Thursday, October 18, 2018

Roadtrips Aren't For Sissies

What a difference a week makes! When I spoke to Trish a week ago, she and Allen were in a parking lot outside a Christian school in Virginia. This week, they are on the west coast of Florida visiting Kirstin, Christopher (Gus), Bethany (Boo), and Trish’s parents. In the space between one phone call and the next, there was a lot of lugging boxes of backpacks from one place to another, a lot of driving, and a lot of driving rain (courtesy of Hurricane Michael).

Eating out with Oscar and Rhoda, in Virginia

When Allen and Trish left the aforementioned school parking lot, they drove to St. Luke’s Methodist Church in Yorktown, Virginia to collect backpacks. They loaded those boxes of backpacks into the 16-ft Penske truck they were driving at the time. Then they headed to South Carolina, where they spent the night. The following morning, the weather was a might blustery and hurricane-ish in South Carolina, but the track of the hurricane was looking good. It was east of them and headed northeast. Allen and Trish were heading southwest to Atlanta. So, after admiring the water that was gushing through the canned lighting in the hotel lobby, Allen and Trish took inventory of the situation and decided to go ahead and hit the road. After all, they were going in the right direction to get out of the storm.

Driving south, along with many relief vehicles,
and catching a bit of Tropical Storm Michael

They drove slowly and carefully, but said everything was okay. All roads were passable and it didn’t seem ridiculously dangerous. After driving for three hours, they stopped for gas. That’s when Trish pulled out her phone and received a warning message she had missed before they left the hotel. The warning, which had been sent three hours prior, said that for the next three hours there would be flash flood warnings in the area they had just driven! This is probably one of those “ignorance is bliss” situations. With a full tank of gas, they hit the road again and drove out of the storm.

After a stop to pick up a violin on the northside of Atlanta, which has been donated for Ben's use, they drove to a Home Depot near downtown Atlanta. That’s where they traded the 16-foot truck for a 26-foot truck. Now, ordinarily, there would have been volunteers there to help them move the boxes of backpacks from one truck to the other. But, Allen and Trish had moved this trip forward on the schedule, and with the storm, there hadn’t been a real way of knowing when they would need help. In the end, Allen and Trish schlepped the boxes all on their own. It took about four hours and wasn’t exactly the optimal activity for a man with a bad back to undertake. But they did it and they’d do it again! Why? By switching trucks rather than starting off in the big truck from Maryland, they saved the ministry more than $800!


From there, they went to Kim and Jonathan Hall’s house to pick up 100 more boxes from Manna4Lempira sponsors. They spent the night at the Halls' house and, the following morning, they headed to a church nearby. The church supplied boxes of backpacks, as well as bags of used clothing. Since the pastor and his wife are Honduran, they understand how important warm jackets and clothing will be to the recipients.

Then, it was on to St Marys/Kingsland Georgia - right near the Florida line. A project run through the First Baptist Church of Kingsland filled around 500 backpacks! With those onboard on Sunday afternoon, Trish and Allen headed south to Jacksonville, Florida to pick up donations from a Manna4Lempira sponsor.



Completely full truck, at the end of the trip
from Maryland to Florida

By that evening, the truck was parked in a Walmart parking lot in Edgewater, Florida. The next morning, the truck’s contents were unloaded into the storage facility near Edgewater, and the rental truck (the 5th truck rented so far on this trip) was returned.

Fuzzy photo of the volunteers who helped with the
unloading in Florida
They are enjoying a little time with their grown children who live in Florida before beginning the next phase of the trip. But, of course, it’s not all downtime. Sowers4Pastors is currently storing some food in Edgewater for future use in feeding centers. Since that food is not needed for immediate use in Honduras, Allen is currently trying to find out if anyone working on Hurricane Michael relief could use the food right now. As Allen said, they “can’t donate it unless someone has a plan to use it!”

 - posted by Christi

Monday, October 15, 2018

Matching Funds Game






As a child, I used to love watching game shows. One of my favorites was Match Game (Insert a year), which aired from 1973-1982. Each year, during the New Year show, it was a big deal to watch the title of the show roll over to the new year. Yes, I remember distinctly the thrill of seeing Match Game ‘75 turn into Match Game ‘76. Today, we’re talking about a sort of missionary equivalent, that I like to call: Matching Funds Game 2018!

Sowers4Pastors isn’t only about feeding centers and educating pastors. They are also actively involved in helping deserving pastors obtain motorcycles and assisting in church construction projects. And, that’s exactly where the Matching Funds Game 2018 comes in!

Most of the pastors in Western Honduras also work in the fields each day from 4:00 in the morning until 2:00 in the afternoon. We’re talking about literal fields, not the metaphorical kind! After putting in hours of hard, physical labor, these men go home to eat a midday meal and get prepared to go out to work as pastors. It is not uncommon for pastors to walk up to fifty miles a week! Fifty miles is a lot for anyone to walk, but we’re not talking about taking a stroll on paved streets. Fifty miles in Honduras means a lot of walking up and down super steep hills, wading through water, etc… And they do this every week!

That’s why Sowers4Pastors has a motorcycle ministry. Deserving pastors must come up with $600 to put toward a motorcycle. Sowers4Pastors provides $1000 to go to the cost of a new Honda motorcycle with semi off-road capacity. Right now, there is a matching fund challenge to assist pastors in getting motorcycles. That means, for every $500 donation, a donor will match it! Make no mistake, it is not easy for a Honduran pastor to come up with $600 to put toward a motorcycle. If a man is willing to do that, it shows how serious he is about being a more effective pastor. Your donation could mean the difference between a pastor helping to plant a church or not.

The second part of the Matching Funds Game 2018 involves church roofs. As you know, Sowers4Pastors seeks to empower, not enable. That’s why churches are required to come up with their own land. They must pour the concrete foundation and put up the walls. Then, Sowers4Pastors can help with the roof. Each roof costs $1000. With the current matching fund, they can now put on a church roof for $500.


As Allen said, “We are not trying to take over the pastor’s job. It’s not our church. They’ve got the sweat equity. They are doing the work. We are just trying to give them a little bigger sword to fight the battle.”

He continued by saying, “If this is something you’ve ever thought of doing, now’s a great time to step up. If you can’t come up with $500, consider making this a project for your small group or Sunday school class.”

It’s probably the most rewarding game you’ll ever play!

 - posted by Christi

Donation Instructions:

Click here to go to the donation page,
choose "Motorcycles and Horses for Pastors" or "Church Construction Projects"

Thursday, October 11, 2018

A Blog Post from Sketchy Notes

Talking to Trish when she and Allen are on the road is like listening to the weatherman on Christmas Eve charting the course of Santa Claus. Except Trish’s conversations include some technical things the weatherman glosses over--like when Santa has to stop to rotate the reindeer and how many presents are in the sled at any given moment. And the weatherman doesn’t have Allen shouting additional facts from off camera. Also, there’s the fact that sometimes Trish talks faster than I listen, so I did my best to get things straight. But, on the highly probable chance that I totally botched things in my note taking, perhaps we had better think of this as a “big picture” post.

Since we last spoke, Trish and Allen made it to Colorado, where they picked up 700 filled backpacks. They picked up backpacks from two churches in Kansas, and then it was time to turn in their 16-ft Penske truck. They unloaded the truck’s contents into a storage area near Wichita and then rented a 26-ft truck. They headed back to the storage area and reloaded all of the precious cargo onto the larger truck. According to my sketchy notes, they then went to Indianapolis, to collect more backpacks. (Well, actually, according to my sketchy notes, they went to “indianapolic,” but I’m pretty sure that was a typo!)

Trish was able to attend a women’s retreat for a couple of days, in Columbus, Ohio. While there, she was able to share her kidnapping story. Because, let’s face it; if you’ve got a kidnapping story, you should probably share it.

She and Allen looked at their growing cargo and pondered if they should make a detour to drop things off in Maryland and then return to Ohio to finish their collection trip. They decided against it, thinking they might be able to fit everything into the honkin’ big truck. After that, they went to Sugarcreek, Ohio to pick up more backpacks and food donations. It was about then that they looked at the honkin’ big truck and realized it was not honkin’ big enough to meet their needs. Still, they headed off to Somewhere, Pennsylvania to pick up more donations. Trish said, “The truck was groaning!”

His and Hers trucks, at Fredericktowne Baptist Church in MD

That’s when they stopped and picked up an additional 16-ft-truck for Trish to drive. I ask you, is there anything more romantic than his and hers Penske trucks? They finished the convoy in Maryland. After a night’s rest, they unloaded the larger of the two trucks (his). A lot of the boxes were not full enough. When boxes have air space, they get crushed when stacked. So, they and a small crew of Maryland friends took time to stuff the boxes with used clothing to fill in the chinks.

Boxes full of backpacks, crushed under the weight of other boxes! This is before
we stuffed used clothing into the spaces between the backpacks.
Maryland friends helping us stuff the boxes!

That evening, Allen and Trish took the smaller truck (hers) to Lighthouse Church, where they picked up another 125 boxes of backpacks! They took those back to where the rest of the collected items were stored. The following day, they took the boxes which hadn’t been processed and stuffed them full with more backpacks and used clothing. All total, they were able to eliminate 80 boxes and 100 big bags of clothing by consolidating the contents into fewer boxes - which is good because they had collected more donations than will fit into the shipping container!

When we spoke on Wednesday (Oct 10), Allen and Trish were beginning their trip south. Instead of a car, they rented another 16-ft truck. (Those crazy, romantic kids are sharing a truck this time.) They are loaded up with the overflow of donations, that can't be shipped from MD to Honduras, with them. Hopefully there will be room for those boxes in the container shipping from Florida! On the trip, they will be picking up more boxes of backpacks in Virginia and in Georgia. I skipped the part where they spoke at a Christian elementary school, on the morning of our phone call. I probably skipped a lot of stuff, but…



They are now on their way to Atlanta and have set a collision course with Hurricane/Tropical Storm Michael. While Michael won’t be a hurricane when they catch up with him, they are anticipating a lot of rain. Well, look at that! A hurricane and rain ties in perfectly with that weatherman referenced in the first paragraph. Who needs notes? This stuff writes itself!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, October 1, 2018

Mailtime, Mailtime, Mailtime, MAIL TIME!!!!


If you happened to be raising children during the late 90s to early 2000s, you’re probably familiar with Blue’s Clues. On the chance you weren’t raising kids, or your television wasn’t tuned to Nickelodeon during that time, you completely missed out on the mailtime song. The host of Blue’s Clues definitely believed that receiving a letter was a joyous occasion and he wasn’t afraid to sing about it!

Mailtime, mailtime, mailtime, mailtime, MAIL TIME!!!!!
Here's the mail, it never fails
It makes me want to wag my tail
When it comes I wanna wail, MAIL!!!!!!!!!!


In coming months, sponsors of children though Manna 4 Lempira and the sister church program will be singing their own mailtime songs. That’s because Russell, Kelsea, and the crew are working to get letters from sponsored children. Last week, Kim Hall joined them as they collected the letters from the Manna 4 Lempira children. Kim took those letters back to the States, and they will be distributed to the sponsors.This week, Russell and Kelsea are collecting more than 1200 letters from the sister church children! Kelsea’s family will be visiting in October. They will take the letters home, where they will be sent to the Stateside sister churches, and delivered to the sponsors.

Each child is completing two letters. The first letter is about his or her home, and the second is a Christmas letter. This type of letter was the brainchild of Kim Hall, who made some form letters for the children to complete. She included things most sponsors want to know about their children. For example: The letters about their homes will include information about what their houses are made of and how many people live in each house. Each child is handed a blank form letter and some colored pencils. They take the letters to their own spot to fill in the information. Back in June, they did similar letters, which were about their favorite Bible characters.



If this seems like an impersonal way to send letters, it really isn’t. Each child thoughtfully fills in the requested details. Moms generally help the younger children. When the children write free-form letters, they tend to say the same thing. While it’s sweet to read, “I really want to meet you,” the sponsor doesn’t get much information that way. They weren’t learning much about the child’s life.

So, if you are sponsoring a child, don’t forget to check your mail in coming months. And get ready to burst into song.



 - posted by Christi

Monday, September 24, 2018

The Metaphor-Free Blog Post

Nine times out of ten, I don’t know what a week’s blog topic will be until the Wednesday morning phone call. Sometimes I play a game with myself and try to guess. The frontrunners generally include:  pastors, motorcycles, coffee, backpacks, sponsorships, sister churches, family, bridge construction, visiting teams, or a visit to the U.S. This week, the frontrunners lost out to constructing a building. No, that’s not a spiritual metaphor. It’s about the new building that’s going up on the Sowers’ property, at this very moment.

Russell and four or five crew members are currently laying blocks for the new building, which will include an office, a bunkroom for male interns, a private bedroom for Ben, a locker room/break room for the farm guys, and a warehouse/storage facility. If this were a spiritual metaphor, I’d point out that they are laying on the firm foundation that the team from Lighthouse Church poured, during their recent visit. No building on the sand for these missionaries! If this were a fairy tale, I’d point out that they’re definitely more like the third little pig. No amount of huffing and puffing will blow it down. But, since this is just a story about building a new facility, let’s just get on with it!

According to Kelsea, approximately ¾ of the building is now about a block high (the photos in this post were taken about a week later than that conversation, so you can now assess the speed of the progress). Russell is hoping to have the project completed by mid-November--in time for the arrival of the shipping containers. In another week or so, the blocks should be high enough to put a roof on the building. It will eventually be stuccoed, though that may not happen in time for the arrival of the backpacks. The plan is for electricity and plumbing to be completed by mid-November, but there could be some wiggle room on that.








Kelsea laughed that Sowers4Pastors has a pattern of not using buildings as they were originally intended. Russell and Iris are living in a building that was meant to house visiting teams. Allen and Trish are living in a warehouse. By next year, the plan is for everyone to be in their own homes and for each building to be used for its intended purpose. Living the dream!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, September 14, 2018

Update from the Road

Allen, Trish, and a Penske truck filled with backpacks are rolling down the road, as I write. They spent several days in Seattle. Through Seattle4Lempira donations, and backpacks from some long-term Manna4Lempira sponsors, they collected around 350 filled backpacks.

While in Seattle, they were also on hand to initiate the new Seattle4Lempira sponsorship program. About twenty-five people have already signed up to sponsor children. Those are the children Kate, Kelsea, and Russell were able to visit during Kate’s recent trip to Honduras.

Allen and Trish left Seattle on September 11. In a day’s time, they crossed through beautiful mountains, went through a small part of Idaho (which they also proclaimed to be beautiful), and made it to Montana. They spent the night in Deer Lodge, Montana, which was picturesque, though Trish confessed that the moderately priced motel where they stayed probably isn’t what the name “Deer Lodge” brings to mind!

At the time of our call, our favorite couple in a rental truck was heading to Yellowstone National Park. Yep. They are going to drive through Yellowstone in the aforementioned Penske truck filled with backpacks! How fitting! They had hoped to be able to spend a couple of days in Yellowstone, but ministry obligations take precedence. They aren’t complaining, mind you! How many people get to see Old Faithful from a Penske truck? They will end up in Wyoming, where they will visit with a childhood friend of Trish’s. From the background, Allen joked that the theme song for this trip is Johnny Cash’s, “I’ve Been Everywhere, Man”.

In exciting news, the husband of one of Trish’s friends discovered a spool of cable at a port in Seattle. It’s just the sort of cable needed to build bridges! And it’s Sowers4Pastors’ for the taking! This particular spool is GINORMOUS! The cable itself is 1.5 inches in diameter. The spool contains more than 4000 feet of cable. It’s 6.5 feet tall, 7 feet wide, and weighs more than 20,000 pounds! That will barely fit in a shipping container and is almost half the weight allowed in a container!




The tentative plan is to collect the spool from the port and store it for a year. Next year, when collecting backpacks, Allen and Trish are considering flying to Kansas and making their way to Seattle with the backpacks they collect along the way. They will add the backpacks to the container with the spool and ship it off to Honduras! The plan is to have three container shipping ports--Maryland, Florida, and Washington--all thanks to a really cool spool.

 - posted by Christi


Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Sister Act

When Kelsea made the decision to move to Honduras to intern with the Sowerses, her sister Kate had no idea that she would also become an important part in the Sowers4Pastors ministry. I was able to speak to Kate during her first trip to Honduras and she shared how she became involved. 

Kate and Kelsea visiting the Seattle 4 Lempira sponsorship center

Kate laughed, remembering how things transpired. Kelsea had mentioned to Allen that their church in Seattle might be interested in getting involved. Kelsea asked Kate if she would like to be coordinator for Seattle4Lempira. During a visit to the Seattle, Allen and Trish had an open house at the home of Kate and Kelsea’s parents. Following their presentation, Trish announced, “If you’re interested in sponsorship, talk to Kate or Kelsea.” And just like that, a volunteer was born!

When asked how she would describe her role with Sowers4Pastors, Kate admitted it’s a little difficult to put into words. Then she said, “I feel like I’m an advocate for the sponsorship program in the Seattle area.”

Kate helps connect people with the sponsorship program, through Seattle4Lempira. She is also a point person for churches in the Seattle area. When Kelsea gives her information, Kate passes it on to Heidi Cook, who is coordinating the program at another church.

During her six day visit to Honduras, Kate, Russell, and Kelsea visited the two schools attended by children currently being sponsored by Seattle residents. The day of their school visits happened to coincide with Dia del Niño (Children’s Day) in Honduras. Kate arrived with a supply of bubbles, coloring pages, and soccer balls. By playing with the children, she was able to get to know them better. They tried to teach her some Spanish and she taught them some English.


When we spoke, it was Kelsea’s birthday and the sisters were going to celebrate by spending some time kayaking. Kate is already looking forward to future visits. She and Russell have talked about what it might look like to bring a team down from the Seattle area. They also talked about the possibility of Kate coming back in early 2019 to help hand out backpacks.




Kate has big plans for Seattle4Lempira. When she first began working with the program, they were pushing to collect the backpacks. That’s because there is a definite deadline for that project. Now that Allen and Trish are driving around the U.S. in a Penske truck filled with those backpacks, Kate is looking forward to working on getting more children sponsored. In an optimistic tone, she said, “I think it will grow. I am determined to see it grow!”

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, September 6, 2018

SAAA-LUTE!

While Allen and Trish are galavanting around the States, picking up backpacks and speaking to churches, Kelsea is learning what it means to hold down the fort by taking over some of Trish’s usual responsibilities. Not only does Kelsea get to work on getting sponsors up and running on the new website, she also gets to take over the weekly calls with me to talk about blog topics. How much excitement can one intern take?!? Kelsea and Russell got together to discuss a topic idea and they settled on a well deserved shout out to the good people of Lighthouse Church of Glen Burnie, MD.

This feels a lot like the old cornfield salutes on “Hee Haw”. If you’re too young to know what I’m talking about, each week “Hee Haw” would pay tribute to a small town. Someone would say, “Hee Haw salutes (insert name of town), population (insert a very small population number).” Then the entire cast would pop up in a cornfield set, wave their hats in the air, and shout, “SAAA-LUTE!”



In August, Lighthouse Church made a push to add more kids to their sponsorship program. That push was so effective that Sowers4Pastors needed to go out to three more schools to get additional kids registered, for their church members to sponsor! Everyone at Sowers4Pastors wishes to extend a huge, “Thank you,” to Chelsea Johnson for her work as missions director at the church. People at Lighthouse Church are currently sponsoring 550 children! SAAA-LUTE!




Lighthouse Team that worked on Russell's residence


As you may remember, two teams from Lighthouse Church visited Honduras in August. One of those teams worked with the children and put on VBS programs in six schools. The other team worked on what will be Russell and Iris’s new home. Thank you to those teams and to the Lighthouse teams who came before you. SAAA-LUTE!


Lighthouse Team leading VBS program in a public school

Backpacks filled at Lighthouse Church!



You may have seen the photos of Allen and Trish standing beside mountains of backpacks filled by the congregants of Lighthouse Church. Because of those efforts many children in Western Honduras will be able to attend school. SAAA-LUTE!



For all you’ve done, and continue to do, Sowers4Pastors salutes Lighthouse Church of Glen Burnie, MD. (Waving hats wildly in the air.) SAAA-LUTE!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, August 31, 2018

Transition! Transition!

Please do me a favor and sing the title of this post to the song “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof. Really. It’s way more clever that way. Now, that we’ve established there was some measure of wit required to pen this post, let’s move on to the meat of it. The summer teams are gone and it is time for the Sowers family to switch gears. Transition! Transition!

For months, everyone at Sowers4Pastors has been going at full throttle, running teams around every day. They would often meet teams as early as 5:00 or 6:00 AM and stay with them at their hotel until 10:00 PM. Visiting teams are not abandoned! The end of “team season” means that there is now time to focus on other things.

Russell is jumping immediately into planting baby coffee trees on 10 acres of the coffee farm. He and the crew are also fertilizing the other 40 acres. Whew! Russell is also hoping to set up the depulping machine in a more permanent situation. This involves pouring concrete to create a facility with three or four levels, including a wash basin for washing the depulped coffee.

The men are also working on completing the new building on the property. This building will be a multi-purpose area. It will serve as living quarters for interns, coffee storage, food (for the feeding centers) storage, tool storage, office space, and Bible bookstore.

The teams have gone, but the letters they wrote to their sponsored children remain. Those letters need to be translated. After that, the kids will write their reply letters to their sponsors. Those will have to be translated, too. This process needs to be completed by the time a team arrives in the fall. The letters from the kids will be sent back to the U.S. with the team members, to be delivered to the appropriate sponsors.

The guys - Quito, Memo, and Melvin - who drive out to oversee the sponsorship centers will start making their rounds again. When the teams were visiting, a lot of that went on hold because they were busy working with the teams.

Russell is ordering $5000 worth of Sunday school material to be used at the feeding centers. The centers’ current quarterly material is ending and they need new material.

Allen and Trish have transitioned themselves into another busy trip to the U.S. They're already visiting churches and collecting backpacks! While they are away, Kelsea is taking over the task of getting sponsors set up on the new website system. This involves many telephone appointments!



It’s also time for Russell and the crew to work on some vehicle maintenance. Each truck was used to transport the visiting summer teams, and traveling the roads in Honduras takes a lot out of the vehicles! It’s time for oil changes, tire checks, alignments, etc…

And in FABULOUS NEWS! A generous donor is currently matching all funds donated for church roofs. That brings the cost down to $500 for each new roof. There are currently fifteen churches in need of new roofs. Funds have been raised to put on three of the fifteen. If people are willing to donate, twelve more congregations will be able to transition into worshiping in a safe and dry environment! Transition! Transition!

- posted by Christi

Thursday, August 23, 2018

On the Home Stretch

As you probably know, Sowers4Pastors has hosted a steady stream of visiting teams this summer. Each team has visited a unique location, but most of those teams have done pretty much the same thing. Each team has gone to their particular sponsorship center. They’ve met the children. They’ve done VBS programs. They’ve registered children for the program, or handled well visits, if that was needed at their particular sponsorship center. This week’s team has a different agenda.


For the second week in a row, a team from Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, Maryland is visiting. Last week’s team did the sponsorship center/VBS stuff. This week’s team consists of seven or eight men who are there because they want to see all of the Sowerses FINALLY move into their new homes. Remember, Russell, Iris, and family will be moving into the new home, which was originally going to be for Allen and Trish. Allen and Trish will be moving into Russell and Iris’s current, smaller home. Plus, a new building will be erected, which will be used as a storage facility, office, bookstore, and a bunkhouse for male interns. Ben will also have a private bedroom in this building, since there won't be space for him to have a separate room in Allen and Trish’s new home.

The industrious team is doing plumbing and electrical finish work. While Russell and Allen have the ability to do those tasks, they usually lack the time, because they're busy with ministry duties. This church has put together funds, and is taking a week to make it happen! The team is also helping pour concrete for the new building on the Sowers’ property, and putting up a new playground at a school that is part of the Crucitas sponsorship center, during their visit.


The projected move-in date for all of the involved Sowerses is sometime between January and April of 2019. Much of the timing will come down to the construction of the new building. If the building is completed when the next containers arrive, the contents will be loaded into it. If not, the contents will be moved into the new house, and all construction will halt until the container donations have been distributed.




Trish, for one, is pleased with the proposed schedule because she will have time to get some more decluttering done before moving into a smaller building. She has been so busy with the new website that decluttering has been put on the back burner for a while. And, as you might imagine, when you live in a warehouse you have the space to hold on to things!

According to Ben, there is now a working bathroom in the new house! Wahoo! Progress is a great thing! A flushing toilet is also a great thing. And, of course, a team of men willing to fly to Honduras to work on a house is a WONDERFUL thing.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Scheduling the Unexpected

Are you a planner by nature? If so, you might want to avoid moving to Honduras anytime soon. In Honduras, the mentality is more, “Plans? Who needs plans? Calendars with schedules written out months in advance? Bah!  Carpe diem! Live for the moment.” This is not a shortcoming. It’s simply a cultural difference. Trish recently got to experience a bit of this cultural difference, firsthand.

Trish normally takes a bus to visit Ben at school on weekends. Lately, her weekends have been filled with ministry duties, so she carved out time on Tuesday to pay Ben a visit. Tuesday morning, Allen drove Trish to the bus station and the adventure began.

As mentioned in that riveting opening paragraph, Hondurans are not known planners. That extends to school schedules. As shocking as it may seem to us, there is NO PLANNED SCHOOL SCHEDULE. When will school be out for the year? Who knows? When are the vacation days? Who knows? When will report cards come out? Sometime before the end of school (whenever that may be!) - hopefully! It’s all very whimsical. This is not poor organization on the part of Ben’s school. This is simply how schools in Honduras operate.

On Tuesday, Trish had been visiting with Ben for about a half hour when the principal announced that on Wednesday - the very next day - classes would be canceled for the rest of the week, and students could go home for that time! Carpe vacation! Now, it’s not quite as crazy as it sounds (though goodness knows it does sound a bit crazy to those of us in the U.S.). Students who live close enough to school can go home for a few days. Students who live too far to make it home can remain on campus. Trish got permission for Ben to leave campus that afternoon and travel with her, rather than waiting until Wednesday morning.

Trish and Ben went to Ben’s dorm room and hurriedly packed. Clothes? Check. Toothbrush? Check. Tiny orphaned kitten being raised by Ben? Check. Cardboard box with holes poked in it for tiny orphaned kitten being raised by Ben to travel in? Check. Bandages for the scratches received by a tiny orphaned kitten who wanted no part in riding in a box… Well, you get the idea.

The traveling trio boarded the first of three buses required for the trip home. No one was in a box. The kitten rode in Ben’s lap and lapped water from his hand. Because of road repairs, the trip was extra fun! For the longest time, the road to Ben’s school has consisted more of potholes than road. While repairs are being made, big sections of the road are down to one lane, resulting in long construction delays.

This whimsical, unplanned trip home for Ben is a huge blessing for the Sowers family. Trish is about to leave for the U.S. and she thought the short visit at his school on Tuesday would be the last time she would see Ben until November. Now, they get to enjoy an extended visit. And, I’m told there’s a good chance they’ll also get to enjoy some of Ben’s famous homemade pizza. Carpe pizza! Sometimes whimsy has its advantages!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, August 6, 2018

A Lap Full of Opportunities

During their 18 years in Honduras, Allen, Russell, and Trish have learned to be flexible. Their prayer is for God to use them; so when opportunities to serve arise, they aren’t likely to say, “Sorry, God. That’s not in our mission statement!” Sowers4Pastors is NOT a medical mission, but sometime opportunities to serve people with medical needs fall in their laps. Quite frankly, their laps are getting a little full of opportunities! Oh, they’re not complaining, mind you. They’re excited to be a part of these Medical Mercy Projects, and they’d love for you to be a part of them, too.

The cost for a basic surgery in the U.S. is roughly 52 bazillion dollars, give or take a zillion! In contrast, the cost for medical procedures in Honduras seems ridiculously low to North Americans. But, for Hondurans, who are often trying to support a family on under $1000 year, medical bills in the hundreds might as well be in the zillions. It’s a universal truth that you can’t pay what you don’t have.

Because of relationships built at sponsorship centers and feeding centers, Sowers4Pastors is learning of more and more children with medical needs. They anticipate that those numbers will continue to increase. At the sponsorship centers, in particular, there is a lot of chance to communicate back and forth with people. Each child is photographed. Their files are regularly updated. Visiting teams come down and spend time with the kids. Some of the people in those communities are so poor, and so unused to medical care, that it doesn’t even occur to them that some of the medical issues can be corrected. Sometimes it takes sponsors saying that a condition can be fixed to make people aware of the possibility.

Some of those needs are very basic. Often, it is a child who needs eyeglasses. (As someone who can’t read the big “E” on the eye chart without corrective lenses, I am of the firm belief that eyeglasses should not be considered a luxury item!) Sometimes a child needs surgery to correct a lazy eye. More than a few children already have cataracts, due to young lifetimes spent in the Central American sun, with the dust of dry seasons, and with the smoke of cooking over a fire in a home with no chimney. You may remember the girl who was in need of cataract surgery before it was (to quote the pastors of my youth) “everlasting too late!” There is a window of opportunity with cataract surgery. After that window has closed, sight cannot be restored.

Hector, who serves as a translator for Sowers4Pastors, as well as for other ministries, is a minister in his own right. When money for a procedure is raised, he often takes the family to another part of the country, where a missionary surgeon is coming in for a week. He translates for an eye clinic, and is able to take people for treatment when the right surgeon is there. After the procedure, he accompanies the family back home. Generally, the cost for these medical trips is little more than the travel expenses!

Most recently, Hector accompanied a boy to the hospital, who had a large tumor removed from his forehead. The tumor was actually the result of scar tissue from an old wound. A biopsy revealed it was benign.



At one of the sponsorship centers, there is a little girl who needs to have a foot amputated and then be fitted for a prosthesis. Another child needs surgery for hip dysplasia. She is in tremendous pain and is only able to walk on tiptoe.

Currently Sowers4Pastors is able to help nine or ten cases each year by taking funds from their general operating budget. That’s good, but it’s not ideal. In order to help more people, and on a more timely basis, funds will need to be raised specifically for this purpose. As in the rest of the world, when someone is given an estimated cost for medical care, the actual cost has a tendency to grow. There’s always an extra test, another checkup to see the doctor, etc... Supporters will say, “I heard about this child. You said it would cost $300 to help them. Here’s $300.” But then the cost will climb by a couple of hundred dollars and Sowers4Pastors picks up that extra cost. As Trish said, “We’re not going to leave it half done!” As this happens more often, it will be challenging - if not impossible - for the general funds to cover these expenses.

If you'd like to be a part of helping these children, by resolving some serious - but fixable - medical problems, a donation category has been added to the website, for this purpose. Here's the link to the Sowers4Pastors donation page. Just choose "Medical Mercy Projects" as your donation category, when you give toward this need.

Thanks so much for partnering with Sowers4Pastors, in their work in the mountains of Western Honduras!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, August 3, 2018

The Tour de Backpacks

As anyone who has ever planned an extended trip knows, it involves a lot of planning that goes well beyond packing “mix and match” wardrobe pieces. When Allen and Trish plan an extended visit to the U.S., the logistical decisions are enough to make your head spin! On August 30th, Allen and Trish will fly to the U.S. to begin what I like to think of as "The Tour de Backpacks”. This is a behind the scenes look at the sort of planning that is going into that trip.

The Tour de Backpacks will begin on the West Coast and work east. So, naturally, the participants (Allen and Trish) will be flying into Maryland. Huh? Geography is not my strong suit, but that didn’t sound quite right. Trish explained they will be spending a Sunday morning at Lighthouse Church in Glen Burnie, MD. Lighthouse Church is doing a major backpack push, which will span a few weeks, and Allen and Trish will be there for one of those Sundays. After that, they'll fly to Seattle, and begin the big cross-country drive.

Allen is trying to make the best possible use of Sunday mornings. They will have the opportunity to speak at multiple churches. At other churches, they will be available to meet with people and answer questions about why they do what they do. Trish is scheduled to speak at a women's conference, to tell the kidnapping story.

The actual backpack collection will begin in Seattle. The backpacks will be loaded onto a rental truck and they will begin the eastward drive. The fact that Penske’s truck rental policy is that you can only rent a big moving truck for a week adds an extra level of difficulty. So, at the end of each seven day period, Allen and Trish will have to turn in their moving truck, rent a new truck, and transfer the contents! Ah, good times!

They will be mostly making the same stops as last year. Some things are still up the air, but the Tour de Backpacks calendar is filling in nicely! There’s even a fun side trip planned, for Trish to visit with a childhood friend from the seventh grade on - and they haven't seen one another since Trish left for Honduras. Allen and Trish will be going just a few hours out of the way to meet with this friend and her husband at their home in Wyoming. There’s also the possibility of a side visit to Yellowstone National Park, if the weather hasn’t already turned cold there. After so many years in Central America, Trish confesses she is pretty wimpy when it comes to cold weather.



Eventually, the Tour de Backpack participants will arrive back in Maryland with a full truck. They will unload for a shipping container, which will leave by boat from Maryland. After a week in Maryland, they will head south. Multiple groups are doing backpacks in Virginia, Georgia, Florida, and Mississippi.

Trish will return to Honduras in mid November, so that she can be home when Ben’s school lets out for the year. Trish will likely miss out on loading the Florida shipping container, but is already looking forward to having Ben home for a while. Allen will stay and finish up any loose ends. He will return home in early December.

One of Allen’s strengths is figuring out logistics, but even his head is spinning with the planning involved in this trip! This trip has been sneaking up on Trish because she's had her head buried in appointments with sponsors, so that the website can be completed. She will not be internet accessible very often while on the Tour de Backpacks. If you are a sponsor who has not yet scheduled an appointment with Trish, please do so ASAP.

 - posted by Christi

Monday, July 30, 2018

A Backpack Carol

Backpacks being filled in Colorado!
In a sense, it is always backpack season with Sowers4Pastors. You might say, they talk about backpacks the same way Buddy the Elf talks about Christmas--with a whole lot of love and enthusiasm! If there were backpack carols, they would be singing them! If they could string strands of lights shaped like little backpacks… Well, they’d probably forego the little lights because they’re too busy to hang them, but you get the idea. They are bonkers for backpacks. And their sincere hope is that you are bonkers for backpacks, too.

This is a particularly exciting time because Allen spent the last few weeks ordering and sending out massive amounts of empty backpacks just waiting to be filled. It’s also time for the Back-to-School sales to stock up on backpack filling supplies. Well, hot diggity!


Filled backpacks in Mississippi
If you and your church are not involved in filling backpacks, it is not too late. Allen insists there is still time for him to send out a bulk shipment of empty backpacks to any group wishing to fill them.

Why would you do this? Um, so little Honduran children can go to school! If you’ve been paying any attention to this blog, you know that the cost of school supplies is enough to prevent many Honduran children from receiving an education. That’s a huge problem with a simple fix. When you donate a backpack filled with school supplies, parents in Honduras are able to afford to send their children to school.


Supplies purchased in bulk, to fill backpacks in Seattle
So, if you haven’t already done so, head out to the Back-to-School sales. And, just because someone had to write the first backpack carol, here’s a little something to motivate you while you shop. Sing it to the tune of Jingle Bells. Oh, no need to thank me!

Dashing through Walmart
With a slightly wonky cart.
Through the aisles we go
Shopping yo-ho-ho!
Notebooks are a deal.
Pencils are a steal.
Buy in bulk and save a ton.
We have backpacks to fill! 




 - posted by Christi

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Ditch the Glitch

Class, today we’re going to talk about glitches. Pay attention as I write the word and definition on the board.

glitch
  (glĭch)
n.

1. A minor malfunction, mishap, or technical problem; a snag: a computer glitch; a navigational glitch; a glitch in the negotiations.
2. A false or spurious electronic signal caused by a brief, unwanted surge of electric power.
3. Astronomy A sudden change in the period of rotation of a neutron star.

For the purposes of this blogpost, we’re not going to concern ourselves with the second and third definitions. Partly because I don’t know what “spurious” means and I’m a little fuzzy about “neutron star”. So, let’s just focus on definition numero uno. Okay? Okay.


As you probably know, our beloved Trish has been up to her eyeballs in website stuff. She has pretty much been working full-time to get the new website up and running. (She needs to wrap this up ASAP because R.J. and Abby have a new swing set and they need someone to push them.) When everything is finished, this website is going to make her life much easier. It will automatically take care of a lot of the accounting, payments, etc… If a person makes a credit card payment and it doesn’t go through, for whatever reason, they will automatically get an email. In the future, the website will allow you to add new child sponsorships to your account, without talking to Trish or Kim. Glory, glory hallelujah! That day is coming. But it’s not today. Because, today (and until the task is completed), people with existing sponsorships need to go to the website to connect with their account.

You may be thinking, “Sure. No biggie! I’m an intelligent person. I’ll just go on and take the necessary steps to connect to my account.” HERE’S WHERE THE GLITCH COMES IN! Going to the button that says, “Donate,” and setting up a donation there will NOT give you access to your account, payment history, sponsored children, etc...

Regardless of how incredibly tech savvy you may be, this system is not quite that intuitive. People who have tried to do this on their own encountered this problem. In order to connect to your account on the new website, Trish is asking you to schedule an appointment with her. This appointment can take place via messaging on Facebook, or over the phone. In an average time of around 20 minutes, Trish will walk you through the process. If you sponsor many children, it can take a little longer. Out of an approximate 800 sponsors, about 80 are now connected with the new website.

Trish is using an online scheduling program, to get these appointments set up. If you are a current sponsor, through the Manna 4 Lempira program or any of the sister church sponsorship programs, you can use this link to find an available time that works for you, and sign up for a conversation with Trish:


Trish will be happy to give you a call (the faster method) or chat with you via Facebook Messenger. If you wish to handle this by messenger, please send Trish a message before your scheduled appointment, telling her this preference.

Please schedule your appointment soon, because R.J. needs Nana to push him on the swing!

 - posted by Christi