Sunday, May 20, 2018

First Impressions and Future Actions

As you may remember, Allen and Trish did not return from their latest trip to the U.S. empty handed. They arrived with a vision team in tow! I had the opportunity to speak with Kenny, and Pastor Don (both members of the church mission board), two of the team members from Countryside Chapel in Baltic, Ohio, about their first impressions of Honduras and Sowers4Pastors. I also got to ask them what they might be able to do to share the ministry when they get back home.

Kenny said, “I love the heart of Allen, Russell, and Mrs. Sowers.” (Personally, I love the respect that Trish receives in that quote!) “It has been great to see what they are doing in Honduras. They have a passion to change one more life, and then one more life after that. It’s tremendous to see it firsthand.”

“I’m really excited to go back home and share what I’ve experienced. I have already made some connections with people who are interested in sponsoring a child. I’m also going to talk with a youth group at a different church, that is interested in sending a team to Honduras,” Kenny continued. “I’ve been on several mission trips, but this is my first time in Central America. I love the heart of the Sowers family for impacting their community and seeing that impact go as far as possible. And it is all rooted in the name of Jesus Christ!”

When asked for his reflections about Sowers4Pastors, Pastor Don said, “I’m impressed by the scope of it. Now that I’m here, I can see the connections between things like Pastors Training School and feeding centers. It all connects! I’m impressed by Allen, Russell, and Kelsea, and the work they’re doing.”

Pastor Don also said, “We came down here on a vision trip to see if our church would want to partner with Sowers4Pastors, and if so, what part of their ministry we would want to partner with. I love the idea of training indigenous pastors. I also love the feeding centers. We can bring mission teams here and they can have an immense variety of ministries to serve with!”

“We return home on Friday and I will be at a mission board meeting on Sunday,” Pastor Don explained. “We’re going to talk about how we can partner. Will we help with roofs? Can we buy a couple of motorcycles? I’ve just become an advocate! Our church is growing and we have a lot of people who can help. We’re already doing some work in Ecuador. The people of Western Honduras seem to be among the most neglected.”

Both Kenny and Pastor Don spoke of the people of Western Honduras with great affection. They both talked about the happiness of people who have so little by the world’s standards.

Kenny said, “The people are bubbly and friendly. I asked Allen why their music is so loud. Allen said it’s because they’re happy and they want to share their happiness!”

Pastor Don, too, spoke of the friendliness of the people. He said, “This is obviously a developing country. But it doesn’t dampen their spirits. I have fallen in love with this country and the spirit of the people.”

 - update from Trish: On Sunday afternoon, we heard from Pastor Don and Kenny that their church has committed to donating a motorcycle for Pastor Omar at the Tablon sponsorship center, plus monthly support of our feeding center program! This is an excellent example of how teams can do even MORE than the project during their visit! 

 - posted by Christi

Thursday, May 17, 2018

May I Have Your Less Divided Attention, Please?

Team visiting from
Life Community Church,
Hilliard Ohio
If you want to know the value of diet and exercise, ask a health nut. If you want to know what to watch on Netflix, ask a couch potato, er, television conoisseur. If you want to know about the value of short term mission trips, ask a missionary! Allen recently shared his views on the value of short term mission trips. His number one reason may surprise you!

“People are always coming down here. And, when they come, they usually want to do a project. Projects are great! They are wonderful! But, what we really need more than anything is for people to partner with us,” said Allen.

Continuing that thought, he said, “We love having people come to build a bridge, do a VBS, or work with feeding centers. But we don’t want people to just build a bridge, do a VBS, or work with feeding centers. We want them to catch the vision! And we want them to take that vision back with them.”

What can catching the vision and taking it back look like? Oh, something like this:

  • Many people can only sponsor one child, but maybe someone who sponsors one child knows
    of five other people who could each sponsor a child, and can encourage them to become sponsors.
  • Sometimes people see what’s happening with Sowers4Pastors and they wish they could donate $1000 to help an indigenous pastor get a motorcycle. $1000 isn’t chump change for most people! However, maybe the person unable to write a personal check for that amount can encourage a Sunday school class or small group to work together to raise the amount. 
  • People go back with the firm understanding that, while they might not be able to afford to personally start a church plant, providing a motorcycle for an indigenous pastor empowers the pastor to plant one or several churches!
  • People can return from their trip with the drive to help raise money to put a new roof on a church, provide funds for Pastors Training School, encourage a congregation to join the Sister Church Program, pack backpacks, etc. The possibilities are endless!

Another reason Allen likes having teams visit is because it is an opportunity to get people away from their North American distractions. While a team is visiting, they get a chance to talk without the cell phones ringing! Allen and Russell get the opportunity to give a thorough overview of their ministry without people being pulled in all directions. Allen first called it, “undivided attention.” Upon reflection, he said, “Well, we at least get people’s less divided attention.” Even short term missions has its limits!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Waving a Big, Foam Finger

The number of times a Sowers has asked me to write a blog post about money can almost be counted on one finger, rather than one hand. But, today, I’m waving a big, foam finger in the air and encouraging you to read about Sowers4Pastors current needs.

Allen said, “Every week, we post what is going on in Honduras. We don’t always talk about how these things costing money."

I’ll say it. It costs money to maintain the operation of Sowers4Pastors. Here are a few of the more pressing needs:

  • There are currently twenty requests from churches in need of a new roof. Time is of the essence, because it is the dry season in Honduras. At least eight of those requests are very viable--coming from churches who are ready to put new roofs on TODAY! The cost is $1000 per roof.
  • Last fall, Sowers4Pastors believed they had a significant commitment from a group wishing to help fund motorcycles for pastors. With that commitment, Russell took to the road and talked to pastors who wished to apply to the program - but then that financial commitment didn't come through. Still, Sowers4Pastors helped thirteen pastors get motorcycles in the fall, with help from various other donors who stepped up to assist with this need, and with some money from the general fund. There are currently ten more pastors Sowers4Pastors would really like to assist with $1000 toward the cost of a motorcycle. At the time of this writing, two of those motorcycles are funded. The other eight are not. Allen pointed out, “So often, when we help a pastor get a motorcycle, he takes that motorcycle and plants another church.” Basically, for $1000, you can help a pastor plant a church!
  • The group in the U.S. that partners with Sowers4Pastors by providing food for the feeding centers is ready to donate half a shipping container of food! That is not a paltry amount! Sowers4Pastors needs to come up with the shipping and customs costs to make that happen, which will come to around $4000.
  • Pastors Training School is significantly underfunded for the year. As you might recall, Pastors Training School is co-funded by three ministries. At this point, none of them have been able to provide the funding necessary to maintain the operation of the school. March and April classes have already taken place. That means down payments had to be made. The campground had to be rented. Books and other supplies had to be purchased. Those were completed, but more funding is needed, for the school to go forward. As Allen said, “Pastors Training School needs some love! Adequate funding is needed to make this school happen.”

  • We’re already looking ahead to the next backpack drive. A lot of the future backpacks will be going to kids the ministry has yet to meet! Allen and Trish have been working on lining up backpack-packers for the back-to-school sales this year, anticipating there will be more and more kindergarteners joining the program this coming school year. As additional children sign up, Sowers4Pastors needs to be ready with backpacks and school shoes. Because every child needs shoes that fit properly, it is necessary to have a surplus of shoes in a variety of sizes, and this requires the ministry to maintain an inventory of shoes - which ties up funds! Additionally, half of the kindergarteners currently registered do not have sponsors yet - and we need to find sponsors for them, to keep the program funded! (Click this link for more info on the sponsorship program, and how to sponsor a child through Manna 4 Lempira.)
  • Sowers4Pastors must pay for shipping and customs costs each time a shipping container is sent - and approximately eight containers (most of those containing food) are being shipped throughout the year!
  • There’s also the daily running of the ministry, travel to the various feeding centers, etc… it all takes money.
Sometimes when a ministry grows quickly, the funding doesn’t quite catch up to the mission. Allen said, “Sometimes we turn down good, or even great, opportunities, in order to be able to say, ‘yes,’ to the best opportunities.” However, the fact is that the best opportunities often require funding.

Donating is easy - you can find the info you need at the "To Donate" button, just under the title photo at the top of this page. Your help is greatly appreciated!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, May 14, 2018

Far From Flashy, But Doing Important Work - the Montanita Feeding Center

Almost two years ago, we published this blog post with a handy-dandy list of some of the smaller feeding centers that people could sponsor for a year. Ian and Jan Westcott did just that. They sponsored the feeding center in Montanita, run by Pastor Felipe, which feeds more than 50 children a nutritious meal once a week. We don't normally share the names of donors and their donations, but the Westcotts gave me permission to use their name (because it's in the video, below), in the hope that this might encourage others to give. The cost to our ministry, to supply and oversee the feeding center in Montanita, is just over $50 per year.

Recently, the Sowers’s videographer headed to Montanita to create a video update of that feeding center.

The center is far from flashy! It’s in a small, remote area, and, in contrast to the sponsorship centers in the Manna 4 Lempira program, it has few bells and whistles. Feeding centers are chosen to become sponsorship centers partly because they are closer to the Sowers’s home, making it possible for them to oversee their operations. While Trish knows to never say, “Never,” she said it is unlikely that a place as small and remote as Montanita would ever become a sponsorship center.

The children in Montanita and other remote feeding centers aren’t receiving the extra goodies that go to the kids in sponsorship centers. Allen, Trish, and Russell are gradually working to incorporate better Sunday school material to these remote centers. One major problem with that is that the smaller churches don’t always have the necessary facilities and teachers to separate the children into age groups, for age-appropriate lessons.

Still, these children - and the children at all of the other feeding centers - are receiving nutritious food to prevent the scourge of malnutrition. They also have pastor led Bible lessons each week. This is made possible through donations to our general fund, donations to the general feeding center program, donations earmarked for specific centers (such as the Westcott’s donation), and through the sponsorship program itself (funds donated to the sponsorship program, above and beyond the cost to run that program, go into funding for the general feeding center program).

If you are currently sponsoring a child or donating to feeding centers, thank you! If you’re not, perhaps providing an annual sponsorship for a remote feeding center is something you would like to consider. The cost is minimal and the return is MAGNIFICENT!

 - posted by Christi

Trish adds: if you're interested in helping us feed children, the "To Donate" button is located at the top of this page, just below the title photo. Thanks so much for helping!

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

The View from Kelsea - God Directing Our Steps

April was a more relaxed month for us as a ministry; it was a time for us to work on projects that can’t be done during the busy team season. I went home for a week in the middle of April to reset my tourist visa and came back with two of my very close friends that I’ve known for almost my whole life. It was a great opportunity for them to get a little taste of what Sowers4Pastors does, and what I have been doing for the last 3 months.

Kelsea and friends

On the Tuesday of their stay, we had planned to travel three hours to the Honduran frontier, near the border of El Salvador, to check out a hospital in Gualcinse. One of my friends is a nurse and we wanted to show her the hospital in hopes that she would consider helping the already present doctor and nurses there. However, even the best laid plans are subject to change…she got sick. This turned out to be a blessing in disguise though.

Because of the sudden bout of sickness, we postponed the trip until the next day. While we were resting, Russell was in correspondence with Kim Hall, our stateside sponsorship coordinator, and she told him about a ministry in Erandique run by a Honduran pastor and his North American wife. This ministry established a school where deaf children are taught sign language so they can learn to communicate with others and receive the Gospel. Unfortunately there was an issue with their funding and they were in need of back-to-school supplies. Well, as it turns out, we had a stash of extra backpacks from the sponsorship program and Erandique, which would normally be an hour and a half out of our way, was right on our way to the hospital.

Deaf student with new backpack!
So Wednesday morning, bright and early, we loaded up 14 backpacks into the bed of the Hilux pickup truck and headed off to Gualcinse. We made a stop in Erandique to drop off the backpacks and met Juan and Jennifer who run the school. We got to see the church where they hold both services for the community and classes for the deaf students, and then they invited us into their house for coffee.  As we left, we marveled at how great God’s timing was to put us in contact with these missionaries at the exact time we were headed their way!

From there we drove about an hour more on beautiful - but bumpy - mountain roads. When we arrived at the hospital in Gualcinse, I was struck by how neat and spacious it was. There was a clean, large parking lot and a nicely kept flower bed in front of the building. As we walked in, we were greeted warmly by Elvira, the hospital administrator, who proceeded to give us a tour of the facilities. The hospital was established by North American doctor, Leslie Shaw, but sadly he died from cancer not long after he got it up and running.  With his death, the funding dried up and the once fully operational hospital became just a medical clinic.

Gualcince Clinic

The wing that is currently not in use was intended to be a maternity and surgical ward; there is a delivery room, an x-ray machine, a surgical suite, recovery rooms, storage rooms, a conference room and living quarters for one or two nurses. Elvira showed us the equipment that had been donated by medical professionals in the U.S. and told us the intended purpose of each room as we entered it. It was both sad to see how the equipment and facilities had deteriorated from lack of use, and encouraging to note the potential that the hospital has to become something great again.

As we finished our tour, we saw the functioning part of the hospital and met the local Honduran doctor, two nurses, and three pharmacy technicians that are on staff. Currently, the clinic serves the community through giving regular checkups and distributing medicine at wholesale prices to treat common illnesses. They also have the capacity to give ultrasounds, which is a huge asset to the surrounding areas. Altogether, we saw that this hospital is doing great things for the community, but it could be doing so much more! We left Gualcinse that day brainstorming about how to connect U.S. medical personnel and funding with the hospital we had just visited. My nurse friend was inspired and we remain hopeful that soon we will see the hospital grow and flourish to its full potential.

Our little day trip out to the frontier turned out to be successful and encouraging. It was a reminder that God is always directing our steps and that he has a plan that is bigger than we can imagine. We pray for God’s plan to prevail in the lives of each child that received a backpack and we also trust that he will work to establish his purpose in the hospital at Gualcinse.

 - posted by Kelsea

Monday, May 7, 2018

Nothing Major Does Not Equal Nothing

Whenever Russell says there’s “nothing major” to report, I know I’m about to be on the receiving end of enough information to more than fill a blog post. FYI, “nothing major” does not equal, “nothing”!

Moments before our phone call, Russell was up to his eyeballs organizing receipts from the first quarter with Kelsea-the-intern. Ask any Sowers and he or she will tell you that paperwork is a necessary evil of life on the mission field!

It has been a couple of weeks since Kelsea returned to Honduras. She brought two of her closest friends back with her, and they stayed on for a week. Together, with Russell, they went out and served as a “mini team”. One of the mini team members is a nurse, so they went to visit a medical clinic on what Russell referred to as “the frontier”. This friend will soon be moving to Guatemala, where she will participate in a medical Spanish immersion. She wants to go into full-time ministry and needs to be able to speak medical Spanish. Kelsea’s other friend will be getting married soon and the three young women enjoyed this time of serving together before they go down different life paths.

The mini team also spent time packing up extra shoes, since the school shoes have been handed out for the year. Russell pointed out that it’s necessary to invest in extra shoes in order to have the correct sizes for the children who receive them. Each extra pair of shoes has been cleaned, dried, and packed in individual Ziplock bags to be stored until next year.

With Allen and Trish talking about backpacks and sponsorship centers in the U.S., they have needed a lot of updates from programs, in recent days. As we mentioned in a previous post, three churches in Seattle were interested in the Sister Church Program. The three churches didn’t feel they could each set up a Sister Church themselves, but they have decided to join forces! One big program makes more sense than three small ones.

Kelsea, Melvin, and Russell will be heading out to find just the right location for this new sponsorship center. They are looking for a place with a great need that can also provide enough teachers to sustain the program. And, keeping it all in the family, Kelsea’s sister will be heading up the program from the Seattle side!

The coffee farm work is going strong. Fortunately, Russell’s crew knows what to do and it isn’t necessary for him to be on site all the time. If you recall, the seeds were first planted into a sand bank. When they sprouted, they were moved into small black nursery bags, and kept in a heavily shaded area. Now it's time for those young plants to be moved to the farm. More than 20,000 plants will be individually planted! The crew is also working with the more established coffee plants which were planted in previous years - the leaves are getting a good spraying with vitamins and minerals.

Allen and Trish will be flying home in under two weeks. They aren’t returning empty handed! A visiting team will return with them. When that team leaves after a week, a different team will arrive. Russell has a lot to do to prepare for the back-to-back teams.

In other news, Allen and Trish are famous! Well, that may be a stretch, but they did enjoy being on a radio program in Georgia on the morning of May 2! It’s a good thing they’ll be returning home soon. It would be a shame if they got caught up in “show biz”!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

The Numbers Are IN!

The numbers are in and the final tally for the Gifts for Gracias pastor appreciation gifts is… (May I have a drum roll, please? Rat-a-tat-tat…) 349! That’s THREE-HUNDRED & FORTY-NINE! Pardon the screaming, but it’s very exciting news.

This post contains even more exciting numbers:
  • Russell said pastors from 18 different denominations received gifts.
  • Pastors from as close as “just up the road” and as far away as 8 hours from the Sowerses received the gifts. 
  • Last year, the number of gifts handed out was in the high 200s, so this project grew a lot!
  • This year’s gift boxes were more school oriented. Each family package contained an average of 5 backpacks for the pastor’s children. 
  • Russell has done the math, so you don’t have to: More than 1700 backpacks filled with school supplies were handed out to pastors’ kids.
  • The average pastor has a 6th grade education. Those backpacks make it possible for the pastors’ kids to receive more education. Russell said that a lot of the pastors they work with are, themselves, children of pastors. The hope and prayer is that many of these pastors’ children will also go into the ministry as adults. Receiving a better education will help equip them for their futures. As Russell said, “We want to raise up more kids that want to follow in their parents’ footsteps.”

Russell, Allen, & Trish want to give a big shoutout to all of the people who filled those 1700 backpacks. These were backpacks not designated for sponsored children. Thank you for catching the vision! The true impact of these numbers will not be known until we get to Heaven!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, April 27, 2018

Changing a Life!

Kim Hall recently asked Pastor Omar of the El Tablon church to select one family from that sponsorship program, that would represent the needs of all of the families they serve. The idea was to take one child shopping for the same items the sponsorship program provides and compare the costs of shopping in Honduras vs. the cost of sending the items from the U.S. The results were eye-opening!

Anthony was the child Pastor Omar selected. Anthony lives with his grandmother and one sibling. The grandmother earns the money that provides for the family by grinding corn on a home mill. She earns between 500-600 Lempiras a month, which is the equivalent of $20-25.

This “shopping spree” wasn’t about finding the most expensive items available. It wasn’t even about finding the American equivalent. The goal was to buy what they thought were the most reasonable choices for families to make.

They found school supplies, shoes, and a school uniform. Even though the sponsorship program does not provide uniforms, for many families it continues to be a necessary expense. The result was $123 worth of supplies for one child! For Anthony’s grandmother, that’s six months of income! And, don’t forget that Anthony has a sibling. In order for Anthony’s grandmother to send two children to school, she would need to spend 100% of the annual household income! Obviously, that would not be possible, and there was no way that Anthony and his sister were going to be able to go to school, without the shoes and school supplies from the Manna 4 Lempira program!

Even for families earning the average Honduran income, the amount of $123 is usually the equivalent of one month’s wages! Kim was already aware of the approximate costs, and even she was stunned by the amount of sacrifice that would mean for a family. For many families, there’s no amount of budgeting that can make that possible.

Now, here's the video of the shopping trip with Anthony!

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Best Laid Plans

What do you do when you’re feeling a little under the weather? Do you have a special recipe for a garlic-laden soup guaranteed to clear up passageways and ward off vampires? Do you put on some fuzzy socks and curl with a good Netflix binge? Whatever you do, it’s probably not what Trish is doing. Recently, while Trish and Allen have been traveling in the U.S, Trish has been sick more than not. So far, Allen and Trish have already been to Maryland and Seattle, and, at the time of our weekly phone call, they had just flown to Mississippi on the previous day. Because, what better way to boost an immune system than to be stuck in a pressurized cabin waiting to see if your head will explode?

Fortunately, Trish’s head has not actually exploded. She may even be on the mend (though she’s thought that before and was sadly mistaken). Nevertheless, the itinerary has been kept and the “show” continues to go on.

You may recall that there were some open time slots in Allen and Trish’s schedule before they left Honduras. Those slots were not all filled, but the gatherings they have had to date have been well received. Plus, the lighter schedule has allowed Trish time to get some much needed rest.

One goal of this trip was to pursue the idea of starting a new version of the Sister Church Program, that will be open to people in the Seattle area. That has gone so well that they already have Russell working on finding a feeding center of an appropriate size for this project. People are excited about this! Even without a location, some people have already donated money to sponsor children in the new program!

Later this year, Allen and Trish will be starting their fall backpack trip in Seattle. Many people in that area have already made a commitment to filling backpacks. Since they know they will be heading to Colorado Springs after Seattle, Allen and Trish are looking for people between those two locations to fill backpacks, as well. Like the fount of wisdom she is, Trish said, “There’s a whole lot of road between Seattle and Colorado Springs. If people along the way are interested in helping out, we can go by and pick up the backpacks they fill!”

Last week was the first time Trish has been scheduled to speak publicly about the kidnapping since shortly after it happened. While she hasn’t been feeling 100%, she made it through the retelling. After all, feeling under the weather pales in comparison to being kidnapped!

The dynamic missionary duo has more connections scheduled over the next couple of weeks. They will be driving around Mississippi, the panhandle of Florida, and Georgia, before heading back up to Maryland for their return flight home. Trish said, “Progress is being made. It hasn’t been ideal, but we are plodding through.”

Now, won’t someone please get Trish a big bowl of soup?

 - posted by Christi

Friday, April 13, 2018

Meet a Manna4Lempira Pastor!

Allen and Trish are in the States, and Kim Hall was in Honduras. While it wasn't exactly a “Freaky Friday” scenario, it did make for a bit of a “Wacky Wednesday” as I got to schedule my weekly blog-related phone call with Kim instead of a Sowers. This week, Kim got to be the one to come up with the topics for blog posts. She did a bang up job. This particular post begins with Kim’s musing that the Sowerses have a great talent for surrounding themselves with successful people--particularly when it comes to the Honduran pastors involved in the sponsorship programs. Kim talked about the intentionality involved in the selection of pastors and sites for sponsorship programs and feeding centers. One of those intentional selections is Pastor Omar at the church in El Tablon.

Kim said, “The first thing you notice about Pastor Omar is how much the kids love him. With many pastors, kids are afraid to approach them.” She talked about how the kids flock to Pastor Omar and how he plays with the children and takes pictures of the kids and visiting teams.

But Pastor Omar understands that not every child is well-behaved! Gasp! It’s true. Even sponsored children don’t walk around with glowing halos over their heads. The fact a child is sponsored doesn’t automatically turn him or her into a poster child for good manners.

Sometimes children in the sponsorship program fail to attend school. On rare occasions, a child may even be asked to leave school because of poor behavior. Kim and Pastor Omar recently had to decide how to handle those situations, as school attendance is a requirement for sponsored children. That is not where the story ends, however.

Last week, Kim and Pastor Omar were passing out Bibles to the children in El Tablon. They decided to go ahead and give Bibles to two children who were no longer in the program. Kim’s heart was warmed to hear Pastor Omar say, “Yes, because even though they are not in the program, they still need Jesus!”

Kim pointed out that it is reaffirming to see that the sponsorship program is fueling the church, rather than the other way around. Some of the children have also been acting up in Sunday school. A few of the teachers wanted to send the disruptive children out of Sunday school. Pastor Omar couldn’t go along with that. Quoting Mark 2:17, he said, “It’s not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick…”

Pastor Omar has a heart for the children. He knows them. He has known many of them from the day they were born. He is aware of their family situations and unique circumstances.

Reflecting upon that, Kim said, “It’s awesome to know Pastor Omar and the other pastors are doing all they can to support the children. When we choose to start a program, we are intentional about the location. It’s about multiplying the Kingdom. It’s not all about backpacks! Those are a way to show the love of Jesus. We can help reinforce what the pastor is teaching. We get to be the hands and feet. And the pastors can tell the children, "God hears your prayers. He can help you.’”

Kim continued by talking about one of the locations that has not yet received Bibles. The pastor and teachers have already helped the children commit twenty-six verses to memory! Kim was correct when she said, “They are doing their work.”

 - posted by Christi

Monday, April 9, 2018

Why Tears Aren't Enough

Allen shared a story about a gentleman who visited Honduras for a vision trip, several years ago. The man wanted to see if he could get involved with feeding centers. For the purposes of this blog post, we’ll call the man “John”.

As Allen and John were driving along, John regaled Allen with a story about his first visit to Honduras, in 1998. It was shortly after Hurricane Mitch swept through--killing more than 10,000 people in Honduras and destroying vast amounts of property. Individuals and groups were traveling internationally to help, and John's group came to Honduras for a week, to lend a hand. He helped with construction projects during the day and attended prayer meetings at local churches during the evenings.

As the Story Goes…

On Wednesday evening, John was at a prayer meeting when he noticed a six or seven-year-old girl. She was poorly dressed, obviously malnourished, and singing her heart out. This wasn’t just a precocious girl with a flair for music. Little Maria was crying out to God through song. Touched by the scene, John leaned over to the missionary he was working with and asked what her story was. Maria was standing beside her mother and two younger siblings. The missionary told John that Maria’s family owed a small piece of land and had some animals. During the hurricane, Maria’s father went out to get the animals to safety. In the process, he was swept away in a swollen stream and killed. The missionary said the family was truly suffering.

John wanted to know if the missionary was helping the family. The missionary said they were feeding them, but only twice a week. John was distraught - why wasn't the missionary DOING something more to help them? The mother and children couldn’t possibly survive on two meals per week! The missionary said the family was working very hard to get by. He also said there were thousands of other families in similar situations. His organization was overwhelmed by the needs. They had made an across-the-board decision to provide two meals a week to as many people as possible. The intention was to keep them from starving until a better solution could be found. Upon hearing that, John started crying.

John continued crying. He cried and prayed through the night. He was so distraught, he was unable to work with his team the following day. He continued to cry and pray through the following night. All told, John wept and prayed for approximately 36 hours.

The end.

And Then What Happened?

John finished speaking and Allen wanted to know what happened next. Surely, there was some impactful, inspirational end to the story. But there wasn’t. John went back to the U.S. at the end of his week. Allen wanted to know if John kept in touch with the missionary, to learn how the family fared, or provided financial assistance for Maria’s family. No. John said he got back to the States and one thing led to another. His business suffered a financial downturn. He was busy. Etc…

Did John eventually talk to the missionary? Did he ever find out what became of the family? No, John never contacted the missionary. He didn’t know what happened to Maria and her family.

John shared the story with Allen, fifteen years after his emotional 36 hours of prayer and crying, as an example of how much this child's plight had touched his heart - and yet he never actually reached out to help her!

The Moral of This Story

Crying out to the Lord is a beautiful thing, but if God has moved your heart on a matter, please don’t cry and then go on about your life without doing what you can do. We are called to be the hands and feet of Christ--not just his tear ducts!

James 2: 14 - 17 
14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

Specifically, What Can You Do NOW?

We offer multiple ways that you can reach out and help people in Honduras, through our ministry - and we work hard to use every dollar as efficiently and effectively as we possibly can.

1) Through our Manna 4 Lempira program, you can sponsor a child for $15/month, ensuring that one child will receive the nutrition they need to grow and learn, the supplies they need to attend school, and a relationship with a local pastor and church community - plus you get the opportunity to correspond with that child several times each year! To get started, click this link!

2) Through our Backpack Project, you can purchase school supplies and fill one or many backpacks, for us to ship to Honduras. Each backpack represents an opportunity for a child to attend school - and for MANY of the children in our area, their families simply cannot send them to school at all, without this assistance! This year, we are collecting backpacks in the fall, during a cross country drive which will start in Seattle Washington in September, cross Interstate 70 to Maryland, then follow Interstate 95 south to Florida, and will also incorporate locations in Mississippi. If you - or your church or other group - want to pack backpacks for us, we will work with you to get them collected! It's fun and easy - we send you a list of the items required to fill each backpack. Contact Trish at trish @ sowers4pastors dot com to get started - we NEED your help to get those kids to school!

3) Through a donation to our general fund, you can help us feed the thousands of children who are attending our feeding centers but are not currently part of the sponsorship program. At this time, we feed over 10,000 children in western Honduras, and about 2500 of those are registered for sponsorship. If you want to help, but don't want the commitment of a direct sponsorship, a general donation to our feeding program may be the way to go. Donation instructions can be found at this link!

Thank you SO MUCH for your prayers, your tears, and your ACTIONS, on behalf of the people of Western Honduras!

 - posted by Christi and Trish

Monday, April 2, 2018

Making it Count

Allen, Trish, and Russell often hear the question, “How can we pray for you?” That’s good, because they will happily take all the prayers they can get! So, Trish posts stories to Facebook, on this blog, and in email to let all of you praying people know about their most pressing needs and concerns -- and about things like scorpions and vehicle difficulties and worse! At the same time Trish is posting these tales from the mission field, the Sowerses are praying their own prayers. They’re praying that the hearts of their friends and supporters will be touched and that people will be encouraged to send visiting teams to work with them - in spite of the difficulties they might encounter on their visits.

As Trish said, “Because of the kind of work that we do, and the size of it, we can’t do this ministry without help. Often, the people who get most excited about partnering with our ministry are those who have come down to see for themselves.”

People frequently comment on the sacrifices the family is making. Trish stressed, “We make sacrifices because this is what God told us to do. But, a lot of times, things other people consider sacrifices, we consider inconveniences.” She then explained that everyone makes sacrifices.

“Sometimes people make sacrifices to get a particular job. Maybe someone’s dream job is in a big city, but that person can’t afford to live in the city. The person might take the job anyway and decide to commute and sit in traffic every day, feeling that this sacrifice is worth the goal of having that job,” Trish said, continuing the thought.

There was laughter as Trish discussed that some of the things others see as huge sacrifices on the part of her family, aren’t so big to them. Now, asking them to sit in traffic five days a week would be a sacrifice! But, for Allen and Trish, monitoring water and electrical usage is an inconvenience.

Trish did acknowledge that some sacrifices are bigger. As a prime example, she said, “Our kids. When our kids became adults, those who wanted to attend college had to move back to the U.S. They each spent about a year getting acclimated to a new culture. They had to get driver's licenses and cars. They had to find their own way--get jobs and save money. We certainly didn’t have the funds to help with this, or to send them through college. That was a sacrifice. It's hard for our kids. And it's hard for us because we put them in that position.

“Over the  years, we’ve had people infer that we shouldn’t work so hard at our ministry. Some people think we’re trying to earn salvation, or deserve God’s favor. That isn’t the case. We just don’t want to make the sacrifices our family members are making, for no good reason. We want to make it count!”

As an example of making it count, we discussed the Mercedes sponsorship center, which now consists of five separate feeding locations. About ten years ago, it was one church, with between 30-40 kids in attendance. There were no sponsorships at that point, but Sowers4Pastors helped the local pastor feed the kids and provide them with Bible lessons, through the feeding center program. A couple of years ago, Mercedes became a sponsorship center. That church now has 360 children in their center - and many of their families have joined the church! The church doubled in size, then it doubled again, under the leadership of Pastor Germán.

Christians in Honduras use a term to describe the current situation in their country - "white fields" - which refers to John 4:35, talking about crops that turned white when it was time to harvest them. The churches in Honduras know this is a time when they can and should be reaping a great harvest. Trish concluded, “We’re honored to work where that’s the case. It’s a blessing to us. We’re just trying to do the best we can, with what we have, to help the pastors reap that harvest. The things that hold us back are money and time.”

If you’ve ever considered visiting Honduras with a short-term mission team, or providing more financial assistance, this is a good time to reflect on John 4:35: “Do you not say, ‘There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest!”

 - posted by Christi

Friday, March 30, 2018

The Giblet Post

It’s time for a giblets post! What’s a giblets post, you ask? Oh, it’s a little of this and a little of that, stirred into something you’ll hopefully find more appealing than whatever is in that weird bag you pull out of your holiday turkey.

Semana Santa

It’s Semana Santa, or Holy Week, in Honduras. Generally speaking, the Honduran Holy Week is more of a Central American Spring Break than anything of a religious nature. Schools are out and the people are celebrating in both wholesome and more risque ways. For families, Semana Santa can mean a week to relax and take the kids swimming. For others, it can mean a time of indulgent and reckless behavior. For Trish and Allen, it means staying off the roads as much as possible because of the likelihood of encountering a drunk driver. Businesses close and it’s not a week to plan on accomplishing a lot of errands.

Ben is home for Semana Santa and he brought a friend from school with him. This friend is someone who doesn’t normally get to leave school over holidays. Tender-hearted Ben got permission for the friend to stay with him for the week. The young man enjoyed the first hot shower of his life! He is also enjoying seeing the countryside, as he hasn’t had many opportunities to travel far from his home.

The Road Most Traveled

We previously talked about the work being done with a bulldozer on the roads through the coffee farm. While they had the equipment, the Sowers also reworked three miles of public road that leads to the Sowers’s driveway. They maintain that road themselves, which extends the life of their vehicles, and serves as a ministry to the community. Having that road in good shape cuts the driving time of local people traveling from Catulaca to Arcilaca in half.

Just because this is too dinky to merit its own header, this is a good place to mention that Russell and the crew are going to start planting the little bags of new coffee plants after Easter.

Eat Your Hearts Out! (Or Not!)

Because of a clerical error, the state of Maryland mistakenly believes Allen and Trish may have lived in that state in 2010. That would mean they owe taxes for 2010, even though they haven’t lived there since 2000. Of course, my favorite missionaries were living in Honduras in 2010, but they are having less than a grand ol’ time trying to prove a negative to a government entity. In Honduras, when they get a new residency card or driver’s license, they have to turn in the old one. To make things more interesting, the state of Maryland has no statute of limitations for such matters.

Long-Time Supporters, First-Time Visitors

Early in the week, a couple of long-time Sowers4Pastors supporters came for their first visit. It was a time to see the ministry up close and personal. At the time of this week’s phone call about bloggy stuff, Russell was driving the couple back to the airport.

As long as he’s out, Russell will be picking up Bibles and other materials for the bookstore and Pastors’ Training School. He’ll also be picking up a motorcycle that will be used by the guys who drive around, overseeing the daily operations of the Manna Program.

Not a First-Time Visitor

Kim Hall is coming down for her spring break, next week. She plans to visit the different sponsorship centers and encourage the kids in their letter writing to their sponsors.

One Thing Leads to Another

Having finished handing out backpacks and shoes, attention now turns to the Gifts for Gracias Project. The first step - sorting - is well underway. Soon, they will be able to assemble the gifts and pass them out to pastors. When that is finished, construction on Russell and Iris’s home can resume. If Russell and the crew had some time when they weren’t doing anything but working on the house, they could finish the whole thing in a month. Since that’s not going to happen, Russell anticipates being able to move into the house no earlier than December of this year.

 - posted by Christi

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Their Bags are Packed

Everybody sing! “All their bags are packed. They’re ready to go. They’re standing there beside the door… ‘Cause they’re leavin’ on a jet plane!”

Yes, Allen and Trish are flying to the States next week to spread the word about Sowers4Pastors - and to hopefully find some people who would like to help feed children and make it possible for them to go to school! They are excited about the meetings which have already been scheduled, and the ones which are yet to be scheduled. This trip, they are in the unique position of having many available dates to meet with people. They will be Stateside for about a month and a half. Currently, there are about a dozen dates with scheduled meetings. They are eager to see what God’s final itinerary for this trip will look like!

Some people mistakenly assume Allen and Trish only pay a visit to places where they can speak before an entire church congregation - and also mistakenly think the goal of this trip is to get churches to financially support them. While they are always thrilled to speak at a church, they are equally excited to speak before a small group in a private home. In fact, they pointed out there are many advantages to speaking in a more intimate setting. They said it is often easier to do a better job of communicating what Sowers4Pastors is about in a smaller group, where people feel more free to ask questions. Plus - the specific goal of this short trip is to find individuals and groups who would be willing to fill backpacks with school supplies, between now and the trip Allen and Trish will make this fall, so that they can pick up the completed backpacks, ship them to Honduras, and help more kids have the opportunity to go to school in the upcoming school year!

Allen and Trish want to thank everyone who has scheduled a meeting, and those who have expressed interest. They also wish to thank everyone who sponsors a child, helps fund the feeding centers, or works to fill backpacks. So, THANK YOU!

If you know them at all, you know that “down time” isn’t really Allen and Trish’s thing! This trip isn't a vacation for them - while they are in the U.S., they want to make the most of the opportunity. They want to get as much work done as possible and make connections with as many people as possible.

Remember - the purpose of this trip is
to get individuals and groups in the U.S. to pack backpacks full of school supplies,
so that kids in the rural mountain villages of Honduras can go to SCHOOL!

April 5th is the date they will fly in to Maryland. They still have space for more meetings in Maryland at the beginning (or end) of their trip.  They are also scheduled to speak in Seattle and Mississippi. Oh, and they’ll be driving through the panhandle of Florida. If you believe in the work Sowers4Pastors is doing (And why would you be reading this if you didn’t?), and you live in one of these areas, this is your chance to help spread the word!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, March 26, 2018

This Confetti is Everywhere!

Sound the bells! Toss the confetti! Start blowing those things you blow at New Year’s Eve parties! What are those things called? Oh, yeah. Party blowers. Sowers4Pastors has recently helped its 200th pastor receive a motorcycle and this calls for a celebration (or at least a blog post)!

Whenever discussing this topic, Allen is adamant that one point is stressed. Sowers4Pastors helps to provide Honduran pastors with motorcycles to use in ministry. They do not simply toss a pastor a key and say, “Here ya go!” This is not at all like the Showcase Showdown on “The Price is Right”! It’s more like telling a kid, “Well, if you want a new bike, we’ll help you buy it, but you’re going to have to pay for a big chunk of it yourself!” (That’s a little parenting trick to raising kids that don’t act like they’re entitled to something. And it also pretty much assures the kid is not going to leave the bike laying in the middle of the driveway, where it will be hit when you’re backing out of the garage!) It’s called “sweat equity”.

Sowers4Pastors pays $1000 toward the purchase of each motorcycle. A pastor’s share is about $600-$700. That’s a serious financial commitment in a country where you’re fortunate if your family income is $1000 a year! Allen said, “It helps us decide if this is really important to the pastor. If we were giving them away, every pastor would want one. They would all want to be my best buddy to try to get me to commit to giving them one. By doing this, I don’t have to worry about a pastor’s motives.”

Pastor filling out motorcycle paperwork

As we’ve mentioned before, a personal investment also demonstrates that a pastor  will have the resources and capacity to maintain a motorcycle. They need to be able to pay for gas, oil, tires, etc…

Each pastor to receive one of these motorcycles must also have the recommendation of their denominational supervisor. They must be hard workers in good standing with their denomination.

A motorcycle can change more than you might realize. Allen said, “A lot of times we help a pastor purchase a motorcycle and he’s planting one church. With the motorcycle, he has the time to begin planting a second church. After working in the fields all day, many of these pastors were walking five miles one-way to visit a church. With a motorcycle, they are able to go visit church plants more often.” It helps pastors maintain better oversight of the church plants. They can be there to truly mentor the more inexperienced pastors and make sure the Gospel is being preached.

Now, won’t someone grab a vacuum? This confetti is all over the floor!

 - posted by Christi

Friday, March 23, 2018

Built to Last

Each Wednesday morning the Sowerses and I have a phone call to discuss bloggy type stuff. I’m never sure which Sowers will be on the other end of the line. Will it be Allen, Russell, or Trish? (For the record, I’d be perfectly happy to talk to RJ, but, much to my dismay, that hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed that it happens soon.) This was a Trish week. A Trish week is generally a sign that Allen and Russell are up to their eyeballs in something and don’t have time to talk. This Trish week, Allen and Russell are up to their eyeballs in concrete.

Allen and Russell are working with a team from Georgia to pour a massive concrete retaining wall in Mercedes. Trish explained, “Generally, when we say, ‘Mercedes,’ we’re talking about a group of five smaller sponsorship centers. There is one huge church called, ‘Mercedes’. That church was too far for many of the sponsored Mercedes children to walk for regular feedings. Five feeding locations were set up so the kids don’t have to go so far. In this instance, the specific place where they are working is San Juan Mercedes.”

San Juan Mercedes was set up as a meeting place for Bible study, as well as a feeding center for kids in the sponsorship program. That Bible study grew to the point that they are ready to start a full-fledged church in that location. Quite a while ago, someone donated land for a church site. The land has one very notable characteristic: it slopes. And not a gentle little hill kind of slope. It’s the sort of big ol’ steep slope that didn’t make it a prime location to build a church.

After much deliberation, it was proposed that they dig out from the road, flatten an area, and pour pillars, to allow a church to be built at road level. The idea is for the church to be sitting on the pillars and for the space beneath the building to be used for Sunday School classrooms and bathrooms.

However, because of how the property sits, there would be a very real danger of erosion or landslides. Not wanting to see a church slide down the slope, Allen proposed an additional course of action. They needed a retaining wall! A little, mamby-pamby retaining wall would not do. They needed a humongous, heavy-duty retaining wall using vast amounts of concrete. The problem was the cost. Even little, mamby-pamby retaining walls don’t come cheap. Humongous, heavy-duty retaining walls using vast amounts of concrete require a lot of money to build - and the small community of San Juan Mercedes didn't have that much money - so they were continuing to meet for worship in a home that was much too small to fit their growing congregation.

Meanwhile, Kim Hall, who translates many of the letters written by the children in our sponsorship program, noticed that many of the children from San Juan Mercedes were asking their sponsors to pray that the church building project would get going soon.

Next, the First Baptist Church of Kingsland Georgia entered the picture.

The church in Georgia wanted to help. They raised funds and sent down a team to lend some muscle to the project. The team is not alone in their desire to complete the retaining wall. The local pastor was asked if he could find five volunteers to help with the effort. On the first day, ten volunteers showed up to lend a hand. On the busiest day - when they were actually pouring the concrete - forty volunteers from the community came to help! The people of San Juan Mercedes are very excited to see their new church being built on (and beside!) the rock!

 - posted by Christi

Monday, March 19, 2018

Nitty Gritty Fine Print

It seems like everything comes with fine print. Generally, the fine print includes something like, “By signing this, you are agreeing to hand over your firstborn child to Rumplestiltskin.” Think of this blog post as the Manna 4 Lempira fine print--except you don’t need a magnifying glass to read it and it doesn’t contain anything scary!

What are the Promised Benefits to Sponsored Children?
  • Each sponsored child will receive 2 meals per week. If that doesn’t sound like much, remember that these children are not starving - they are malnourished. They are eating on a regular basis, but they are not getting a large variety of foods. Therefore, they are lacking essential vitamins and minerals from their diets. This can manifest in a failure to thrive, slow growth, and difficulty concentrating. Sometimes it causes significant skin and eye problem. Other times, this malnutrition results in death.This food is not intended to keep children from starving. It is intended as a way to help them catch up on vitamins. The program is making a difference! They are seeing healthier children, growing at a normal rate! Parents are reporting that their children are able to do well in school.
  • Feeding is always overseen by a pastor, either in a local church, or in conjunction with a local, public school. The feeding is always accompanied by Bible lessons. This serves to build a relationship between the children and a pastor/local church.
  • Each child receives an annual well visit with a doctor. If a child needs glasses, or has other specific medical needs, the Sowerses try to find the resources to help.
  • Children are de-wormed regularly.
  • Sponsored children receive a backpack filled with school supplies and a pair of shoes, each year. School is free in Honduras, but the children are required to provide their own supplies. Many children were not able to attend because their parents couldn’t afford the things they needed.     
  • Sponsors correspond with their children, and the children write back--building a relationship from across the miles. 

How is the Money Used?

With minimal overhead, the monthly cost of $15 per sponsorship goes a long way. Money not used to fulfill sponsorship benefits - purchasing food, school supplies, Sunday school materials, and providing training to teachers, etc. - goes into the larger ministry, to feed children who are not sponsored. The amount varies depending on the cost of the fuel to transport the food, and the costs related to the other benefits. Costs have gone up gradually, but not so significantly that unsponsored children are not being helped.

When a sponsorship program is set up, a commitment is made to help each child who is registered into that program, even if each child does not get a sponsor. (The only thing unsponsored children do not receive is letters.) With this commitment, the ministry breaks even when about 50% of the children in a particular program are sponsored. Beyond that, any money goes directly back to the ministry. It NEVER goes to pay big, corporate salaries!

To Learn More

Here's a brand new video, containing the information you need to get started with Manna4 Lempira! We're excited to have you join us!

- posted by Christi

Friday, March 16, 2018

Shiny Hair and Healthy Smile

If you begin spending extra time fixing your hair in the morning, that doesn’t mean that you stop brushing your teeth! Today, we’re going to chat about the many things going on with Sowers4Pastors. We’ve talked about backpacks and back-to-school stuff for quite a while on Facebook and the blog. Whenever that happens, people invariably ask Russell and Allen, “What’s the deal? Are you guys still working to empower pastors, or are you all about backpacks, child sponsorships, and feeding centers?”

Yes, a lot of time has recently been devoted to passing out backpacks. And, yes, Allen and Trish are getting ready to visit the States so they can get the ball rolling for the next backpack drive. But that is not the only thing Sowers4Pastors is doing. There are fifteen Honduran employees and two (soon to be three) North American interns working with Sowers4Pastors. Even when Allen and Russell are spending extra time distributing backpacks and registering kids at feeding centers, the other work is going on.

Moments before our phone call, Russell had been driving a bulldozer on the coffee farm. They are currently getting ready to plant another ten acres of coffee! Since the purpose of the coffee farm is to help sustain the ministry, while providing work for Hondurans, that is super exciting. They also recently completed a small bridge on the coffee farm, to allow for better access. Russell quipped, “Luckily we know a couple of people who know how to build bridges!” This was the second bridge they’ve built on their property.

Pastors’ Training School is underway. Melvin and Quito have been working at the training school, even when Russell and Allen were finishing up with the backpacks.

Now that the backpack have been delivered, they are able to get ready to put Gifts for Gracias boxes together. Think of it as Phase 2 for the supplies that arrived in the shipping containers. At the time of my conversation with Russell, Iris and two Honduran women were working on preparing the boxes.

Russell pointed out that, even when Allen and Trish return to the U.S., eighteen people will still be on the ground in Honduras, working to empower pastors and oversee the feeding centers, etc… Because, having great hair doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy smile, too!

 - posted by Christi