Monday, October 30, 2017

The Blog Post Inexplicably Filled with Horse Idioms

Random photo of horses in Honduras
It’s always fun to talk to Russell about what he’s up to. Basically, I like hearing information straight from the horse’s mouth. During our most recent phone call, he talked about when he out and registered 165 kids for a new Manna 4 Lempira sight on Sunday, October 22.  

Now, before you start champing at the bit to get a look at all of the new children in need of sponsors, there are a couple of things that have to take place. You might say, they don’t want to put the horse before the cart. (Okay, you probably wouldn’t say that at all, but, for whatever reason, I’ve obviously got a little horse theme going on here. Humor me. The writing process is a mysterious thing!)

For starters, Russell is hoping to bring on another person to help with the accounting side of the program. Imagine what it is like to keep up with the financial side of all of the child sponsorships! It will take a little while to get the new person out of the gate and up to speed.

Naturally, Kim Hall is plowing ahead to get all of the kids sponsored. She’s busy getting a profile ready for each of the 165 new children. Kim is a hard worker, but even she can’t get that done overnight!

In great news, a church in Kansas is opting to sponsor about half of the children from the new center. This church didn’t want to deal with the administrative requirements of having a sister church, but they still want to be involved in child sponsorship. This is the perfect opportunity for church members to sponsor children at the same location. Shut the barn door!

So, while it’s understandable you’re eager to see all of the smiling faces of the children at the new feeding center, hold yer horses! They’ll be trotting them out soon!

Introducing QUELACASQUE from Manna4Lempira on Vimeo.

Friday, October 27, 2017

A Big Ol' Ford Van

North Americans tend to take a lot of things for granted. If we’re in the market for a new or used vehicle, we have no shortage of options. We can head off to a dealership and take something for a test drive. Or we can stay at home in our jammies and shop for a vehicle over the internet. And, when we find a car, we don’t really give much thought as to how long it will take for new license plates to arrive. As usual, Russell was able to give me a healthy dose of perspective when he described his adventure of buying a new vehicle for the ministry.

On Monday, Russell headed off to the big city of San Pedro to pick up a used van. He gave me the specifics, but I don’t type very fast while cradling a phone to my ear, so we’ll just call it a big ol’ Ford van because I’m pretty sure that’s what all of the specifics boiled down to.

The thing is, they don’t sell big ol’ Ford vans in Honduras. No dealership carries them. There is no CarMax or online option. If you need a big ol’ van in Central America, that big ol’ van needs to come from the U.S. When vans get in fender benders, they are sometimes bought at auction and shipped to Central America for repairs.

In August, Russell purchased  the big ol’ Ford van from an auction in Louisiana, with the help of a friend. The friend helped with the process of getting the van exported from the States and imported to Honduras. It was imported with all of its bumps and bruises because it is cheaper to repair a vehicle in Honduras, where the labor costs are less. Plus, if you bring in a vehicle that doesn’t look nice, authorities won’t try to gouge you for import taxes.

The slightly battered, big ol’ Ford van arrived in its new country during the last week of September. It has since been repaired and painted. And, wonder of wonders… It has license plates! According to Russell, it can take up to three years to get license plates after purchasing a vehicle in Honduras. You might remember that Russell owned a motorcycle for five years that did not have plates! Each month, Russell had to make an hour long drive to get written permission from the government to drive his motorcycle. This time, he got the plates in two weeks! To quote Russell, “Plates are a blessing from God, in this country! People sometimes buy vehicles in Guatemala because it’s easier to go to another country once a year to have plates renewed than to try to get plates in Honduras.”

Now, you might be asking yourself why Sowers4Pastors purchased a big ol’ Ford van. That’s simple. The van will be used to transport visiting teams. Up until now, they have been forced to rent small, uncomfortable Japanese vans when teams arrived. These vans also had undersized suspensions and tires, which don't stand up well to the rough mountain roads.The van purchase will be financially beneficial to the ministry, in the long term. It’s almost time for a new “team season” and now, the money teams spend on transportation will be used to pay off the van rather than pad the pockets of Hertz.

The next team will arrive on December 26. In fact, that will be the first of ten teams to arrive in a fourteen week period! There will be at least five weeks of back to back teams! Sorry, Hertz, but Sowers4Pastors will not be needing to reserve any little Japanese vans!  

- posted by Christi

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Coffee Fields are (Almost) Ripe Unto Harvest

What’s happening in Honduras? Why, thanks for asking! While Allen and Trish have been packing backpacks and driving rental trucks all over the U.S., Russell has been working the coffee fields, building a bridge, and sundry other missionary-type things.

A sort of preliminary coffee harvest has been completed. Any beans which were burned by the sun, matured too early, or just didn’t look quite right were picked in a pre-harvest harvest. Getting rid of the wonky beans (Sorry for the technical term!) will allow the coffee beans left on the plants to mature better. In short, getting rid of the riff-raff beans will mean a better harvest in the future.

Don’t think the lesser quality beans will go to waste, though. Russell used his brand new de-pulper to take the pulp off the picked beans. He and the crew then cleaned up the beans and set them out to dry. Russell will be selling them off at a bargain basement price because of their lower quality.

Now, back to that fancy schmancy de-pulper… Last year, Russell rented a de-pulper at De-pulpers-R-Us, or wherever one goes to rent a coffee bean de-pulper in Western Honduras! Then Sowers4Pastors supporter, Dennis Michels made it his mission to help the Sowers purchase a de-pulper. Mr. Michels will be traveling to Honduras at the end of November to see the new machine in action.

In addition to working with the coffee, Russell has been running out to the site of the new bridge project in Las Crucitas each day. Work on the bridge is coming along nicely. At the time of this writing, Russell and his crew have been stringing the cable and putting up the suspenders for the bridge. They are hoping to get it all decked on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Disclaimer: I know as much about building bridges as I know about where to rent de-pulpers, but, in my opinion, that sounds like the bridge is nearing completion!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Sent Packing

Last Friday and Saturday, Allen, Trish, and an industrious group of volunteers were sent packing! Packing backpacks, that is! The group converged on  Edgewater Alliance Church in Edgewater, Florida to fill about 800 backpacks for sponsored children, plus a slew of backpacks for children who do not yet have sponsors.

The group took over the church’s large lobby area to fill, label, and package each backpack. Sponsors with Manna 4 Lempira mailed in bags filled with toys and fun surprises. Courtney Christian from Jacksonville, Florida brought down 800 bags filled with the school supplies needed for each backpack and 800 bags filled with hygiene supplies for each one. Amanda Lane flew in from Massachusetts to lend two very helpful hands. And Kim Hall made the journey from Atlanta. Kim provided gift bags for any sponsored child whose sponsor didn’t provide one. Kim, Courtney, and Amanda brought friends and family with them to help, as well!

Volunteers paired the bags o’ fun with bags of school supplies and hygiene supplies, and also added additional notebooks, to fill each and every backpack. Besides the bags for sponsored children, between 200-300 backpacks were created for children still waiting for sponsors! Every single child with Manna 4 Lempira will receive a backpack, which has been filled to capacity.

As Allen said, “People stayed on it and kept their heads down. By 6:30, the job was done. The backpacks totally filled the rented Penske truck. Then, on Monday, we delivered them to the hangar where we store them, along with 500 backpacks from Atlanta!”

There are also a number of “starter bags”, which will be loaded onto the container. Those bags will supplement the boxes pastors’ families will receive through Gifts for Gracias. Let the shipping commence!

- posted by Christi

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Makings of a Fine, Country Song

It’s not very often that I talk to Allen or Trish and immediately think up a badly paraphrased country music song. In fact, up until today, it had never happened. But, now, I’m sitting here singing,
“On the road again! They just can’t wait to be on the road again. The life they love is haulin’ backpacks from their friends. Oh, they can’t wait to be on the road again!”

There should really be multiple verses to that little tune. There should be verses about speaking at churches, meeting up with friends, packing backpacks, and theoretically resting. But, alas, you’re going to have to come up with those lyrics yourself because my day is looking pretty full. Here’s some material to help you with your musical composition, though:

Allen said Trish has been “running around like a crazy person to meet up with as many friends as possible,” during her time in Maryland. Trish is a popular gal, and she only had a little more than a week to catch up with people, so it’s understandable her dance card would fill up quickly.

On Sunday, Trish went to the Sowers’ home church, while Allen headed off to a different church to speak. He was able to address both services and a Sunday school class. Allen and Trish were also able to speak at an AWANA program on their 2nd Wednesday in Maryland. Waylon and Willie, er, Allen and Trish, spent both of their Thursday evenings in Maryland packing up backpacks for the container.

From there, they left on Friday morning to meet up with some of those aforementioned friends in the Norfolk, Virginia area. They spoke at a church that Sunday before heading off for the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina in a rental car.

Riverdance B&B in North Carolina

The dynamic travelin’ duo is theoretically taking a couple of days to kick back and relax. Since discussing the contents of two blog posts was only one of about eight work related tasks on the agenda this morning, it’s not looking all that relaxing, though. They are getting to stay at a B&B in the mountains of North Carolina, at the Tennessee border. The owner of the B&B gives a discounted price to missionaries, so the opportunity was too good to pass up. They will also be taking a drive through the countryside for Trish to enjoy a sight she misses in Honduras--fall foliage!

This country music song in the making does not contain any pickup trucks, but the rental car will be driven to Atlanta, where it will be traded in for a Penske rental truck. So, there’s that. In Atlanta, they will be picking up 500 filled backpacks, 6000 notebooks, and the extra supplies sponsors who have already filled backpacks sent to Kim Hall.

Then, they will drive to Kingsland, Georgia to meet with a pastor about a possible future project with Sowers4Pastors. From there, they will go to Edgewater, Florida. At Edgewater Alliance Church, they will have a packing event on Friday night and Saturday. On Sunday, they will be speaking at Edgewater Alliance.

Please forward your finished verses to Trish. I can’t wait to hear the rest of the song.

- posted by Christi

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Pomp and Circumstance, Honduran Style

Straighten up and look dignified! It’s time for some Pomp and Circumstance at Pastors’ Training School. Well, substitute Pomp and Circumstance for mariachi music, but you get the idea. It’s graduation time and we should all celebrate--Honduran style!

Russell slipped out of the ceremony for around two dozen 2nd year students to tell me about all the goings on. Russell’s father-in-law and two of his brothers-in-law provided the aforementioned mariachi music. There are no caps and gowns, but there are diplomas. There’s not a catered banquet, but they did have ice cream last night. And that’s a pretty sweet way to mark the occasion. Sweeter still, there’s a time to pray over each graduate.

While searching for something clever or moving to say about graduation, I stumbled across a list of the fifteen best graduation speeches of 2016. Some of the speakers whose quotes made the list include President Obama, Steven Spielberg, and Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and star of the Broadway hit Hamilton. But my favorite quote from the list is from a speech given by tech gurus Richard and Mary Templeton at Southern Methodist University. Here’s the inspirational nugget:

“Small and steady steps can be quite big and spectacular. They move you to a bigger place.”

The pastors involved in training school have taken the small and steady steps. They have attended classes three days a month for the past eight months. They’ve taken time away from their families and congregations in order to better equip themselves for their roles as biblical leaders.

The star 2nd year students have mentored the 1st year students. They were also responsible for over half of the teaching for the 1st year class. Next year, around twenty 2nd year students will become 3rd year students. The star students will continue to serve as mentors for the class below them. The majority of this year’s 1st year students will come back next year, too. Clay Powell, who heads up the Pastors’ Training School effort is seeking to raise up students from this year’s 1st year class to serve as mentors for next year’s new students.

When the newly graduated 2nd year class leaves, the 1st year students will arrive. They will complete their final three days of classes for the year and will graduate on Friday, October 6th. It should be noted that twenty-seven of the twenty-eight first year students who started the year will receive diplomas. That’s a pretty impressive statistic for a voluntary educational program

Russell is quick to give credit where it is due. Four ministries are responsible for Pastors’ Training School. They are:

  • Seeds of Salvation
  • 61 Isaiah
  • New Beginnings, Honduras (though the missionary family had to leave for medical reasons earlier this year)
  • And, of course, Sowers4Pastors.

- posted by Christi

Monday, October 9, 2017

General Terms and Major Doings

A Private Phone Call

This is not Trish on the phone
(This is RJ - Russell Jr)
Each week, I get to have a phone call with a Sowers. It’s not always the same Sowers on the other side of the line, but every conversation starts with a quick overview of the blog topics for the week. This week, Trish was on the phone and she opened with, “We want a post, which talks in general terms about what’s going on and how we see the future of the ministry.”

Some General Terms

  • Russell is hard at work with ongoing ministries. Having taken on larger and larger roles in the Sowers4Pastors ministry, Russell is there making sure everything runs without interruption even though Allen and Trish are off on a North American adventure.

  • Since some donations have recently been made for this cause, Russell is spreading the word that we are accepting applications from pastors wishing to request assistance purchasing a motorcycle. Russell will then have the chance to sort through the applications and interview pastors who would benefit from having a motorcycle to use in ministering throughout the mountains of Western Honduras.

  • There are currently four church projects underway. That is huge, people!

  • Pastors’ Training School continues to take place the first week of every month.

  • Kids at the feeding centers are continuing to write letters to sponsors. Three guys working for the Sowers have started visiting each center almost every single week. Their visits help to build up enthusiasm among volunteers and keep the centers accountable in their operation.

  • The coffee farm is still a big deal, requiring a lot of man hours and oversight.

  • A bridge project, which was started in Las Crucitas late last year is back on the planned work schedule. Construction on the vehicle, cable bridge had to be put on hold several times, in order to host teams, etc… The bridge will require an approximate ten more days of work. Since it is currently the rainy season, construction will begin as soon as the swollen river recedes.

Also not Trish on the phone
(This is Abigail)
Major Doings

The Sowers always want to be sure people understand their regular ministries do not go on hold even when Allen and Trish are off gallivanting across the U.S. in a rental truck filled with backpacks. The beauty of this family run ministry is that Russell has received a lifetime of training to serve at the helm. This isn’t exactly a changing of the guard. It’s more of a seamless transition as each Sowers continues to focus on the tasks at hand. - posted by Christi

Monday, October 2, 2017

Who's Up For a Game of Musical Houses?

If you think Trivial Pursuit or chess are challenging games, you’ve obviously never tried to wrap your head around the game Russell is getting ready to play--Musical Houses. The music won’t really start for another year, but Russell is still preparing for one of the most complicated, short distance moves in history! It is, what my granny would have referred to as a “fruit basket turnover” as Russell and Iris prepare to move into a new house, Allen and Trish prepare to move into Russell and Iris’s current house, with Allen and Trish’s current home becomes storage space. Got it? If not, be thankful you don’t have to pull this off.

Once this year’s shipping containers arrive, their contents will be stored in the house which is currently under construction. That means any work Russell wants to accomplish before next March has to be completed before the end of November. That’s when the bounty of backpacks and other supplies should arrive from the States.

Now, this big construction push would be easier if this was the only thing going on in Russell’s life. But that is far from the case. November will be the middle of coffee harvest. The regular ministries are continuing. So, Russell is juggling his job as the Bob Villa of home owners with his career as a very busy missionary.

Russell’s father-in-law has finished all of the exterior doors. The windows are also completed. He is currently finishing the interior doors. Last week, security bars went up on all the windows. It’s important to have the house as secure as possible because of the aforementioned contents of shipping containers, which will be stored there.  

Currently, Russell and two other guys are hard at work laying ceramic tile in the new house. For the next month, two men will be laying tile on a full-time basis. The lofty goal is to have that job finished before the containers arrive.

As Russell explained the logistics of this move, my head almost started spinning. Essentially, they will need to pull off three simultaneous moves. If all goes well, the moves will take place before Allen returns home from his planned U.S. trip in the fall of 2018. I would love to adequately explain the process, but even I don’t understand the notes I took of Russell’s description of how everyone’s stuff is supposed to end up in the right place. I do know it will involve a fair amount of labeling and color coding boxes.

The good news is the houses are only a few hundred feet away from each other. That should make it easier in case Allen opens up his sock drawer to find it’s full of R.J.’s toys. Something tells me, the music may have to start and stop a few times before everyone’s belongings are in their new home! - posted by Christi