Friday, January 27, 2017

February at a Glance

If this blog post were a classic movie, this is where the camera would zoom in on a page-a-day calendar showing February 1st. Then the pages would begin flying off and landing on the floor--zipping through the month of February in record time. Russell and Allen gave me a rundown of Sowers4Pastors’ February schedule, and, for the shortest month of the year, it is full of activity. Of course, that news surprises no one who knows them. Keep in mind, the information contained in this post isn’t even touching on their normal day-to-day activities--things like maintenance on the farm, food distribution, and making sure they still have incoming water. It’s also not touching on things like Russell having to hand the phone off to Allen because he had to go change a flat tire on a Land Cruiser.

Many Dirt Roads Diverged

It’s a good thing Russell is changing that flat tire, because he’s going to be running hither and yon. (And, I must say, it sounds like Honduras has a lot more hithers and yons than my suburban life!) He’ll be traveling about an hour and a half into the mountains to deliver around 110 filled backpacks to children at the feeding center in Arenales.

Then, he’ll travel on a dirt road about an hour and a half in a different direction to Las Crucitas. There, he’ll hand out 113 backpacks.

In Guacutao, which is about 45 minutes in yet another direction, he’ll be registering about 50 kindergarteners into the sponsorship program. He’ll also be handing out backpacks to the children who missed getting theirs earlier, when the recent team was visiting the area, because they were out in the fields harvesting coffee.

Wait a minute! There’s still another direction to cover! The other directions mentioned were for the Sister Church Program. The one about to be mentioned will be for a Manna 4 Lempira program. Russell will travel 20 minutes on a paved road and then 20 minutes on a rugged dirt road to register about 25 children on a waiting list in Asomada.

Preparations to Be Made

A Bridge in a Week team will be building a bridge on February 18-25th. You’ve probably been around long enough to know that means the Sowers will be gathering supplies and preparing for the team.

They’re also in the process of preparing for the Pastors’ Training School classes, which are set to begin the first week of March. That means multiple meetings in February. First year pastors must be interviewed before their enrollment is complete. Sowers4Pastors is also doing prep work for the first month of classes.

The final process for the recent coffee harvest is going on, but it’s already time to prepare for the next coffee season. A sandbank will be put up to construct a nursery. 60,000 seeds will be planted in hopes of getting 30,000 viable trees. The plan is to plant 10 new acres of coffee in the coming year. Workers will be getting ready for the dry season by  putting rust protection and anti-fungal protection on the coffee plants, and spraying fertilizer on the trees that will blossom in March.

By Land, By Sea and By Really Steep Hill

The Sowers are about to head off to the big city to procure a new (to them) pickup truck and sell their old truck (the one purchased in Dec of 2015). The newer vehicle is only newer by one year, but it has half the mileage of the old truck. Plus, it has only had one owner, versus being owned by a rental company, and has the upgraded engine that Allen wanted, but couldn't find available, when the previous truck was purchased. While a newer truck will be a welcome addition to the household, no one is looking forward to the extra paperwork that comes along with a vehicle purchase in Honduras.

Allen and Russell are still pushing for the customs paperwork to go through so the shipping container can start its journey to Honduras. He’s working on adding a set of forklift batteries to the container, because, with Russell and Iris now living on the property, they are using a lot more power.

Recently, Allen and Russell went out to look at a bridge and water project. He got a call from a location about bringing water from the source, 7 kilometers from the village, down a mountain, including jumping across a deep gully. When Allen went out to survey the site, he walked more than a mile downhill to a river, where the water pipe will need to cross. As he described the Honduran roads, “Many of them are paths where the road might have been bulldozed once and that might have been decades ago. There’s not a lot of road maintenance.” Allen shared what he was thinking as he struggled down the steep path: “To get back, I’m going to have to get out of here by going uphill!

For the Sowers’ sake, aren’t you glad February is a short month?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Wheels of Fortune

This is a post Christi wrote for us a couple of months ago, but it kept getting bumped as other topics became priorities. I'm posting it now, as background material, because we're making some progress on our transportation situation! ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------
In the short time I’ve been writing for Sowers4Pastors, several themes keep popping up in conversations with Allen, Trish, and Russell. One of those themes is: Honduras is NOT an easy place to navigate. We talk about it when we discuss the thousands of unreached villages and the challenges of getting to them. We talk about it when we discuss the need for indigenous pastors to have bikes or motorcycles. And virtually every team member I’ve ever interviewed has spoken about the treacherous terrain. Today, we’re going to talk about the Sowers’ need for solid, dependable transportation, or as I like to think of them, Wheels of Fortune!

No Little Old Ladies from Pasadena

The Sowers’ “fleet” of vehicles is not of the luxury variety. Nope. These are hardworking automobiles--not mamby-pamby sets of wheels with a new car smell. They don’t laze around in a garage all day. And they’ve never once been driven by a little old lady from Pasadena! You’ve probably heard people comment about driving a car until its doors fall off. Well, that day is not too far off for a couple of the “Sowersmobiles”.

But, How Old Is That In Honduran Years?

There has been an ongoing fundraising effort to purchase newer, more reliable vehicles for the Sowers. To date, a little over half of a $30,000 goal has been raised. One “new” vehicle was purchased in December of 2015. The 4-yr-old Toyota pickup truck replaced one of the Land Cruisers. And, in May, Trish’s 17-yr-old Land Cruiser, which apparently answers to the name “Scottie,” received a major overhaul. Scottie spent weeks in the shop getting work done on brakes, suspension, the 4-wheel drive mechanisms, repairs to the driver’s seat, new windows, and other mechanical repairs.

But, any way you slice it, Scottie is still a 17-yr-old Land Cruiser. Age, for vehicles that travel the rough roads of Honduras, can practically be calculated in dog years! Scottie continues to be Trish’s primary vehicle because her regular routine doesn’t have her traveling as far as Allen and Russell. If you’re going to be stranded on the side of the road, it’s better to be stranded closer to home. Scottie isn’t even the oldest vehicle in the fleet. That honor goes to the 20-yr-old Land Cruiser normally driven by Russell.

My Selfish Plea for a Selfless Family

You should know that none of the Sowers are complaining about their vehicles. They have been solid transportation for a very long time. But they aren’t going to last indefinitely. And, from a very selfish standpoint… Trish is my friend. She’s the only friend I have who has ever been kidnapped and I really want to feel she can make a fast getaway if she ever needs to do so!

Ultimately, they would like to purchase another newer vehicle to allow them to have two truly reliable sets of wheels. This would allow them to continue to feed children, train pastors, transport visiting team members, build churches, purchase supplies, build bridges, and so much more! - posted by Christi Watch for an update on our vehicle situation, coming VERY SOON!

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Exciting Post with Too Much Punctuation

A phone call with Allen never disappoints. This week’s call was especially exciting. In fact, this week’s call was like one big exclamation point!

Carol Doherty with her sponsored child

It started off with a huge praise to God that the good people of Fredericktowne Baptist Church in Maryland have sponsored every child currently enrolled in the sponsorship program in Campuca! (Please know that one piddly little exclamation point doesn’t begin to convey Sowers4Pastors’ excitement over that last sentence, but, as a professional, I’m trying to avoid writing, “!!!!!!!!!!!!”)

Pauli Van Maurik with her sponsored child

Allen, Trish, and Russell are also still excited about the great week they had with a visiting team from Edgewater Alliance Church in Edgewater, Florida. The team conducted medical well visits and much, much more. They passed out backpacks and shoes to the children. They were also able to take pictures of children to take back to the sponsors in their congregation. The team flew out feeling the sort of exhilaration that comes from being where God wants you.  

Around 160 of the 270 children in the sponsorship program of Guacutao already have sponsors. The team from Edgewater went home determined to find sponsors for the remaining children. They also flew home with another mission.

Michelle Mercer with her sponsored child

Edgewater Alliance’s sister church of Guacutao has a daughter church in another village. Relationally speaking, I suppose that would make it Edgewater Alliance’s niece church! The smaller church is in need of a new roof. The team is going to try to raise a team of young people to go on a missions trip of their own, with the intention of putting a roof on the other church. Sowers4Pastors is excited to be a part of that. Actually, “overjoyed” is the word Allen used. He went on to say, “It’s great to be a part of facilitating that relationship--seeing the kids not only get fed, but get educated, receive shoes, and, of course, be fed spiritually. The whole thing is exciting. We’re excited. They’re excited.”

So, please pardon me while I do what has to be done here… !!!!!!!!!!!! There. That feels better!

- posted by Christi

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Kim Hall: Ministry Leader and Chauffer to Gymnastic Mimes

One of the best things about writing for Sowers4Pastors is getting to talk to the people involved in the ministry. Recently, I had the opportunity to speak to Kim Hall, the founder of Manna 4 Lempira, at Allen’s request. Having heard and written so much about her work in the sponsorship program, it was nice to finally (sort of) meet her. Kim graciously offered to squeeze me in between her work day and taking her girls to gymnastics. She warned me that they would be in the car and it might be loud, but she might as well have been in a vehicle with a bunch of mimes! I was able to hear all about some ministry updates, which I would like to pass on to you.

We talked about what a difference Manna 4 Lempira and Sowers4Pastors is making in the churches they’re serving. (I regret to inform you that I listen faster than I transcribe, but I’ll try not to butcher Kim’s quotes too much.)

Kim with sponsored child

Only Slightly Butchered Quotes

Kim talked about how the sponsorship program has benefitted churches by, “putting resources into the pastors’ hands. The pastors are then able to go out and reach the people. Some of the programs have grown by up to threefold. When we started the program at Betania, there were 61 kids. Now, it’s up to almost 200. Mercedes was at 150 and is now at 323. And it’s not like the kids are getting stuff and not attending. They are coming every week! We’re doing something new this year! Every child is getting his own Sunday school materials. Teachers are getting training in how to use them. They’re getting their own study materials. It’s just an extra tool to put in the hands of teachers and pastors.”

More Numbers

Kim and Jonathan Hall with sponsored child
She continued by saying, “Back in October, we added a new church partner in El Tablon. When we did that, we still had quite a few kids waiting in other programs. We’re now approaching the halfway point for sponsorships at El Tablon, with 104 children sponsored out of around the 250 registered. At Betania and Mercedes, every single child is now sponsored! We’re hitting right around 600 total kids sponsored. In the beginning, we didn’t know how we were going to find sponsors for 150 children!

“We’re getting ready to send out about 100 pounds of sponsor letters to Honduras. We’re also mailing out about 1000 letters the children wrote to their sponsors in December. We’re currently working on getting them all translated. For the first time, there are so many letters, we’re having to put them on the shipping container. They should be there and passed out in February.”


Kim also touched on a topic she posted to the Manna 4 Lempira Facebook page on New Year’s Eve. She feels God gave her a word for the year 2016. That word was, “multiply”. While reflecting about the ministry’s growth, Kim said, “The original team we took to Honduras was four people. We now have a ministry that spans four continents! On that first trip, we went to see one child. That’s why we took the name, “Manna”. It’s not only talking about the food God miraculously provided for the Israelites. It’s also a reference to when Jesus fed the 5000 by taking a little and multiplying it. That’s what Allen does. He takes the available resources and puts them where they will do the most good. That’s what we do.”

While I could have listened to Kim all day, I knew she had a car full of mimes to get to gymnastics, so I let it go at that.

Kim and Jonathan, and their not-usually-mute kids

- posted by Christi

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ministry Work and Everyday Life - Russell's Wednesday

Yesterday, January 18th. Russell Sowers, missionary. Location: Gracias Lempira, and Santa Rosa de Copan, and San Pedro Sula, Cortes . . . all in western Honduras.

Work scheduled for the day:

Santa Rosa de Copan
Photo Credit: Diaria La Prensa
The plan was for Russell to travel 45 minutes to Santa Rosa de Copan, to make a deposit into a bank account of another missionary (whose bank doesn't have a branch closer to our home), and purchase school shoes for Ben. After that he was coming back home to work on his taxes.

However, as usual, actual events only vaguely resembled the plan.

After banking, and while shopping for Ben's shoes, Russell found a pretty good deal on small backpacks for the younger children in the sponsorship program (we were running low on these), and he was also able to purchase some shoes we needed for the sponsorship program (we had run out of some sizes).

During this time of shopping, Russell was on the phone, helping our new missionary friends, the Agee family, with a problem they were encountering. Their entire family - three generations of Agees, consisting of seven people - had taken a trip to San Pedro Sula, and encountered engine trouble which left them stranded in the city! Russell's fluency in Spanish, and the fact that he has developed lots of contacts over the years, makes him an invaluable resource to us, and we're happy that he can use his knowledge to help other missionaries as they get started working here.

The night before, Russell had already helped line up a tow truck, a mechanic, safe overnight storage of the disabled vehicle, and reserved hotel rooms for the family. This involved about 30 phone calls back and forth in English and Spanish. But yesterday, it was determined that the repairs would not be completed as quickly as hoped, so Russell drove the 2 1/2 hours to San Pedro Sula to pick up the women, children, and infant of the family, and bring them back to Gracias. The Agee menfolk are staying on in the big city until the car repairs are completed, so that they can drive their vehicle back home.
City of San Pedro Sula
Photo Credit: Spirit Airlines

While he was in San Pedro with the Agees, Russell was also involved in the process of diagnosing the vehicle problems, and translating the information about repairs and costs back and forth.

Russell took advantage of the fact that the trip to San Pedro takes him right through La Entrada de Copan, and dropped off Ben's shoes and the paperwork for our upcoming container (to a lawyer who also works for the ministry that runs the school) - which saved us from sending a worker to drop those off for us.

Russell returned home to our property at about 7:30 in the evening, instead of noonish, as originally planned. Being young, after all of those hours of driving Russell was able to turn right around and take a load of coffee to the de-pulping machine. He was finally home and done at 8:30.

Today we are working on his taxes.

 - posted by Trish

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Introducing our New Video Collection!

We have a new page linked at the top of the blog: VIDEOS! This summer, videographer Jenny Oetting spent a month in Honduras, filming the ministry work. Since then, she's been organizing all of that material to create this set of videos. We're so excited to share them with you . . . and we hope that you will find them useful in sharing this ministry with others! The link to the videos, in the link bar above, will make them easily accessible, when you need them.

Here's the complete video collection:
To get a picture of the entire ministry first, before gathering more details, check out the “Ministry Overview” video to hear Trish give a tour of Sowers4Pastors’ many worthwhile efforts.
Sowers4Pastors Series: Ministry Overview from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

Meet Kim and Jonathan Hall and learn how Manna 4 Lempira feeds children, provides backpacks and school supplies, and shares the Gospel message. It’s like a loaves and fishes story to see how resources are being multiplied to touch so many lives.

Sowers4Pastors Series | Manna 4 Lempira from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

Watch as Russell shows what the yearly MK Camp means to the missionary kids in Honduras. (Be sure and keep an eye out for Allen, who also grew up as a missionary kid!)

Sowers4Pastors Series: Missionary Kids Camp from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

Russell also takes you on a tour of Sowers4Pastors’
coffee farm and explains why Sowers4Pastors is growing coffee as a means of helping sustain their ministry.

Sowers4Pastors Series: Coffee Farm from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

Speaking of coffee, watch “A Cup of Coffee” to learn what you could provide by forgoing just one cup of a designer coffee drink.

Sowers4Pastors Series | A Cup Of Coffee from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

If you’re contemplating a short term mission trip through Sowers4Pastors, you won’t want to miss the “Travel” video. You will learn what to expect from the airport, lodging, food, transportation, and potential team projects. It’s like a one stop travel guide!

Sowers4Pastors Series | Travel from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

In the “Pastors Training School” video, you will see how indigenous pastors are being trained to plant churches in some of the estimated 2000 villages in Western Honduras, which do not have a Bible based church.

Sowers4Pastors Series: Pastors Training School from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

You can also see what happens when Sowers4Pastors joins forces with a short-term missions team from the U.S. and a team of local volunteers to build a pedestrian foot bridge in a week.

Sowers4Pastors Series | Bridge In A Week from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

Why bridges? Watch the “Why Bridges?” video and see what the bridge in a week projects mean to local communities.
Sowers4Pastors Series: Why Bridges? from Jenny Oetting on Vimeo.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, January 16, 2017

Storytime with Allen: The Biggest Bang for the Buck

When describing Sowers4Pastors’ operating procedures, Allen likes to toss around a couple of terms: “sweat equity” and “skin in the game”. Just to make sure we’re all on the same page regarding the meaning of those terms, let’s go over the definitions.

For a definition of sweat equity, I’m going to turn to the organization that is probably the United States’ biggest proponents of the term. Habitat for Humanity has defined sweat equity as “the ownership interest, or increase in value, that is created as a direct result of hard work by the owner(s).”

Skin in the game is a term frequently used in sports and business. It is often used to refer to a situation in which high-ranking insiders use their own money to buy stock
in the company they’re running. A more general meaning simply means someone is personally invested in something.

Basically, when Allen talks about sweat equity and skin in the game, he’s talking about why Sowers4Pastors doesn’t give things away for free. I’ve heard him speak on this before, but he just gave me two stories that really drive his points home. So, sit back. It’s storytime!

The Medicine Story

A group traveled to Honduras to operate a medical clinic. People would show up and ask for medicine and the good people running the clinic would give them the medicine free of charge. They were seeing a lot of people, but the staff began noticing much of the medicine was being dropped on the ground outside the clinic.

One day, a doctor stepped outside and witnessed a man throwing his newly acquired medicine on the ground. When the doctor asked why he was tossing it aside like garbage, the man replied, “The medicine must not be any good. You gave them away for free.”

The group reevaluated their procedures and began selling the meds for a fraction of their actual cost. They didn’t charge much, but it was enough for people to believe the medicine had value.

The Bible Story

When another visiting group arrived with good intentions and a large supply of Bibles to give away, Allen wisely suggested they charge people a stipend for each Bible. He thought a quarter would be a good amount. The group, however, felt strongly that the Bibles should be given away for free. Now, I’m sure we can all understand why the group felt that way, but Allen understood some things about the Honduran culture that the group did not. The group continued handing out the Bibles.

About a week and half later, Allen was out and about when he paid a visit to an outhouse. That’s when he saw it--a Bible, with pages torn out of it. People were using the free Bibles for toilet paper! If they had purchased the Bibles, they would have seen them as things of value. Plus, only people who truly wanted a Bible would have paid for and received one!

The Story of Sowers4Pastors
When people have to work and sacrifice to gain something that is beneficial, they value and care for it more. The Sowers try to never give anything away for free. They know that people will accept anything that is free, even if they have no use for that item. If it’s something of monetary value, the recipients will often turn around and sell it. The Sowers try to make sure the ministry’s limited resources go into the hands of people that will advance the Kingdom. Trish pointed out they use the method they do because they believe in “skin in the game,” plus giving is simply a bad choice in so many instances.

Because Sowers4Pastors operates with a sweat equity/skin in the game philosophy, they are able to stretch their resources. Here are some examples:

  • If they had purchased land, supplied labor and materials, and built church buildings from the ground up, they would have helped ten churches. Instead, they took that money and helped 120 churches get new roofs!

  • Instead of giving 110 pastors new motorcycles, they have been able to help 180 pastors buy a motorcycle. (Plus, each pastor has demonstrated he can afford to maintain a motorcycle.)

  • Sowers4Pastors could have purchased horses or mules for 35 pastors, if they had been responsible for the entire cost. Instead, they helped 70 pastors by paying for half of the cost.

  • If they were personally running the feeding centers, Allen, Trish, and Russell might be able to run three centers, which provide meals twice a week. That would seriously cut in on the other work they do. Rather, they help 140 pastors operate feeding centers!

  • Perhaps the most impressive number has to do with planting churches. If Allen and Trish had decided to become church planters, they could have planted one church in the ten year period they’ve been in western Honduras. That church would be a “gringo” church and, if the Sowers ever leave, there would be concern that the church would shut down. Instead, they have helped 50 pastors a year plant churches. That is 500 church plants in the ten year period they’ve been there!

This is the part where someone would normally say, “The End,” but where this storytime is concerned, this is more like, “The Beginning.”

- posted by Christi

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Couple of Weeks in the Life . . . or . . . How Trish Really Blew it!

From Trish: We have been SO BUSY! Christi wrote this post for me, to tell you about the upcoming events, and I never added the pictures and put it up on the blog. Now, most of these events are already completed! Obviously I don't have time to re-write this in the past tense, so please just pretend you read this last week, okay? Thanks!


What are the Sowers up to this January? Thank you for asking! As usual, there’s too much going on to cover the entire month, but here’s a brief overview of a couple of weeks in the life of the Sowers:

Not that they’re complaining, but the arrival of Baby Abigail necessitated the rescheduling of a few things. Russell’s schedule had been blocked off to work on things in their new home before Abigail’s birth. Hahaha! Abigail had other plans and decided to arrive a little earlier than anticipated, so that schedule flew out the window. (Not that anyone is complaining!) The work still needs to be done, though now Abigail can act as supervisor.

There’s also still work in the coffee fields to be done. With a new baby and her very energetic big brother in the house, Russell should probably put some of that coffee aside for his personal use.

It’s almost time for Sowers4Pastors’ first visiting team of 2017 to hit the ground running in Honduras, so the Sowers are already running around preparing for the visit. Most of the team members are from Edgewater Alliance Church in Edgewater, Florida. The time prior to the visit being spent taking care of very glamorous missionary tasks like making sure the rental van and hotel reservations are confirmed. They are also contacting each pastor in the towns where the team will be visiting to be sure they all have a feeding day scheduled.

Children lined up for medical check-ups,
at Guacutao feeding center
Since Edgewater Alliance is the sister church of the Guacutao church, much of the team’s visit will be spent there. They will be distributing backpacks, shoes, and letters to the children of Guacutao. They will also be doing medical well visits, updating pictures for sponsors, helping the children write letters to their sponsors, playing games, leading crafts, and leading Good News Club activities. Maybe the most exciting part is the opportunity the team will have to pay home visits to the children they and some of their churchmates sponsor.

The team will also spend time at the feeding centers at Rancho Obispo, Posa Verde and  Nuevos Cedros, doing the same activities scheduled for Guacutao. It’s always nice when a visiting team consists of some medical staff, who are able to conduct medical visits for the children.

One of the team members is bringing a Spanish copy of “The Jesus Film” and several evenings will be spent going to smaller areas around Gracias to show the film. One of those areas will be the sister church at Guacutao.

Later in the week, a day will be spent visiting a girls’ orphanage and spending time with the children there. This is an orphanage where some of the team members have previously visited and they are eager to return.

As a special treat, the team members and children at the El Tablon feeding center will be dining together, one evening. They won’t be dining on the standard feeding center menu, however, as the Sowers have placed a special tamale order for the occasion! Some of the time will be spent seeing some of the sights, including the Sowers’ coffee farm.

Whew! I don’t know about you, but I’m tired just reading about it. I can’t wait to see what the second half of January has in store for Allen, Trish, Russell, and Iris. - posted by Christi