Monday, February 20, 2017

Green Light, Go!

Have you ever wondered how all of those backpacks and supplies get to Honduras? If you recall, I recently had the opportunity to talk to Jim Cofer, who heads up the donations and shipping container for Sowers4Pastors in Maryland. It’s a big job! It’s so big, in fact, that there was no way to include all of the info in one little blogpost. Previously, we talked about collections and where donations are stored and sorted. But, today, we get to see what happens when the team of volunteers is given the green light, telling them that shipping time has arrived and it's time to get things on the move.

The Art of Packing   

Jim says the actual process of packing the container is the most interesting part, as that involves expertly packing the trailer, to maximize the space and minimize loss. Again, a call goes out for volunteers. People from other churches and local charities show up to help pack the supplies into the trailer. If you’ve ever attempted to pack a U-Haul, you know there’s a special knack to packing on a large scale. The goal is to get as much as possible into the container, while also protecting the most valuable and fragile items.

I’m reminded of an episode of “I Love Lucy” when the Ricardos and the Mertzes were about to head off to Hollywood. Fortunately, Jim and the other volunteers are better at planning than Ricky, Lucy, Fred, and Ethel!

What Could Go Wrong?

Last year, the container showed up on a Saturday. The team got it packed--back to front, top to bottom. The following day, Allen was informed that the trucking company had sent the wrong container and the company was offering only two options: they would repack it in their warehouse in New Jersey, or they could send the fully packed container back, along with a new container, so that the volunteers could switch the contents into the correct one. Since things have to be packed in a proper order, Jim opted to devote another day to some heavy lifting. The correct container arrived on a frigid Thursday evening, when it was about 10 degrees outside. The team unpacked the wrong container and packed the correct one. The following day, before the truck could return to pick up the container, there was a blizzard and the meticulously packed-and-repacked shipping container sat there for a week, until the roads were open again.

This year’s adventure involved a forklift that wouldn’t work. The heavy machinery was needed to load spools of 1400 ft lengths of cable, which weigh 2500-3000 pounds each. No amount of lifting with your legs was going to get those spools safely loaded, so a call went out for a forklift mechanic. Then, as the truck carrying the container, which weighed in at a whopping 44,179 pounds, was moving down the road, the trailer broke its axle. Jim doesn’t let this stuff get to him, though. He’s thankful that, overall, they have been very blessed. No one has ever been injured and they’ve always been able to get the container sent off. While it was an unexpected delay, the shipping container is finally on its way to Honduras. It should arrive around February 15th. (Note from Trish: the container is in port in Honduras, making its way through customs now.)

The Superbowl of Shipping

I asked Jim if he’s ever visited the Sowers in Honduras. He chuckled and explained that Allen likes for people to visit because it helps them “catch the vision” for the work Sowers4Pastors does. He’s never been to Honduras, but he has most definitely caught the vision! He said he loves the Sowers ministry and Allen’s paradigm for ministry, pointing out that, if the Sowers had to return to the States, the ministry would continue because of how Allen has structured it.

If you think Jim and the other volunteers are basking in the afterglow of a job well done, think again. Jim said, “It’s like the Superbowl. As soon as it happens, you start planning for the next one!”

- posted by Christi

1 comment:

Refugia Stein said...

You're absolutely right that packing things into a small space like a container is an art form! My mother was an antique dealer and an ace packer when it came to loading up her van so the contents didn't shift and arrived safety. It seems you have similar talents. However, I cringe at all the things that can go wrong!