will not work anymore. If you wish to continue giving to the ministries the Sowers are overseeing in Honduras, you must take a few minutes to set up your automatic giving!
As with most good changes, switching to this new and improved donation page will cause a few minor inconveniences. Think of them as growing pains. The good thing is that once you’ve made the switch to the new system, you will not need to bother with it again! If you have any questions or problems, as you navigate the new donation site, please call the Foundation office at (407) 730-3364. The folks there will be more than happy to help you with this! Thank you all, SO MUCH, for the part you play in making the these ministries possible!

- posted by Christi

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Bridge in Five Days

What happens when a hard-working, nineteen person team from Lighthouse Church heads to Honduras to build a bridge in a week? They finish it with two days to spare! I had the opportunity to speak to three of those over-achievers--Josh Merson, Melissa White, and Gretchen Moran.

A Spiritual Journey

Josh Merson was the missions team leader for the group. He was determined to keep the trip mission focused and not lose sight of why they were there. The team hit the ground running.

The morning after their arrival, they visited a feeding center with about 300 children, where they doled out candy, sang songs, and played with the kids. That evening, they attended Russell and Iris’s church, Abundant Grace. It was a powerful service despite the fact they experienced a power outage and were sitting in the dark! Even though there was a language barrier, the team was able to follow the posted scripture. Earlier that evening, the team had done a devotional on the very scriptures the pastor was using!

On Monday, work began on the bridge. Josh spoke of a hill, which currently has no name, but which proved to be treacherous. From here on out, I will simply refer to it as the Intimidating Hill of Treachery. The team spent two days carrying supplies up the Intimidating Hill of Treachery. Up and down. Up and down. They collected river rocks, and hauled sand, gravel, and bags of concrete up the hill. Josh said watching the community members turn out to help made those repeated trips up and down more bearable. The indigenous workers were not getting paid for their help, but they turned out anyway. He refers to the volunteers as the “most enthusiastic, hard-working individuals.” Josh was impressed by the fact the community members remembered the names of the people from the Lighthouse team. Josh said Russell and Allen did a great job keeping contact between the two groups of workers.

Josh spoke of his belief that all Christians should make a similar mission trip as a part of their spiritual journey. He stressed it isn’t just for people who have been Christians for thirty years. One member of their team has been a Christian for about a year. Others for about five years. Still others, for decades. He sees how the trip impacted each person, regardless of how long ago they became Christ followers.

The group was particularly touched by a group of teenage girls who surprised them with a song during their feeding center visit. The girls had taken the time to learn the English words to “Open the Eyes of My Heart Lord”. Unable to find the words to adequately describe the emotion of that moment, Josh said simply, “It puts pressure on your chest!”

Accomplishing Much with Few

Melissa White had taken a mission trip before through another organization and thought she knew what to expect. She was struck by the difference between the workings of a larger organization and a family missions group. She said she, “had the misconception the team would have a part-time guide to appease us.” She had not expected the personal involvement the Sowers family demonstrates. From breakfast each morning until the devotional each evening, at least one Sowers was involved. Melissa also spoke of the respect the local community has for the family. She said, “Most people think one or two people can’t accomplish a lot, but the Sowers show they can--through their ministries.”

She continued by saying, “Their attitudes are inspiring. We got to hear where they came from and that it doesn’t take much to make a difference in people’s lives. You just have to have heart. This is not a sheltered experience. We saw it all. We were working right beside the Sowers.”

Melissa wants people to know you don’t have to be a construction worker to participate in a construction oriented mission trip. She said, “I’m a lawyer. I work in an office. I don’t like to do something as simple as shoveling snow, but there was something for everyone to do. There’s always a job. Making sandwiches. Forming an assembly line to fill in the gaps. The more hands, the lighter the work. We’re not the skilled laborers. We received guidance and direction from the Sowers. Be prepared to go with the flow and to take direction.”

“Life Transforming”

Gretchen Moran has been to Central America six times, but declared this to be the “most authentic trip”. She spoke of the Sowers’ complete transparency and having full access to learn as much as you can about their ministry while you are there.

This was the first mission trip for Gretchen to take with her husband. The pair of engineers has done prior home renovations, but wouldn’t classify themselves as being skilled in construction. That didn’t matter. She described the trip as “life transforming” and said, “It gave us a deeper connection to Honduras and the people they encountered.” She continued by talking about the impact the week had on the entire Lighthouse Church team.

Ongoing Relationships

Josh, Melissa, and Gretchen are each looking forward to sharing their experiences with others when they return home. They are excited about having an ongoing relationship with Sowers4Pastors. They are hopeful that Lighthouse Church will sponsor a Honduran sister church.

One of the verses that has been at the forefront of Josh’s mind throughout the trip is I Corinthians 10:31, which says, “Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” He would like to remind people how easy and affordable it is for most people to sponsor a child. Even if you can’t donate $15 a month, a gift of $5 will still feed 250 children a meal at a feeding center. As the girls at the feeding center sang, “Open the eyes of their heart, Lord!”

- posted by Christi

Thursday, September 1, 2016

A Leap of Faith

We recently posted about Sowers4Pastors turning in applications to try to get funding for twelve new motorcycles for indigenous pastors to another charitable organization. They’ve since received word that the requests were not approved, because quotas have already been filled. Now, most of you have probably been around long enough to know that is not the end of this story. That is where the Sowers said, “Challenge accepted!”

Here’s the deal:

As you know, Sowers4Pastors isn’t about giving handouts. The pastors who receive the motorcycles must demonstrate themselves to be good candidates for motorcycle ownership. The motorcycle recipients are meticulously screened before they get their wheels. Only the most industrious and hardworking pastors who can afford to maintain and use them receive motorcycles.

That means they are expected to have the ability to put together enough money to keep a motorcycle running and in good repair. After all, it doesn’t do anyone any good to have a motorcycle, but no gas or working spark plugs!

Each individual must also raise a portion of the money needed to purchase his motorcycle. The ability to do so shows who has a tremendous desire to acquire a new mode of transportation, and the ability to pay for future repairs and maintenance.

Here’s the rest of the deal:

Do you remember those requests for funding that weren’t approved by an organization whose mission is to help purchase motorcycles for indigenous pastors? Yeah, those requests. Well, those pastors who requested motorcycles have already lived up to their end of the bargain. They’ve already paid their deposits. They’ve already shown the ability to maintain a motorcycle.

Oh, sure, Sowers4Pastors could return the deposits to those who have lived up to their end of the bargain and say, “Hey, look, guys, we tried.” They could do that. But they won’t. They have far too much integrity to go back on their promise to do everything in their power to help these pastors purchase motorcycles. Plus, it’s not like the motorcycles were promised for joyriding; they were promised to help pastors minister to their flocks and spread the Gospel.

As usual, Allen, Trish, and Russell have decided to take a leap of faith. They are asking you to consider earmarking a donation for the purpose of purchasing motorcycles. Take a look at the bios of some of the men and women who have paid their deposits, and pray about whether or not God would have you give to this oh-so-worthy cause. In order to purchase these motorcycles, the Sowers need to come up with $1000 per bike - for a total of $12,000! While that's a lot of money to raise . . . once again the Sowers are saying: "Let's see what God will do!"

Here are short biographies of some of the Honduran missionaries and pastors involved:

1. Glenia received Christ as her savior as a child of 7, though her family's involvement in a local church in Comayagua Honduras. Now at 31, and a single mom of four (her husband left her and their children), Glenia has been working in ministry for the past three years, specifically in evangelism and music ministry. She is currently a "Children's Missionary" with her denomination. To support her family, Glenia owns and runs a small fruit market. Glenia's ministry duties include overseeing the Sunday School and other children's ministries of churches in the department of Yoro. The denomination is making Christian education for children a high priority, and the use of a motorcycle will allow Glenia to travel to the various churches in her area, to oversee their children's programs.

2. Pastor Jose Edin grew up in the small community of Hojas Anchas, La Iguala, in a Christian home. He's 28 years old, married, with two children. In 2002, at the age of 14, he dedicated his life to Christ, and one year later he began his ministry as a pastor! He supports his family through agricultural work, growing corn, beans, and coffee.

Pastor Jose Edin preaches in small house churches in villages around his home. The area is very poor, and few people have any form of transportation. With the help of a motorcycle, Pastor Jose Edin can broaden the area he reaches with his preaching and evangelism ministry.
3. Pastor Juan was very ill when he was 18, and the congregation of a local church came to visit and pray for him in his father's home in El Porvenir, Francisco Morazan. He was miraculously healed, and became a follower of Christ as a result of this experience. He is now 54 years old, and has worked in ministry for 34 years. He is married and has 5 children. Pastor Juan works as a pastor of a local church, but he also assists with visiting medical teams who come to his region of the country, and also annually helps with Project Christmas Child's gift distribution. Having a motorcycle would allow him to handle all of these ministry duties more effectively.

4. Pastor Edgar grew up in the rural agricultural area of Santa Rita Copan, where he now works in ministry. He received Christ as a young boy, through his family's involvement in a local church. 55 years old, married, with three children, Pastor Edgar has worked in ministry for the past 27 years. He pastors several small churches and teaches Bible studies. To support his family, he does agricultural work in the nearby coffee fields.

In addition to pastoring several churches, Pastor Edgar supervises other churches affiliated with his denomination. The motorcycle would save him significant transportation time every week, allowing him more time for visitation and Bible study. 5. Pastor Franklin came to Christ as a child of ten, when he was miraculously healed of cancer. Today he is 31 years old, married, with no children, and he has worked as a pastor and evangelist for 8 years. He supports his family working in the nearby coffee fields. Pastor Franklin pastors in a very mountainous, rural region. Having a means of transportation other than walking will allow him to more effectively travel to the villages where he works, and to the Christian retreats he helps run. 6. 40 years old, married, with two children, Pastor Guasne came to Christ as a young man of 25, when a pastor presented the plan of salvation clearly to him, and he prayed to receive Christ. He began working in ministry 4 years ago.

Pastor Guasne preaches in small home churches in various villages in rural Intibuca. The use of a motorcycle will allow him to move more efficiently between villages where he preaches and evangelizes.

7. Pastor Jose Samuel became a Christian 15 years ago, through the evangelism/visitation ministry of a local pastor who came to his home and shared the Gospel with him. At 25 (and unmarried), he has been working as a pastor and evangelist for 3 years, while also supporting himself as a subsistence farmer, growing corn and beans.

Pastor Jose Samuel has a clear view of the big picture - he says that having the use of a motorcycle would allow him to more rapidly reach the "fields that are white for harvest." He plans to use the motorcycle to preach and evangelize in more villages than he can currently visit.
If you would like to help these pastors receive motorcycles to help them in their ministry work, here's how: Click on this link (or this one, if you're in Canada), scroll down to the box labeled "Donate to a Missionary/Ambassador" and find our name "Allen and Trish Sowers" in the drop box (we're very near the bottom) and click on it. Below, type in the amount you'd like to donate, and add a note in "Any Additional Specifics" that you would like your donation to go toward purchasing motorcycles for pastors. Important: please note that you should not use the box labeled "Donate to a program or project" . . . as the office will not know that you desire your donation to go specifically to this group of pastors. Thanks. This got really long - thank you so much for your interest and your support of this ministry!!!

- posted by Christi and Trish